Michael Gordon: Homeless, MBE, Sculptor, Painter
Michael Gordon was discovered, so to speak, more than a decade ago. Gordon is a unique personality, eccentric at best but at art, he is a genius. Gordon turns anything that he touches into a masterpiece; be it on canvas, wood or paper. In 2001, he was bestowed with an MBE. But this gifted artist has been having a rough ride. News Five’s Jose Sanchez caught up with Gordon.
Gilvano Swasey, Curator, Image Factory Art Foundation
“They had seen this artist who lived on the street at the time and he was also creating works. And Yasser and myself had went down and we had spoken to him and we were pretty amazed that in the situation that he was in, he was still being creative. Mind you most of his pieces from my perspective—he might could tell you a different story—were his feelings and reactions of the people that he met every day. For example I had asked him what were the names of some of the people that he painted. And they had names like cannibals and so forth. And most of the portraits were from the back, so it would be someone but you would just see the back of the head. And so I start wondering why was he painting these people from the back. But it was basically the reaction that they gave him; they turned their back on him. So that’s how he was capturing them. he was giving us a snapshot of how we looked at people who were on the street or people who were less fortunate. And then I saw the power of his art then. And he evolved. Eventually we invited him to the gallery and to canvas—new material because he was working on cardboard and rough paper that were thrown on the streets or in garbage cans and so forth. And he was making his life and sketching his dreams on them.”
Jose Sanchez, Reporting
So the man who lived out of and worked on cardboard built a new life with the help of the Image factory. As he no longer slept under the stars, his life and his outlook changed.
“Mike tell me about your art; it is very unique. Tell me about your style; tell me about what you do.”
Michael Gordon, Artist
“Mien you was an artist there before me and majority of my style created fi unu perfection and details because myself wasn’t a college student of it. I was like a primary school student of it when I begin to do it. Unu had it like a high school way. So then more or less, the idea of being it is most less off fi unu—the thigns deh call details. But I believe if I were there looking at unu doing it, I can say that’s right.”
Michael Gordon’s luck fell short when his modest family home was burnt down on Plues Street. But the Image Factory’s hand was there to help him again.
“Over the past couple weeks, myself, Michael too and a couple crew from the Imagien Factory, we have been working on constructing a home for him. The beauty of it is that I had my uncle who is a retired contractor helped us with design and the layout guiding us and we built it with our hands. So we are proud of it. It still has some minor details to put on it on the inside, but he now has a roof over his head and he has a decent place to call home.”
“I don’t know how I can pay them thanks which in saying thanks is not it. You know I’m a sculptor, a painter, but fifteen or twelve thousand, I could maybe like pick up myself through the years and every month I could drop down wah four, five, six big paintings and you know.”
“They don’t want anything from you; they want to see you prosper.”
“That’s true, but you see into a conscience, you have to take off scenery off of you which in they give it to me like a gift. So during the time, if I would have to give them like a thousand dollars gift, I wouldn’t mind because then it work out wah way that for myself if you could give me things, I can give you back things.”
But what really happened the day that at the Plues Street address? Mike was home alone and the shadows of his past, echoed violently and realistically into his thoughts.
“I start to feel like juk ina my neck, juk ina my back and I pick up the kerosene and I said what’s this ina my house and I grab a piece of my cardboard weh I mi di working. Quick time I drop wah paint work—that done destroy. I start throw the kerosene round and then I pull the bed pan it and I said move off of me because then—and that dah big day; big Sunday morning. He never move; I start to get lick in my head, start to feel policeman di argue. That’s right. I take my lighter and I just start to sap the areas fi say well like back off dig. When I walk outside, dah di same thing. I haul back inside and I get mad and I take the kerosene dah the door and start throw it around me.”
“Who is Michael Gordon?”
“I have no choice to give to people. They will take that upon their own to put a point of existence about someone because self reputation is no pride. I don’t think that right. I think buying and selling is the business. And if I can buy, as I buy a little too, I could sell with that accuracy of perfection. You accept that; that I can do. That makes me. I could have myself to be looked upon as what I am. It’s frank. I mean many people are more perfect that people but through the time to represent perfection, it has no value.”
“Mike has been all over the country, Belize. He had the fortune of going with us to Cuba for Havana biennial. He is also exhibited in the U.S., in Taiwan, in the Dominican Republic [and] in Guatemala. So he has been a great part of the Image Factory because we realize whenever we do any exhibits—traditional, we’re talking realistic stuff or contemporary—a Michael Gordon fits any of those categories. So we have always included him in these exhibitions.”
“Everything is everything mien. I’m just going down the journey because then it’s me who is doing it. So I’m in it right.”
Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.Email This Story