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“Waltopia”, Odds and Ends Series, No. 98

25 Oct

Nearing the end of the TENxTENxTEN project I decided to hop on to a new venture in art with Leslie Combemale of ArtInsights out in Washington D.C. This project, entitled “Art Outsiders”, was a collection of portraiture work focusing on the people who revolutionized the world in their field. People like Divine, Alan Turing, David Bowie, Judy Garland, Amelia Earhart, and more became portraits in this project… but I wanted to take it a step further.

Before TENxTENxTEN, portraits (which mainly consisted of drag queens) were my main focus in my work. At this time they were just paintings swirling in the background of a sweltering ballet of geometric shapes and rays…. and while I loved doing that.. going back to that style just seemed regressive because I had become so much more complex in my sketchwave style.

The one thing that I sought to do is research the entire story of these amazing individuals and write out their history in the architecture of their portrait. I did this because I wanted to become as transparent as possible with my work so that the viewer wouldn’t question who the person was or what they were about.

Simultaneously working with the Art Outsiders project and TENxTENxTEN project, I realized a hidden parallel between the two and began to do an ode to Walt Disney’s history around Mickey Mouse’s face. This painting, entitled “Waltopia”, starts off the history with the middle main triangle, continues with the left triangle, and ends with the right triangle. It is with this piece that I thank Walt for pushing for innovation in the arts. Without Walt Disney I would never have had the opportunity to showcase my work, as his company (continuing in his tradition)… from the very start, believed that there was something great in me.

This piece closes out the Odds and Ends series, and resides as No. 98 in the collection.

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“Twice Upon a Time”, Odds and Ends Series, No. 93

19 Oct

I held on to this piece for years. I’m not sure why I did, but the sketch of this laid barren without paint, and over time through all the cities and storage spaces and apartments, this piece gathered a smearing cloud of graphite that blurred throughout it’s entirety. In my head, when I envisioned a book about this, (before there was even an idea that I’d have a retrospective book at my age) this was to be the cover.

Finally at the near end of the project I fished through the myriad of unfinished works to find this painting. Even though this wasn’t the cover, this held strongly in my heart about what this book would be about.

ART.

.. and not just any art, but fine art.

Thats the thing about the art world. There is such a great divide between the commercial art world and fine art world. I believe it comes down to the presence of content and context, and often as commercial artists we are seen as lacking both (and we aren’t).

I remember when I had moved back from Los Angeles to San Francisco a few years ago. I was with a new group of artist friends that I had recently met. They had invited me out to this DIY gallery filled with yarn sculptures and abstract paintings… all which I heavily enjoyed. When I was introduced to some of the artists in the gallery, a guy from the new group had said “This is Tennessee and he’s an artist too…. well… not really.. He’s not really an artist, he works for Disney”.

It took me a few minutes to feel offended because I was just confused why someone would introduce me as such. It was almost like finding a bruise that hurt, but the incident of getting the bruise was a mystery. I left the gallery shortly, and never returned the calls from the guy who said those words… .after all.. why be comrades with a fellow artist who doesn’t think you are an artist?

See.. thats the thing about TENxTENxTEN. It isn’t just about Mickey Mouse… its about so much more than that. It’s about bridging the gap between commercial art and fine art and showing the world that these two things can coexist together. It’s about showing that a character such as the lovable and memory inspiring Mickey Mouse can transcend its commercial state into something so much more. This book was about not just that, but that Mickey can swim in multiple universes beyond the park and the product… and in fact TENxTENxTEN’s sole purpose was to focus the icon as an anchor that swims in the universe of cultures, cities, art movements, memories, emotions, senses, and everything in between.

When I look at this piece, I see the bold statement ART, and that in itself is far more complex that the sketchwave patterns that blurt out of my hands. This piece is entitled “Twice Upon a Time” which reflects the nature of commercial art and fine art, as well as a mention to the beginning statements of fairytales that Disney is known for.

“Haringesque”, Odds and Ends Series, No. 91

17 Oct


It was strange how this project of 10x10x10 unfolded as the years went by. I mean, how can you make 100 portraits of the same silhouette and not change?

I look back at my first portrait in where I was relying on the safety of geometric borders and semi-clean lines, … and realizing after the 8th one… that I’d have to blur into something beyond what was comfortable for me. The whole project really began when “Wake Up and Smell the Sound of Coffee” happened (and that was an accident)… and then my whole world exploded.

Suddenly I was all over the place. I drew hundreds of different drawings because suddenly I had permission to. Portraits like “Everything is Going to be Okay”, “Cloudbusting in the Air”, and “Lightbulb City: Population Infinite” were crammed with just random objects that were more of me relearning this realm in my head as an adult (as it existed for me as a child).

