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“A Brush With History”, Battle of the Senses Series, No. 73

27 Mar

560O0119B A Brush with History 14x14

I’m a collector.

Some people might call me partial hoarder now that I think about it.

I’m very specific about the things that I collect, and most of it has to do with art projects. I’d say the problem lies in the fact that these projects that I have yet to do … have been incomplete for the past 20 years.

Example: I’ve collected every bottle of medication that’s ever been prescribed to me since I was a teenager. I’ve been collecting them for 2 decades in the idea that I was going to create a giant Lucille Ball made out of these items.

Has it happened?

Absolutely not.

Will it happen?

Well, I hope so.

I go back to the idea that I would have never become a painter, if it wasn’t for the fact that I carried a pack of 7 canvases across the US in the various places I lived until my fateful beginning as an artist in San Francisco.

I’ll never forget the time that I acquired them. I was an associate at Pearl Art & Supply in the Northern sector of Atlanta, GA when we received a bad batch of canvases. They had acquired, in-between holding and shipment, a bit of mold damage from the warehouse in Ft. Lauderdale. I dived in the dumpster for them rather than let them go to waste.. .. and then spent 6 years trucking them around various apartments in Atlanta, Raleigh, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

I’ll also never forget the time that I put them to use. Six years later, it was that one fateful day after an art show off of Belcher Street where I got the idea of painting a drag queen named Putanesca. I took the bus to the Chinatown tunnel, and walked up the flight of stairs to my apartment at 625 Bush Street. I grabbed the canvases out from underneath my bed that I used as storage and said

“See! I use things”

This piece is also about that process of collecting. This piece is an amalgam of brushes that I used for EVERY TENxTENxTEN portrait created. These are beyond objects to me as they carry time stamps for every moment created, and its a blessing and a curse that I remember all this information. These were used in the following apartments:

1. 7027 Lanewood Ave (Hollywood)
2. 1929 N. Vermont Ave (Los Feliz, Los Angeles)
3. 642 Natoma Street (San Francisco)
4. 1630 N. Edgemont Street (Los Feliz ADJ, Los Angeles)
5. 150 N. Las Vegas Blvd (Arts District, Las Vegas)

Beyond that, they were used during the following times:

1. Le Marais, Paris
2. Cafe 101, Hollywood, CA
3. Brite Spot Diner, Echo Park Los Angeles, CA
4. Disney Consumer Product Campus, Glendale, CA
5. Ambrose and Hillhurst, Los Feliz, Los Angeles, CA
6. Hollywood Blvd and New Hampshire, Los Feliz, Los Angeles, CA
7. Plummer Park, West Hollywood, CA
8. Fairfax and Melrose, Los Angeles, CA
9. Wilshire Blvd and S. Stanley, Los Angeles, CA


10. LA – NYC Flight
11. Cafe Viand, Upper West Side, NYC
12. Cafe Yaffa, East Village, NYC
13. CPW and 79th, Upper West Side, NYC
14. NYC – LA Flight
15. Hotel, Schaumberg, IL
16. Hotel, Woodland Hills, IL
17. Speakeasy Apartment, Chicago, IL
18. LA – LV Flight
19. Circus Circus, Las Vegas, NV
20. LV – LA Flight
21. LA – ATL Flight
22. Piedmont Apartment, Atlanta, GA
23. Midtown, Atlanta, GA
24. ATL – LA Flight


