Baltimore artist thrives despite setbacks Once-homeless man opens show in W.Va.

October 18, 1998|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

Even when Greg Fletcher became homeless about three years ago, he didn't give up on his art.

He was sleeping on the streets of Baltimore, but still wore a pager to stay in contact with clients and gallery owners. He didn't have a studio, so he kept his art materials in storage and painted in restaurants. Once, he remembers, he dipped his paintbrush into puddle water to finish a liquid acrylic painting.

Fletcher's dedication has paid off. Yesterday, the Baltimore artist opened a show at the DuBose Gallery in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., a newly opened showroom run by retired diplomat Bob DuBose and his wife, Georgia, who is an editor at a local newspaper.

Fletcher's exhibit, which runs through Nov. 2, features 23 paintings, charcoals and sculptures selling for between $250 and $3,500.

Fletcher has been living with the DuBoses on and off for six weeks, painting landscapes in the village known for its picturesque beauty and for quaint stores with names such as Old Tyme Portraits and Top of the Towne.

It's not a bad life for a man who not too long ago did not have a home. But the artist is trying not to let it all go to his head.

"The one thing I'm concerned about is the fall of Icarus," Fletcher said. "You're flying, and you realize you're flying, and you get so excited and then you get high on yourself and fall back to the earth." In Greek mythology, Icarus could fly, but he flew so close to the sun that the wax fastening the feathers to his wings melted, and he plummeted to his death.

Fletcher, 45, was born in East Baltimore and grew up in the Lafayette Courts public housing projects. He worked at Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. for 22 years before he was fired in 1993, he said, and eventually separated from his wife and lost his home.

Luckily, Fletcher said, he still had his art.

He had begun to paint seriously when he was in his 20s, sketching during lunch and painting after work and on weekends. He is best known for painting inner-city landscapes.

Fletcher began showing his work at coffeehouses and galleries in the late 1980s. Jimmy Rouse, an artist and former owner of Louie's Bookstore Cafe, frequently featured Fletcher's art on the walls of his restaurant.

"You don't see many landscapes in the city anymore," Rouse said. "He's one of the few who ventured out, painted on the site really with a concern for capturing the nuances of life and cityscapes as the city actually exists in the east and west ghettos."

Fletcher said that when he was homeless, he washed his clothes at a laundromat and never begged for money. He even had a show while he was homeless -- in March 1997, at the Harbor Court Gallery.

But looking back, Fletcher says, losing his job and home was the best thing that ever happened to him.

"It was like a shamanistic journey," he said. "Everything became very clear."

Rouse said he admires Fletcher's ability to overcome adversity.

"He has struggled just to make ends meet, but he embraces the struggle," Rouse said. "That's one thing about Greg. He's a very positive person."

Before this summer, Fletcher said, he had never painted rural scenes. But he said it hasn't been much of a leap for him. To him, the tunnels and bridges and historic homes of Harpers Ferry are not too different from the dilapidated buildings he has painted -- and continues to paint -- in the slum areas of Baltimore.

"I never saw the depression," he said. "I always saw the beauty."

Pub Date: 10/18/98

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