ROBERT GOBER: He felt the paintings came directly from his unconscious. He didn’t alter them. He felt that they were mysterious messages being sent to him from his unconscious, and it was just as much his job to decipher them through this language of symbols as it might be ours. Because he certainly didn’t have a reductive meaning for the paintings through the symbols.

It was an unhappy ending, almost needless to say.

It was a combination of natural forces—from a hurricane which took away his home in later life, to the advanced stages of alcoholism, perhaps some innate mental instability that seemed to run within the family. Poverty, which takes its toll. A stroke. It was a whole combination of factors that led to a diminution of himself later in life and a rather unhappy ending.

NARRATOR: In 1977, Bess died of skin cancer in a nursing home.

Forrest Bess (1911–1977), _Untitled No. 12 A_, 1957. Oil on canvas, 12 x 18 in. (30.5 x 45.7 cm). Collection of Andrew Masullo. Photograph by Wilfred J. Jones