Although this body of work started as a reaction to an incredible character, it became a personal study on impermanence, anonymity and affliction. I met Walt Curtis outside Lone Fir Cemetary in 2012. Soon thereafter he became the person I’d run into most often around town. He’s never surprised or seemingly all that excited to see me on these chance encounters. Just picking up where we left off--picking up what we’d dropped. Walt is just one of the characters in this story.
Curtis has introduced me to some great people, literature and art through our intuitive interactions. Walt tends to get on a roll; one that unravels at the ends with sharps spiral cuts. His voice is clearly heard but not always listened to.
At 76 years old--born on the Fourth of July--Walt has shared the stage with William Stafford, Ken Kesey and William S. Burroughs among others. His auto-biographical text Mala Noche was adapted to the big screen in Gus Van Sant’s feature film debut.
This book isn’t an attempt to illustrate Walt, or the generalized trajectory of someone who's never compromised commercially/artistically, but rather a representation of our short time spent together as voices and witnesses.
Before losing some of his dearest friends, I was lucky enough to meet and learn from thier particular stories and practices. We were unfortunate to discover a long-time friend of his, who had commited suicide, during a house-call on Mar. 7, 2016. Approximately 6 months before Steven passed away he put me in the care of more than 80 historic Native American photographs and 6 folios of “lost art” by Jane Bateman Henke. He was interested in getting the work appraised, eventually wanting to sell some and donate others to particular nations. But he wanted me to enjoy the work as well. I’ve experienced guilt. Three days before Walt and I discovered Steven’s body, I was sharing the work with University of Washington’s Special Collections and was truly excited to set up a trust or legacy to house the work.
I certainly should have seen this coming; I clearly wasn’t functioning to the best of my abilities to help Steve. I became confronted with mortality through historical remanants depicting a bitter and sweeping period in American history. And those images that intrigued me immensly now cemented despair and helplessness. It’s peculiar how an image can evoke a particular emotion today, then instill a completly different feeling tomorrow.It’s not my intention to fetishize objects through re-appropriation. Moreover I wish to share the legacies of two men who collected for ethnographic preservation and cultural identity (Steven was partially Blackfoot and, earlier in his life, created masks representative of his nation’s practices and heritage). Sharing this sub-collection is important to me simply because I promised to share the work.
Curtis is still writing poetry, creating art and sporadically hosting the radio show he created over 40 years ago on KBOO. He's currently working on republishing 3 of his earliest chap-books with the help of a grant. His passion for storytelling is an endless stream, producing vibrant and sometimes abrasive pieces. A Quixotic community voice who stands out because of his disdain for modern society, showing his teeth in order to see who's patient enough for the long version.