25. Sparky’s Diner, San Francisco, CA
26. Diamond and 18th, San Francisco, CA
27. Grocery Store, 8th and Natoma, San Francisco, CA
28. SF – SEA Flight
29. Capitol Hill Apartment, Seattle, WA
30. SEA – SF Flight
31. Park Bench, Barnsdall Art Park, Los Angeles, CA
32. LA to SAC flight
33. Embassy Suites, Oldtown Sacramento
34. K and Front Street, Sacramento
35. SAC to LA flight
36. Marriott Hotel, Anaheim, CA
37. D23 Convention Center, Anaheim, CA
38. LA to DC Flight
39. Adams Morgan, Washington DC
40. Apartment, Washington DC
41. Megabus DC – PHILA
42. Fishtown, Philadelphia, PA
43. Museum District, Philadelphia, PA
44. Dunkin Donuts, Central Philadelphia, PA
45. NJ Transit Train, Phila – NYC,
46. Miss Vee’s Apartment, Brooklyn, NY
47. Cafe Yaffa, East Village, NY (again)
48. NYC – LA Flight
49. LA – Chicago – Berlin Flight
50. Apartment, Yorckstraße and Mehringdamm, Kreuzberg, Berlin
51. Einstein Kaffe, Obentrautstraße, Kreuzberg, Berlin
52. Apartment, Prenzlauerberg, Berlin
53. East London Restaurant, Mehringdamm, Kreuzberg, Berlin
54. Berlin – Paris Flight
55. Simplon Apartment, Arrondissement 18, Paris
56. Montmarte, Paris
57. Centre De Pompidou, Paris
58. Paris – Berlin Flight
59. Schonenberg, Berlin
60. Turkish Den, Neukolln, Berlin
61. Berlin – LA Flight
62. 707 Fremont Street, Las Vegas, NV
63. Abigail’s Porch, Los Feliz, Los Angeles, CA
64. Matt’s DTLA loft, Los Angeles, CA

In finishing this piece, I think back to that original statement I had made in that apartment in Hollywood California in 2011. I said, in doing the TENxTENxTEN project, I was going to reveal Mickey Mouse in as many ways as possible, and in doing so I would find the artist underneath. When I look at this piece, I see all the places I have been.. all the places I have painted, and all the people I have met along the way. I see the people I have loved, and the people I have lost. I see the world unfolded and then unfurled before my very eyes .I am so happy to be a part of this project, and this piece is a testament to that pride.

This is called “A Brush With History”. It is the 4th in the “Odds and Ends” Series, and No. 83 in the collection.

City of Flowers, Battle of the Senses Series, No. 70

7 Dec

560O0115C City of Flowers 14x14-1

Flowers are incredible forms that bring us to witness them in both smell and sight. These beautiful creatures, bearing both of these senses, often create cross sensory effects when one sense is not able to be present. For example, when we smell flowers in a product (soap, candles, etc), our brain creates the architecture of their visual presence in front of us. This also goes for when we see pictures of flowers that we cannot smell. .. our brain creates pathways to imagine the scent in our head, and therefore creates the ultimate battle of the senses.

This piece is entitled “City of Flowers”, and it visualizes Mickey, floating in a world of flowers we are able to witness by sight, but not in scent. These flowers float together, as if the entirety of it was a metropolis of nature, in where each flower was its own building, carrying millions of pollen grains as its residents.

This is the 10th and last of the “Battle of the Senses Series”, and registers as the 80th in the TENxTENxTEN

“It Is What It Isn’t”, Battle of the Senses Series, No. 63

24 Sep

560O0107C It Is What It Isn't 14x14


I found the inspiration for this piece in a basement office underneath a gallery in Oldtown Sacramento. While on a 5 minute break from the 1st day of debuting the TENxTENxTEN collection at Stage 9 Gallery, I found myself stuffing this massive sandwich down my mouth as if I was in an eating competition, and simultaneously drinking coffee to keep myself afloat (as I had been up since 4:30am for ABC and CW’s “Good Morning Sacramento”). In minute regret over my speedy lunch, I sat there in wild confusion while sitting at this conference table. I was so engrossed in my meal that I didn’t pay attention to my surroundings, and then I found myself transfixed with everything that suddenly blossomed in my carb induced vision.

This office was covered from wall to wall with notes, drawings, artist scribblings, and flyers. There were so many things to look at, so many post it notes, so many pinned tiny pieces of paper… that when I focused back to look at the big picture…. it made it seem the walls were wearing fake fur coats of paper.

I knew that I only had 2 minutes left on this break, and yet there was so much to look at… My eyes wandered in wonderment over all the little details that this office contained..

… and then I found it. .. This one piece of paper.

It said “Try to name the colors without saying the word”. Underneath this sentence was the name of colors, and I read them out “PURPLE, BLUE, RED, GREEN, PINK, YELLOW”

I didn’t really understand the concept of the note, so when one of the people from the gallery came down to ask me to come back up, I asked them about the note.

“Oh, yeah, the words have actual colors in them that aren’t representational of the word, so you have to say the color, and not the actual word”


They explained it to me again.. and then it all made sense.. because the one color I could see, wasn’t in the word yellow.. it was registering as another color I couldn’t even begin to decipher.. It was then that I realized that this game could play an integral part of the Battle of the Senses series.

