In 2010 I published Rolling the Bones, a memoir recounting how I became both an artist an art dealer. I had no interest in art growing up, yet by my early twenties I had abandoned my academic studies at the University of Toronto to pursue sculpture and photography in a log cabin studio north of Orillia, Ontario. Some years later I became an art dealer, first in the town of Craighurst, near Orillia, and then in Toronto.
In writing the memoir, I wished to chronicle the wild ride, the colour and quirkiness of the journey. After finishing the book I realized that a great many convictions, too often taken for granted, are essential to surviving it: a fighting spirit; perseverance in the face of great odds; an appreciation for the ephemeral nature of delight; willingness to fail time and time again; incessant curiosity; and faith in what feels right and true. All of these conspire to make a successful life in the arts possible.
After closing the Leo Kamen Gallery in 2011, I have revived my artistic aspirations by becoming an author. I’ve written two novels, and one book for artists, Basic Shit: On Being an Artist in the 21st Century, which is presently seeking a publisher.
“Rolling the Bones is a Runyonesque memoir — rough and ready, but also poignant and clear-sighted. A fighting spirit fills these pages, but also a distinctive respect for literature and art. What Kamen writes about the sculptor Rodin could equally apply to parts of this memoir: ‘what [was] forced from a lump of clay was so intimate it was nearly unbearable.’ Failure, misapprehension, luck and receptivity to life — that is, the vicissitudes of human nature — mark this memoir from beginning to end.”
— Anne Michaels, author of Fugitive Pieces and The Winter Vault
“Direct, funny and insightful. This is the story of young Valdis — adventurer, lover of women, working-class kid on the make, but without bitterness or anger, just an intense joie de vivre. To top it all off, the small characters jump off the page like miniatures from Dickens.”
— Antanas Sileika, author of Buying on Time and Woman in Bronze