The inspiration for this large head came to me in 1981 after I had been awarded the Michigan Creative Artist designation by the Michigan Arts Council. Accompanying the honor was a check for two thousand dollars. This was handed me during a ceremony by the governor's wife, Helen Milliken, a gracious supporter of the arts, who, as she handed me the envelope and turned me by my elbow for the photo, smiled and said, off mike, "Pretend we are talking. I smiled and said "We are talking, aren't we?" She said," I suppose we are." She was not amused.
The Michigan Foundation for the Arts, a private funding group associated with the Arts Council, commissioned Sue Marx, a well known documentary film maker, to make some films of award winners. A few months later, She began making a short (eleven minutes) film about me. When she asked me to sign a standard release., I asked my dealer, Allan Stone, what I should do. He had recently read that Clark Gable's big regret in life was that he never asked for a piece of his films. So, Allan said to get a percentage of the film. When I told Sue, she flew into a rage! She said "You jerk! You should be honored a film is being made about you and your work, not asking for a piece of it. Besides, the Arts Foundation isn't interested in selling the film. The're using it just to promote their activities and you. Besides, nobody ever makes money from documentary films anyway. I'm so mad if I weren't committed to this film already, I'd drop it!"
I didn't sign anything. She never mentioned it again.
She did a great job on the film. It was shown on Detroit's Public Television the next year and won the EMMY for best cultural program. The following year I saw a three minute segment of the film used as filler on HBO. Apparently, the Arts Foundation had given the rights to a national distributor to use the film as he saw fit. He cut it up and sold it to HBO, Cinemax and others, to use as small "filler" segments.
A few years later, Sue Marx won an Oscar for "Young at Heart", a documentary about her father's octagenarian love story.
"Portrait of the Artist to be Viewed While Saying, "You're Great. You're Terrific. What a Genius!" responds to any sounds around it by slowly inflating the bag that is the top of its (my) head. it starts to deflate after a few seconds unless it continues to hear sounds. The bag is patched with hot glue and tape. It is old and dirty and not at all pleasant to look at.