The Drawing Show
Nude No. 2 by John Perry
For friends and fans of John Lurie, there’s a disturbing article in the current issue of The New Yorker. The title of the piece is ‘Sleeping With Weapons’ and it’s a strange and sad tale. John has been in hiding for the past 18 months to avoid a former friend who is supposedly stalking him. The alleged stalker, John Perry, was Lurie’s closest friend. The two had a serious falling out and Lurie feared that Perry intended to kill him.
The above quote is from a piece I posted on Dangerous Minds August 11. Last night I spoke with John Perry, Lurie’s alleged stalker, and in conversation, Perry came across as an even-tempered and thoughtful guy who allowed a falling out with a friend to escalate into an epic battle of wills and a public airing of dirty laundry.
To hear him tell it, Perry, an artist who specializes in cityscapes and portraits, had invited his friend Lurie to participate in an instructional documentary on drawing called The Drawing Show, with Lurie serving as the subject of one of Perry’s portraits. Lurie enthusiastically agreed to do it. He liked Perry’s work. The finished film was then going to be pitched to PBS as a concept for an ongoing television series. As Perry described it, it would be a program instructing non-artists on how to draw, just like the numerous cooking shows teach people how to cook. In discussing the concept, Perry was at his most upbeat and energized during our talk. Clearly, it means a lot to him. At this point, the project is still up in the air and that’s where the problems with Lurie begin.
Citing illness, Lurie left the project before its conclusion. Whether he intended to complete the shoot or not is unclear, the fact is he left. What is clear is that Perry is stuck with 27 minutes of professionally shot video that was not finished as planned. The end of the piece was to have Lurie looking at the portrait that Perry had sketched of him and commenting on it. This was the agreed upon ending. But, Lurie left and never returned. No one knows why. What is known is that Lurie’s leaving the project has left Perry $6000 poorer, frustrated and initially quite angry. Perry, bewildered as to why Lurie would sabotage his project, did everything he could to communicate to Lurie the importance of finishing the video shoot. Lurie’s lack of response and evasiveness fueled Perry’s frustration and some trash talk ensued. But, Perry’s anger never went beyond tough guy posturing and some heated e-mail exchanges between Lurie and himself. I’ve read some of the e-mails and in them both men are equally guilty of being hostile. But no threats of bodily harm were made by Lurie or Perry. At no point in my conversation with Perry did I feel he was the type of guy who would stalk someone with the intention of hurting them. It just doesn’t seem to be his style. But, I’m speaking from the gut, I don’t know all of the facts, only Perry and Lurie do. No amount of ink on the page or words on a computer screen will tie this emotionally charged mess up in an aesthetically pleasing bow. Anyone who has gone through a toxic breakup knows that tidy resolutions to deep heartbreak is rarely achievable.
When all is said and done, two friends, two artists, have had an extended personal dust-up publicly exposed in what will eventually become a major embarrassment for both of them. In John Perry’s case, it already has.
Through it all, Perry has tried to stay focused on the things that mean the most to him, his art and a deep desire to teach people how to draw. The ultimate test of Perry’s success will not be in whether or not he proves to the world that he’s not the person Lurie has painted him to be, but whether or not the world gets to know him through his art and a film as yet unfinished. My advice to John last night was to move on and let his work speak for him. The people who really give a shit about Perry know who he is. The readers of The New Yorker and this blog will have forgotten about a fight between two New York artists (even one named Lurie) in a matter of months if not weeks. It really doesn’t matter. “Ars longa, vita brevis”
The drama is in watching a semi-celebrity like John Lurie going through hell. There hasn’t been much interest in John Perry, a man who’s life has been derailed, for the moment, by unproven allegations of being a stalker. I personally think he never intended or threatened to harm Lurie. I may be naive, I may be wrong about Perry, perhaps there’s someone out there, other than Lurie, who can back up these allegations, so far they haven’t spoken up. And until they do, Perry, to me, is just a guy who’s been through a shitstorm magnified by an article in a magazine: the phantom stalker, perhaps just a demon in John Lurie’s head?
Here’s a short video on John Perry and his art: