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A Santo Nino made by Frank MacFie

A Santo Nino made by Frank MacFie: found art-collage (with various bits)on the inside of (gold colored ) aluminum 7up can

We hadn’t heard from Frank Mac Fie for a long , long time. In 1991, we were packing to move back East Coast to take care of Ray’s mother. Our daughter Susan was already back there. So, at the end of the school year, our son Philip was in school, I was teaching – some how the Found /Collage art piece made by Franklin, (which included a halo of ? franklin’s pubic hair from sometime in the 70’s) that had long been lost, just like Franklin MacFie as far as we knew was lost, it was the Santo Nino de Atacha – a favorite saint in Chimayo, the patron saint of The Lost., resurfaced. This piece with the DNA of Franklin flew out on to the floor from no where after 2 decades of being lost as was Franklin. It seemed like it was heralding Franklin’s call from New York City two days later saying he was back! BStevens

Back to the tapes done in April or so -2008). I ask when /where he got AIDS He says. “It could have been Jean Michel -I think we both could have gotten it in San Francisco in 1981 or 82”. I mention that it was his friend Eileen’s theory that you got in a perverse /reverse stance and “kept it zipped up” during that great time in San Francisco and didn’t get it .. where as Jean Michel did……I didn’t quite say all of that but got a bit of it out …. Franklin’s patient response:.” Everybody has a different response to it. His- Jean Michel ‘s was not too good – it just killed him- in the late 70’s early 80’s when it wasn’t known, and at that point in the story -everyone was having as much sex as they possibly could. We both were highly active and we went to the Baths (bath houses) and I was working at a gay bar. My friend Terry Stephenson , like Jean Michel- their bodies weren’t strong enough to fight against it.”

“I didn’t go to the doctor because I felt sick but because I knew I had it. People get symptoms and go on for a long time and then just die ( those that didn’t get the cocktails.) There is an enormous variety in this sickness……(More before ) The Cocktails….the AMA and DDC worked very hard and as fast as they could and lessoned the degrees …. Well, some people got an got it quick and died and some got it and held it and held it and it finally popped out they died. I didn’t know what it was until a couple of weeks before (JM) he died.”

Re: Jean Michel sick in Paris,”They didn’t tell him but they told me and I told them (the family)- he wanted to know why every one was whispering. So I told him, His mother yelled at me for telling him he was going to die. I would rather know, Jean Michel would rather know. I told him and he was very quiet for a couple of minutes he didn’t say anything…so I said well tell me something I’ve just told you that you are going to die soon… and he lifted his hand and very gently rolled it along my face, and he said no only half of me will die- so that immediately put me into tears.”

“Over there, when a person died they put a sheet on the door. I just went in and they said il est decidee I said he is decided quoi! Finally she used the word mort so I understood that. so I went in and saw him wrapped up in a winding sheet -just his head/face exposed… still handsome. He looked like a Huguenot Priest (well, his mouth was closed, he had only one tooth left) I never saw him again, next was the casket. That’s it, he died and I went on – I didn’t (die). I decided not to!”

We begin to talk about the “trip” he told me about recently -He had found a drug growing in New York one time while we were in Amsterdam..(between 2006-2008).Datura ( discussion followed re: was it Loco Weed, something from Castenada) Franklin says “Georgia O’keefe has all those beautiful paintings of the Datura…and I found one here in the park – there’s a tiny park right across the street from me – its not very deep its very steep and very narrow park. (BS -whats that parks name) the Jackie Robinson Park.I found this plant and recognized it right away, I couldn’t remember how to get high from it . I had read the Don Juan books and he’d been using them all the time – they are Brujo plants and you should not use them unless your a Brujo . Anyhow I ate the leaves, I ate the stamen and nothing happened. I ate the whole flower and nothing happened, finally some prickly seed pod came out – they don’t call it prickly pear but some kind of pod -that makes them almost ….. they want to repay you, almost attack …. you have take them off very carefully, I mean you have to have something to take them off with, because you cant just pull them off.. a round seed pod. size of 50 cents.. they came at the end of the season… I tried them (the plant) one year and nothing happened — then (trying the seed pods the next year) so I very carefully took them home and had to slice them with something else so they wouldn’t hurt my fingers and I started eating them the first year..”. end of tape.

Re:The story of the Datura experience in NYC on tape-what’ s missing is the transition from eating the seed pods and — then to seeing people in his apartment! Franklin says: ” Those people were imaginary of course. But at the time it was as real as can be of course, I talked to them , I saw them . When the police came (he had called them to come get the people out of his apt.) I realized they had hidden because the police couldn’t find them. – ( I tell Ray’s memory of when he said that the New York City Police said -“now you give us a call if they come back , But Not too soon!” We Laugh, he says “they’re great, the New York City Police- even if they do shoot people with 50 bullets. but in general with what they have to deal with they do it very well…”

I ask for more outrageous trips, he expresses the idea that “f I can remember then it becomes —- I can’t feel it (any) more …that I am just repeating stories that I have told..”

He remembers a lamp he made out of a top hat – then says “no, it was a fedora – can’t remember the lamp but can remember making it….(then I remind him of the one – the Wooden Fountain he goes on:) “wooden piers -4 or 5 pieces of pier .. it was beautiful – I ran water down it through pieces of pipe -lit it- a simple light bulb down at the bottom…one of best things I’ve ever done – it had both antique and slightly modern quality-magnificent…”( And it truly was- Wish we had a photo.)

