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UTOPIA: Black & White

Updated: Oct 31, 2020

"My mother was sent off to live in a Commune in Northern California in a place called Synanon n 1972; I remember as a child them telling me that my mother had to go to the hospital and she had to get better. So when I was introduced to my mother I was a bit confused she did not look the same." 

Today we are celebrating the life of a woman who in the midst of battling and fighting past an addiction not quite easy to shake but uprooted a 4 year old boys life in the interim. That will change his life forever. Given her situation she gave him life and in the duration of a lapsed intermission the 4 year old boy would become a man. His well-being on this earth as we see fit benefited in a sense, but the leaps and bounds could've taken him out multiple times. Sage, born Lesley Edward Gallon grew up in Long Island Suffolk County, Wyandanch to two “…unmarried teenagers…:” he says calmly. He tells his story while taming his thoughts with ease. His voice is cerebral but his tone is deep. His parents were High school sweethearts he continues. 

My father was drafted to Vietnam. But my mother had issues with drugs, Heroine"

A preview of Sage continues to speak and as he paints a visual that reminds me that his talent had been on reserve. We are now realizing the benefits from his ache over 30 years later. His paintings humbly mirrors his life -- a man, a fighter a rural candid human being. He goes on to saying, "My mom, new mother, had a lot of issues with substance abuse. I was raised by my maternal and paternal grandmothers in 1974. He recollects right away, the time when his father was taken into custody he...unfortunately like a lot of black boys when they swept them out of their homes during this time in the suburbs ended up back in the ghetto. Other little boys were situated back to wherever they got them from in 1974. 

A really critical time for Sage; a period that pushed him into a blanket If not a chapter forcing him to decide if he wanted to live or die. This is about a man that fought for his life! About a baby’s birth referenced in black and white. So color was erased from his life forcing his mother to leave him with strangers. Her addiction would make a heart-wrenching decision that was his only recollection, a black and white picture of his mother set on top of a television. He explored and became a voyager. He learned that at a very young age deference had to be earned and not assumed.

"Respect is not given its earned." Sage

Sage is beyond withdrawn, he exercises a much deeper presence than the average person. He says with serenity, "It was a Synanon in late 50s early 60s. It was founded to help people get off of drugs! Heroine was a big deal at that time. It grew and expanded into this huge community. I was raised in this Utopic place, and I grew up there and it expanded. In the midst of my age group everyone knew each other…”

There is a sense of strength, darkness and mystery especially when he speaks of his life and how it molded and shaped his senses. He was in trouble so many times and lost everything but then again so does everyone. But this soul is different. Sage has secrets, he hints that his mother used to come see him but she was not his primary caretaker. Sage and his mom would hang out together a few times, she was not the person he answered to. He takes a deep breath insinuating that when she told him that she was leaving him at a young age. He remembers that she would wave and respond "well alright, take care and make sure you write!" You know that feeling when you know it's not really abnormal. Sage admits that he didn't understand that he was going with a group of strangers and she would not going to return. 

At nine years old in 1979 Sage traveled with the community and his mother was nowhere around. He was young and he would come to know that community as home. Intermediaries with an incitement of love, compassion and admiration were fleeting. This was not royalty this was a darkened secret. A bit of a curse. Even his birth name was a curse. At least that's what Sage recalls. Lesley, his birth name, named after his father. He pauses and suddenly becomes quiet, “we had a volatile relationship. It was different." then He describes himself as...

"Lovingly insecure"

In 1979 Sage returned back to New York City, lived in Harlem, and his caretaker decided to put him in a Catholic School. "Then we moved to Hempstead Long Island where I grew up." And describes that experience as lousy. With every sentence he leaves me wanting more. He continues, "Nothing offends the darkness more than the light" and the name Sage came to him in prayer. His full birth name is Lesley Edward Gallon. With a shift in his voice again he says, "I hate Lesley because it’s a girl’s name. His name would “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

I personally want to know more about a man with a name like Lesley. With that name there has to be something about this guy that makes him who he is and it's not just about the art you know. It's his prophecy. Why is he here? Can 10 years give you a perfect circle? This man was broken, he was homeless and so much of his ability to BE derives from his reasons to live and not die. He had more reasons to love more than hate itself. 

"I told my mother when I… I had been molested and she didn't respond to that, you know. I knew that I was on my own. No one in my life could have prepared me for what my mother said next. My mother had been sexually molested by her uncle it wasn't that she didn’t care. As a child your mother is the one person who supposed to protect you. I didn’t know that my sentence would have wounded my mother the way it did"

This man was extremely transparent. He was lifted to another place when he spoke and didn't know his mother had been scarred as a child the same exact way that he was. Through his developmental stages he felt ugly and insecure. He despised the fact that he even looked like his father. It felt that he was not enough, that they shared the same blood that ran through his veins but there was a major disconnect. Sage spewed innocence, love, experience, grit and strength in this interview!

He was not familiar with a lot of people but one day they would become very familiar with his story. They would one day know who he was by what came through his hands and fingers.

IG: Sage

Written by Nicole Norton-Evans for

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