Henk Lammers was working on an art school project when he saw an iconic image in an old newspaper — a man in a white suit to the left, a man holding a gun on the right and a just-shot Lee Harvey Oswald, mouth agape, in the center.
But what piqued the Holland native’s interest was the date of the photo, Nov. 24, 1963. Lammers’ date of birth.
The photo inspired a deep interest in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, which Lammers explores in his seven-painting series, HE WAS A LOVELY RED. Projections of the paintings will be on display in Dallas this month in honor of the 60th anniversary of the assassination.
“I could make an art exhibition in Holland, but I thought, ‘I have to go to Dallas. Even if I don’t know anyone at all,” Lammers said.
Each of Lammers’ seven paintings are titled with a 15-letter sentence. Each sentence is an anagram of Lee Harvey Oswald’s name, which Lammers said he discovered during a time he was looking to anagrams to “find some wisdom.”
“I used a scrabble box to rearrange the name over and over,” Lammers said. “I write (the titles of the works) in capital letters because in scrabble all the pieces are capital letters.”
“HE WAS A LOVELY RED” is both the title of the exhibit, and the name of Lammers’ first painting. The painting is of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot, and the title is painted in large red letters below the scene. Other anagrams, like “LEAD EVERY LA SHOW” or “SLOW HEAVY LEADER,” accompany iconic images from the day of the assassination.
One painting, titled “LOVE LADY WAS HERE,” is inspired by a photo of the former Texas School Book Depositorybuilding shortly after the shooting. Later, Lammers discovered one of the men in the original photograph who worked in the building was a Mr. Lovelady.
While each title and work seems to tie together nicely, Lammers attributes all similarities to coincidence. Any further interpretations are left to the viewer.
“The conspiracy thing is not my point,” Lammers said. “You could say (the titles) are clues, but they are not. I’m not making it any more mysterious than it is because it is mysterious enough.”
Lammers’ exhibit will be open to the public at the Central Library starting Nov. 22, the anniversary of JFK’s assassination, and will remain installed through Jan. 31. 500X Gallery will also host the exhibit starting Nov. 24, the anniversary of Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination, through Nov. 26.
A reception for the exhibit will be held at 500X Gallery Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. and will feature a musical performance by Chocolate Labrador. A reception at the library will be held from 5-7 p.m. Nov. 29.
“Coming to Dallas I’ve met someone whose father knew Jack Ruby, someone who was at the parade waving to Kennedy,” Lammers said. “Dallas is full of stories of that day. It is still one of the biggest mysteries.”