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.

Trying to appear immersed in his own thoughts, the gynecologist from Arkansas keeps just within earshot as the old man expounds on colors in the still life by Lodewik Susi, a seventeenth-century Flemish painter.

The yellows and greens, you see, are subtle, the old man points out. Yet they bring out other hues, adding a richness that would not otherwise be there. And the placement of the plate and knife, which overhang the table, adds dimension to the work. He brings his fingers within an inch or two of the canvas, pointing out details. He smiles slightly, his eyes bright, as if gazing at a newborn son or receiving an unexpected visit from Ed McMahon.

As always, he lingers, oblivious to the hovering doctor. This is the sixth painting he's stopped at since entering the St. Louis Art Museum three hours ago. At 90 and with bum legs, he's in no condition to dash from painting to painting, and he wouldn't do that even if he could. No, he picks his spots, disappointed that impressionist works have been put away to make room for a joint exhibition of plant drawings by Henri Matisse and Ellsworth Kelly.

Still, there is much to see, and the old man knows just where to look, making his way among paintings as if they were hung in his own living room. With a cane for support, he moves across the room from the still life to a religious scene by Jacob Jordaens. He's just starting to break it down when the gynecologist approaches.

"Excuse me," says Dr. Sia Shahriari. "I couldn't help but overhear. You're the most brilliant art critic I've ever heard.

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."
Salinas in the 1940s
Salinas in the 1940s
Portraits of Ellis Island immigrants are a favorite subject of Salinas'.
Jennifer Silverberg
Portraits of Ellis Island immigrants are a favorite subject of Salinas'.
Salinas produced or supervised the creation of several Toulouse-Lautrec lithographs.
Salinas produced or supervised the creation of several Toulouse-Lautrec lithographs.
Salinas regularly expounds on art for St. Louis Community College students.
Jennifer Silverberg
Salinas regularly expounds on art for St. Louis Community College students.

"Who are you?"

Introductions are made.

Though never formally educated in the arts, Shahriari spends evenings leafing through art books in his study -- he owns more than 200 -- and goes to art museums every chance he gets. He drove to St. Louis specifically to see paintings. While his wife shops at the Galleria, he's here for the second day in a row. Tomorrow he will fly to Washington, D.C., to tour the National Gallery of Art. Right now, he is in rapture.

"This man, you know what we should do to him?" Shahriari asks. "We should take him and squeeze him like a sponge." The doctor raises his Nikon digital camera and begins snapping pictures, suddenly more interested in capturing this living encyclopedia of art than the masterpieces on the walls.

Accepting a business card from the doctor, Marcel Salinas reaches into his appointment book and hands over a small slip of paper on which he has already written his name, address and phone number -- this is not the first time a stranger has interrupted him in an art museum. He tries to keep his voice down but nonetheless knows what it's like to be followed around by tourists who ditch their headphones, abandoning official tours in favor of a more personal approach from a man who has known and worked with some of the greatest artists of the twentieth century.

Picasso. Lhote. Vasarely. Ernst. Erte. Lebadang. Castellon. Bledsoe. Bemelmans. Some household names, some known only to the closest students of fine art. Salinas has met them all. With knowledge gleaned from countless books, he also speaks as if a compatriot of painters who died centuries ago. He knows which of them were drunks, which were spendthrifts, which died penniless, which fought with art dealers, which chased women and which chased boys. And when the call came to reproduce masterpieces, Salinas was there, a self-taught lithographer whose portfolio placed him among the world's finest printmakers back when it was done by hand instead of with computers and digital cameras.

But that was a long time ago, in cities far, far away. Today Salinas flies beneath the radar of the modern art world.

"Do you have a few minutes?" the doctor asks. "I would like you to look at a painting I admire." Salinas obliges, walking to a nearby room to critique a 1916 painting of a dancer by American artist Robert Henri. Yes, it's a brilliant work, Salinas agrees. "You know where he had the problem?" he asks in an accent at once Parisian and Mediterranean. The doctor shrugs. "The shadow," Salinas answers. "It should have been dark-blue, cool. But when he put in the blue shadow, the balance was disrupted. You couldn't make a Spanish dancer with a sad color." And so Henri exercised artistic license with the laws of nature and included red, he explains.

