Glasstire is reprinting the entire "Nick Duchamp" sequence from True Artist Tales. This originally was serialized in Public News between September 1988 and May 1989. It was completely fictional but the characters (except for Nick Duchamp) were all based on real Houston art scene folk who were around at the time.
I interviewed Gilbert in advance of his exhibit (opening tomorrow!) and here's what he said about the Nick Duchamp story:
Robert: The Nick Duchamp story—you didn’t start True Artist Tales doing serialized stories. What made you decide to do them?
Scott: That story was kind of handed to me by events. A painting was stolen from the Big Show at Lawndale. Walter Hopps was the judge for that particular show. David Kidd had done this kind of joke painting. It was horrible. A woodburning thing. Have you seen this?
Scott: I gotta email you that image. He had done this thing and it was called the “Oily Monster Melting” or something like that. It showed a monster climbing out of an oil field derrick. It was as crude as possible on a wood-burning plank you’d by from TG&Y or something. Anyway, Walter gave it first prize out of all the 100s of pieces in the show. Not everyone was happy about this.
David Kidd, Oily Monster Melting (later stolen)
Walter was a bandit. He had a reputation for stealing art himself. So the piece got stolen. Mysteriously vanished. This piece began to show up at occasional parties I’d go to. When artists had parties, there would be the piece on the wall. Then it would inevitably disappear from the party. Then later, maybe there’d be two of them. They’d be in different homes at the same time. So that was where that whole story kind of came from.Glasstire is splitting the story into two parts. The first part was published today.
Robert: I have a copy of a “Wanted” poster for Walter Hopps for that.
Scott: See, Dave and the Art Guys were driving that whole business. And some of the Commerce Street people. This is the way things went back then. Comedy tumble. I put it all together. I was always big on noir. There was a lot of punning. Nick Duchamp, the private detective, the fictional son of Marcel. This was back when Houston’s downtown was still fairly undeveloped and in the crapper in the real estate situation. There was plenty of freedom. I set Nick Duchamp’s office—an archetypal private eye office with the venetian blinds—on St Emmanuel St. in the original Chinatown.
He was the only fictional character in the story. Everyone else was based on someone in the scene.
Robert: Michael and Tracy weren’t.
Scott: [laughs] Yeah, that’s right. But “Michael Tracy” [well-known Houston-area artist from Galveston]. That was the influence of Los Bros Hernandez, the Mexican wrestling thing. I took a lot from them.
Scott Gilbert. True Artist Tales zine cover