——Come by the studio!

Orso’s Honeypot sits on a busy stretch of Robey Ave. There used to be artists in boarded-up storefronts around here, but Orso’s the last man standing. There’s a whiskey bar/farm-to-table bistro to the left and an artisanal eyeglass emporium to the right. Orso’s work table faces the street so he can ogle the young mothers in yoga pants who’ve overrun the neighborhood. Truth is he doesn’t make much art here anymore. In fact, he doesn’t personally make much of anything. He has a crew of young acolytes to take care of the grunt work.

A visitor to the Honeypot couldn’t be blamed for thinking Orso a real art machine. Dick Blick can keep the doors open on all the supplies he’s sold to Orso. But stay an hour or two and you see that the Arches paper, Old Holland paint, rare sable brushes, and fine Belgian linen canvases——stretched to every size——are just stage props. When not regaling admirers with wild war stories, Orso whiles away his work days scrolling through Facebook, Pornhub, and Instagram. Sucking every last fractal of ego boost the algorithms will dole out.

Beyond the “studio” part of his storefront is a gallery. Orso has decided he will now promote the work of others, having himself attained heights of artistic accomplishment accessible to a rare few. He will mentor the younger generation and shine his mighty light on forgotten and neglected masters of the past.

The current show is devoted to Rose Lee-Flecks. Three other galleries have devoted exhibits to the grim snapshots of the infamous recently deceased washer woman, but Orso insists he’s got the inside track on the real gold from the trove auctioned from her unpaid storage lockers. He’s got the stuff stashed in bank vaults and hotel safes about town. When an unknown artist is “discovered”, the vultures descend, then flap their mighty wings away with choice morsels vice-gripped to their beaks, furtively making their way to hidden aeries. They hunch together with fellow scavengers, carefully revealing a few details, obscuring others, in desperate, ever-shifting calculations to maximize return on their score.

Lee-Flecks’s is a sad story. But not to Orso and his ilk. Because they project their wish fulfillments on her and her work. They scrub clean the illness, sweep it under the rug. All they want the public to see is the raw genius. The wall labels with absurd price tags prove it. They want the buyer to feel she’s getting a fleeting miraculous thing. What’s a few grand for a glimmer of the eternal?

One time, Orso paid me $20 an hour to move a bunch of framed prints from one undisclosed location to another. He supervised by chainsmoking Marlboro Lights, leaning on the rented Hertz truck and casting weary glances at passersby. He confided that he’d met Rose once or twice when he was coming up.

——Ugly broad. Rude. Unpleasant. But, boy, it’s like printing money with those pictures of hers now…