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Billy : Paintings by Fred Jesser

Imagine a man in a chair; now view him from two angles. He is normal man with brown eyes. This 'normal man' (that is the term I have come to know Billy by) has a little wooden chair by the river. He sits, alone with his visible thoughts, trapped on the other side of canvases hanging in the art space in the Lost Dog coffee shop. Billy, the normal man, is himself a lost dog of sorts. Almost completely unable to move, he sits with a seemingly placid gaze planted firmly upon his countenance and aimed squarely at his audience.

"Hello." he seems to say -- at first.

But then maybe it is Billy who is my audience.

The artist, Fred Jesser, does a wonderful job of portraying the essence of the river that both he and Billy seem to love so dearly. For me the Billy character in the paintings is the very personification of river. Billy's body never moves, because it is trapped in the second dimension in much the same way that a river can be a stolid thing. And, reflecting the skies' light into the eyes of whoever nears it the water does seem welcoming. "Swim in me." it says. But again, this is only a first impression.

And so I did. The way one would wade into a still calm river on a warm autumn afternoon, I stepped into Billy's world. With his eyes as the undercurrent, I began to drown.

In need of more wonderful coffee to keep my pulse at an acceptable rate, I returned to the lost dog, and sure enough Billy was there. He dispensed with the casual "hello" from several days before and instead spoke volumes of silences. My mocha wasn't good enough for Billy today; I ordered the same thing yesterday. Billy would have ordered something colder and bitterer. His eyes winced at me while he disapproved of the way I look. They moved from my tangled hair to my boots. "They're falling apart" was the only thing he had to say to me that day.

At first Billy hadn't been so angry and displeased with me. At first, after the hello's ceased, he was a good boy and remained a painting. But every once and a while I could see him roll his eyes at me like a portrait in some cheap horror movie, because that is what he thought of me, some cheap horror. (Not whore mind you, horror). But that day had been entirely different, and it was his comment about falling apart while I finished sucking from the bottom of my mocha that brought about the stunning realization that, yes I was drowning in the paintings of Fred Jesser.

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"If Man scorns Nature, so you think he would care about Words?" �- Thomas Moore, Utopia