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“ACTIV8 DREAMST8”, Children of the 1980’s Series, No. 87

1 Jun

Activ8 Dreamst8 15x14.5


Music was the bright eyed and determined captain of my ship out in the rocky waters of my youth out in Marietta, GA. Whether it be the turbulent carpeted seas of my home, or the tsunami of backlash form my peers.. I often sought to lay in my bed and stare at the ceiling while listening to Kate Bush and wait for the storm to end. In my ears, the siren like sounds would guide me out of my enclosed padded cell of a head, and out into the lush fields of a world yet undiscovered.

Later on, in my teenage years, music became less of an escape, and more of a soundtrack to a life that I learned to control. Through the linear path of my first romances, to my struggle to identify why I was such an outsider among my peers.. Music was this answering pathway to my present and a beacon to carve out my future.

In originally doing the mixtape piece, which was entitled “Rewind the Future”, the mixtapes were originally based on the core characters of Disney. The tapes were labeled with “Goofy’s Glamrock”, “Minnie’s Motown”, and more… and these pieces focused on merging 80’s nostalgia with the love of Disney characters. While I was super happy about this execution,  I decided to go back to make this piece a little more personal.. much like the Loveless Letter’s Series.

I was back out in Athens at the time in December of 2014 interviewing for my MFA at the University of Georgia. It had been a while since I had been back to a place that I previously lived, and the sights and sounds of my old stomping grounds began to sweetly haunt me with flashbacks of my teenage years.

It was here out in Athens, where music was the most important to me. .. as it was here that I ran away from home at 17 from the parking lot infested suburbs of Atlanta, and out into the deep molasses thick humid forested South of North Eastern Georgia. I was a mess of emotions from leaving home, and consistently had my headphones on while I got a ride to and from work. Sometimes, I couldn’t get a ride home, and would walk 7 miles down from the 2300 block of Broad Street (HWY 78) to an apartment off of Cedar Shoals Drive on the East Side. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate the walk whatsoever, and in fact preferred to walk 2 hours with my walkman blaring different sounds that I loved. It was a chance to get out of my head, clear my weird path, and wonder about the strange and different future of a freedom I didn’t know how to handle.

20+ years later, here I was, back after my time out on the Northeast, Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and the West Coast… and all those memories came flooding back. I arrived with unfinished Mickey’s rolled up and poking out of in my backpack like a deranged man with a bagpipe strapped to his back..

The last time I was here… REALLY living here, was back in those days when music was my savior.. and I went back to all those mix tapes that I made as a kid… and they were like entries in journals masked into sound, with intricate details of little stories drawn on each cassette. . I decided to take these cassettes, and went through a youtube rabbit hole per se, while recreating a new Mickey based off of the time when music was my greatest saving grace.

Inside the Mickey you will read:

Athens, Georgia. Pulaski Heights. December 27th, 2014

“20.5 years ago I threw garbage bags that served as luggage out my bedroom window. I was 17 and running away from home. Below my window was 2 friends and a pick up truck that drove me 76.8 miles to Athens, Georgia. Armed with a Mickey Mouse back pack and a fist full of dollars and dreams I carved out my new life in this magical country town. I was a telemarketer in a trailer off of broad street. i sold magazines to the masses, and would come home with the sound of the telephone ringing in my subconscious … so many years.. so many cities have gone by in that time.. home has become such a relative term, and I’m back here for the holidays. My heart is in knots from the southern self that i’ve lost. I see myself as that lost kid wandering down Cedar Shoals Drive with Mickey by my side, wanting to see the world. and now that I’ve seen the world, all I want to see is home. Soon there will be a shift, a rift in space for my home.”

This is the last of the Children of the 80’s series, and is number 87 in the collection.

(Note: Fixing Subconscious spelling issue)


“Dataworld.exe”, Children of the 1980’s Series, No. 60

11 Sep

560O0105C Data World Exe 14x14

Floppy disks, both 8 inch and 3 1/2 inch size, were canvases for some of my first works of “art”. I use that term loosely because when I was 8 years old,  “art” to me was … well drawing ninjas and wizards on EVERYTHING.  I used these disks to store data for mostly pictures (i think one of these disks could hold 3 of them), as well as shareware games. I ended up using these disks even up to the year 1999, when I purchased my first digital camera. It was a ONE megapixel camera… it was the size of 2 bricks, and had a massive strap to put around my neck because it was so incredibly heavy.

