The signs appeared a while back on utility poles on and around Henry Street in Brooklyn Heights, standing out amid the urgent pleas for lost kittens and $1,500 one-bedrooms. “PLEASE HELP FIND LOST BLANKET,” the red type read. “The blanket is fleece, red, and falling apart because it is very much loved.”
The person behind these street signs was Jill Bigelow, a Heights resident and the mother of 3-year-old Adam Bigelow. Adam, it was learned, had lost his “Bibi” (pronounced BEE-bee ), a red Lands’ End blanket, during a June 7 stroll in the neighborhood with his nanny; Ms. Bigelow, a photo editor, had returned from work that evening to find a distraught, Bibi-less son, and the two of them spent much of the night walking around brownstone blocks, retracing Adam’s previous, tiny steps.
“We talked to everyone. We went to Bolton’s. Nino’s Pizza. Pierrepont playground,” Ms. Bigelow said on a recent afternoon, sitting at the kitchen table in the second-floor apartment she shares with her son and her husband, Daniel. “We ended up getting an ice cream.”
After scouring the neighborhood for two days, Ms. Bigelow felt she had no other alternative than to print out signs and tape them to poles. Adam was frustrated; Mom was beginning to lose faith. “You think you’d find it on the side of the road. We lost a hat once, and someone put it on a bush and we found it,” Ms. Bigelow said.
As his mother talked, Adam, a towhead dressed in a yellow T-shirt, blue shorts and red socks, sat close by, slurping on split-pea soup. When a reporter asked him–as gently as possible–about his departed Bibi, Adam launched out of his high chair, padded off to his room and returned … with another red blanket. Ms. Bigelow, it turned out, had purchased a dummy Bibi a few years ago to stand in for the original when it needed to be washed.
Adam brought the blanket up to his face, smelled it, and swung back and forth on his heels. “I love my Bibi,” he said.
Ms. Bigelow said Adam wasn’t usually so warm to this replacement. “He knows it’s the backup,” she said.
Alas, nearly three weeks had passed since Ms. Bigelow had posted the signs, and there were no leads. (This being New York City, however, there had been one middle-of-the-night prank call.) Ms. Bigelow had already ordered another red blanket from Lands’ End–a backup for the backup–but Adam retained hope.
“It’s funny. The other day he pointed to a pole and said ‘The sign is gone,’ and then said he wanted to post more signs,” Ms. Bigelow said. “But then he totally forgets about it.”
When the New York artist William Quigley starts talking about his paintings, it’s never long before he gets to the story about the day Shaquille O’Neal asked him to mate Rottweilers. Mr. Quigley, 40, a New Yorker by way of Philadelphia, was living in downtown Los Angeles at the time, and Mr. O’Neal, the gargantuan center for the Los Angeles Lakers, was filming the movie Kazaam outside Mr. Quigley’s studio.
“I went outside to walk my dog, and I hear this deep voice go, ‘Hey, you wanna mate your dog with mine?’ ” Mr. Quigley said the other day. “And I turn around and look up, and it’s Shaquille, and my dog’s between his legs. And I go, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ll sell the pups for 200 bucks apiece.’ That was my comeback line. And he goes, ‘ Huh. Huh .’ That’s how he laughs.”
Mr. Quigley played some three-on-three with Mr. O’Neal, then he painted the star center’s portrait. Mr. O’Neal purchased the work, and also a portrait by Mr. Quigley of Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I told him it was eight grand, and he said he couldn’t afford it, and I said, ‘If you can’t afford that, I’m not painting anymore.’ And he goes, ‘ Uh-huh. Huh .’ And he bought it.” That led to a meeting between Mr. Quigley and Mr. Schwarzenegger, who now owns two paintings, too.
And that’s how Mr. Quigley sells his work. He has never signed with a major gallery, not even after he had his first show in 1985 with Andy Warhol and all three of his still-wet paintings sold in the first hour. But Woody Allen owns a Quigley, as do Hugh Hefner, Sylvester Stallone, Debbie Harry and the bicoastal advertising czar Jay Chiat. At Mr. Quigley’s recent 40th birthday dinner at Mercer Kitchen, Gina Gershon came over to say hello; she just knew someone who has a Quigley. “Basically, he’s an interesting person, and his success is very personality-driven,” said Marc Chiat, Jay Chiat’s son and a painter and director who has known Mr. Quigley since 1989. “He has a persona that he’s not too bad at cultivating.”
Mr. Quigley is stocky and handsome in a Cagneyesque way, with rusty red hair, blue eyes and a broken front tooth. His red eyebrows dance when he talks. “Art should be witty, like a good Eddie Murphy movie, to make your life a little easier and better,” he said. It was one in the morning, and the artist was sitting in his soon-to-be-former studio near Prince Street (he’s moving to Tribeca). He was wearing black Nikes, black jeans and a black short-sleeved shirt. A book called 100 Best Album Covers lay next to hardcovers on Dali, Max Ernst, Van Gogh and Gettysburg. On a shelf, a white teddy bear was perched atop floppy cardboard boxes stuffed with sports cards that Mr. Quigley received as payment from one of his collectors. (The bartering arrangement has yielded six Mickey Mantles, three Jackie Robinsons, a 1939 Joe DiMaggio and a Ty Cobb.) On the kitchen counter was a lava lamp, a package of cut-comb honey and a fortune cookie.
“I walk into a lot of galleries, and they’re a bunch of one-liners,” he said. “Mine are, like, 20-liners.” He considers himself an Abstract Expressionist and has taken on subjects ranging from the Civil War to the former New York Rangers star Glenn Anderson. He recently painted the rapper Ice Cube wearing a Union Army uniform. One four-foot piece called Fox Farm reads “I’VE NEVER BEEN TO A FOX FARM.”
“I did the whole ‘Can I show you my slides?’ thing in New York a few times, but I stopped that 12 years ago,” Mr. Quigley said. “I never wanted to be someone who’s asking someone to put my work in their gallery. I wanted to be asked .”
But these days, Mr. Quigley added, he’s not even sure how important that is. “People go into a gallery, and they’re afraid to express their opinions about art,” he said. “No one’s afraid to say, ‘ Keanu Reeves was bad in that movie .’ We see so many films that we can tell who’s faking it. But with art, we can’t always tell.”
Signs of Summer
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A Barefoot Community
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