The Boccia (Bow-sha)”Bird:” Rehashing a Moniker

Written By: Avenues Bistro Wine Director Timothy O’Neal

At a crowded St. Louis Selkirk’s auction in the mid 1980’s, a massive wall of numbered paintings was bringing in the bucks. A Chinese man with a Dynasty of money was on a buying binge. One after another went his direction. But suddenly, when “The Bird,” circa 1960, by Edward Eugene Boccia, had its turn to be smashed by the auction gavel, the Chinese man put his paddle down. My Mother, Gretchen Ackerman O’Neal, a former art student of the now 90 year old painter and poet, won that piece and gave that abstract flapper to my father as a gift. After the auction, Gretchen asked the Chinese man, “Why didn’t you bid on that painting?” He revealed, “Because you had your eyes on it the entire afternoon, and it’s likely the only reason you came… I wanted you to have it.”

As a Wine Director, it would be many beer-pong college evenings and a few years further before my interest in wine would begin to sniff itself into development. A fortunate upbringing also exposed me to some incredible art to which an appreciation is finally ‘wine-bug’ biting at 38 years of age. Last year, I searched out Edward Boccia’s work hoping a misspelled ‘Bokkia’ on Ebay might get me one on the cheap. Instead, a news article noting that a half century retrospective show would soon be taking place in St. Louis came into view. Way cool!

My bequeathed 1991 Mercury “No-Paz” got me to the show. Armed with a checkbook full of copper, the plan was still to purchase. The work was incredible, disturbing yet prolific, and fetching enough gold coin to force me to pass, or sign a rubber bouncer. Leaving with only images in my head and the pleasure of shaking Mr. Boccia’s purpley, yet steady hand, a stop in Columbia Missouri to share the experience with my parents was in order. Deep into dinner, Dad said, “There’s a Boccia in the basement, you are welcome to it for five hundred bucks in wine,” he said while smiling. Bartering still rules! A quick peer into our shared cellar made for an easy transaction; just slide a few bottles of the good juice on over a rack or two, and the Boccia Bird was now cleared for a wall-mounted takeoff.


In reducing the subject of art, Mom always told me that a painting must have balance. Ironic, in that balance is the prevailing attribute all quality wine must possess too. One way to check for artistic balance is achieved by rotating the piece to see if it still makes sense. Over dinner last year, my honkytonk neighbor was insistent on flopping this bird around to check it out. And watch out! (scroll up and down for optimum effect) This dark painting of feathered-fishy-fury shall be perched in the Avenues dining room only this evening as an image-symbol to the wine-fight.

Mr. Boccia is not only an artist of serious merit as his works are in the Nelson among others, but also apoet of award winning acclaim. Although my personal experience lies with his brushstrokes, his prose is something of a recent discovery for me. Just a couple of weeks ago, I noticed he recently won a poetry contest in St. Louis. They posted the poem and thus, here it is for your enjoyment. Those interested in seeing his art and reading more of his work can check the web connects listed after the poem:

By Edward Boccia

these people do not feel that they
have to speak the truth.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The great masquerade of peace
has wrought havoc with all
our warring preconceptions.
The appearance of peace is nothing
but a dead olive branch glued
to a skull.
Only rats build their lives
eating human flesh, only rats
confirm the deception of appearances.
This whole prison is deceptive;
it’s insane too.
Some of the prisoners are insane.
Torture drives them to it.
Now they walk in circles,
they shout, they bang their heads.
Some think they are saints.
They look forward to torture,
they believe it builds a special castle
in the soul. They hope to climb
the highest tower and gaze at the stars.
Some day they know they will fly from
the tower and travel millions of light years
across a black velvet sky.
One man told me, when he’s out there,
he will count each blinking star,
and blink back.

Edward Boccia’s Site

Brewington Interiors

Mccaughen and Burr


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