This was before the time of SD cards… so guess what this camera used to capture pictures?

Yes folks, this camera used 3 1/2 floppy disks. .. and because I TOOK PICTURES OF EVERYTHING… .. I had ALOT of these floppy disks lying around. I still, to this day, have these around, because.. well I’m an art hoarder.

So looking fondly (and awkwardly) back at my youth in the 80’s, I came up with this piece as 3 1/2 floppy disks (aka: hard disks or diskettes) were intrinsically a part of my life and my friends lives back then. This is called “Dataworld.exe” and it is the 9th in the “Child of the 80’s series, and 68th in the collection. Inside the face of Mickey are actual windows DOS coding that revolve around basic data folders and listings. The drawings on these floppy disks are kid like and playful, and point to some of the core Disney characters and what they may have drawn on them, if they too were part of the extravagant nerd culture of the 80’s like I was.

“Memphis Milano Mickey”, Children of the 1980’s Series, No. 49

19 Mar

Memphis Milano Mickey


At first when deciding to become an artist professionally, my main drives were to validate the function of geometric shapes,  and to use colors I was blind to, to confirm validation for my color deficient self. The formula for TENxTENxTEN’s volume of work divided by the similarity of the same Mickey face equaled an equation that would have to further my drive beyond geometry. I had to work deeper, and therefore went to nostalgia (hence the Children of the 1980’s series creation)

When experimenting with No. 48 “Pink Bermuda”, I focused on George J. Sowden’s “Acapulco Clock, it opened up a vast interest of not only him, but the “Memphis Milano” collective he was a part of. Ettore Sottsass, the founder of Memphis Milano,  shaped the way the 1980’s were worn and lived in. His style impacted the world, and earthquaked a fashion trend that saturated the planet in controlled chaos.

This piece, entitled “Memphis Milano Mickey’, was inspired by the French designer Nathalie Du Pasquier, who was the cutting edge force behind the aesthetics of the 1980’s. In this painting, I focused on my strength in geometric shapes fashioned against mismatched patterns of pink, green, aqua blue, and yellow. Mickey and the achromatic scales here are the anchors to the color storm, fixating himself as a object of safety and sanity in a world that, at any minute, could spin out of control into oblivion.

This is the 8th piece of the “Children of the 1980’s Series” and the 56th of the TENxTENxTEN collection.

“1987”, Children of the 1980’s Series, No. 46

15 Mar


At first my attention to the “Children of the 1980’s” series focused purely on what resonated nostalgically to me, which was video games. After 8 bit Mickey and the arcade versions thereafter, my brain strained to think about the 80’s, its aesthetic, and how it translated into this series. After “Pink Bermuda”, a piece based in the “Geometric Spectrum” series. my head erupted  into many ideas focusing on the fashions inspired from the “Memphis Milano” collective.

This piece, entitled “1987” is about 1980’s ready to wear fashion, and more specifically, clothes that I wore back in my days in Elementary and Middle School in Georgia. I picked patterns from my clothes from “Chip and Pepper”, “Bugle Boy”, “Ocean Pacific”, and the MANY MANY combinations from my “Jams” shirt/shorts combos. The great part about this era was that you could be colorblind, and any combination, whether it matched or contrasted, made a eyesore of a fashion statement that worked.  This piece revolves around multicolored ‘racetrack checker flag’ designs encased in explosions around geometric shapes that float in designated controlled fields.

Overall  this conveys the ultimate design of the 1980’s within this series.

“Press Start, Children of the 1980 Series, No. 10, 2/2012

27 Mar

Much like Nintendo was the best friend/babysitter in my childhood, the Arcade was the first real adaptation into a social circle beyond my school microcosm. In the southern suburbia that I grew up in, there was one major arcade in town in a semi thriving strip mall called “Merchants Walk”. It was tucked in at the end of the complex, next to an alleyway and a shabby theatre called “Cineplex Odeon”. Pockets drenched in quarters from my allowance, I cowboy walked clinking to the arcade thrilled to lose my mind for an hour. It was almost as if I was going to play slots, but rather than be excited about winning potential money, it was more the thrill of getting out of my head.

