It's a wonderful life

When Trey met Mary (and Tarrantino, Warhol, Farb & Obama): A unique 30-year friendship is told in art


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THIRTY YEARS OF FRIENDSHIP & ART

Editors' Note: Voodoo Pop: Thirty Years of Friendship and Art by Trey Speegle and Mary Hayslip is on display through June 24 at the Art League of Houston. In this photo essay, Speegle explains the duo's friendship as told through art.

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I met Mary Hayslip in 1980 on a disco dance floor of what is now Menil’s Richmond Hall. She remembers saying, “I think we’re going to be good friends." And we have been. 

 

Trey and Mary on the roof of his apartment building in the East Village, 1983

I moved to New York shortly thereafter. My family was in Houston up until about seven years ago, so I visited Houston often in the last 30 years. We have shared our ideas for various bodies of work and I think, inadvertently, influenced each other in life and art.

 

Mary Hayslip, "X Marks the Spot," 2011, 16 by 20 inches, mixed media collage

Among other things, Mary has used my affirmation cards in various installations ... these installations were really Mary’s interiors... she lives her art and I have photographed the changing landscape of her home year after year.

 

Mary and Trey in her kitchen on Alma, 1986

As much, or more than any artist I know, Mary is her work, using everything from jewelry to textiles, mosaic to collage, drawing to macramé to express herself. Every visual aspect of her world is “Hayslip-ized.” She’s a constant source of inspiration and awe, my friend Mary.

 

Trey and Mary in a recent photo

QUENTIN’S A “DREAM BOAT”

My good friend Michel O’Donoghue passed away suddenly in ‘94. He and his wife, Cheryl Hardwick, had this great manor house called Garranbaun House in the west of Ireland that I had visited the previous summer. Cheryl decided to sell the house and I was making a documentary on Michael’s life, so we found ourselves back at Garranbaun in the summer of ‘95.

Quentin Tarrantino had come for a visit with his girlfriend, Grace, and his old pal, Julia Sweeney. Long story, but we had a house full of interesting people including Allegra Huston and Kate O’Toole (famous fathers John and Peter), who have remained two of my closest friends.

 

Writer Allegra Huston, from left, Cheryl Hardwick (kneeling), Quentin’s girlfriend Grace, actress Kate O‘Toole, writer and actress Julia Sweeney in front of Quentin, local solicitor Emer Joyce, Trey, friend Tom Carolan and artist David McDermott on the very small island, Little Inishturk, Connemara, Ireland, summer 1995

Mary had told me she thought Quentin was cute, and I was writing a stack of postcards to friends and I told Quentin about Mary. He said to me, “Address it and I’ll write Mary a note.” It says, “To Mary. Trey told me you thought I was a dream boat! Oooh la la! I’m sure your (s.p.) a lovely Texas rose Q-T-.”

I came to find out later, what she really wanted was to work with Quentin on his next film. But having just won an Oscar for Pulp Fiction, everyone and their dog wanted to work with him, so it was a good thing that I said she was hot for him, rather than just a prospective employer.

 

Handwritten postcard to Mary from Quentin Tarrantino, with a self-portrait

RePOP REDUx

My first solo show was called RePOP 1981. It was a Warholian take on Houston with large-scale silkscreens, a piece called "100 Warwick Hotels" and pop portraits of Marvin Zindler, John Connelly, Dominique de Menil and Carolyn Farb, among others.

 

REPOP 1981 invitation

REPOP invitation (back)

A friend purchased Carolyn’s piece as a gift for her. She loved it and contacted me in New York. The first time we met was lunch in the back of her limo in New York during office hours, while I was working at Vogue. (This seemed, and still seems, like a pretty glam intro to this Houston icon.)

 

Mary (wearing a scarf of her own design), Trey (wearing a crown pin by Mary) with Carolyn Farb, circa 1985

She commissioned a portrait on canvas, and I had the idea to reinterpret Warhol’s 1962 painting, "Gold Marilyn," as his 1982 "Gold Carolyn," using the exact measurements of the original. ("Gold Marilyn" was donated by Philip Johnson to the Museum of Modern Art and and I “visited” her on my birthday just one month before the VooDoo Pop opening.)

We’ve remained friends ever since, and Carolyn has been one of my biggest supporters, always encouraging me to “go for it,” and now she is going for it herself as a partner in the Colton & Farb Gallery. This show is "Gold Carolyn"’s first ever public viewing.

