Gentle Men on the Street (2020)
mixed fiber media
56 x 51 x 4 in.
“Mikey was a recognized street personality and “Urban Camper” in Key West, Florida. After I heard from Mikey for the first time in 35 years, relatives found him for me on the streets of Key West and sent photographs. I patched together a collage to plan my first portrait of the little brother who had gone everywhere with me when I was a teen.
As a resident artist at The Studios of Key West in 2012, I had a month to experience Mikey’s life among his friends. His existence was foreign to me, but I fully understood the pain that had led him to find happiness in wailing music on the crowded night streets. We shared deep childhood wounds.
I saw Mikey again at a 2013 family wedding in Michigan, where we walked down the aisle together, as close relatives, and danced together. Mikey returned to Florida and I to San Francisco. Only rare phone calls and an occasional photo came my way as I sent costumes and harmonicas to Mikey for his performances. Then, silence.
Mikey was found dead and decomposed in November 2019. My final Mikey portrait celebrates both Mikey and his closest friend, Thomas.”
© Marie Bergstedt