by Aimee Levitt
Lewis Greenberg, the Ballwin artist whose sprawling lawn sculpture Holocaust Revisited got him in hot water first with his neighbors then with the city of Ballwin, began serving a twenty-day sentence in the St. Louis County Jail last Thursday for failing to comply with a court ruling to remove the art from his yard.
"I'm worried about him," says Greenberg's friend Ralph Pfremmer. "He's not able to get to his meds. Lewis struggles with perspective and the meaning of things and gets paranoid. It's a sign of mental illness, which he's able to control with medication. But now he's off his Adderall, which he's been on for several years, and his psychiatrist isn't allowed to consult with him. He witnessed some violence last week and that upset him a bit."
Greenberg is 66 and a former junior high school art teacher. (Last year, Riverfront Times named him Best Geezer.) The legal battle to keep Holocaust Revisited in his yard has been going on for more than three years now. Greenberg's neighbors in the Whispering Oakwood subdivision claim the sculpture is an eyesore and lowers property values. The city of Ballwin claims it's a potential health hazard because it contains pointed sticks and pieces of twisted metal.
At every turn in the case's progress through the courts, Greenberg has vowed to keep fighting until he wins, even if it means going to the U.S. Supreme Court. So far, he's only made it to Circuit Court, where he recently lost his appeal of Judge Lawrence Permuter's ruling against him last May.
Pfremmer worries that the jail term may be the thing that finally breaks Greenberg's spirit. "Lewis on his meds is fired-up and motivated," he says. "I'm worried about his mental condition when he gets out. I hold the city of Ballwin and the over-zealous council members responsible. Ballwin's a nice community. It's not Transylvania where they chase after people with pitchforks, but that's where they've been going. A human being with a mental condition is in jail. He shouldn't be there. It's wrong.
"I don't want to throw the name Cookie Thornton out there too often," he adds, "but he really was treated poorly by the city of Kirkwood. Why not embrace [Greenberg]? He brings culture and art to the community. It's interesting to know him."
Meanwhile, Holocaust Revisited still stands in Greenberg's yard, though Pfremmer worries about its fate without its creator around to take care of it.
Daily RFT has a call in to David Howard, Greenberg's attorney. More to come when we hear it.