 

Trey Speegle, "Gold Carolyn," 1982, 83 by 57 by 3 inches, silkscreen, acrylic and gold paint on canvas, collection of Carolyn Farb

THE ETERNAL "15 MINUTES"

Andy Warhol was always an idol of mine; I knew him a bit. He was so supportive of young artists. In early 1987, my artist friends David McDermott and Peter McGough had just returned from a year in Italy with a blank memorial poster... then Andy suddenly died.

 

Trey at Warhol’s grave site, Pittsburg, Pa., 2004. His parents are buried just behind him.

We were all in shock and decided to make a memorial poster for him using the blank Italianate “death poster” they had brought home. I Xeroxed ANDY WARHOL from the cover of the New York Post announcing his death, replaced the poster’s orginal illustration of praying hands with Andy’s high school yearbook picture and added a quote from the bible. We printed 1,000 of them and had them plastered in the streets of downtown Manhattan. Several were given to our friend, art curator Diego Cortez, who gave one to Warhol’s brother Paul.

 

Warhol Memorial poster, 1987, 22 by 30  inches lithographic print, designed by Trey Speegle

Unbeknownst to me, Paul gave it to the gravestone maker and it was used as a template for Andy’s headstone. I realized this when I saw a grave rubbing of it by Scott Covert in New York gallery about a year after his death. The gravestone maker had added praying hands back.

To this day, it’s still unbelievable to me that I accidentally designed Andy Warhol’s gravestone.

 

Trey Speegle, Andy Warhol grave rubbing, 2011, 22 by 30 inches, unique, graphite on paper

YOU CAN ALWAYS HOPE & IMAGINE

In 2008, I entered an Art for Obama contest sponsored by Moveon.org and I was chosen as a finalist. My entry, "Hope (You Complete the Picture)," was exhibited during the Democratic National Convention and auctioned online with the proceeds going to Obama’s campaign. A young woman working in the campaign bought the piece and we became friends through email. The following year, I collaborated with  Anthropologie Home, putting my work on all sorts of items, like plates, rugs, pillows, puzzles and even soap sets.

 

"Can You Imagine," 2009, wooden jigsaw puzzle produced by Anthropologie

When the "Hope" soap came out in Christmas of 2009, I wrote to tell my new friend who owned the original and she invited me for a tour of the West Wing. She was working in the Obama administration! So, I invited myself to D.C. to visit my friend, Michael Pollack, and we toured the West Wing with my art collector pal as our personal guide.

I brought the "Hope" soap and my "Can You Imagine" puzzle and left it with Mrs. Obama’s secretary, along with a note. (When we visited on a Sunday afternoon in May, we saw the first lady playing with Bo on The White House lawn through a window in the Oval Office!)

 

"Hope "soap box, produced by Anthropologie

I thought I’d never know if she had received my gift, but nine months later, as my solo show, It’s Not About You, was about to open in New York, I got a thank-you letter from the first lady and I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

 

Thank you letter from first lady Michelle Obama

BY THE NUMBERS... 

I have a collection of nearly 3,000 vintage paint-by-number paintings. I inherited the initial core collection of 200 from my good pal, Michael O’Donoghue, who was the original headwriter of Saturday Night Live. The clowns and ballerinas were his favorites. I love the expression on "You Who"’s clown’s face and think of it as benevolent, not scary... almost Buddha-like. 

 

 

Trey Speegle, "You Who" (self-portrait), 36 by 48 inches, archival pigment acrylic on canvas, courtesy Benriimon Contemporary, New York

I had all but forgotten about this clown mosaic-by-number that Mary did when she was 6. We hadn’t planned on putting it in the exhibit, but after seeing how similar the palettes were and realizing that the numbered tiles missing were 13 (my birthday and lucky number, I was born on April 13th, my grandmother's birthday, I was her 13th great-grandson and the date of the opening). So, we decided it was a good omen and included it above the entrance of the gallery, facing "You Who." 

 

Mary’s “Mosaic by Number” that she made at age 6

That mosaic is one of Mary’s most prized possessions, and she has left it to me when she made out her will years ago. I suppose if and when that happens, this artistic relationship will have traveled full circle.

 

Mary and Trey with Mary’s mosaic

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Voodoo Pop, Thirty years of Friendship & Art by Trey Speegle & Mary Hayslip, through June 24 at Art League Houston, 1953 Montrose Boulevard. Speegle's work can be found at Benrimon Contemporary gallery in New York. Hayslip's work can also be seen at P/G Contemporary in Houston.