Kate's New Bike
This painting is one of a series of paintings of my sister and I from our childhood. This one is set in back of our home in the Germantown section of Philadelphia from about 1975. The photo itself is very small, maybe 3”x 3”. It is torn in one of the corners, a little out of focus, and has a soft, brown layer of unifying blandness that is either a result of having yellowed with age or, quite possibly, just the way things looked back then.
My sister Kate is gripping the handlebars of her new bike staring down the viewer, or maybe the one holding the camera, with some intensity. She has a good reason. This bike was given to her on her birthday as a replacement for her last bike, which was stolen by a kid named Johnny who lived a couple of blocks away. She knew he stole the bike because he told her. And anyway she saw him riding it back and forth in front of our house. Johnny was a bully and a jerk.
I’m the one in the green checkered pants who appears lost in her own world. I am probably riding a horse through a field in my mind at this moment oblivious to all of this.
Kate would grow up to write, compose and star in several full length operas, one of which was based on a character she invented during these years, called, “Becky Butterfly.” The story is about standing up to bullies.
The original title for this painting was “Punk Rock.” The scene reminds me so much of a punk album cover: Kate with her lead singer hair and me on bass in the back.
Also floated as a favorite title was “Fuck You, Johnny.” And honestly, that’s still the one that best captures the sentiment expressed here. I decided on what might seem like the least interesting title as a simple description of what to look at here. My hope is that as you look at Kate posing with her new bike the words start coming into your head seemingly out of nowhere… ”Johnny... Hey, Johnny! Fuck you, Johnny!”