Friday, October 9, 2009
What A Long Strange Trip It's Been
Mike Quinlivan used to take guitar lessons after me, every Tuesday at 10:30. A great guy, he is instantly recognizable as the long haired, ponytail wearing, marine tagged, middle aged, Indochina survivor and tribesman we can all historically categorize at 50 paces. Not too far into our friendship Mike agreed to let me attempt to document the story of his 2 tours in Vietnam as a Marine grunt and later as a dog handler. Every Tuesday for 2 years we would get together and hang out for an hour or two, sometimes talk about Vietnam, sometimes not. I can't say Mike especially enjoyed these Tuesdays and sometimes I didn't either. Who wants to make someone go to such a painful place? I quickly learned the first tour was off limits. The second tour he spent with his dog Voo Doo, patrolling for land mines. Some of these stories were so traumatic I could only imagine what we weren't talking about with the first tour of duty. That being said, it was one of the great privileges of my life to work on this project.
My Unique Change
The Life and Times of Hedy Jo Star
This jacket is a tribute to Miss Hedy Jo Star, costumer to the stars and the recipient of the first transsexual procedure in the United States. Formally known as Carl Hammonds of Oklahoma, Miss Star was pushing the gender envelope long before we knew there was a gender envelope to push. My mom took me to Miss Star's studio when I was 8 or 9 years old and I have to say it was a defining moment in my life. I was allowed to root through all the rhinestones and tassels, feathers and lame till I was dizzy. At the back of the studio there was a wall of 8x10 glossies, all autographed by each performer and given to Miss Star, thanking her for their glam outfits. Elvis was up there. So was Ann Margaret. But more importantly to me, every stripper and burlesque star seems to have had a Miss Star original strapped across the Holy Trinity at one time or another. Hell, even at 8 I knew that I wanted to wear cast offs from Cher and Miss Ann Margaret! So this jacket is an excuse to use rhinestones and pasties and a big thank you to Miss Hedy Jo Star, no longer of Oklahoma, who is responsible for my continuing love of lowbrow beauty.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
What Rough Beast is Slouching Towards Washington?
With its violent, sand parched, biblical imagery, Yeat's, 'The Second Coming' has become the lazyman's go-to poem to illustrate the war in Iraq. But long before current dramas it was a popular place to borrow/steal imagery for many artists. Joan Didion and Joni Mitchell were two of the better known artists to be inspired by Yeats poem. 'Everyone steals from Yeats', my friend Kevin said when he saw me reading Didion's 'Slouching Towards Bethlehem' one Thanksgiving and pointed me in the direction of the real thing. Now that Kevin is gone I wanted to make a Second Coming jacket for his son Abe. First time I have made a jacket as a gift. It's hard not to be carried away while using the violent, apocalyptic, birth of the Antichrist themes, and to tell you the truth I haven't tried that hard. Rush Limbough stars as the rough beast slouching towards Washington, while the CNN poll weighs in with 77% of some mysterious set of viewers calling Barack Obama The Antichrist.
I met Jordan Kelley a few years back when he volunteered to work with me as part of a photo project. He was back from serving in Iraq less than a year and still processing the largeness of what he had been through. An old soul if there ever was one, Jordan joined the army at 33 to serve in the war. In boot camp when the Drill Sergeant asked, 'Who's the oldest son of a bitch here?', it was of course our friend Jordan Kelley. When I asked if he would be interested in being a jacket subject he was up for it. Jordan would come by my studio on Wednesday after work, open to whatever questions I had. We would talk about what made him want to volunteer for service, his experience in Iraq and finally, how he felt being home. None of the answers were what I expected. First of all he wasn't overly angry, he felt his experience had been a positive one. He wanted to serve his country in a war as his father had, and he did. He believed in his President's plan for the country. He just plain ol' believed in his President. Jordan taught me to look at things from someone else's point of view and I thank him for that. He spoke of wanting to be hard enough to make the decisions you have to make to survive in a war zone, while at the same time retaining enough of the kinder aspects of his character so there was a self left to come home to after his tour was through. Jordan is a kind and gentle man who I silently (hopefully), disagreed with a great deal of the time and I am very grateful for our Wednesday afternoons together. While I was busy disagreeing with his politics, he was generously painting some achingly beautiful stories about his childhood, snow angels in the desert, praying to Orion's Belt and the redemption of real bravery.
The Last Free Man
Bill Davies was a friend of mine. He passed away from liver cancer a few years ago. This was not only sad but ironic because Bill smoked like a fiend but didn't drink, so as Bill would say 'don't go planning'. Bill was what would of been thought of as a hobo in another era. Incredibly intelligent, he chose an alternative lifestyle that really went against the social grain of what is expected from the average citizen. He was greatly loved by people who didn't share his life views or simplicity, myself included. Bill loved the sun, the beach, recreational drugs and his freedom. He was very generous with his time in an era where no one has any time. I painted Bill for many years and when he died I wanted people to continue knowing him so I decided to work on a 'Bill' jacket. I kept searching for some socially relevant thread to attach his story to. Ultimately I think I came up with a few and they're all in the form of questions. Is living the life you want worth hacking decades off your lifespan, is not everyone in it for the long haul? Is the pursuit of freedom worth the isolation and loneliness of the hard core? When does eccentricity become considered mental illness? Was the current work ethic always considered as important as it is today? Bill Davies lived his life as if he knew the answers to these questions.
Poor Sylvia. All that talent, especially when she was miserable. The cold mother. The dead father. The over- achieving. The shock treatments. The cheating husband. So much to work with. Until she stuck her head in the oven.
