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Quotable Fri Dec 21 2007

Quotable Friday

Every Friday is Quotable Friday on the book club blog, where we highlight a notable passage from a book with a Chicago connection. This week's quotable is from our current book club selection, Never a City So Real by Alex Kotlowitz. In this excerpt, Kotlowitz relates his first meeting with one of the Chicagoans profiled in the book, artist Milton Reed:

"I first met Reed in 1999, while visiting a woman in the Stateway Gardens Public Housing complex, which was then a collection of eight seventeen-story high-rises. He was in the living room of my hostess, where he was painting a gold-trimmed black panther on the cinderblock wall. He had a forty-ounce bottle of Colt 45 beside him, and he was so completely engaged in his work that he didn't say a word. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the rendering, though it was clear that Reed had taken great care with it. He had first sketched the outlines of the panther in pencil, using a ruler and right angle, and then had gone to work with oil-based house paint. Because of its permanence, there was little room for error. I assumed at the time that the panther was meant to conjure up more radical days. I later learned, however, that a number of years before a woman had asked Reed to paint a black panther with gold trim on her kitchen wall to match her black and gold furniture, a common color pairing among public-housing residents. ('They all follow that same tradition,' Reed told me.) word quickly spread, and soon Reed had a reputation. Public-housing residents came to know him as 'Mr. Artist — as in 'Mr. Artist, how much you charge for one them murals?'"

 
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