As time moved on, the hundreds of objects started flittering away, and certain ones began to stay. In the end these objects transformed into icons that expressed how I felt… and soon they would begin to have names. They were:

Diamond Head Jones (Skull): Operator and Narrarator
King Sleep (Crown): Dreams
Monsieur/Madame Nuage (Cloud): Emotions
La Luz (Lightbulb): Ideas
Foudre: (Lightning Bolt): Strength from traversing through life
Pyramid Head: Safety
Mrs. Seesay (Lips with an eyeball): Singing/Theatre
Soda Popular (Soda Can): Art

These icons were the characters that solidified my future work, something that made me feel that finally… I had reached the greatness of my work.

When it came down to it however, my comparisons of “Warhol with Geometry” began to fade… suddenly when the characters solidified I began to get comments like “This reminds me of Haring a bit”..

And I totally realized they were right.

I’ve always strived for originality in my work, but I have subliminally always been influenced by the things that struck me most as a child. … and Steve Rizzi and Keith Haring were my top favorites mainly because they were so off brand in a time that was so staunch with the remnants of clean vibrant pop.

More so, in the 80’s as a closeted queer kid in the south and learning about a gay man from Pennsylvania making it work for himself out in NYC… and not only making it, but using his fame to call for queer power and fighting the AIDS crisis with a brush and pen… well.. that was the epitome of art to me.

While “Haringesque” was not a part of the “Contemporary Modern” series initially… I have my reasons. I wanted to make sure my skills were perfect before I painted the hero that made all queer artist’s work like mine evident…. and well I had already reached 10 in the series before I could feel that way.

Regardless, I love him and his work, and I am honored to be an artist that people see a resemblance in aesthetically.

“Tokyo Ocean Drive 1983”, Odds and Ends Series, No. 88

9 Aug

Tokyo Ocean Drive 1983

 

During the Winter out in Chicago, I nestled myself in my 5th floor apartment at the Envoy building out in the Bryn Mawr Historic District. I would spend most of my time indoors, often never leaving for days.. all the while my radiator quit working, and I would end up utilizing this old electronic heating fan while wearing three layers of clothes .. rubbing my hands together consistently .. while painting for endless hours in the cold days and into the even colder nights.

At this point it had been weeks that my drafty minuscule apartment had lost radiator heat, and despite the cranky yet well meaning maintenance man, nothing seemed to work. I began to go a little crazy into the ending weeks of February.. and decided to use that madness for a piece in the 10x10x10 collection.

I began listening to any kind of music that made me feel warm. One genre in particular, called “Vaporwave”, whistfully blared over my speakers into my cold apartment… often transporting me back the warm 80’s aesthetics of Miami and Los Angeles. I began to remember my time in Miami when I’d float through South Beach while touring art schools in the mid nineties.. and decided to focus on the 1980/1990 geometric aesthetics of Memphis-Milano and infuse that with white sketch patterns over cool colors of lilac and aqua blue. While painting this, I felt transported out of my igloo of my apartment, and back into the nostalgia Commodore 64 / IBM days of a digital world on the brink of discovery.

This piece is called Tokyo Ocean Drive 1983. Tokyo represents the 80’s digital era, while Ocean Drive reflects the warm summering days of Miami during the revolutionary aesthetic times of 1983. This comes as number 88 in the TENxTENxTEN collection.

 

 

“Loveless City”, Odds and Ends Series, No. 85

19 Apr

560O0137C Loveless City 14x14

 

I’ve often, throughout my years growing up, viewed myself as a city, in where all the components of my history, and all the people I’ve met along the way, would become structures of my life. After all, who are we without the people who supported us, encouraged us, and gave us permission to create and do the things we do? “Loveless City” is a piece about that concept, in where everyone who has supported me transformed to be a building, park, lake, or thoroughfare in my life.

I imagine myself as a child, being a one street town with my parents and siblings as the center of this small place… and as I grew older and met various teachers, friends, and lovers along the way, I’d build myself from a small village to a sprawling metropolis with endless possibilities for expansion.

Districts like “Underwater Town”, house the buildings of people who supported me through my darkest days. “Lightbulb City” is the district that houses the people who supported my art and encouraged me to keep on going. “Pyramidville” is a place that entails the people that I am inspired by, and the two beaches are the restaurants who helped me financially get by as an artist. Lastly, in the face, is “Upsidedown Town”, which resides the support of my crazy ideas and philosophies that I’ve carried within the depths of my psyche growing up.

All these people, built me from who I was as a confused child, to the crazy artist I am today, … and without these people I would be no one.. I would be that small town in the middle of nowhere with little to no support to grow beyond myself.

It is in this piece, that I want to let everyone who has been a part of my life know, that I love you and appreciate you for making me who I am today.

Without you, I am nothing.

