In Memory of G. Roy Levin
|G. Roy Levin Died July 22nd, 2003|
Roy was teaching film at Goddard when I was an undergraduate there in ’69, ’70, ’71. Maybe he lived in that house on rt.2, next to May’s store then?
It wasn’t till 1989 that we really made contact. Roy wanted to be involved in the mural project which Dragon Dance was undertaking in Masaya, Nicaragua.
Just the two of us went, us and about six boxes of paint. We were there in Masaya for a month. There was an opening ceremony for the mural on February 28, 1990, the same day the Sandinistas lost the elections.
The mural was enormous about 18 feet tall and 60 feet long. There were hundreds of complications, the special sort of complications that make Nicaragua unique. We were waiting for the scaffolding to be built, the culture office had sent carpenters and they were sitting in the shade as the morning ticked by. Finally in exasperation I said, “What are you doing!!” They said, “We don’t have any nails.”
The Sandinistas had proposed a theme, “The path of youth to a place in society.” We interviewed people, we made sketches, in the afternoons we drank beer and discussed the ideas and plans, the designs and strategies.
We were there two weeks before the walls were ready and the scaffoldings were built. By then we had our design and also a team of local painters, including Thelma Gaitan.
Roy was first on the scaffolding with the roller and the long stick spreading the primer over the fine coat of cement.
There were other cultural workers there, though they were not involved in our project they were sometimes in the space, a little group of Germans were working in the same building where we were painting the mural.
It was the Germans who first recognized what Roy was doing and expressed themselves about it. Roy was painting a holocaust painting as the first motif of the mural. The first panel was built around that image, and the young people, the characters of the mural narrative, held Roy’s image in their hands and studied it and by pointing, related it to the internal drama of the mural.
The German cultural workers stood in the open space of the basketball court and pointed to Roy’s painting and said, “Hey what is that doing here, is that relevant? Must you bring this up?”
So the debate was on. Was there a connection between the Nazi Holocaust and the contra war against Nicaragua? Roy went on to paint the murals central portrait of Sandino in the same unique style that characterizes his Holocaust painting, black and white, a simplification of an old photograph. Roy’s painting declared Sandino a leading figure in the ongoing war between cultural self-determination and armed fascism.
Our Nicaraguan hosts Roberto Bermudez and Anna Ruiz, loved to talk and to use the mural and the mural conflicts and discussions as a seed for the social life that built at there house as the elections approached. During the day we would paint with one group of people and at night we would talk with another group. This latter might be a Sandinista economist from Managua, the Minister of Transportation, a group of activist women from Baltimore observing the elections, young people from military units, and one night we were introduced to Tomas Borge minister of the Interior.
On Election Day everyone in our house went to vote, we went to paint, and at night we met to watch the election results. We, like our hosts, believed the Sandinistas would win. Roy and I looked at each other, around eleven when the election coverage suddenly went off the air and the central channel began showing old Mexican movies. There was a complete suspension of news, but a Sandinista currier arrived saying tighten security, wait, and standby.
In the morning we went back to put the finishing touches on the mural. The city was silent, no one came out of their houses, Roy and I painted alone.
We flew out of Nicaragua separately.
The last time I saw him, we met on Main St. in Montpelier, Vermont and went to that Irish bar on Langdon St. Roy was wearing a long green coat with big pockets for his tobacco, we drank beer together like we did in Nicaragua, and we talked in that way that we learned to talk together during that month when we worked with the Sandinistas.
|Sam Kerson, Montréal Feb ‘05|