“John: The Man in the Window”
My outlaw art exhibit, a scheme dreamed up in a bar two months ago, came to its last-minute but highly successful fruition, in that same bar, last night.
Here’s the story. Two guys own a bar on Fort Avenue in Baltimore. Long ago it was called the End Zone. When they bought it five or so years ago, they reopened it as the Idle Hour, a more upscale — but not annoyingly so — establishment. I passed by it everyday on my way to the park, and the owners became friends with my dog Ace. I became a semi-regular customer.
As a semi-regular customer, I, like a lot of other customers, noticed that a man often appeared in a window across the street — staring out, often for long periods of time, from his second-floor room above what was until recently a hardware store.
While nobody knew much about the man — commonly referred to as The Window Guy — he became, among customers, an instant legend, and a source of intrigue. His frequent appearances at his window led customers, who could see him through the Idle Hour’s front window, to start speculating — both on what he was up to and what his story was.
Often, he’d appear in his T-shirt or no shirt at all. While a lot of upscale establishments might be mortified and embarassed by such a spectacle, in full view of their customers, the owners of the tavern, though part of the gentrification that has and continues to take place in the neighborhood, took it in stride. As they’d shown by giving the bar, which had been through several incarnations, its original name back, they’re they types that have some appreciation for the neighborhood’s history, for its traditions, and for the curious mix of textures — from polyester to silk, from knit Izod to “wifebeater” T — that is south Baltimore
They also have an appreciation for art, and every month or so they feature the work of a new artist on their nail-hole riddled, wood-paneled walls.
How cool would it be, I thought to myself, and then shared with a select few others, to sneak in an exhibit, without the owners’ knowledge, in which every picture on every wall was one of The Window Guy?
For the next couple of months, I took my camera with me, and surreptitiously photographed the Window Guy when he was at his window, and out on the street. Conspiring with the bartending staff, I learned there would be a lull between exhibits — Lindsay Petrick was taking her work down, and agreed to do so a couple of days early, leaving a small window of opportunity until Jes Contro puts her art up.
On Friday, while the owners were out, I put up more than 30 framed photographs of The Window Guy, managing to get them up in an hour thanks to help from some friends — particularly the Baltimore Sun’s Sam Sessa , who I’d invited to see the exhibit but instead ended up hanging much of it, and Beau Seidel, who earlier Friday helped build the set for Bruce Springsteen’s concert.
As a practical joke, it went off without a hitch. Both owners walked in to see the previously bare walls covered with Window Guy art. While I was a little worried about how they might react to the unauthorized exhibit, both seemed to get a good laugh out of it. More surprisingly yet, it was a major hit, with about a third of the photos being sold on opening night — almost enough to recoup my investment.
One person even called it “very post modern,” which, since I’m not sure what that is, I will take as a compliment.
The exhibit is entitled “John: The Man in the Window.” Other than knowing his first name, I intentionally didn’t research John’s background, or talk to him, because the exhibit was more about mystery, speculations and assumptions than about the reality. But I’m thinking the reality — learning about the man behind the enigma — might make for a good sequel.
Though I intended it as a one-night-only exhibit, the owners decided they will keep it up for a few more days — so feel free to drop by and see it. Chances are, while looking at the photos of The Window Guy, you’ll see the actual Window Guy as well, who, at this point, isn’t aware that there is an exhibit hanging in tribute to him across the street.
The Idle Hour is located at 201 E. Fort Ave.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 21st, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: art, baltimore, bar, beau seidel, bruce springsteen, exhibit, fort avenue, guerrilla, idle hour, imagination, jes contro, john, john woestendiek, lindsay petrick, mystery, photography, photos, sam sessa, south baltimore, speculation, the man in the window, unauthorized, window, window guy