Photos of David Belly at Gallery Atelier Z
Meeting David Belly in Paris by Mick Cusimano
Back in 1989 traveling to Europe with 3 other poets by chance we met a guy handing out pamphlets in Paris for his group The New Surrealists. (M.A.I.N.S.) I gave him a copy of my magazine Underground Surrealist. Once a year founder David Belly would send me a collage in French which I didn't understand. I would in turn send him cartoons in English that he didn't understand... yet we kept corresponding for 14 years. In 2003 he invited me to be part of the New Surrealists Art show. I sent my drawing The Night of Red Jazz and I bought a plane ticket. What would it be like to be part of a Paris art show? What would the New Surrealists be like? Knowing little more than phrasebook French and hearing warnings about Americans being unpopular with the impending Iraq war I really didn't know what to expect.
I walked into Galerie Atelier Z where Karine the curator welcomed me. My drawing "The Night of Red Jazz" was hanging on the wall by the stairs. The New Surrealists were having a reunion since their last show four years ago. I was introduced not as the Professor of Surrealism: To my astonishment they considered me not just a guest but a full fledged member of the group. I had only met David Belly before but had occasionally corresponded with artists Argus Avatar & Nora Picman. Picman had created a large ceramic Buddha. Argus was dressed up with silver gloves, a mid-eastern hat, and a cane. One of his paintings had propellers attached to them. There was le sculptor Jacky Kooken with a giant handlebar mustache along with other talented and interesting artists. The opening the following night 600 guests showed up. There were art lovers, professionals, singers, musicians, and poets. If counting all the mink coats was an indication the show was a big success. A dancer Maria came by wearing a Mardi Gras mask. Artist Argus Avatar paraded around with silver gloves and a sword. The next day I went out to lunch for couscous with David and Jacques. They showed me video of the last group show in a gallery in 1999. That night we met Karine and her mother and went walking through St. Germain visiting dozens of art galleries that had openings that night. David made sure to hand out flyers to our show to anyone who looked like a likely prospect. I met David and Jacques at Tour St Jacques. They took me to a basement book store which had many obscure books about Breton, Minotaure Magazine, and the surrealist artists.
One night we all gathered together to celebrate David Belly's birthday. Karine handed David a pin with the word M.A.I.N.S. engraved on it. This had been a fantastic week for meeting artists of vision and imagination. The following year I returned to a party thrown for David and the group on the Right bank. A few years later David came to America. We went out to dinner in Boston and he told me of his quest to have Stephen Spielberg or Woody Allen make a movie about his group. That was the last time I actually was David but we still corresponded every year. We exchanged Christmas cards last month. It was a priveledge to have David as a long distance friend and he will be missed.