My world was centered around video games, and it all came down to disassociating my state of reality. Even now, in my mid thirties, when I’m having a terrible day and painting or hiking won’t help. I’ll turn on my video game system and spend an hour in a reality that is beyond my own. It kind of weeds out the pond scum junk like thoughts that plague me redundantly, and I suppose its a coping mechanism that I learned from these systems.

In regards to this piece, it is in homage to the 80’s and 90’s coin operated arcade machines. I researched the 8bit dollar sign, and plastered its pattern across the grid. I believe on the back of this canvas is the drafting of the dollar sign. While it can be interpreted that this painting has a slight angle at consumerism, that is certainly not this intent. Mickey is in greyscale, which pops off the multicolored .vs. black pattern. This gives an impression that Mickey, himself, is the console, and therefore the gateway from everyday reality to the arcade world of imaginative reveries (as if you pressed the actual mickey image, it would start the game).

This is about the portal from everyday reality into an 8bit world of objective consciousness through the means of an arcade system. Insert a coin, and press start, and your world turns into side scrolling active world that without knowing it, calms the mind, and pushes you into a satiated state for the hungry dreamer.

“Toon In, Tune Out”, Children of the 1980’s Series, No. 9, 1/2012

25 Mar

Pop Series, No. 9, 1/2012

Nostalgia is the boomerang that connects our heart to our past. Writers begin to touch the surface of their craft with the cliche but resonant quote from their instructors “Write what you know, and the rest will come”. Generally the same principle applies to painters, in that we paint what we know, and as we delve into our reasons for creating in the first place, we get to the very epicenter of our imaginative cortex, the ‘heart center’ that guides us outwards onto the blank slate.

I have, for the most part, had to relearn how to paint all over again due to some incredibly dark times, and in that process I believe that most of my work has been therapy… relearning how to paint straight lines… relearning how to actually use my hands physically…and secondly relearning to use my brain to reconnect to not just the world, but internally. Nostalgia was the key factor in going deeper into what I was capable of. I had to go back to my brief creative blip with No. 3 through No. 6 in the 8bit series, and really focus on where I got that idea from.

So I closed my eyes again, like I had done in San Francisco when I heard Nintendo music as an inspiration, and this time the sound of 80’s television came to me. Specifically the sound of when the television programs were over. It was that monotone synthetic sound that came on past the programs, past the national anthem on the organ, past the images of an eagle picking at himself and an awkward shot of a flag blowing semi gloriously, semi lonesome like in the wind. It was that pattern of blocks, some cool and some warm, all fit in certain ways strangely. It was the picture and sound of wild imaginative hyperactive nights as a child where I couldn’t go to sleep because I was so wound up from the day, that I’d sojourn to the basement to watch TV until I’d fall asleep.

Television was the fuel to my imaginative fire, and my imagination was my shield against the often brutal aspects of my childhood. I had two great strengths, the ability to daydream to where I didn’t even remotely exist in my plane, and the ability to socialize. These two strengths never connected. Either I was completely withdrawn into my world, or I was pushing that bit of me away to adapt to my social microcosm of a southern school system. It was literally like a switch. Turn on the television set, my imagination, and I’m creating portraits and maze like patterns all over the place, yet withdrawing from social interacting. Turn off the television set, and I’d shut down my daydreaming and creativity patterns, and yet be socially thriving and happy.

Mind you, these dissipated when I ventured into high school, and my emotions became, at best, intertwined into my art and my social life… It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I lost everything due to some tragic events, where I turned the clock backwards to that awkward idealism of a dichotomous state of self.

At best I have these flittering moments of social mediocrity, however my head is backed up from many years of not being able to think clearly or imagine clearly, that I’m literally gushing out artistic expression through my fingers like a out of control geyser. I am learning to harness both these aspects of my life and merge them into my everyday patterns of living. But for the meantime I can only say that I’m aware of both.

This piece is about that idea of two worlds separated, the ability to turn off and turn on, and understanding that while we may have the switch, life has the remote control.

