“Atlanta Clockwork”, Metropolitan Series, No. 89

8 Aug


While I had lived in both Athens and Savannah, Georgia. I spent most of my time on the outskirts of Atlanta. I was confused for most of my time in that town, as I was incredibly odd and often felt misunderstood. It wasn’t until middle school, in where my sisters obtained their driver’s licenses, that I would truly the see a place where I belonged.

One of my first vivid adventures into the city was with my sister and her friends traveling down 75 south to Little 5 Points for a weekday hang out. Here I dizzily wandered around at 13 years old around this vibrant district of head shops and punk rock stores, all the while floating through the soft breeze of Nag Champa that effortlessly wafted into the air. All the punk rockers and hippies were walking around the place, and I was in awe and in love with everyone and everything. I remember thinking, “I want to be these people. I want to live around these people”, and for one of the first times in my life I felt like I belonged.

Later on that night I was sitting near my bay window out the burbs and playing music in my walkman while I stared out dramatically (as I often did and do) and thought about what I had seen that day. My sister walked in and said … “Hey see that light thats glowing over the hill outside your window at the other cul-de-sac? Thats Atlanta.”

I had noticed that glow for years but never knew what it was about. I hadn’t even thought about it or asked why it existed, but from then on I stared almost every night at those lights and wondered what was going on in that glow. Years later, the minute I was able to drive, I ended up in Little 5 Points out in the city, and immersed myself in the place that I loved so much. I would end up later going to high school out there, and MARTA became my main source of transportation. I’d ride Lenox to the center of the city in 5 Points and then catch another train eastbound to Inman Park.

When I had the opportunity to move out of Atlanta, I took it without hesitation. Atlanta was like a mother to me, raising me slowly to understand how to navigate through a densely populated area… and like most children who want to explore the world… I had to leave her. I soon left to Philadelphia and from that point on I never looked back.

I sometimes think over the years about what it would have been like if I had never left Atlanta. Would I have been an artist? Would I be in love? Would I be jaded that I never took the opportunity to leave, or would I have been eventually grateful that I never left because of some opportunity that wouldn’t have unearthed itself anywhere else? Regardless of these thoughts, I’m grateful for all the accidents, troubling times, and lack of security for my decision, as it has brought me to this moment in my life now.

So in tribute to the metropolitan series, it seemed fitting to do a portrait of the metropolitan mother that raised me. This piece is called “Atlanta Clockwork”, as the structure reminds me of a clock. 285 is the circumference highway that acts as the shape of a clock, all the while the North/South and “East/West” highways act as minute hands to tell the time of the city. On the outskirts are geographically accurate areas of the burbs, while inside the face encase buildings that represent the districts and streets of Atlanta. The stripes that cross through Mickey’s face represent the color of the transit system MARTA, and in the features contain more districts of the city.

Ever since I created this piece, I have flown back to the city that raised me to remember what is was like to live both inside and outside the perimeter that I grew up in. I thank the people in this city who helped raise, teach, and love me…

 

….and to Atlanta, my first metropolitan mother, I love you and thank you for everything.

 

“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.

 

 

“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)

“Bem Vindo Ao Brasil”, Around The World Series, No. 86

22 Apr

Bem Vindo Ao Brasil 14x14

Out in San Francisco in 2001, even before I attempted at being an artist again, I worked out in a restaurant near Union Square. I’d spend my nights working in this tourist trap of a corporate food haven, hang up my apron, and head home 7 blocks to my apartment in the densely packed part of the Tenderloin. I lived in a walk in closet for $447.50 dollars a month, which laid on the 5th floor off of Geary Street. The great thing about this place, was our apartment was on the top floor, and outside our window laid the fire escape that led to the rooftop.

A fellow waitress of mine was one of my favorite people in the city. Her name was Carol and she was from Rio De Janeiro. Often, she and I would close together and we’d grab our shift meal from the restaurant, walk up the hill to my building, through my apartment, and up on the roof. She’d tell me about her home in Rio, and teach me Brazilian Portuguese while we would lay watching the fog roll downwards into the South of Market District.