I took this painting, and worked on it in Denver, Los Angeles, and Anaheim. In each city, as I worked in restaurants, cafes, parks, planes, and other public places.. people would walk by the portrait… and would begin to tell me automatically “Oh these are all the wrong colors” or “What are you doing?” To which, I would begin to play the game with them and ask them to say the actual colors without slipping up and saying the actual word.

It was fascinating to watch people’s brains work. .. as if the clockwork in their heads began to break over the separation of word .vs. color // definition .vs. object. Their eyes would scrunch and strain, their mouths would cup over a word, but then move slowly to say the actual color.

Furthermore, this brought people to understand how I use color objectively. While each of these pieces are wrong in color coordination to the objective word, this in the right way, is how I am able to determine how I can paint to the rest of the world.

Color, to me, is just a word. And that word connects itself to other colors like grammar. There are colors that do not go together in a pleasant format, and I treat those combinations as if it were an incorrect sentence. There are colors that compliment each other, and I view those colors as words that go politely together in a sentence. AND THEN, there are the colors that POP and CONTRAST, and I view those colors as slang .. as they are words that are not meant to go together, but they do, and when they do, they POP.

This piece is titled “IT IS WHAT IT ISN’T”, which is a opposite play on that popular phrase “IT IS WHAT IT IS”. This is the 9th in the Battle of the Senses Series, And 72nd in the TENxTENxTEN collection.

“Lemon Blueberry Juxtapose”, Geometric Spectrum Series, No. 61

13 Sep

560O0104C Lemon Blueberry Juxtapose 14x14

When you are colorblind, you have to learn color through an objective nature. You do not associate visually with what others see, but you begin to understand how the word of the hue attaches itself to object (IE: The sky is blue, the sun is yellow, the grass is green, etc etc etc). Being an artist, I use color beyond the normal scope of what is seen, and more so communicate it as a 2nd language to you, the chromonormative viewer. Furthermore all these pieces are beyond paintings, but they are letters to the viewer that translate stories of touch, sound, temperature, taste, and feeling to them. This is where the chapters of storytelling through color in my core character series and sequential comic series ended and the “Battle of the Senses” chapter within TENxTENxTEN began.

At first glance, this piece, called “Lemon Blueberry Juxtapose”, would appear to fit naturally within the “Geometric Spectrum Series”, a chapter focused on the basic primary shapes that twitter about Mickey’s silhouette. But upon deeper introspection, this piece moved beyond just shapes, and sought to communicate to the viewer a story of synesthesia in realms of crossing the sense of color into taste. In this piece, the colors of bright yellow speak of tart acidic tastes of bright citrusy sharpness. Next to the yellow is a light blue to approach the tastebuds on a icy cool fruity berry like flavor. In combination, these colors communicate a mouth watering melody of soft summer berries and tangy citrus fruits.

The title of this piece is where the communication lies. Without the words, you and I both are left with what you see and what color codes I read.. .. but through the power of speech lies the translation of senses to each other. This is where you and I are hearing the same language through the power of color in its objective sense.

This is the 8th in the “Battle of the Senses” series, and 70th in the TENxTENxTEN collection.

“Hammer Time”, Battle of the Senses Series, No. 58

2 Sep


This was the 4th piece of the Odds and Ends piece. I created this in an incredibly jam packed basement of a place I was renting in the SOMA district of San Francisco. When creating the chapter for “Odds and Ends”, this piece was the first creation that came into my head. But much like the previous Odds and Ends pieces, this idea on actual execution was a little foreign to me.

In my 5 months stay in San Francisco, I was seeing a gifted wood jewelry designer named Matt Van Horn. He and I were inseparable for my entire personal residency in fog city, and he’d often hang out with me while I drafted and painted for hours in my studio. Explaining my frustrations on my Odds and Ends series, he offered advice on what exactly to do. I, however, due to my control issues, wouldn’t let him physically help me with the project, because well.. I’m slightly crazy and obsessive in making sure that this project is primarily fabricated by myself.. Not sure why I can’t let go of that. All artists have guidance, but in this 10x10x10 project, I just … well… I’m just crazy pants mcghee at this part of the project. He, however, was incredible at helping me get this project in the right direction and I’m forever grateful for it.

