Matthew Courtney, charismatic & friendly, with a clear bell voice and love of the limelight, art lover and lonely, went off to New York City in 1983 or 1984, lived the life, helped launch ABC No Rio and wrangled wild poets and performance artists, kept his head clean, made others welcome and generously showed them the way to the stage, wrote verses in his journal, held day jobs and held it together. Until it fell apart.

See pics of Matthew, selling artwork on the streets of New York.

I’ve seen the best spirits of my generation, hungry & frustrated art beatnik types make a hard hard decision to leave their home, get on the bus and go to New York. It’s a classic challenge within the arts – can you do it at home, and if you do, so what? Are you relevant outside your navel? Do you matter? Does your work stand within the context of others – or do you stand alone, out there in the provinces, paintbrush or microphone or camera in hand, but alone – just you and your Artforum subscription.

It’s a desperate lonely life 1. being an artist, a watcher and collector of ideas and treasures, and 2. being an artist alone in the sticks, surrounded by comfort and love perhaps – but alone in your heart and spirit, and 3. knowing knowing knowing something is happening out there – somewhere – probably right now and probably in New York City.

It’s a tantalizing dream – finding your kind. Imagine 1963 and walking into Cedar Tavern, and there they are – luminaries, talking sharing giving. They recognize your aura and call you to join them, Robert Rauschenberg buys you a beer and Tuli Kupferberg asks to read your poetry. Everyone loves you and you are at peace.

Counsel – we carry loneliness with us, regardless of where we go. No oasis resolves the dread singularity; it cannot be doused by alcohol or scoured with cocaine. And unresolved, loneliness limits creativity, stains every utterance, and becomes a complete subtext of artwork, visible like a secret code, “help me.”

If you see Matthew on the streets of the Big Apple – tell him we still love him in Portland. You can always come home to the City of Roses.

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