She’d say “San Francisco is my heart in America, this building reminds me of home” and then would talk about her adventures out in the discotheques and her job that she had on the beaches of Ipanema. It was here where I fell in love with the culture of Rio through her stories, and became obsessive about learning about the city.

Thirteen years later I ended up on a clothing line project for a swimwear company that asked me to be their lead artist for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. I ended up studying again on Carol’s city, often nostalgically  remembering our conversations and the lost connection I had with her after she left back home.

I ended up moving from Las Vegas and out to Chicago, where I would spend the cooling autumn months in my tiny apartment to configure these designs… and I was left with such a void, as my concentration was just with the city of Rio.

I wanted to know more.

Fast forward the completion of the project, and into the Spring… and I was to move again, this time back home to Georgia in a small town called Athens. I just finished “Know Where”, a Sketchwave series piece that went over my time at Comic-Con in San Diego to my travels back home in my temporary summer sublet off of Easy Street in Normaltown.. and recollected on where I felt a void in my storyline.

Brazil was my void, and it was perfect because I was two shy of completing the “Around The World Series”.

I sought to fill this artistic gap by just not talking about Carol’s city, but the entire country of Brazil. It was here where I created the piece “Bem Vindo Ao Brasil” (Welcome to Brazil), and went through, piece by piece about this country.

In this painting, I have created anchor spots for the two major cities, Rio De Janeiro, and São Paulo. In Rio you will see major points to the city like Avenida Atlântica, Carnaval, Corcovado, Banco Do Brasil, and Pão De Açucar. In São Paulo you will notice Avenida Paulista, Higienópolis, Bela Vista, MOOCA, Rua Augusta, and more. The beaches of both Ipanema and Praia Grande rest above these cities as well. In the green portions you will see the major forests of Brazil such as Passaquatro, Xie, Caxiuanã, Taragua, Amazonas, Xingu, and others. In the black of Mickey’s ears are other cities of Brazil like Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Curitiba, João Pessoa, and more. Above the Mickey head is the country flag of Brazil which states “Ordem E Progresso” (“Order and Progress”).

Of course, finishing this piece while satisfying my curiosity through basic research, only opened up a larger gap of what I long to learn. I hope in the future years I’ll be able to visit the various towns of Brazil and fully appreciate not only my painting of the piece, but the stories of Carol which were told on my rooftop those lovely fall nights out in San Francisco so long ago.

 

 

“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.

 

 

 

 

 

“Monochromatic Halcyon”, Contemporary Modern Series, No. 84

18 Apr

Monochromatic Halcyon 14x14

 

I moved to Chicago from Las Vegas to a less than modest flat on the 5th floor at “The Envoy” out in the Bryn Mawr historic district of Chicago, IL. My days were spent reconfiguring the 10x10x10 Series during the brutal blizzard winter that was happening at the time. My days consisted of battling the snow while walking to a quiet Swedish start up restaurant in Andersonville called “Summerdale”, and coming home to paint into the wee hours of the morning.

At this time I was heavily reflecting on all the work I had done, and simultaneously focusing on what I could do to make it better.

One piece in particular, was “Dimension Mouse”, which entailed mirroring the work of Bridget Riley and her geometric psychedelic works of the 1960’s. I felt particularly sensitive to my portrayal of the work, mainly due to her exhibition at “The Art Institute” museum out near the loop in Chicago.

I came home from this exhibition and started something far more complex… and this is where “Monochromatic Halcyon” stemmed from.

This piece is a redo of “Dimension Mouse” which I had done at the beginning of 10x10x10 out in Los Angeles. This piece entitled “Monochromatic Halcyon”, is based off the works of Bridget Riley and her geometric pieces that were so revered back out in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

“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”.

 

“Know Where”, Sketchwave Series, No. 82

16 Apr

Know Where 14x14

 

Out in San Diego for Comic-Con 2015 I sat for hours in my artist booth with Choice Collectibles Gallery grazing over the blank silhouette of Mickey Mouse. I had but a few paints left in my satchel, and strangely enough (but quite common really) I had left all my markers at my sublet off of Easy Street in Normaltown Athens, Georgia.

