Southwest Art notes

Remembering Fucci

The spirit of Herschel Krustofski was at the funeral of artist Fucci, the East Calhoun resident who left his pop-art mark in the form of large murals all over the Uptown and Lyn-Lake areas. Fucci died June 25 at age 54 of a heart attack.

Some of Fucci's best known murals adorn the exterior of Specs Optical, 2204 Hennepin Ave. S., with its giant portrait of a gloomy Woody Allen, the party scene from "Breakfast at Tiffany's" on nearby Via's Vintage Wear and the mural of Pee-Wee Herman and his beloved bike outside of Lyn-Lake's Penn Cycle.

Krustofski, as fans of "The Simpsons" can tell you, is better known as Krusty the Clown. Fucci, as fans of Southwest art can tell you, was also known as Peter Bue.

Krusty the Clown's laughable lament - "Oh, I'm taking a bath on this one" - became part of the artwork that was Bue's casket. Bue's daughter inscribed the clown's line on the casket in tribute to her father's love of the TV show and in honor of his off-the-wall sense of humor.

Said Bue's wife, Laura Kroeten-Bue, "When I was standing at the gravesite, feeling like I was just going to start sobbing, I'm looking at that [Krusty quote]. Peter really liked that saying. I thought of Peter and how he would think that's hysterical. So I just had to smile. It was really nice."

Bue's friends and family decorated the casket in primary-color paints, she said.

One of Bue's brothers also inscribed the casket with a cheerfully inappropriate line from Monty Python: "Can I have your liver?"

The funeral was "a celebration of who he was," Kroeten-Bue said. "It was all Peter."

Bue was a familiar sight around Southwest, as he peddled his old, beaten bicycle about, sometimes toting his art and often on his way to or from work.

Jim Kurhajetz, owner of Downtown's Rex Mills Printing, where Bue worked for the past 17 years as a pressman, said Bue biked to and from work every day.

"When it was super-cold, he'd take the bus, but it would have to be like 10 below or worse," Kurhajetz said.

Kroeten-Bue said her husband never owned a car, partly for environmental reasons and partly because he savored his independence. "He didn't want to be tied to a car," she said.

Bue's friend, Jane Nide, said she met Bue in 1988. "I was having a garage sale at my house, and I was standing out on Hennepin with a toaster, trying to wave people over to my house," the Linden Hills resident said with a laugh. "And I saw this guy painting a building and I thought, 'Oh, my god. That's a great idea. Paint my garage and make it go away.' "

Bue did a number of paintings for her, including one of her and her friends sitting in her backyard hot tub.

Kris Coult, another of Bue's friends, said the hot tub portrait is her favorite of all his work.

"His art was his life," Coult said. "He was like a child when you started talking about ideas for pieces of art for him to do for you. He was just excited by all the possibilities."

She bought a near-lifesize portrait of Audrey Hepburn from him for her home. She said she'd planned to commission a portrait of Steve McQueen, in black and white like the Hepburn piece, but never got around to it - a procrastination she said she now regrets.

Kroeten-Bue said there would be a retrospective of her husband's work Saturday, July 23, 11 a.m.-7 p.m and Sunday, July 24, 1-5 p.m., at the Calhoun Arts Building, 711 West Lake St., where he had his studio. The exhibit will include recent works, as well as paintings brought from homes around town for the occasion.

"He was my best friend," Kroeten-Bue said. "He was the person I could go and tell anything to. When anything was wrong, he could throw his arm around me and say it was going to be OK.

"He really had no enemies. Everyone who met him, he seemed to make an impact on. He just touched so many people."

She said donations in Bue's name could be made to the Walker Art Center.

Burning down the Red House

Red House Gallery presents its annual "Group Show" exhibit, opening Friday, July 22, at 5 p.m.

The exhibit includes work from California artist Tony Berlant and Minneapolis artist Nick Harper - both new exhibitors at Red House, 3413 W. 44th St.

The show also includes the art of Red House owner Kellie Rae Theiss and local artist Steven Swanson.

For more information, go to www.theissgallery.com or call 339-1094. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.