The doctor is silent for a moment. "I have seen this painting many times," he says quietly, his eyes locked on a familiar work that he now sees in an entirely different way. "I have never seen the red shadow."

The men chat for more than an hour, everything from the relationship between Paul Cézanne and Emile Zola to the poetry of Walt Whitman. The doctor pumps Salinas for information. Were you married? "Like everybody -- twice," Salinas quips. Do you have any children? No. Where did you come from? Egypt.

Inevitably there is the obvious: Why are you living here in St. Louis?

It is a query Salinas hears often. He gives a Reader's Digest version of the last ten years of an extraordinary life, explaining that he moved here in 1995, never expecting to stay more than a year. But he couldn't afford to return to Paris or New York.

"So," he says simply, "I'm stuck."


Barely five-foot-seven, stooped by scoliosis, the fingers of his right hand bent inward from decades of holding brushes, Marcel Salinas is still plenty tough.

His legs, broken by a hit-and-run driver in Denver thirteen years ago, are held together with rods and screws. He spent one month in a hospital and eight more on crutches but now spends entire days at art museums, exhausting companions less than half his age. He uses glasses only occasionally and paints daily, wearing out brushes in a week's time and prompting mild complaints about expenses. His closest friends say that's typical.

"He's able to accept dreadful things that have happened to him, but if he loses a Kleenex, he gets irritated," says Judith Bledsoe, a painter who lives in Paris but speaks with Salinas at least once a week. "If he's knocked down by a car, he takes it on the chin."

Salinas has bounced around the world, from Egypt to Paris to New York and, finally, to St. Louis. He is far from rich. His cot-width bed in his cluttered Central West End apartment tells you that much. Everywhere there are books, canvases, brushes, paint, mail, art periodicals and paintings stacked on their sides in bare metal racks. A couple dozen classical-music albums sit below a small stereo. The turntable is covered with a cloth to ward away dust. There is no television. His first lithograph of his own artwork, a scene of an Egyptian fisherman and his wife, hangs behind his futon sofa. It is numbered 62 of 83. Frugal to the core, Salinas skimped and didn't buy enough paper for a series of 100.

He was once lithographer to Pablo Picasso, who insisted that Salinas' name appear alongside his own on reproductions of the famed artist's "Imaginary Portraits" series that Salinas remembers as the most challenging printmaking of his life. As a painter, Salinas is old-school, and he makes no apologies, which has cost him in a world that constantly craves the new. A Christie's spokeswoman in New York says two of Salinas' paintings were valued at $500 and $1,000 in recent auctions but that neither sold. A signed lithograph on eBay can be had for as little as $100.

"Someone once described him as marching boldly forward into the nineteenth century," says Jack Solomon, former owner of America's largest private-gallery corporation and a friend since 1964. "His art is original, it's him, but it's derivative of some of the greatest artists who ever lived. The critics today who write in places like Artforum and Art in America and ARTnews, they would find him an anomaly. They would term him an anachronism. But he's right: Why do we have to have the rush of the new, which is what contemporary art does? Oh, Jeff Koons is a genius because he's making porcelain dolls or making pornographic paintings with his wife. This stuff really makes Marcel sick to his stomach, and shouldmake a lot of people.

"Why can't art be beautiful and uplifting?"

Salinas professes little use for the critics. "Art critics, they always want to be smart," he says. "They detach themselves from art. They're not interested in art, they're interested in going to what is fashionable. People are suckers. How many people know art really well? People look at a piece of shit and they say it's a progress, it's a step forward. Art, there's never a step forward in art. You can make a progression in engineering, not in art. We don't do better than the cave painters. Do you know a new way to make love? A new way to eat?"

Although Salinas loves America, he also sees a dark side. "The hardest thing on earth is to sell art," he says. "Selling, that's an American idea. You buy art like stock. America is very important in the field of art because they have the power to buy. And when they buy wrong, it's a catastrophe for the world."

In his prime, Salinas had one-man shows at top galleries in Europe and America. Armand Hammer purchased one of his paintings during a 1957 exhibition at the Hammer Gallery in New York. It was Salinas' first taste of the United States. He stayed at the home of Hammer's brother Victor on Fifth Avenue, a short walk from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

But those days are long past. His largest-ever exhibition, a few years ago in St. Louis, featured 81 works but drew no mention in newspapers or magazines.