To the building blocks:

Daniella Aiello, Amy Trauger, Cris Gibbons, Kim Rein, Diana Flores, Paul Festa, Mike Uljanic, Todd Doane, Shelley Mayen, Tracy Stroud, Eric Lange, Mike and Dana Kungl, Keri Rincon, Michael Young, Noka, Nolan, Avery, and Geneva Aldoroty,  Trevor Carlton, Merilee Hanna, Matt Locke, Mario Valle, Richard Carter, Tim Rogerson, Hadeis Safi, The Harkoviches, Erica McCarthy, David Pacheco, Eric Huntoon, Edie Modular, Heklina, Peaches Christ, Xavier Gerbaux, Mart Basa, Michael Lazar, Greg Cassius, Cody Bayne, Ara Thorose, Andrew Baker, Nick Leoni, Mark Gorog, The Chows, Nina Grey, Monica Schrock, Chelsea Patterson, Johnny Raymond, Sidoe Dukemajian, Atom Basham, Olivia Semple, Niki Khanna, The Winklers, Didi Dunphy, Tor Keeslar, Chave Alexander, Julianna Cuevas, Gillian Grawey, Franz Szony, Bonnie and Lily Varner, Jackie Beat, Caryll Cruz, Melissa Daywalt, Mario Graciotti, Jason Salas, Troy Carlson, Joshua Magallanes, A.K. Miller, Eli Francis, Sara Pooley, Asleep Hernandez, Aaron Mattocks, Rebecca Peloquin, Frances Sinkowitsch, Txeo and Romain, Galla, Mike Will, Meredith Barry, Leslie Combemale, Dave Bossert, Dawn Pierotti, David Jozef, John Keenoy, Christina Henri, Sandi Turner, Chantal Pfäfflin, Greg Barnard, Katie Kane, Lindsay Block, Liam Carl, Ryan Bellis, Cassie Drennon, Mishel Castro, Krystal Richardson, Lori Divine, Marty Robbins, Mia Saiz, The Toro Family, Maggie Duckworth, TJ Thompson, Ben Berman, Deven Green, and Lenora Claire..

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You may not have realized in the short (or long) time that we have known each other… but you have influenced me to be my greatest, and to that I am forever grateful for knowing you.

 

 

 

 

 

“Through the Mickey Glass”, Odds and Ends, No. 83

18 Apr

Through the Mickey Glass

Just fresh from my stay in San Francisco, and a long stay out in Berlin, I ended up out leaving Los Angeles out to Las Vegas, NV. At the time, Neil Cantor of The Hanna Barbera Store , and later “The Chuck Jones Experience” collaborated with me on a “Loveless Collective” store out in downtown Las Vegas off of 7th and Fremont Street. I moved my work into “The Container Park”, which was a collective of shipping containers that functioned as stores.

My days were filled with repainting portraits of my SF queens on the 2nd floor space out in Las Vegas. Despite my loneliness beyond my business, I spent my hot summer nights cooling myself off with a fellow graffiti artist named MISCR8, Dillon Boy of Wall Street Productions, and Mya and Elisha of “Lead in the Window”

While I was friendly with all the store owners of the Container Park, I was particularly fond of Mya and Elisha, whose store resided next to my gallery. I spent many summer nights with them outside in the lounging chairs beyond our 2nd floor spaces, and talk with them about life, art, and living in Las Vegas.

Mya and Elisha specialized in stained glass creations, which were by far the most brilliant I’d ever seen. Elisha often would come in my store with an interesting commission and we’d talk about all the work she’d do. Literally everything that came her way was no challenge to her, and often I’d watch in awe as she would create numerous logos, faces, phrases, and even the “flying spaghetti monster”.

It was at this point, I asked for her help, as I wanted some kind of history of our friendship a part of this series. After all, 10x10x10 had become more than just pieces of work at this point, and more so a collection of stories and experiences of all the places and people I had met. We decided to work together in creating a piece for the collection, and this was the result.

“Through the Mickey Glass” transcends a lot of pieces in the fact that it talks about the silhouette beyond the painting formation, as well as the historical formulation of my time in Las Vegas and my friendship with the talented glass artists Mya and Elisha of “Lead in the Window”.

 

“Multi Mickey”, Odds and Ends Series, No. 59

7 Sep

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Merging Mickey into other worlds that were foreign to him became more of an easier task as the project moved on. It seemed to be more difficult once on this path, to merge Mickey within himself. This raised the question,

“What would Mickey see, if he got to look inside his own head?”

I suppose you could call this a sort of “John Malkovich” approach to the subject, since thats clearly the only surface reference that comes to mind, but it seemed to work when looking at the idea. I would imagine, that if given the chance to do so.. Mickey would be thrown into a twirling kaleidoscope world, filled with a maelstrom of emotions clamoring about. While there would be structure, the complexity and multitude of being would be overwhelming.. creating this world of chaotic happiness..

This piece is called “Multi Mickey” (originally I wanted this to be called “Multiple Personalities”), in where Mickey’s in different sizes and expressions float through the central figurehead of the TENxTENxTEN Mickey silhouette. This is the 4th piece within the “Disney History” Series, and the 67th in the collection.

This piece is available as an original, as well as giclees and lithographs. You can find more information on http://www.disneyfineart.com