July 14, 2006

The only part of art that is not a struggle is the sheer joy of experiencing it. Paul Dickerson knew all about struggle and that is part of the reason no one is quite sure how to describe his work—those thousands of drawings, those numerous sculptures and installations. He never really seemed to fit in and for that reason he increasingly seems to have something to say.

For a brief while, his work was almost submerged by the pain and shock of his 1997 suicide at age thirty-six. But now, as a number of previously unknown works enter the light of day after years in storage, his voice takes over. He speaks clearly in his drawings and arrangements of random objects, stuff often found in alleys. And we now hear what he was saying when most of us were not listening. Paul was about finding an honest language in the actual nature of things. So he took things we call junk because he sensed they were the basic elements of a real visual language—tin, iron, mercury, wood, and the like. Think of him as a man determined to found a new form of speech and make this language out of the castoffs of our lives.

Here at the Paul Dickerson Studio Art Museum, we’ve had a pretty fair year. A Judith Rothschild grant of $15,000, a major exhibition of Paul's work underway, the museum slowly but surely coming out of the ground. But it's hard. The money is always thin, the work load high and of course, in these harsh and violent days, the case for art is easy to make but funds for art are hard to find. We are not building a memorial. We're maintaining a laboratory. When some people die, it is like a clock stopping. In Paul's case, because of the unfolding nature of his work and because of the almost romantic and yet brutal nature of his experiments with materials, well, it is more like suddenly discovering what time it really is.

We ask for your support, not because the past matters but because the future must be sketched with honest eyes and hands and minds. Paul probably would have said all this differently. But then, he already has in his work.

He had no love for boundaries and saw his work as a flow, something moving, not something fixed and finished. We are about the same thing. So in the tradition of old Chicago style politics —a city that infused Paul's childhood—we ask you to give early, and give often. And thanks for considering us and taking the time to think over our proposal: supporting honesty in a very small place.

Charles Bowden, Trustee Paul Dickerson Studio Art Museum – Art Research Center