“Mickey in Sunset Blocks”, Children of the 1980’s Series, No. 6, 12/2011

21 Mar

I’m failing on remembering what hues I did for this, but initially they were supposed to reflect “Mickey in Sunset Pyramids”, No. 4. For some reason I cannot remember why I didn’t use the same code for this. Regardless, this was done the night before my last day in San Francisco in 2011.

Nintendo was an incredible playing factor in my youth. It was my babysitter, my channel for my frustrations, and my greatest source of entertainment. You could almost say to this slightly awkward, mildly chubby, flamboyant ginger growing up in the nondescript suburbia in Georgia, that Nintendo was my best friend. Being that had an incredibly vivid imagination (certainly a tool for my turbulent childhood), this little box blurted out a mosaic of dreams into the television set… and showed me adventures that I could not come up with on my own.

This is for the series “Children of the 1980’s”. In February, Disney Fine Art created an amazing serigraph run on these which range in Ultramarine Blue, Vibrant Red, Spring Green, and Teal, which are all personally and numbered by me. I’m not sure they are released yet until my solo show up at Art Collectibles in Chicago on April 21st, 2012.

“Mickey in Ultramarine Blocks”, Children of the 1980’s Series, No. 5, 12/2011

21 Mar


San Francisco had been pouring rain during the entire time of my stay there. What days I did not spend swirling around the drain of the streets, I spent indoors drying my clothes. I found comfort in opening up my old studio and painting like it was 2005 all over again. I remember starting to paint again, it was cathartic.

In 1996 in Savannah Georgia I attended SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). As a budding young artist, I wanted to do everything. Photography, Video Production, and even the cliche degree for a flamboyant teen as I was, .. Fashion Design. I did however want to be a studio painter, although I had the hammering sound of my parents reminding me that painting was for expression and business was to pay the bills. I took many classes, and what was reminded over and over again, was that my form was decent, but my color choices were obnoxious.

Mind you, being colorblind NEVER hindered me as a child or a teen. Having saturation issues rarely ever fit into my fashion senses as a teen, because I primarily wore only black with something else (or sometimes navy because I can’t tell the difference). The only time it really was brought up was when I was diagnosed, and .. well then at that point in college. In one particular class I remember the teacher coming up and going “oh my, thats.. quite.. bright”. To which I responded “well yes, thats my style.” The teacher turned to me and handed me a nondescript jar of paint and said “you should use this”. I looked at the paint, and it didn’t respond to me, it was just nothing in the jar, so I put it aside and started using my fluorescent colors again.

I was pulled to the side at class in such a friendly manner, that what the teacher said didn’t really sink with me until hours later. Its been years since that transaction between teacher and student happened, but roughly it came down to “Tennessee, my job in this school is to to teach students how to use color appropriately. While art is about expression, there is a commercial aspect to it too. I am to craft you to be a better artist, to be what employers might want. This class is not about feeling, its about structure. There is a right and there is a wrong when it comes to art in the field. Your choices, despite your deficiency, are at best obnoxious. The colors you are using make me feel woozy, and this is not a comfortable thing. You need to adapt, or it may be suggested after this class that you just take up fashion sketching or go into sewing or design or video production. .. and I don’t know what kind of colorblindness you have that makes you stick to this, but try and work into our world, ok?”

I remember leaving the class like a zombie, getting into my roommates Jeep Cherokee, and driving silent home. … my art supplies jiggling in my plastic art bin next to me on the passenger side started to annoy me so I pushed them into the floor… spilling all my brushes and pens all over the place. I stopped at a train railroad crossing while the train roared past me, and I just remember my vision blurring from me crying…

Flash forward to me painting in the place where it all began again, I slightly smiled at the blank canvas with drafted 3D blocks on the canvas. I pulled out a jar labeled PB29+Pw6(2) and took the 1/4th angle brush out of my mouth, dipped, and smeared my first blob of paint onto my 8bit 3D design of blocks.

This piece is to mirror the pyramid pieces in hues, representing 3d 8bit objects, specifically pulled from the Super Mario Brothers and Legend of Zelda game released in the mid 80s’.