There was a conversation( on the tapes) where we were talking about his friend Kate who lived next to him when he made that huge wooden “lamp”/air conditioner/ fountain out of cast off pier at Liberty Marina.* (Ray Stevens and I have a wonderful MacFie lamp made from a smooth hollow log the size of a table lamp, it has a light bulb down in it and the light glows from a huge, curved real bulls horn emerging from it.)

Ray and I met Frank’s friend Kate R. who lived through a winter – with a small wood stove- a year next to him in her beautiful but small old fishing boat -next to his house boat where the great lighted fountain was able to make the boat cool in the hot summer at the Liberty Marina in New Jersey . In view of the Statue of Liberty and the twin towers, this would have been in the mid nineties. My story is about visiting them there, and enjoying the customary early evening event of Franklin and Kate rowing the dinghy across to the large tugboat where their friend was living with her young daughter ( she had once been a pregnant tugboat captain!) . Then they would enjoy the sunset glowing golden on the surface of the twin towers .

Also in the November 1997, while Franklin was living on the house boat… put together as an art piece as usual, he had a great 60th birthday party. He Rented a Show Boat…in the Marina, and put on a great spread – We got to meet some of the family. It was a wonderful party.

Franklin dancing with Susan

Franklin dancing with Susan

Franklin and BStevens at Susan's wedding

Franklin and BStevens at Susan's wedding

1998..Sept 20th, Franklin Mac Fie along with Carolyn Brady and Bill Farrar and his wife Vicky Chapman were able to join us for Susan Stevens and Dug Birdzell’s wedding .

There were many visits back and forth mostly the Stevens went to New York- a couple of times Franklin came to Greenbelt, one visit around 1994 was when Ray’s mother was dying but when Franklin was visiting us, Ray’s mother, Alma, had this one amazing incredible good day!

But also that was the day when he heard that Michael Maslansky had died so he left right away for Los Angeles.

Ray and Franklin at Pat's house in 2000

Ray Stevens and Franklin - 2000

In 2000, we were in New Mexico and Franklin’s friend Lena from Sweden and Portugal got Franklin to visit New Mexico with her. So there in Santa Fe, Franklin must connect with lots of his “best ” women friends!: Lena, Nancy B. and Ellen, Barbara Stevens, all at once! were there any others there? It was too much.What I do know is he was a bit green with AIDS , as the cocktails were not perfected as yet, and he missed one important one, Eileen … he just didn’t manage to get up to north to see her.

2006 Carolyn Brady died and we all had celebrated her life at the Quaker type ceremony at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery, but Bill Epton was very ill with a fast moving bad case of Parkinson’s. When we would drive up to NYC/Brooklyn to see Epton IF we could get Franklin to go with us we COULD make Epton laugh, talk, be himself for the duration! Franklin was the component that could dispel for a while Bill Epton’s Parkinson’s!

It is hard to figure out this MacFie magic, his way with people, the power of his friendship. Maybe it’s life as theatre. I do know he made always his surroundings into art, Art as Life, Life as Art, Life and Art as Play!?

One of the last tapes Franklin talks about -getting ready to go to the hospital… has to clean his apartment.. so when he comes back he will come back to a clean apartment…. then we start talking about how he is stretching canvas – he is painting with house paint we discuss that its thick acrylic… a real IN THE MIDDLE OF LIFE talk about making the paintings..for example ..” I am using very basic colors, red, yellow, blue and white and green.. making up the various skin colors but I never have enough , so everyone has different color skin -have to do the whole thing over , it looks they have a skin disease… anyhow I am enjoying it a lot. Unfortunately the one thing that I have been working on for a long time and made many, many changes on … its a beach scene- with a clothed figure – a man standing- it suddenly looked like a Magritte – I loved the clothed man standing there.- everybody is is mostly naked the girl the boy, the other guy. But this clothed man with the black hat. I suddenly saw someone’s going to say ah , like Magritte.”

A life -time of Franklin Macfie’s Magic has led me to this blog. The Franklin MacFie who when the entire Stevens /Birdzell combined families with the Brady- Eptons and the Chapman/ Farrar’s sprung for a state of the art computer for Frank MacFie- that, Franklin, may have just on some occasion or other, might have just thrown that very computer out from his 6th floor window! well it did disappear.


Someone needs to describe Franklin’s wonderful last New York apartment, where the Datura people visited, and also his last show. The apartment belonged to Abby McGrath, his New York, Bard friend, who had invested in Harlem Renaissance Houses – giving Franklin a chance to get off the house boat and in to the city – for medical/financial reasons, and he could do his thing, fix it up -(as in restore, though.)

So the last apartment in NYC for Franklin was “the find of the century,” Abby bought a rent controlled co-op at a miraculous price and Franklin could afford the monthly fee, even – huge, with cross ventilation – old and beautiful, funky of course -way up the top of 6 flights and and way up in Harlem.. 119th …. across from a Park! (where the Datura grew), a long subway ride to anywhere..Franklin!

Barbara Stevens Oct. 2009

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