"He's just sort of faded through the cracks, really," says Charles Edelman, an art teacher at St. Louis Community College who met Salinas at local art show about six years ago. "He's also not the kind of guy who goes out and promotes himself. He's very much of a workman and very much down to earth. He sort of feels like he's a missionary for art. If he can get one or two people to understand something in a different way, it's worth it for him."

Edelman takes his classes to Salinas' apartment for talks that meander through the history and theory of art, liberally sprinkled with anecdotes, humor and answers to whatever questions students may pose. Dana Gray, an art appraiser and president of the St. Louis Gallery Association, lives in the same building as Salinas and says she has tried to convince her contacts at Webster, Washington and St. Louis universities to hire Salinas as a lecturer, but no luck.

"They're not going to get any of this from a book," Gray says. "And nobody here in town or visiting is going to have the same experience that he does. Any known artist of this century, he's somehow touched that person, been affiliated with, had a personal experience, done prints for that person or knew their dealer.

"He's so connected."


Born into wealth in Alexandria, Egypt, before World War I, Salinas ended up penniless in Paris in his forties, his dream of becoming an artist turned into a fight for survival.

His father was a lawyer whose ancestors emigrated from Italy to Egypt in the nineteenth century, when the country went through a period of rapid modernization. His mother was born in Paris. He grew up an only child in Alexandria, where he learned to love opera, symphonies and, of course, painting. There were frequent trips to Europe to escape the heat and humidity of Egyptian summers, which he swears are worse than St. Louis'.

"I fell in love with Madame Butterfly," he recalls. "When she was killing herself, I started screaming. They had to take me out." He was just six years old, and he still sees nothing odd about creating such a row. "Even gangsters cry when they see Madame Butterfly," he says.

Bowing to his parents' expectations, he became a lawyer in his stepfather's firm. But, always, art beckoned, much to his parents' consternation. "Both of them hated for me to paint," he says. "My stepfather was a fantastic man. He loved me, you see, and he had a kind of respect for me. I told him, 'I want to take a chance here.' He said, 'This is very bad. You'll never make a living. It's an illusion. You speak like a child.' I was young, so I didn't care. So I told him at a certain moment, 'I will come less often to the office.' And after that, I went to work more on my art. He didn't like it, but he let me go."

Salinas spent ten years creating works for his first show, a 1946 exhibit in an Alexandria gallery. Four years later, he landed a one-man show in the Galerie Barreiro-Stiebel in Paris, his first brush with the big time. "This was a very important show," he says. "There were eleven articles on my show. I sold 24 paintings." And Salinas soon left Egypt for good.

His move to Paris was made partly to follow his dream, partly to escape an Egypt bound for political and social upheaval. His only formal instruction came when he studied in Paris under André Lhote, a cubist painter whose works hang in museums from the State Hermitage Museum in Russia to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in France to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

"If I had stayed in Egypt, I would have done nothing," he says, "and I saw that things were collapsing, could collapse very soon. And I wanted to realize my career. Only Paris could give me the opportunity." His wife didn't feel the same way, and his artistic drive doomed the marriage. "She's a nice person, but she was terribly selfish," he says. "When we married, I wanted to realize my career in Paris. But in Paris, I had not, immediately, enough money to have the same life as in Egypt. She was nice when she was very young, and all of a sudden, only herself." Nor did his second marriage last. "She left me," he says, adding that he was too immersed in his work to have any semblance of a domestic life.

When Egypt switched from a monarchy to a republic in the 1950s, Salinas' family lost everything, including all of his earliest works. Salinas explains that his mother left his paintings in an apartment when she moved to a smaller place, arranging to return to retrieve the works. But when she came back, Salinas says, the new tenant sent her away, saying there were no paintings there. "They were stolen," he says.

By the mid-1950s, Salinas was a starving artist, at one point reduced to painting houses to make ends meet. "Marcel was in France, cut off from all funds," says his friend J. Robert LeShufy, a New York art publisher who has known Salinas since 1970, when his company commissioned the artist to produce lithographs of works by Toulouse-Lautrec. "He had nothing. Here he was, beautiful silk suits, living in Paris and everything else and he didn't have ten francs in his pocket. This really scarred him, this whole business of being without anything and being a refugee and that sort of thing. He's never really gotten over it."