“Mickey in Sunset Pyramids”, Children of the 1980’s Series, No. 4, 12/2011

20 Mar

No. 4 was a direct relation to No.3 (Ultramarine Pyramids). I figured on doing 4 color schemes, but quickly came up with another idea for the series instead. This was supposed to be the polar opposite, however the name was going to be slightly different. Because I am colorblind, I am intensely critical of colors and their names. The previous painting, which is in cold colors, are all derivatives of Ultramarine Blue (PB29) mixed with various volumes of Titanium White (PW6). The Pyramid is set up in shade.

Cold Pyramid Make Up

  • Bottom Triangle (PB29)  = (ULTB)
  • Right Triangle (Pb29 + PW6) = (LULTB)
  • Left Triangle (Pb29 + [PW6 x2]) = (LUTLB+TIWHT)
  • Top Triangle (PB29 + [PW6x3]) = (LUTLB+TIWHT2)

Because all of these are named from Ultramarine Blue, I could name the painting with the pigment in the title, however for this piece I couldn’t call it one name, because the make up consisted of MANY pigment codes that were not related to eachother.

Warm Pyramid Make Up

  • Bottom Triangle (PR254) = (LPYR)
  • Right Triangle  (PO20) = (CPCADOR)
  • Left Triangle (HR70/Py83) = (DIAY)
  • Top Triangle (PY184) = (CADYL)

These colors generally represent something altogether of a darkening shade, so I chose Sunset Pyramids as the title in this. Now why would I get so involved in the title of something, especially when it is in a series? Some times these are just the things that I’m obsessed with, like pigment code, and my own personal code that has a representation on the emotional context of a hue that I can’t see. Its my communication to you, something like, “Yes I may not understand your language, but I’m speaking as best as I can to you”.

The quick reference to the pyramids in the 8bit format generally hone in on the games that were aerial view scrolling on the NES game platform. I remember in my young eyes, looking at these shapes and saying “wow I can almost imagine that pyramid in real life”. Nowadays with the advancement of video games, we really don’t have to imagine, since everything is presented in front of us. I suppose in this retrospect, that these are in homage to the relationship between rough blocky images, and meeting our VG platforms halfway with our imagination.

“Mickey in Ultramarine Pyramids” Children of the 1980’s Series, No.3, 12/2011

19 Mar

8bit Series, No.3

Showing my initial two pieces to Disney Fine Art (Rainbow and Diamond Grid), it was suggested that we move forward with a few more, because my head was spinning with ideas. The only problem with those ideas (which I did not communicate to them) was that every idea I had seemed to be renditions of something I had already done. I’m incredibly critical of my work, and one thing I fear more than anything, is comfort and regurgitated brand identity. I may be saying this now because I relate comfort to stagnancy and granted I’m sure there is something to work out there thats all my own issue. but when it came to this project…. Well I really wanted to go beyond geometrics and circles and rainbow bursts.

I thought about how I could move further into this. I decided to take a trip to San Francisco to get out of my head. Generally in states like I get into, the firm way to resolve them, is to pull myself from my surroundings, travel outside of my element with my work, and paint elsewhere. I find that whatever environment I am in, that is not my home, I tend to be inspired more, so San Francisco was my option.

Back when I was there, I stayed in my old apartment which resides off of 8th and Natoma in SOMA (South of Market), with my old roommates whom I still keep in touch with. Every time I go back there, I remember myself in the first throes of painting again, when I had taken 7 years off due to advised criticism in college. I sat down in the basement for a second which used to be my old painting studio and just thought about what to paint.

When I closed my eyes I was expecting something swirling and expansive in pattern, but what came out was unexpected. It was, the theme song to “The Super Mario Brothers” video game, which was released in the prime of my childhood in 1985. Suddenly I am reminded of being obsessed with the videogame. I would be in school and the only thing I could think about was going back to home to open up my NES to play that game again. That game was such an escape in my youth.

I began to think past just that memory and furthered into the design of the game. Back then, they had a limited palette of sound and noise. … and designers at this time for side scrolling games such as this one, really had to be creative in making 3d design in such a 8bit world. I specifically remember this pyramid pattern, and redrawing it over and over in class, on notebooks, on homework, anything..really.. Because I was so mesmerized by the ability of shadowing to create a 3d reference, AND IT WAS NINTENDO, not an art teacher, that actually taught me that technique.

This is the first out of the series.