"Boss" 1971, 8´ x 4´ x 6´´
Paint and mixed media on Masonite®.

This is Hardesty's first completely abstract painting. Astonishingly mature from a 19-year-old with only one year of academic art training, nearly all of that training in representational forms. It's the only major artwork of Hardesty's hanging in their home."It's a seminal piece to me personally," says Hardesty. "and it has a bit of a story behind it."

Hardesty begins, "Eastern Kentucky University's art department held this juried art student exhibition once a year. It would be my first opportunity to exhibit...ever. So, it was important to me. With great hubris, I decided to submit a new, very large, and very complex painting, completed covertly, so as to be a surprise entry [sic]. For four weeks, I broke into the art building at night, and worked clandestinely on a grand realistic version of 'The Last Supper'. Not a spoof painting, not tongue in cheek. An ernest effort to strech my studentish rendering skills to the limit. A completely serious interpretation. No defense given here for my arrogance, other than youth indescretion and a great admiration of DaVinci ."

"Predictably, it went horribly. I'd bit off way more than I could chew, repainting every inch of that painting at least 4 times. And each time it just got worse. It was one of those awful experiences where nothing you do seems to work. Here's the kicker. Ridiculously, I was attempting to do it without any reference for the figures! In every way, this painting was destined for catastrophe."

"But I was certain of my abilities and very bull-headed. I re-doubled my efforts, pulling several all-nighters. Nevertheless, it continued to go downhill. I fix one area and then it doesn't work with the rest. I couldn't "imagine" how robes draped. Huge lighting problems."

As the deadline approached I became totally frantic. By 5AM, of the very night before the deadline entry day, I was utterly wasted, physically and mentally... spent as if I'd run a marathon. And hating myself to boot. Instead of it being the best thing I'd ever done, which is of course what I desired, it was the WORST. And clearly beyond saving in the 3 short hours left until the 8AM submission deadline."

"I'd put all my eggs in this basket, spent maybe 150 hours on this tragedy. If you think back to your college days, 150 hours spent on ANYthing is an rare commitment. I'd forgone studying for my other classes, risked a semester of bad grades, and I had no back-up entry. I felt like a dead man walking."

In complete rage at my stupidity and arrogance I grabbed a gallon bucket of white gesso, a 5-inch brush and just OBLITERATED 4 weeks of work, in a pitiful attempt to erase evidence of my utter and complete failure. Then, I just collapsed, and wept bitterly. Classic catharsis."

"I don't know what happened next exactly, but after about a half hour, still sobbing, utterly miserable, I stood up in a sort of drained stupor, and began walking around the dark art building's trash areas, picking up stuff I found. Not even knowing why. Just on auto-pilot. Absent-mindedly, I started hammering this junk onto the whited-out surface of my now blank painting. I painted in areas with color, pouring on some hot wax here, hammering in nails, attaching clothes hanger wires, cutting a circle of wood, hanging a rope, all with no conscious thought of creating "art". Within a mere 2 hours, I had created this piece, which I titled 'Boss,' after Sandy Cundiff, my then "boss" at the TV studio. (It was only later that I realized I was deeply in love with her at the time of this painting.)"

"At 8AM, the first classes began pouring into the art building. Blearly-eyed, after being up all night, I dragged my impromptu, jerry-built painting up to the gallery staging area, signed it in, and drug myself back to my room to sleep."

"When I returned late that afternoon for an art class, the judging was completed, and the show was already being hung. Astonishingly, I saw 'Boss' was actually singled out for hanging! Even MORE astonishing was that it had a 'Best in Show" ribbon on it."

" I assumed of course that I would feel vindicated by this. Actually, I was ambivalent; 'best-laid plans of mice and men'... and all that. A giant, hard lesson for me, about where good art comes from, and about the distinction between "true" will and mere arrogance."