Desperate, Salinas walked into a Paris print shop. The proprietors asked whether he could do lithography. And Salinas fibbed.

"I said yes," he recalls. "I needed money just to pay my rent. I knew vaguely, you see. I know you put a grease on a stone. But I had never done it. To know something and to do it is very different."

Invented 200 years ago, lithography is an exacting, sometimes maddening craft. Using slabs of limestone as the work surface, traditional lithographers paint pictures with grease, then wash the stone with a solution of nitric acid and gum arabic, which etches the image onto the limestone. The stone is wetted with water, and oil-based ink is applied. The image in grease attracts the ink; the wet portions of the stone repel it. There is little room for error -- once the grease goes on the stone, it is virtually impossible to remove it. The strength of the acid solution must be carefully considered. Each color requires a separate stone, and the artist must take into account how overlapping colors will blend on the final print. A single lithograph might require ten stones or more.

"You cannot put green and blue on the same stone, but with yellow and blue, you can make a green," Salinas explains. "Yellow and red, you can make an orange. When you make a proof and you print and it's not working, you have to know how to compensate with the next plate. It's fascinating, and this is why I was in printing."

Eventually, sheets of zinc that could be wrapped around printing drums became more popular than stones, which were awkward to work with and scarce. Zinc was subsequently replaced with Mylar sheets. Today, reproductions made with digital cameras and computers have largely taken the place of handmade lithographs, much to Salinas' dismay.

Salinas' initial lithographic assignments were hardly fine art. He was relegated to adding color to architectural renderings. "You have three colors; you cannot have four," he remembers. And he was forced to work cheap. "He didn't have working papers," LeShufy says. "They took advantage of him and paid him, like, a third of what they paid everybody else because he was an unregistered worker."

Papers or no, Salinas still had his pride.

"One day, the guy in the print shop said that he had very difficult work to do and that I couldn't do it, so he asked a guy from Mourlot," he remembers. "I saw the work. I could have done it. I said nothing. I went to an artist friend who did tapestries. He was working on [illustrating] a book of poetry. I had done one or two lithographs for him, simple things. I said, 'Do you think I could work at Mourlot?' He said yes. I said, 'OK, give me an introduction.'"

At the time, Mourlot was the leading print shop in Paris. Salinas says, "I went to Mourlot; they saw my work; they liked what I was doing. I started working on the book of that guy -- I started working at Mourlot. I went to the smaller shop after I started the work at Mourlot. I said to the guy, 'Look here. Next time that you need somebody, a Mourlot boy, to make a work, you can call me. He said, 'What do you say?' I say, 'Because I'm working there.' The guy became white. And that was the last time I was there. I did so much work for that guy, very difficult work. But I don't like when somebody steps on purpose on my foot. He was exploiting me, paying me very little for my work. I never had to do that kind of thing to survive."

Salinas wasn't the sort to stick in one place. He has always worked freelance, cutting his own deals and resisting representation by any agent or single gallery. Gradually, moving from shop to shop, Salinas earned a reputation as one of the best lithographers in the city. But he nearly panicked when a publisher approached him in the late 1960s with a dream job: reproducing a series of original Picasso paintings, known as the "Imaginary Portraits," in a series of 28 lithographs.

"I was very, very worried," Salinas recalls. "If I have a failure, whoosh!" But this was no task for the meek. "I want to take a chance," he says. "You're reproducing work, but at the same time you have to have a creativity -- or you can copy, but it becomes tedious and boring and flat. This is not photographical, this is you. And if you make a mistake, it will be printed forever. And they had chosen me because they knew that I would do a kind of inspired passion.

"Picasso is not this," he explains, pinching his forefinger and thumb together. "Picasso's art is this," he says, flourishing his open hand in the air. The lithographs, he knew, must be just as daring.

Working from four-by-five-inch photographs of the originals and his own knowledge of Picasso's style, Salinas created lithographs that are works of art in their own right. It is impossible, Salinas says, to precisely copy a painting when working with grease. Oil paintings can be copied in oil, but exactness goes out the window when one works in a different medium than the original. Colors, for instance, had to be carefully considered -- the precise colors as on the original paintings would not appear properly because the lithographs were of different sizes.

