Tuesday, April 28, 2009
DARRAGH PARK R.I.P.
Darragh was a handsome, kind, modest man whose paintings were similarly handsome, generous and modest. I first met him in the 1970s and though we became instant friends, I always felt a kind of shy self-consciousness around him, on both of our parts.
I know for me that was partly because I thought he was much older—or at least much more mature than I ever felt—(turns out he was only a few years older) and certainly much more refined—something I attributed to what I assumed was a wealthier background and better education.
In fact, I had no idea what his true background was. But he had a kind of preppy style and was always meticulously groomed and dressed, as opposed to myself and a lot of others in the downtown Manhattan art and literary scene of the 1970s who were either still clinging to remnants of the whole ‘60s hippie style or mixing and matching with the then dominant downtown punk style.
But Darragh went his own way, maintaining a sense of dignity and even humility in the face of others, like me, with a much more confrontational style, in every way. He was a painter who, at least according to what he told me, started late, or at least got serious about it in a committed way pretty late in life.
His teacher and model was Fairfield Porter, the artist closely associated with the first generation of “The New York School” poets, and artists, though his figurative and landscape canvases were anything but the style of the 1950s when that scene first really coalesced. In the 1970s, it was an even more unlikely approach to painting, but Darragh embraced it with all his heart and intellect, eventually making it his own entirely (as in the painting reproduced above of the view out his apartment’s front window done in the early 1990s).
And for my taste, pulled it off. I liked his paintings as I liked him, especially his commitment to his friends. I was always too busy changing locations, partners, day jobs, etc. to stay in as close touch as I would have liked to (closer friends like the poet Tim Dlugos before he passed away would always keep me up to date on Darragh and vice versa, acting as a middle man for our connection as Tim often did with many of us).
But, for instance, Darragh was a close friend of the poet James Schuyler and often assumed the role of caretaker when Jimmy was going through one of his bad periods. I remember distinctly a dinner one night at Darragh’s apartment in the West twenties. It was a first floor apartment so you could look out at the sidewalk and street activity while you visited in his living room or even eating at his dining table.
He had some canvases he’d completed leaning against a wall, and one he was working on still on an easel near the front windows of the view from there (an obviously favorite subject). It was just Darragh and Jimmy and I (can’t remember anyone else being there). Jimmy was pretty much uncommunicative, as he could be at times either from the meds or from his depression etc., so Darragh and I kept up the conversation and every now and then Darragh would defer to Jimmy, giving him a chance to offer his opinion of whatever we were talking about, but Jimmy remained silent.
Until it was time for me to go, when Jimmy spoke up, graciously declaring what a wonderful dinner it had been, especially the conversation. I miss them both.