i almost skipped the show entirely when i found out the original scroll was no longer on exhibit. it had been replaced with an exact replica! i didn't understand why the major attraction would be removed before the completion of the exhibit's stay at the library.
but i'm glad i did go. what took me by surprise was the sheer number and diversity of kerouac's artwork. i'm not referring to his written work, but rather his paintings, sketches, pastels, drawings, doodles and the sheer volume of marginalia that covered his journals! this was an unknown side of kerouac. his the range of artwork stretched from simple color exercises, pen and ink drawings, and oil paints. his output included abstract renderings, portraits and religious iconography! two pieces in particular, "the drinkers" in oils, and a black and white drawing of buddha's head, were remarkable!
add to this all the photographs on display, many of which were taken by allen ginsberg, visitors were treated to such a visual feast that it was easy to forget that kerouac was a writer, first and foremost. that is until your eyes returned to the scroll that was unrolled on a display table that ran down the length of the exhibit hall. it was yet another visually striking image, in a room that overflowed with them.
of all the kerouac's personal belongings put out on display, what really sent it over the top was a half empty pack of wrigley's chewing gum resting in a display case next to his harmonica, glasses and miscellaneous bits of paper that came out of his wallet. i can't imagine what possessed someone to hold on to that gum for 40 years!
continue on to part two of this post.