"The true artist is a man who believes absolutely in himself, because he is absolutely himself."
-- Oscar Wilde, 'The Soul of Man Under Socialism'
Artist, father, son of a doctor, and member of a family of doctors, Ealy Mays and I became best of friends sometimes in the late 1990, having met at a local Paris soirée. We were both fathers of young children working and integrating into the French society dealing with school and navigating the administration, bureaucracy, and a very French 90s' mentality of 'impossibilities' (Per the French, everything was impossible in France in those days, and might still be today). Ealy Mays was painting while I labored in an office.
In a typical artist fashion and in the free-spirit of Paris in those days, red wine was never enough to feed the exchanged stories on geo-political and socio-economic issues, happiness, racism and discrimination, disillusion, disappointments, success, excitement, angst about a new exhibition or a new series of paintings, and everyday much ado about nothing. I would leave my office and head to his studio with a few bottles. At moments of unemployment, I would take my son to school for 8:30 class commencement in the mornings and head to Ealy's studio with even more bottles to last the day. We drank, discussed politics and life, laughed at the uptight, overly sophisticated, and sometimes repressed Parisians, and looked on in amazement at the local and visiting Americans for whom an incessant capacity for provinciality was often to be outdone only by an instinctive lack of style, sophistication, or moderation. We also spent days laughing at the fact that the most centrist of the French political class was to the left of so-called extreme left in America. But it was all in good spirits and all is a days experience with Ealy Mays. You see, the artist is the ultimate conscious commentator and social critic.
In Paris, the freedom to 'critique' and comment is inalienably endowed to every Frenchman and woman, as long as you are not critiquing the state or the character of the culture. As a native foreigner, it is further frowned on (an understandably so) to render any critical observations. French 'exceptionism' is not just culinary tastes which soothes the pallette, or the fashion of the 8th, 3rd, 6th, and 16th arrondissement, or the beautiful country side and villages, or the man-made edifices reflective of a previous generation's excessive appetites. It is the belief that it is better in France than anywhere else in the world. It is the political class which requires an hour of coded speeched in order to convey absolutely nothing, or nothing new. It is the largest consumption of anti-depression stimulants per capita worldwide. It is the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay, and the thousand of other small museums and galleries throughout the country, reflective of the refined latin culture. It is a centralized educational system wich force feeds math, science, and uniform behavior, to the deference of mobile skills and any development of individual character. It is the imposition of a weighty beaureacracy and one of the most heavy-handed western state in the lives of its citizenry. It is some of the best average mild weather to be experienced anywhere in Europe and th best physical infrastructure to be seen only in the halls of true technocracy. It is the bridges which adorn the Seine as well as the River Seine itself, which runs though the heart of the city. L'exception Francaise as it is known, is a fascinating series of paradoxes which in its concept and execution, make the French a truly exceptional people.
Mays and I observed, appreciated, laughed at, and chronicled Paris. I supplied the stories and he applied the Texas anecdotes while he painted. “If the fish didn’t open his mouth, he wouldn’t get caught”, was his natural refrain to so many points of discussion. “My daddy used to say”, often preceded much of his other thoughts. An affirmative response might invect a question such as, "Can a bird fly?" whereas a negative response would involve a retort such as, "Does a snake have lips?" Lunch was often an after-thought brought about only by the emergence of the 3 o’clock hour to retrieve my son from school.
Otherwise we dined, amused ourselves at the passing parodies to be seen only from a Paris café front – from local French machismo to the varied tourist making a fool of themselves in the city of lights with no end in sight. But Ealy was always working – preparing for another show, preparing for another speaking engagement, or preparing for yet another waste of expended time on an exhibition in the greatest and most beautiful mausoleum of our time. Nothing it seems ever changes in Paris, yet this consistency – to the chagrin of Wilde – still provides the greatest refuge and inspiration for some of the most imaginative among us, Ealy Mays, being one such distinguished.
The artist from Wichita Falls Texas and former medical student, whose cause in life was art, has the distinction of abandoning his medical studies and training as a doctor to pursue his art. With roots in Ohio among other places, he often regaled us with his experience of traveling, working in, and seeing America’s heartland by the only mode possible – Greyhound. Unlike the rest of us ‘faux’ cosmopolitan folks in Paris from big coastal cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Oakland, and Atlanta, Ealy Mays knew Texarkana Arkansas, Toledo Ohio, Brownsville Texas, and other places in America that are heard of only during Tornado season, if one is carefully tuned in to CNN. He is not only the proudest American I have ever met but is also most certainly, the proudest Texan I will ever meet. He used to speak of the Republic of Texas and his ancestral slave presence in Texas a century before Texas became a state in the Union. Where most of us thought Santa Ana as a Southern California wind, Ealy would give a history lesson of Antonio Lopez's defeat. At times, Sam Houston it seems was a dear friend of Ealy Mays.
Ealy's artwork presented in this galerie is a result of talented hands guided by a literary mind encapsulated in a bohemian soul.
......(excerpted from the upcoming book on the life of Ealy Mays by Paul Sinclair)