At this point in the series, Noka and I realized that the “Disney Series” was not going to fly due to their rules from Corporate Brand Management about  non core characters like Sleeping Beauty and Alice being a part of Mickey’s world. It was here where we would rely on that monumental phase started by “Wake Up and Smell the Sound of Coffee” to create a chapter called “SketchWave”

In Sketchwave, the sky was the limit of what I could do, but at this point no structure meant that I’d be left to circle around a canvas for hours. I splattered paint here and there while fans, and passers by came by to see what I was doing. Still unsure, I walked off with Tim Rogerson, a fellow artist with Disney Fine Art, to a supplies booth in the NorthWestern corner of the convention center. I found this brilliant marker, came back to the booth, and went to town.

This piece, called “Colors United” is about my time out in San Diego with Comic-Con and the various reps of Choice Collectibles and hanging out with Tim Rogerson. In this painting I’ve chronicled in real time what was happening. From leaving Comic-Con, hanging out in the airport at 10pm while fireworks burst above the sky, back out to Atlanta, GA, where I’d grab my car and drive 80 miles north to Athens at sunrise and morning fog. I finished this piece in the hot summer on the porch of my place out in Easy street… and created dichotomous profiles of the west coast versus the South in Georgia.

In the face of “Know Where” is the various places I lived all over the world, and in the outskirts of Mickey lays the story of traveling from San Diego to Athens, GA. Here it says:

“Comics convention, San Diego with Rogerson. Hotel is in Mission Valley. I went to sleep at 3:30 am. At 6:45 am I woke up to paint in the morning light. I’m near the end of this project. I walk with Tim downtown through galleries and exit b/c of SCI-FI legends (William Shatner). We exit thru the back and head to 4th ave and 6th st for dinner. I have to leave and a hummer taxi picks me up. At the airport, fireworks explode beyond the plane. I’m sad to go. Flight 850 to Atlanta 10:30 pm to 530 am. I arrive groggy and get into my car and drive up 85N thru the sunrise over ATL, 2 85 east to 316. There is morning fog on the highway. I go to 78 to 10 loop and get on Prince Avenue exit. Park at 130 Easy St. Drop bags and paint on the porch in Normaltown hot weather and all.”

Outer loop says:

” The cicadas are humming @ night from my dusty old porch. Normaltown Athens GA, and I’m waiting for thunder and rain mixed with light bulbs of paparazzi lightning, but alas I fall asleep and its 7/18/15. Morning and its early light. Its 102 degrees outside. I work in the heat for 8 hours and I almost pass out. The summer is brutal but it’s worth it after the sun goes down b/c the air cools down and everything comes alive in my back yard. Fireflies sparkle like fireworks exploding across an ocean of grass. My neighbor (x) plays these warm guitar riffs in the distance and I think I am in heaven. Mr. Walker tells me that even utopia has its hardships. ”

 

 

 

 

 

“Trouvez Le Bonheur”, Sketchwave Series, No. 81

30 Oct

Trouvez Le Bonheur

 

In deep winter out in Chicago, I boarded the CTA train in the middle of the snowy night and headed out to O’Hare.. Groggy from little to no sleep, I passed in and out of slumber on the blue line until the train stopped at my location. Zombielike I managed to sloth through security half awake and I finally boarded my plane. As my plane lifted up from the frozen wonderland of the Midwest, I watched the first parts of morning light hazily whisper through the darkness. .. and I fell asleep with the thousands of thoughts about where I was landing.

.. my old home of Atlanta, Georgia.

For years I had traveled to Georgia, but rarely did I ever spend much time in Atlanta. For the most part I’d find some excuse not to go, and would hurriedly grab a shuttle that would scuttle me through the southern parking lot of a metropolis and out into the warm forested thickness of north eastern Georgia.

85 N to 316

316 to 78

78 to the 120 loop

The further I got away from Atlanta, the less I had to think about it, and it was no disrespect to the city itself.. Atlanta was a beautiful place, but I struggled with that city growing up, and even after 15 years of being gone, I always felt that there was a time bomb lodged in my heart, and Atlanta held the nostalgic trigger to set it off.

This time however as I left Hartsfield airport, I did not grab the shuttle to Athens. I thought about it, and I even stood in the shuttle yard walking back and forth muttering crazily to myself as I saw the van roll up to the waiting station.. but I did not board it… I turned around and took the MARTA train up North, while tightly gripping a rolled up blank mickey canvas in my sweating hands.

