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Stronger Than Paradise

Carroll Dunham, or Tip, as his friends call him, is a perfect painter. Do you know what I mean by that? Me, neither. But I’m pretty sure it’s true. He has a vision — a discrete, evolved, impeccably worked-out vision. It’s not exactly utopian, but it depicts a flawed Eden that is, perhaps, as good as it gets, in that it cannot be improved upon.

I have a little piece of paper with a tree on it, a species grown only by Tip, and when I look at it, I am transported, just as if I had taken a very good drug — one that makes you relaxed, bemused, mystified, and improved. That’s art at its best. It’s probably the one picture in the house that I would take down when my in-laws come to visit. It’s certainly not obscene, although it has sexuality oozing like sap from its not-biting bark, but it denies all of the assumptions that we make. It says: But there is another world. Look, it’s right here. It’s private. It’s nourishing, but it’s exclusive and perhaps even scary. It’s the same quality that made my mother cry when I put on Ornette Coleman and the Master Musicians of Jajouka. Hey, Mom, somebody moved your entire frame of reference.

GLENN O’BRIEN — So Tip, how did you get the name “Tip”?...

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