Cel­e­brat­ing the lives of two men who left their marks on the D.C. area in very different ways.

The Washington Post - - METRO - JOHN KELLY’S WASH­ING­TON

John Bai­ley died last week in Richmond. He was re­spon­si­ble for one of Wash­ing­ton’s most fa­mous paint­ings, even if you never knew it was he who painted it: the Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe mu­ral in Wood­ley Park.

I men­tioned the mu­ral last week in my col­umn about one of the men who com­mis­sioned it, hair stylist Roi Barnard. It was an odd but fit­ting co­in­ci­dence that Bai­ley passed away at age 78 just as I was pre­par­ing the ar­ti­cle for pub­li­ca­tion.

“It was just so beau­ti­ful,” Barnard said of his re­ac­tion the first time he saw Bai­ley’s mu­ral, painted in 1981 on the side of the Con­necti­cut Av­enue NW salon Roi ran with his then-part­ner, Charles Stin­son.

For Barnard, it was a lit­eral dream come true: He had seen the mu­ral in his sleep.

Bai­ley spent a year liv­ing in Barnard and Stin­son’s house at 16th and Colorado NW. The artist used it as a base of op­er­a­tions while he painted the bot­tom of their swim­ming pool (an­other Mar­i­lyn) and worked on por­traits.

“He spe­cial­ized in do­ing chil­dren,” Barnard said. “What he would do if you com­mis­sioned him was come and stay in your house for three or four days to get to know the chil­dren. And then when he would paint them he would have more of an in­sight into the in­ner work­ings of that child.”

Bai­ley was also a dancer and was mar­ried to the grande dame of dance in Vir­ginia, Frances Wes­sells, who sur­vives him.

Rob­bie Kin­ter, mu­sic di­rec­tor in the dance depart­ment at Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth Uni­ver­sity, knew Bai­ley through the dance com­mu­nity and ad­mired his vis­ual art.

“He meshed pho­to­re­al­ism with a painterly touch,” Kin­ter said. “Even though he was a pho­to­re­al­ist, he had a beau­ti­ful sense of de­sign. I think he re­ally saw beauty in things.”

Bai­ley’s Mar­i­lyn was one of the first mu­rals in a city that has since be­come fa­mous for them. Her lips are parted, her eye­lids heavy. She fills the frame, an in­scrutable memorial in this mon­u­men­tal town.

“He made a beau­ti­ful, phys­i­cal mark on this city that has noth­ing to do with pol­i­tics. And not ev­ery­one can say that,” said

Nancy Tartt, who met Bai­ley when she stud­ied dance at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity. “When I think about him leav­ing, I just think he can go and dance all he wants now. He can paint all the time.”

The plant whis­perer

Char­lie Koiner made art, too. It was art you could eat.

Let­tuce, toma­toes, kale, pep­pers, egg­plant, okra — for 30some years, be­fore his death last month at 98, Koiner tended a oneacre gar­den a peach pit’s throw from down­town Sil­ver Spring.

En­coun­ter­ing Koiner’s Farm was like slip­ping through a rip in re­al­ity. You’d be go­ing through the scruff of ur­ban­ity — Ethiopian restau­rants, a laun­dro­mat, a comic book store, a gas sta­tion — then en­ter a mod­est res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood and in­con­gru­ously come upon a bit of Eden.

With help from his daugh­ter, Lynn, and a group of vol­un­teers that in­cluded Eve­lyn Jemionek, Koiner main­tained the patch. Surely the land would have been more valu­able cut into parcels and planted with houses. But Koiner had wit­nessed that trans­for­ma­tion up close once be­fore, when his fam­ily’s farm was sold to make way for MidPike Plaza in Rockville, site of to­day’s Pike & Rose de­vel­op­ment.

Koiner never wore gloves, want­ing to feel the soil. He was metic­u­lous, in­struct­ing his helpers on how far apart seeds should be planted and how deep, and where to step when walk­ing through his gar­den.

“He was a mi­cro­man­ager in the best of ways,” said Han­nah

Sholder, a vol­un­teer helper for the past three years. “He was never that good at ex­plain­ing why he did things the way he did.”

But she be­lieved him. He’d been do­ing it a long time, af­ter all, had touched a lot of soil, had planted count­less seeds and had fed a lot of peo­ple.

Sholder and Kate Me­d­ina co­founded the non­profit Charles Koiner Cen­ter for Ur­ban Farm­ing. They were able to se­cure a tax credit en­sur­ing that the farm will sur­vive.

Koiner died in the qui­etest sea­son of a farmer’s life: win­ter. It’s a time that of­ten found him in his house at the edge of his gar­den, en­sconced in his fa­vorite chair.

“The only time he did that was in the win­ter months,” Lynn said. “He’d sit in his chair and watch cow­boy movies.”

The ground may have been sleep­ing, but Char­lie Koiner wasn’t. On the night be­fore he died, he dis­cussed the seeds that needed to be or­dered and when to plant them: pep­pers first, then toma­toes, then let­tuce.

He was sketch­ing in his mind the gar­den to come. For pre­vi­ous col­umns, visit wash­ing­ton­post.com/john-kelly.


John Bai­ley’s Mar­i­lyn, painted in 1981 on the side of a Con­necti­cut Av­enue NW hair salon, was one of the first mu­rals in a city that has since be­come fa­mous for them. Bai­ley died last week.

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