Thom Shaw: Dead Man Working

Cincinnati is woefully small for black artists. It’s not that everybody knows everybody else; it’s that everybody knows everybody else’s business. Case in point: Back in November 2005, when Thom Shaw fell gravely ill shortly after being named the Taft Museum of Art’s Duncanson Artist-in-Residence, the news crackled across the black grapevine at gallery receptions, jazz shows, even the grocery store. Everyone was concerned. For two decades, Shaw, a world-renowned printmaker, had battled a succession of illnesses exacerbated by diabetes. But that fall, he slipped into a coma caused by a severe neck infection brought on by kidney failure. He came close to death...then got a reprieve. Last May, concern for his health bubbled across the local scene again when an infection of flesh-eating bacteria led to the amputation of his right leg. And yet, less than two months later, Shaw fastened on a mocha-brown prosthesis and headed back to the studio. Super-animated Batman fight sounds seemed to hang in the air, narrating the resilient artist’s fight to live: KAPOW! KIDNEY FAILURE...BANG! DIABETES...TAKE THAT, MORTALITY!

The King Is Dead, Long Live the King

King Records, the fiercely independent, fully integrated brainchild of the cigar-chomping iconoclast Syd Nathan, set the wold on its ear.