“Trade Secrets” of the Poor

"Her Garage" by Brett Busang

Artist Brett Busang is spending his summer in Memphis – prowling the streets and painting. His e-pistles read as something holy – feral and complete within themselves.

He’s away from D.C. and in the land of the Chickasaw this summer – in part – because his Mom, who lived there, died in May; she who instructed him in both The Life and The Word of an artist.

Below are a few excerpts from his e-mails:

Memphis is a city of poor people ringed by pockets of privilege. I’m most interested in the poor – who have treated me with kindness and courtesy. Yet as I study the habitat of folk who don’t dream of tomorrow, I wonder what on earth is going to become of us all? A local art maven, upon looking at my portfolio, said I hadn’t told the whole story yet. I wonder whether that’s even a valid criticism – in part because any story is ongoing, but also because one person can only do so much, given his temperament and preferences. I fully acknowledge that I’ve just scratched the surface, but I consider the effort of scratching eminently worthwhile. …

I wrote a much longer essay about being here in Memphis among the poor, who will not only be with us, they will begin – as we sidle up ever closer – to share “trade secrets”. At one time, there was stone soup, made with an actual stone or the sole of a shoe. (Boots furnished a better aroma, but no appreciable elevation in taste.) In the future, our nourishment will center on various forms of temporary empowerment and may involve stealing from the rich; giving comfort to our botton lines, particularly if they’ve withered-up a little; and ministering to the Fallen Mighty, whose numbers will visibly swell.

Such is my apocalyptic version of. . .the following weekend. (I can’t wait for upper-case History. The way things are going, we’ve got to get up to speed right now.)

To read more of Brett’s reflections, especially about his Mom, go to his blog Painting is Dead and So Can I.

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