“It’s All About Me”

November 2, 2014

It has been quite a rewarding year for me! It began early in January when producers Jay Thames and Ed McWilliam called to ask if they could borrow about a dozen of my paintings to decorate the setting of a film (“I Dream Too Much”) they were then shooting nearby. A couple of young set designers came, made their choices, and a week or so later, sent me photos of the set with my paintings adorning the walls. Exciting! A few weeks later they came to return the paintings and, now, we are (im)patiently awaiting the release of the film. Then, shortly after this pleasant surprise, I was asked in early March by Lee Pope to be the exhibitor of a one-person show at her ‘The Schoolhouse Theatre & Gallery’ in Croton Falls, New York. At the Opening Reception I had the opportunity to see approximately forty of my paintings on display, tastefully hung in this well-lit art gallery in Westchester, New York. Before this exhibition was over (on April 20), I was then contacted sometime in April by Patrick Millbourne of the M Gallery in Catskill, New York (Greene County), to be one of the exhibitors along with him and William P. Duffy in a 3-person show opening on June 7 and running through July 6. Of course, I gladly agreed to both opportunities…more than a bit dazzled by this somewhat sudden interest in my work. Shortly thereafter, I received a letter from Elaine Kiesling Whitehouse, a writer, teacher and reader who responded to a story I had written (“Nocturnal Vibrato) under a pseudonym in the Fall Issue of art times. She had figured that the pen name of “R. Jayess” was really “RJS”, or Raymond J. Steiner (me), and asked if she could use the story as a teaching tool for her writing class. More than little puffed up by all this attention, I was just recently asked by Mr. Rich Lovelace of the Lake Players of Medina in Orleans County, NY (near Niagara) if they could convert a short story of mine, “Nocturnal Vibrato”, into a ten-minute play. Moreover, another reader, Judy Lewis, read the story as a poem and asked Cornelia if she knew anything about the poet, having Googled “R. Jayess” and coming up with nothing. Cornelia unveiled my deception and gave her an early book of my poetry, Quarry Rubble (published in 1993 under my proper name), as compensation for my shameless scam. Finally, after all this attention, I was asked to submit two of my miniature landscapes for a group show at the Gallery Lev Shalem at the Woodstock Jewish Synagogue, this after being part of another group show at the same venue from October 2013 to January of this year. Incidentally, the “pen name” of “R. Jayess” (from “RJS”, my usual way of signing ((or, initialing)) my paintings), was dreamt up years ago while I was teaching Composition and Literature at Ulster County Community College in Stone Ridge, upstate New York. While teaching poetry, I had mimeographed several poems for class discussion, including one of my own. Since I did not feel I would receive ‘honest’ discussion if I signed it with my proper name, I affixed “R. Jayess” as the author. The ruse worked, and a lively discussion of the poem was mainly held by two of my students, a woman in her 50’s (who insisted the poet to be a female) and a young man just graduated from High School (who questioned her assumption since there was only the letter “R” as the first name). An evening class, it consisted of both recently graduated High Schoolers and adults ‘upgrading’ their education—a great range for teaching, since it allowed for varied discussions seldom experienced in a room of “same age” students, as, in fact, transpired that evening. The lady insisted on the poet’s gender since “only a woman would have such sensibilities.” The young man remained unconvinced, still claiming the “R” could be either man or woman. (P.S. Many years later, this lady was my attendant nurse for a surgical procedure I had to undergo at the Kingston Hospital ((Kingston, NY)) and, at that time, revealed my ‘ploy.’ “You sneak!” she said. “And you let me go on and on!” Thankfully she was a very compassionate nurse and didn’t take revenge while I lay helpless in the recovery room.) Although it worked back then (now, nearly 40 years ago), when I used the same pseudonym for my short piece of fiction for our Fall 2014 Issue, I was quickly ‘outed’ by a couple of my more astute readers who saw through the deceit. Anyway, after writing about other artists for the past 30+ years I feel a bit odd — though I readily admit also pleasantly proud — of tooting my own horn. Lest I sound too self-satisfied, I usually bring myself back to “normal” by recalling an incident nearly 30 years ago, when I wrote a profile of the Ukrainian artist Natalia Pohrebinska who subsequently credited me with her having a one-person show in Ukrainian East Village (NYC). Invited to the opening, I noted a large, framed print of my article hanging in the entryway to the gallery with several words in the Cyrillic alphabet posted above it. Wondering what it read, I waited a decent amount of time (maybe 2 or 3 minutes) before approaching several women speaking Ukrainian and asked them what it ‘said’. “Please do not smoke” one of them readily answered and thankfully did not hear the air hissing out of my swelled head…quite an ego buster! Still, such sporadic occurrences do manage to keep me on an even keel.