Internationally acclaimed artist James Magee reinvents himself one more time as poet.
“This book presents two bodies of writing by James Magee. The first is “Letters to Goya,” a collection of twenty-three typo-filled letters written on a manual typewriter from the Waikiki Trailer Park in Sweetwater, Texas. Turning the book around, you will find a second collection, a selected compilation of titles from Jim’s artwork, representing decades of both writing and performance by the artist and his multiple selves. Reading this book is not unlike the act of trying to understand Jim’s life. It requires twisting, turning, reorienting. You can enter at any point and find the story changing and growing as Jim plays conductor to a symphony of voices familiar and strange.”
—from the Middleword by Kerry Doyle
About James Magee
In 1980, the incredibly prolific American artist (and now published poet) James Magee rooted himself in El Paso and Juarez on the U.S. Mexico Border. Michigan-born, Ivy League-educated to be a lawyer, gender-fluid, ex-taxi driver and oil field roughneck, Magee made his home on the border because he had work to do, big work, big visionary work, and the frontera was a place to be alone to do that work, away from all the jingle-jangle of the NYC arts scene. Besides, he could cross the border and hang in the gay and transgender bars, he could live any life he wanted to live, and he could be the artist (or artists) he wanted to be. The place radiated renegade freedom. And it was a cheap place to be an artist.
Magee bought 2,000 acres in the desert wilderness east of El Paso and began creating The Hill, a massive stonework on the scale of Stonehenge, his on-going opus of the last four decades. He also created large metal collages, ornately framed, which he "titled" with remarkable poems.
And then the artist Annabel Livermore (a retired Mid-Western librarian) sprang from Magee's imagination like Athena sprang from the mind of Zeus. Annabel was not to be alone. Horace Mayfield, a gay artist, likewise sprang fully formed from the same imagination. Annabel lives in one house, Horace lives in another, and Magee migrates between the two. (Mayfield's house, it should be noted, is outfitted for wheel-chair access because along the way Magee lost both legs to disease. It didn't slow him down, thanks to prosthetics and incredible determination.)
The sculptures and paintings of James Magee and Annabel Livermore (and more recently, Horace Mayfield) have been presented in major exhibitions across the United States, Mexico and Europe. Magee's The Hill is quickly becoming an art aficionado's destination, except visits are rare and managed by The Cornudas Foundation. The Smithsonian recently acquired Magee's archives. All the while, James Magee traveled the country, performing his "Titles" (aka, poems) in collaboration with contemporary classical and experimental musicians, like cellist Joan Jeanrenaud, formerly of the Kronus Quartet