"I thought a lot," he says. "It was very difficult. Every piece was different. I had to take a chance and make a brushstroke like him. You work for two days on a plate, and after that you have to make two or three brushstrokes, and you can destroy the plate." Picasso, who was staying in the south of France, wasn't around to give advice. "He was very far from Paris," Salinas says. "He wanted to be in peace -- he wanted to be left alone and do his work. He was very old. I could not go there. I had to make a living."

And so Salinas did his best, producing two lithographs to send to Picasso for the artist's approval. He risked working for free. "'If he likes the work, I will do it,'" he recalls of the deal he struck. "'If he doesn't like it, pay the print shop for the proofs; you don't pay me.' Picasso said the corrections he wanted. There were only two. When they looked at my correction sheet, I had the same two corrections. He said, 'Carte blanche.'" The respect Salinas earned went beyond Picasso's insistence that their names appear together on the finished works. After his death, Picasso's heirs chose Salinas to supervise the creation of dozens of additional lithographs.

Only after the "Imaginary Portraits" lithographs were complete did Salinas meet Picasso. Their time alone was brief, he recalls, and Picasso lamented the celebrity that had turned him into a recluse.

"I was not Picasso's friend; I worked for him," he says. "It was artist-to-artist. He told me, 'I don't wish my worst enemy to be as famous as me.'"


Lithography exploded during the 1960s, fueled by a surging market for fine-art prints. The best were produced in Paris. And Salinas was in the center of it all.

Solomon was just starting Circle Fine Art Galleries, a chain of American showrooms that eventually grew into one of the nation's largest, with more than $40 million in annual sales and a Nasdaq listing. Salinas became Solomon's talent scout in France.

"Through mutual acquaintances, I met Marcel back in 1964," Solomon recalls. "Marcel was just delighted to see me. He was the friend and supporter of the entire brigade of starving artists in Paris -- there were lots of them. He took me to flats where there were no toilets or running water and no heat, and we were there in the wintertime, my wife and I. He was interested in having us do the lithographs of the young artists, the ones he thought had a lot of talent. All the museum-quality artists that we wanted to deal with he would know on a first-name basis. He essentially became my voice in Paris."

And a teacher for other artists.

Ludwig Bemelmans, famous for his New Yorker cover illustrations and series of children's books featuring a Parisian schoolgirl named Madeline, credited Salinas with teaching him how to paint with oils. In his 1958 book My Life in Art, Bemelmans calls Salinas a savant and describes him as a Zen master of sorts, a man who made his own India inks because the ones sold in shops weren't sufficiently intense. "As intense as his ink are his eyes and his spirit," Bemelmans wrote. "He does a kind of sorcerer's cuisine with his thin fingers, using ancient formulas, and during this process a constant recitation goes on which covers the whole history of art from the caveman to the present."

Bemelmans, a friend of Armand Hammer's who helped arrange Salinas' 1957 show in New York, was known for watercolors. Oils had always confounded him. But not after a lesson from Salinas.

Salinas came to Bemelmans' studio with small bottles of paint and an instant realization that his student was like a horse eager to bolt. Salinas told him to shut up and watch -- and beware Prussian blue, which takes forever to dry. "It is very simple," Bemelmans remembers Salinas saying. "I know you are not listening to a word I say to you, but just the same, just look how I do it, it is childishly easy, it won't hurt. Now just watch me, a tiny little of bit this and a little bit of that -- and always use Mars black. Watch me."

Bemelmans' world changed as he watched Salinas mix paint to produce the exact shade of green he had been seeking. "Ah, you see now you are interested," Salinas observed. "Now, just a little on this small brush. Now take it to the canvas and now paint." Salinas handed Bemelmans the brush. "To my great surprise, at once and without smelling badly, or at least no longer offending me, the picture was there in oil," Bemelmans writes. "This was a moment of great liberation."

And great satisfaction for Salinas. "Voilà, you have it, that is all I can tell you," Salinas said. "That is the complete lesson. Now let yourself go."

Some of Bemelman's details are embellishments, Salinas insists, but the thrust was true. The challenge with Bemelmans, he says, was to accept the artist's impatience at the easel and point him toward paints and techniques that wouldn't alter his basic approach to painting, which was get it done in a hurry. "He never wanted to let things dry, so the paints would mix together and turn out a mess," he says.

