The Master

His inspired passion made him a favorite in the art world. Now Marcel Salinas is stuck in St. Louis, where hardly anybody knows his name.

Last fall, Bi-State canceled bus service between Salinas' Central West End apartment and the Art Museum. He can no longer walk the few blocks to Straub's and relies on friends to take him shopping. "I think he's a bit lonely in St. Louis," Bledsoe says. "He says he never sees anybody. He's always saying that he hasn't been out. I firmly believe, and I've told him that, that he never should have left the Chelsea."

Salinas pines for the Big Apple and his days at the Chelsea. "All kinds of crazy people live there," he says. "Paris is my city, but I love New York very much. It was wonderful because in New York, you feel how much America build up toward a good life and at the same time they want to be a good country. At the Chelsea, the street, the location, the shops, the restaurants. I have three shoemakers not very far. I take to them my things. Now I have a mountain of shirts, and I don't know who can fix them."

Salinas also maintains an apartment in Brussels that he visits each summer to escape the worst of the St. Louis heat. He brushes aside suggestions that he consolidate to one residence, insisting that moving his work would be too expensive. LeShufy says it's an attitude left by his days as a pauper.

Jennifer Silverberg
Marcel Salinas: "I was not Picasso's friend; I worked for him. It was artist-to-artist."
Jennifer Silverberg
Marcel Salinas: "I was not Picasso's friend; I worked for him. It was artist-to-artist."

"He lives in fear of being impoverished," LeShufy says. "Marcel, unfortunately, worries about economics beyond what he should worry. He has a refugee mentality.

"He's not wealthy by any means, but he has enough to keep himself going."

And he's still quietly showing others the way in St. Louis.

Jack Tandy, a retired illustrator of medical books, enrolled in Edelman's art class about five years ago to learn how to create paintings instead of technically precise anatomical drawings. He lingered after the class visited Salinas. "He told me to call him sometime and we'll talk," Tandy recalls. "I was a little bit in awe. This was a guy who had worked with Pablo Picasso. Hell, I was just an amateur in this field. I called him and kind of thanked him for the time he had spent with us, and I asked him if he'd like to have some of my homegrown tomatoes -- it was like calling someone up for a date. He spent time with me, told me what he thought was good about my paintings and how I could improve."

Two years ago, Tandy painted a mural of the Garden of Eden in the basement of Ferguson United Methodist Church. It is an immense work, about 30 feet long and seven feet high. "I was almost afraid to do it," Tandy says. But Salinas urged him on, telling him where he could buy acrylics in quantity and advising him to tone down the greens. When the work was nearly complete, Salinas visited the church. "The pastor was there at the time, and she came down to look at it," Tandy recalls. "He started explaining to her why I had done certain things. Some of the things, I didn't even know why I had done them.

"Anybody who was trying to paint, I think he would encourage."

« Previous Page