Autobiography of an Angel

The current issue of Westword sports an item about "Hell's Guardian Angel" (pictured), an artwork that's slated to go up for auction on eBay at midnight on November 5. But there's a lot more to the story of this piece -- enough to have filled an entire feature article. "Avenging Angel," which was published in May 2001, tells the tale of artist Ron Mays, who was so frustrated by the way the establishment was ignoring him that in November 1981, he broke into the Denver Art Museum and personally placed "Angel" on the wall.

Predictably, Mays was arrested shortly thereafter. But his saga hardly ended there.

For his DAM break-in, Mays was sentenced to 65 days in the clink; he was also ordered to donate "Angel" to the city's art collection. More misadventures followed, owing mainly to the ways he tried to finance his artistic pursuits. He was busted for bank robbery after trying to spend money stained by an exploding red-dye pack (he tried washing it, but that just turned it pink), and subsequently made ends meet, in a manner of speaking, via appearances in low-budget porn movies such as Backdoor Pleasures Vol. 2.

During the 1990s, Mays tried to track down "Angel," but it had apparently disappeared from city storage. Then, years later, Mays got his hands back on his masterpiece. Problem was, his explanation of its reappearance, which involved private detectives following a trail that led them to Washington, D.C., didn't exactly scream "credibility." To make matters worse, a Channel 4 correspondent who agreed to put together a package about "Angel" compared footage taken at the time of the DAM incident to new shots and concluded that Mays' signature was different. Hence, no Channel 4 report, and no sale when he tried to auction "Angel" around the time of Westword's 2001 story in order to cover medical expenses incurred by his sister, Laura.

In an e-mail excerpted below, Lesley Mays, Ron's wife, offers an explanation about the aborted 2001 sale, and defends the authenticity of the "Angel" going up on eBay:

Ron's sister Laura and her husband were able to find other funding for her surgery before the auction. The surgery went well and she is doing fine. Since it was no longer urgent that he sell the piece right away, he pulled it from the auction on the second day, but still left it in the auction. He wasn't quite ready to part with it anyway.

As for the questions raised about the painting's authenticity, Ron feels frustrated with the ignorance of his process, which in itself answers that question. There are hours of footage showing the unique methods by which Ron paints. Anyone watching that footage can clearly see why it is completely 100% impossible to duplicate his work. Yes, negative publicity has a negative effect on sales, as well as on Ron himself. He is a hard working, devoted artist and family man, who was viciously and shamelessly attacked by a moron, the deadliest of creatures.

The auction will last ten days. Bidding will start at zero, but we will have a reserve price of five thousand dollars. This is because of the historical importance of the painting. It is imperative to Ron that the buyer realize that Ron opened new doors to artists in Denver by bringing attention to the lack of attention given to contemporary artists. In spite of his methods, one cannot deny the effect.

Ron has earmarked 20% to go to Children's Hospital of Denver, his favorite charity. The rest, he hasn't decided on, although his website could definitely use some upgrades.

To judge Mays' website for yourself, click here. One page is devoted to "Angel" -- and he's awfully devoted to it as well. Nevertheless, anyone with at least $5,000 can have it for his very own. -- Michael Roberts

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