Frederico Castellon, whose works are in the permanent collections of such institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, said Salinas -- "who's nothing, really, no reputation" -- was one of his most important influences.

Shortly before his death in 1971, Castellon told the Smithsonian Institution that Salinas rescued him from a period of despair rooted in frustration with commercialism. "I would get up in the morning and look at this beautiful blue sky and think, God, why do I have to go to work," Castellon told the interviewer, who was helping compile a collection of oral histories for the Smithsonian. "I was escaping myself and trying to comply with, you know, external wishes."

Salinas set him straight. During a 1964 visit to his studio, he praised one of Castellon's prints, only to be met with "Please, not a word. I don't want to hear about it." Determined to get his point across, Salinas told Castellon that his prints reflected the man who made them. "I can sense a person who feels certain things, who has a view of life that is totally his own and individual," Salinas told the troubled lithographer.

His words made a difference.

"I felt, for Christ's sake, he's describing everything that I thought I was getting away from," Castellon said. "From then on, I began doing what it was in me to do and I loved every moment of it. I looked forward to my work. I wanted to do more and more and more and more and I said, 'The hell with the public,' you know. Most of the time it doesn't know its ass from its elbow. So if they like it, they like it. If they don't, they don't. What am I going to do? So I think I owe that to Marcel, the confirmation of what I am and what I want to do."

Bledsoe, who became one of Circle Galleries' stars, says she owes her career to Salinas, whom she met in 1968. A deadline loomed, and she was getting nowhere in the print shop where Salinas was also working.

"It wasn't his print shop, but he was the life and breath of it," she recalls. "I had a commission to do some lithographs, and I didn't know how to do them. Nothing worked out. I was ready to give it all up. I heard this nice voice -- he has exactly the same voice; it's never changed. I looked up, and there was this man with twinkly, sparkly eyes with a checked shirt and a woolen tie. He said, 'Do you need any help? Is something wrong?' I said, 'I'm going to kill myself.' He came over and said, 'No, don't do that.'

"So he came and he said, oh, that can easily be fixed up with this, that and the other thing. It was just the right thing that he said. And I learned all that I knew about lithographs just from him. He was there like Zorro, always bailing me out. He's a wonderful teacher because you feel as if you're learning it yourself, you see. He doesn't tell you what to do.

"It's magic."


Nine years ago, Salinas was lying in a Paris hospital bed, recovering from a hernia operation, when he saw a television news report about flooding in Iowa. He picked up the phone and called Jack Scharr, owner of Fine Art Limited in Chesterfield.

Fifty-seven of his paintings and more than 100 lithographs were stored in Scharr's vault. Salinas, who had moved to New York in the late 1970s after an exorbitant rent increase forced him out of his Paris studio, didn't have space for the works in his room at the Chelsea Hotel, so Scharr had offered to store them at the end of a show in his gallery. With the water rising, Salinas was worried. He called Scharr several times, imploring him to move his work to higher ground. But Scharr assured him that there would be no flood.

"He said the government said there would be no problem," Salinas recalls. "Right then, I knew I had big problem."

Scharr says his insurer, Lloyd's of London, told him that any works that were moved wouldn't be insured. "So we just kind of bided our time," he says. "The morning of the flood, at nine o'clock in the morning, we were given word by the city of Chesterfield that maybe we should get things out of there. But there's no quick way to move artwork, and we've got a lot of artwork here."

Salinas' work was under water for twelve days. His lithographs were destroyed. Many of his paintings were also damaged beyond repair. "What can you do?" he shrugs. "You can cry." Instead, Salinas rolled up his sleeves. Nine years later, he is still fixing the damage.

Scharr made a suggestion: Why don't you move to St. Louis? Rent is cheaper than in New York. You can get an apartment with plenty of space for a studio. You can restore or repaint the damaged paintings.

It sounded good. "He had all of his artwork, all of his canvases, in this hotel room at the Chelsea," LeShufy says. "He couldn't turn around. He didn't have space to paint or unpack his things. It was living like a gypsy." And so Salinas moved to St. Louis, arriving here in 1995. Several friends say the move was a mistake.

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.

"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."

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