I was here in Atlanta for a reason, and it was to paint about the city in the most abstract emotional sense, because for 15 years I refused to really be here. I had spent a little time here with another piece a few years back called “Ozark Diamonds”, so I wasn’t completely unprepared, but this trip had a purpose of deeply spelunking through the core of my history out here… which was such a different process. Secondly I was returning to the place I was raised on such a different emotional context, because I created Ozark Diamonds while STILL searching for a place that I could call home, and I hadn’t found it in Los Angeles… now in Chicago, I wanted to finally.. in some way speak about where I was raised, now that I felt stable with a place I could confidently call ‘home’.

I was picked up by my best friend Ryan at one of the northernmost stations of the transit system. Ryan was one the longest friendships I had, which fatefully started while hanging out in the parking lot of a midtown gay bookstore called “Outwrite” in the late 90’s. In our relationship, in which I referred to him as my “little brother” he always seemed to be driving me everywhere. I had a car mind you, but Ryan loved to drive me around sweetly enough.

As I got in the car, I was reminded of all the times we drove around aimlessly together. Sometimes in the middle of the night I’d find myself with him, blaring trip hop music dustily through the dark and glittering streets of Virginia Highlands and Little 5 Points. It seems I had forgotten what happiness I had in those moments, and pangs of guilt wrapped around me, as I had.. for so many years thought about the bad things over the good things of this town.

What I feared about Atlanta did not transpire, and in fact the entire trip I was thrown into a wonderful rollercoaster of memories about Atlanta. This city, was in fact the FIRST place where I learned that there were amazing things beyond suburbia, and that inside the perimeter laid the elements that I never knew existed. We were suburban kids alright, jaded from the often oppressive beige regimes of the mundane and conservative, but here.. in Atlanta.. we could be brilliant. We could be firecrackers splitting the metropolitan stars into the wee hours of the morning.

Ryan and I sped past Peachtree street’s glittering lights, and down into the modified sectors of North Avenue and beyond. Memories welled up into the locations of my upbringing.

There was the place where I first kissed someone

Over here….

that was the place where I first fell in love..

and over there…

that was the place where I first got my heart broken..

and there.. thats where I learned something..

that shopping complex,

that bar,

that massive park,

that 24 hour diner,

that house,

that man,

those places…

I furiously drew over the days in all these random locations that may have been just 4 walls, a roof, and some commerce to others.. but to me, they were symbols, icons, and anchors to my emotional topography. I was so immersed and fascinated with the things that I had forgotten, that when I took the train south to the shuttle yards to board that bus to Athens.. I stood there again.. walking back and forth, muttering to myself on wether I wanted to get back to that comfort I had so emotionally lazylike done for so long. ..

Sometimes we forget who we are when we leave the very place that helped tell our first story. Sometimes, when the negative things in our geographic history stay in the place that we left, they fester and grow like a garden untamed when we are gone, and when we revisit those old fields of the things that made us sad, we are left with a place overrun with plants, weeds and trees of hurting memories that are much larger than they were when they were first planted.

Sometimes these gardens are so wild, that our lovers, our friends, our “little brothers” become obscured in the brush of emotional kudzu, and we can’t find them because we are so lost on our path… and we are filled with the fear of returning to these places because we just don’t know how or where to begin in taming our garden.

… but when we do clear the path of that festering history of heartbreak, fear, and nostalgic terror.. we begin to see the people we loved and the people who helped us appear clearly on the clean green lawns of our past..

And we begin to recall who we are in our skin by remembering our skin.

This piece is called “Trouvez Le Bonheur”, which means “Find(ing) Happiness”. In this painting you will find an emotional map of Atlanta Georgia (and the Metro Atlanta area) by means of nostalgic pathways of my experience in the 90’s. There are physical locations like Ponce De Leon, Argonne, Monroe and Piedmont, Azalea Dr, Post Oak, and 4th Ward. Timestamps of actual drawing are at Octane, Atlanta.. and a random coffee house in Ansley Square complete with time and temperature. Other words and symbols are memory anchors of my time out there. This resides as no. 7 in the Sketchwave series and no. 91 in the collection.

