A celebrated painter recalls his Americana roots and metropolitan adventures.
With broad helpings of grievous angel dust borrowed liberally from Sam Shepard, Tom Waits and Gram Parsons, Andoe depicts his dysfunctional personal life and recognizable artistry in distorted snapshots. The author recalls his unlikely elevation to fame as a painter, starting with a scrappy upbringing among rednecks and reprobates in Tulsa, Okla. The erratic opening half, focused on the author’s rebellious childhood, leads with self-centered grandiosity, like this report of his first teenage hangover. “At last I had mastered the low art of coming unmoored,” he writes. The overall effect is that of an urban poet trying to hustle some literary mileage out of generic rural tales of cars, drugs and girls that will echo with uncomfortable familiarity for anybody who grew up in the country’s dusty middle. The stories are punctuated by Andoe’s melancholic portraits of horses, stoner buddies and dull-eyed girlfriends. For all the clichés of adolescent lawbreaking and hot-blooded romantic misadventures presented, moments of truth emerge. Unlike the sharp-tongued noir facsimiles where Andoe is clearly trying to sound cool, the surprising candor of unguarded flashbacks come at the most unpoetic moments: the split second of his father’s heart attack, a hasty marriage proposal on a second date or the unexpected pitfalls of the marriage’s “twelve-year-long Mexican standoff.” His memories improve as we near the present day, shedding light on the absurdity of the art world but revealing very little about the artistic process.
The paintings are remarkable, but the artist’s story only scrapes the surface.