This project is made of hundreds (and HUNDREDS) of 3 1/2 bright finish nails, that are rust-oleum coated, and hand painted with Holbein matte black and titanium white. The board was drilled, and then hammered one by one affixed with a combination of super glue, wood glue, and a finishing coat of shellac.The process took about 21 days to complete. I did want to call this piece “My Neighbors Hate Me” or “I Have a Headache”, but I settled on “Hammertime” in the end.

This piece has been featured on ABC News 10 in Sacramento as well as various new outlets covering the 10x10x10 booth at the D23 convention in Anaheim. This is number 66 in the TENxTENxTEN collection.


“Heavy Metal Mickey”, Battle of the Senses Series, No. 56

29 Jul

560O0100C Heavy Metal 14x14

As the 10x10x10 project carried on, the two series that caused the biggest challenges were the Disney History series and the Odds and Ends series. The Disney History Series became a challenge specifically because of the dimension restrictions. Pushing Disney within Disney is a challenge when your workable space is 14 x14 inches. .. The Odds and Ends series became a challenge mainly because elements beyond pen and paint were… and ARE for the most part, very foreign to me. Now at this point in the project, there was (AND IS) little time for experimentation.. and coming to terms with the idea of something crafted beyond paint, became much of a task.

While staying in San Francisco for 5 months, I met up with an old friend and extremely talented metal worker named Jennifer Swistak. She was working out of a metal studio out in the Bayshore/Hunters Point district. I consulted with her on how to effectively make a Mickey Mouse out of metal. The idea was beyond my scope or reach, and I asked for her for guidance on creating this.

What you see is a Mickey Mouse etched in metal. This was crafted by creating a resist in the frame using sharpie marker and pnp paper (which adhered to the surface via blow torch) . Once the resist was created, the piece was submerged into a copper sulfate bath, which ate at the metal wherever the resist did not exist. Once the depth was achieved, the metal was neutralized, and the resist was removed. We used a black magic patina and went over it with a random orbit sander with a 120 grit sand paper to bring out the highlights. The final part was waxing the piece.

This measures 14 x 14 and fits in the exact dimensions/size of the 10x10x10 collection. This is number 3 in the Odds and Ends Series, and number 64 in the collection. Working on this piece has brought my desire to work with metal so much more closer, that post project I am working on an entire metal series, and possibly moving into public works.


Steamboat Willie Unlocked, Battle of the Senses Series, No. 45

8 Mar

Steamboat Willie Unlocked


Back in January of 2011, I met with Violinist/Documentarian Paul Festa for his film entitled “Tie It Into My Hand”, in where he filmed different artists of different backgrounds to teach him how to play Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto better. The spin on the film was that no one was a violinist and in some way fashion and form, we had to .. tell him when he was playing it wrong.  (You can read a little about this on No. 13, “Lightbulb City, Population: Infinite”)

In my particular lesson, I wanted to focus on the emotional intent and storyline of the piece, and have Paul play those feelings through his instrument. Since I wasn’t a violinist, I asked Paul to imagine the color that best represents the emotion of the piece, and have him play that hue to the best of his ability. The other obstacle to this, was that I am colorblind, so I had to feel the temperature, convert that into color, and let him know when he was playing it wrong.

In the end, I converted the 9 minute lesson by a 24 x 24 inch canvas gridded by 144 squares, and broke each square into 3.75 seconds of music. I placed the colors of the music into each square with corresponding geometric shapes to convey spikes, peaks, drops, and double tones. In the end this project went beyond the spectrum of the film, and became an individual biography piece called “For You to See” within the Film “OTHER THAN”*, which debuted at Cannes last year!

Not only that, but I received an acceptance to apply to The Smithsonian’s Artist Residency Fellowship with a chance to further the idea as a collection called “Chromatones”.

I decided to extend this form of Synesthesia art into the TENxTENxTEN collection underneath the “Battle of the Senses” Series. The background on this piece is a translation of pitch and frequency converted into colors and guided by geometric shapes. The music being translated is “Turkey in the Straw” from Disney’s 1928 classic, “Steamboat Willie”. This is 108 seconds of sound divided into 49 two inch squares measuring 2.2 seconds of music per square. The colors portray the high jovial pitches of sound, with minimal lower jovial undertones throughout the piece.