“Objects in Chicago are Closer than they Appear”, Sketchwave Series, No. 80

27 Oct

Objects in Chicago are Closer than they Appear

In Chicago I lived on the 5th floor of a building called “The Envoy” on the Northside of town called “Edgewater”. It was a hardy brick building that dripped with a deep history beyond a century. Before me laid over a hundred years of people living in this room. It was a tiny box apartment with heavily textured walls, and often when I’d graze my hands across the sea of fluctuations of texture, I wondered how many people had done the same before me.

My window overlooked the north side of town, which carried the view of an adjacent rooftop, that at night would blow massive puffs of steam into the cold air, like a blues singer arching their neck upwards to blow their cigarette smoke while singing. Beyond the roof top, laid a mass of buildings checkerboarding their lighted windows across the way. I’d lay in bed and watch the various characters criss crossing through rooms.. some were cooking, some were fighting, and some were falling asleep alone to the lullaby of their television at 2am.

I worked furiously in this apartment, often forgetting the idea of sleep while my hands were so desperate to create something. I had previously spent 8 months in Las Vegas, and while fruitful for business, my brain shut down from the loneliness. When I had arrived in Chicago, my mind was on fire, and like a floodgate breaking, I spent most of my time painting. I was still being reclusive, but I never felt alone, and in fact… it was the first time in a VERY long time, that I felt alive.

I’ll tell you why.

The word “home”, while not foreign to me, has struggled to dance with my voice wherever I’ve lived. I’ve spent the last 38 years trying to figure out where I belonged, and for the past 15 years I have moved to find out where that was. In each place, I found such a new version of an American culture that was completely alien to me. In each place I sought to settle myself, but found I was trying to push my circle self into a square shaped city, and that in the end I would run off to the next adventure to see if I’d fit. Mind you, I wasn’t running away from anything, I was running TO something, and every time I’d feel a shift coming along I’d grab my backpack and carry on.. because as artists, as writers, as travelers, as souls searching for something… anything

.. we are never lost at sea…

we are just happy where the current takes us.

Chicago had become the first place where I felt like I belonged. Suddenly my circle self fit into a circle city, and I settled quietly as the winter came. The cold blazed through the town, and there were minor complications with my water and heating system, but with that aside, I found that the friendships I had, made me completely blind to the harsh weather that came over me.

During the Winter I spent my days working in the studio, and in the evening I’d walk out of The Envoy and down Bryn Mawr slipping on the ice patches to Clark and work at a warmly lit restaurant called “Summerdale” till close. Generally I’d walk back the same way, or grab the train at Berwyn and ride with one of my Mickey paintings down to the 24 hour diner off of Belmont and paint till the wee hours of the morning while it snowed outside. I’d eventually go home, and fall asleep to the sounds of CTA train whizzing by, and wake to the sounds of the cathedral bells telling me what time it was by the number of icy chimes that rang.

As Spring came, I realized that I wanted to move away from Chicago back to Georgia where my search for home started. I figured it was the perfect way to close the TENxTENxTEN series. I found it difficult to leave my apartment, and on my last day I hysterically cried in my taxicab on the way to O’Hare International Airport to my new destination.

It was the first time in my life that I have ever cried about leaving somewhere.

Because it was the first time in my life that I felt like I was leaving home.

This piece is called “Objects in Chicago are Closer than they Appear”. In this painting Mickey is surrounded by the districts, train lines, museums, and icons of Chicago. Inside Mickey’s face is a representation of streets, beaches, and parks of the city. It resides in the “Sketchwave” series, as “Metropolitan Daydreamer” is technically the piece that resides in the “Metropolitan Series” representing Chicago.

It is with this piece, that I tell you, that I love you Chicago, and this is painting is my love letter to you. You are the first place in my life to call home, you are the first place to give me such radiant joy, and you are the first place where I can feel love. I love you in your temperamental temperature ways, and I love you when you throw your cold winter shoulder away from me, because I know you’ll turn around eventually and give me your warm spring and summer embrace… and when I ride home on your trains with my paint stained hands and tired eyes, know that I am tired because I want to be awake more than I want to sleep when I’m around you.