Skip to content

Rene Ricard

Untitled (What Every Young Sissy...), 2007
Acrylic, charcoal, Conte crayon, and oil on canvas
51 x 33 1/2 inches (129.5 x 85.1 cm)
© Rene Ricard; Photo by Argenis Apolinario; Courtesy the artist and Vito Schnabel Gallery

Growing up in Lowell, Mass., I often took the train to Boston to visit Gordon Cairnie’s Grolier Poetry Bookshop in Harvard Square, hoping to encounter an authentic poet. Harvard and Inman Squares in Cambridge had a handful of cafes, storefront galleries, and publishing collectives. The scene was dominated by the gothic shadow of John Wieners, already possessed by drugs and madness. In a rare reading on Mother’s Day 1973, I witnessed a stunning performance by Wieners, who read every poem he’d ever written to his mother, about 15 in all. It was over in five minutes but remains as vivid as anything in my life. Thirty years later on the day John Wieners died Rene Ricard left a wet gray canvas at my door that read, in a desperate scrawl: “John Wieners, my mother, is dead. Oh my God.”