Title: William Tell Overshare: portrait of William Burroughs
Material: Oil on canvas
Artists to my mind are the real architects of change and not political legislators, who implement change after the fact. – William Burroughs
When he was living in Mexico, Beat author and gun enthusiast William Burroughs blew his wife’s brains out while trying to shoot an apple off the top of her head, William Tell style, in a drunken demonstration of his marksmanship. He was acquitted when he was judged to have been way too drunk at the time to aim straight.
His pose here is similar to the man’s pose on police gun range targets — full frontal with elbow out — and the composition is as mathematically disciplined as a Burroughs business machine (the fortune to which he was an heir), with the background split into strata by half and then half again. Each stratum bears arms (they have that right) representing clouds, foliage and magma, in what at first suggests mural art of the Yucatan, but may also be a cross-section of the earth and sky themselves.
This painting is painted on a recycled door, which suits Burroughs’ proportions and mental wanderlust to a tea.