“Aquarius”, Sketchwave Series, No. 92

18 Oct

 

 

Nearing the end of the project I began to have to nit pick at the remaining pieces that fit into the entire puzzle of TENxTENxTEN. I was of course going to finish the ones in the series that required me to be more expressive, and I dove straight into finishing my favorite series entitled “Sketchwave”.

I had left the warm glow of the restaurant job due to the funds of another painting project that came my way, and ended up retreating to my warehouse apartment out in Athens, GA while a 2 week non stop rainstorm washed over the city. In the darkness of my place, I sat at my desk to think about what this piece would be about… and decided to give tribute to all the characters that blossomed out during this project.

Rather than the free flow flotsam and jetsam style that I seemed to love so much, I wanted to get back to my geometric roots and give each character (and new ones) an individual home, a square to call their own. Not only were there spaces for just the characters, but elements of the things I missed and the things I had currently laid in there, as well as random phrases that just burst into my mind.

Looking back at this I could tell that I was missing Chicago as I see “Pink Line”, “The Lake”, “Blue Line”, and “Waveland” in the mix. I can see that I was missing Las Vegas as I see “Horizon”, a cactus, and mountains as well. Icons like Diamond Head Jones, Foudre, La Luz, King Sleep, and Monsieur Nuage are here… as well as the elements of past paintings like the floppy disk for “Dataworld.EXE”, the letter from “Forevermore”, and the moon, egg, anchor, and ghost from previous sketchwave pieces.

I suppose I was feeling sentimental about this project while I was doing it as I see everything I’ve built put into a home where they will live forever in this piece.

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“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.

“Colors United”, Sketchwave Series, No. 90

25 Aug

 

As I was coming to the end of my TENxTENxTEN series, I began to get incredibly nostalgic over the time that I had on this project. I suppose this is why I ended up doing the piece “Loveless City” a bit ago, because I wanted to remember all the people who helped me along the way in my art career. With a blank canvas in front of me, I began to think about how I could make this piece about everyone else. Sure, I could put their names in there, but I really wanted to think deeper on a subject that connected all of us together (kind of like the piece “The Distance Between Two Points”)

I decided that I would not paint this time around at first, and instead ask friends, strangers, and people through random connections to paint for me instead. For the next few weeks I carried my paint and brushes around with me to various places all over the US and asked random people to make blobs and shapes all over the canvas. Once the piece was completely saturated in paint, I began to envision shapes and characters around everyone’s marks, and slowly but surely this painting came to life.

This piece is called “Color’s United” and seeks to connect all of us together through the artwork we create.

“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.