PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston September 2020

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Page 23 of 99

REMEMBERING BROTHER FORREST PRINCE PHOTOGRAPHY JENNY ANTILL CLIFTON O n a Saturday in late July, we got the call that one of the greats of the Texas art world had passed on: Forrest Prince, Art League Houston 2015 Texas Artist of the Year, died Friday, July 24, from complications following hip surgery. He was an original — a self-described sinner who was the closest we will ever get to a saint, at least in our time. The entire visual scene in Houston seemed to stop. Everyone checked in with each other with a story about the man known to those who were closest to him — and there are many in that legion — as Brother Forrest. This was a being who believed his work was directed by God, had a bio that proved everything is possible in terms of redemption (decades before, he successfully gave up drink, drugs, and dual vocations as pimp and thief), and left us with a trove of artwork that walked the line between calling out political desperadoes and embracing universal love of fellow man and animals. Indeed, Prince had a heart to forgive and to encourage transformation in everyone he encountered. His most iconic works — mirrored hearts and crosses emblazoned with the word Love — reflected a walk and talk he practiced with conviction. Brother Forrest was a talismanic presence for our magazine; in the spring of 2017, photographer Jenny Antill Clifton and I profiled the artist at home — a modest, immaculate Garden Oaks house whose costs were underwritten by Prince's long- standing patrons, the late Lollie Jackson and her daughters, Laura Fain and Elizabeth Oliver, and son-in-law Dene Oliver. When we arrived that morning, Forrest offered us melon, served in interiors that were simple in their beauty, filled with incandescent early-morning light. I recall how the artist began his day: by making a to-do list on an 8 ½- by-11-inch pad, noting the date and beginning always with "Praise God" as the first entry. After our story ("Art + Mystic: Inside the Monk-Like Purity of Activist and Artist Forrest Prince's Home") was published in March 2017, Forrest visited the magazine and went office to office to thank everyone present, offering organic apples while addressing us each as Brother and Sister. I also treasure the memory of the vegetarian feast I shared with Forrest at his favorite spot, Govinda's, adjoining the International Society for Krishna Consciousness temple on West 34th. It was a perfect afternoon, with a few of his collectors and friends assembled to break bread under the warm glow of Govinda's neon lights shaped like halos. We became friends because everyone became friends with Forrest. He knew the wealthy and the hourly workers; kept constant vigilance on the sociopolitical machinations of his time; lived a life of staunch vegetarianism; went on daily pilgrimages to feed (Continued on page 92) Forrest Prince at home in his backyard, Spring 2017 Right: Forrest Prince lived a life of frugality and modesty. He espoused a regime of exercise and ate a staunch diet of raw fruits and veggies. The Koran and a volume on Gandhi in a chair in Prince's monastic bedroom A tableau in Prince's home/ studio, The Blind Leading the Blind into the Ditch of Death, circa 1990s A chalkboard artwork bears an urgent message.

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