Elvis at the White House
This stranger than fiction story begins with The King running away from home 4 days before Christmas. He had gotten into it with Priscilla when she informed him he had to cut out spending so much on all those guns and Cadillacs. So off he heads to the airport and gets himself onto an American Airlines flight to our nation's Capital with the beginnings of a plan. Mid-flight Elvis asks the stewardess for a pen and composes a 2 page letter to President Nixon asking for a meeting at the White House to discuss the 'Drug Problem'. In D.C. Elvis leaves the note at the White House gates, and ultimately an appointment is made for Elvis to meet the President the following day. Only The King can arrive at the White House, tweeked on a vast assortment of pharmaceuticals and dressed in TCB jewelry and a purple paisley velvet suit and cape, confident that President Nixon is going to name him the new Drug Czar. He even managed to hustle up an official badge or two in the process. Oh yeah, and Elvis brought a gun as a gift for Nixon. As your mama used to say, 'God protects the delusional.'
The Mochida jacket illustrates the wartime story of of a Japanese-American family of 9. They are pictured in an iconic Dorothea Lange OSI photograph from the Japanese Internment that took place at the start of WWII. Certainly one of the most haunting photographs of the 20th Century, it shows the Mochida Family, a father, mother and 7 children standing on the side of the road in Hayward California. The parents and children are tagged like luggage. They are waiting for the bus that will take them to their next home, a horse stall at Tranforan race track. Mr. Mochido is smiling at the camera but the children have the thousand yard stare of veterans. Eventually they will move on to Topaz Internment Camp in Utah until the end of the war. Hiroko Mochida, who was three in the Lange photograph told me her most vivid memories of the time were of her mother working hard to instill in her children a love of this country.
The Keith Haring jacket is an advent of AIDS story. I remember walking through the Village in the summer of 1983 and seeing posters glued to every public surface advertising an event to support men afflicted with 'gay man's cancer'. I had never heard of gay man's cancer but was really glad I wasn't a man or a gay man at that moment. The term AIDS hadn't even been coined yet, and I, who was in college in the no end to the fun late 70's/ early 80's, couldn't imagine what was coming up on the STD horizon.
I so wanted to be Ayn Rand when I was 16. Jesus Christ, I was going to have a big brain and get the hell out of Topsfield, Massachusetts and land in New York to take care of business! Then I would be just like the characters in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. When I wasn't running a railroad while smoking endless cigarettes like Dagny Taggart, I'd been designing skyscrapers like Howard Roark or having vaguely violent sex like Dominique Falcon. Woo Hoo. It wasn't until a few years down the road that a realized that there was a problem with this plan. First of all I would have to be a Republican. Second, Ayn Rand, while a genius, was a loon. This is probably why we all wanted to be Dagny Taggart when we we 20 not 30. Howard Roark probably shouldn't have blown up that building. Dominique should probably have gone into therapy. And John Galt was probably a little too hard core to be considered a good date. All that being said, I did read Rand at 16 and this jacket is a tribute to the smart angry jewish girl from Soviet Russia who enchanted all us restless
I was never an overly big fan of Sammy Davis Jr. Never really gave him a whole lotta thought. Then one day I heard an African American folk singer say he was tired of being the only chip in this cookie. So funny, so true. Made me think of Sammy a little differently. It dawned on me that his career, that started on the road dancing between his father and uncle at the age of 3, chronicled American History of the 20th Century (and not the After School Special version.)
Here is my favorite example of Sammy coming in the door sideways, it is from Norman Lear's 'All in the Family'.
Archie: Now, no prejudice intended, but I always check with the bible on these here things. I think that, I mean if God had meant for us to be together he'd a put us together. But look what he done. He put you over in Africa, and put the rest of us in the white countries.
Sammy Davis Jr.: Well they must of told'em where we were because somebody came and got us.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
This is not an After School Special
Growing up in Massachusetts in the 70's you were always aware that you were not living in the most evolved of times or places for that matter. I grew up in an affluent town with a great public school system. So great in fact that the ABC program (A Better Chance) bought a house in the town center and filled it with inner-city scholars so they could go to our school. I remember that by the first day of school in September, 2 of the ABC House neighbors had sold their properties in fear and disgust. When I told this to my mother in horror, she said, 'equal opportunity is all well and good, Lauren, until one of those kids marries your daughter'. Not Southie, but not the UN either. I used to take a bus back in forth between my parents houses every weekend when I was a kid. I changed buses at the old Greyhound station on St. James in Boston (gone now.) I kinda thought I was living the glamorous, bi-coastal, life at the time, but that is a whole other story. If I had time in between buses I would hang out in Park Square soaking up the local color. In the mid 70's this sometimes translated to crazy white parents from Southie, hanging out of their cars screaming hateful things that usually began with the letter N. I wanted to begin work on this project, that will hopefully deal with Boston and Charlestown's Forced Busing issues of the mid 1970's from that paranoid point of view. Because as the saying goes, just because you're paranoid (and racist), doesn't mean they aren't out to get you. So far pretty much everyone looks mercenary, bad or pawn-like in this drama, we'll see where it goes.
The Dust Bowl
In the Worst of Times Things Get Fixed
I have always been fascinated by the faces of the Dust Bowl. Have collected the work of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and their contemporaries at the Farm Securities Administration for years. So much to say picturing a weather beaten face.
The Country Doctor
This jacket deals with the life and work of Dr. Ernest G. Ceriani who practiced in the isolated, small town of Kremmling, Colorado. Long before the advent of the HMO, Ceriani was the subject of an W. Eugene Smith photo essay for Life magazine in 1948 called 'Country Doctor'. Smith was supposed to follow Ceriani for 2 weeks illustrating what a country doctor means to his or her community. Sleeping on the good doctor's couch, Smith turned 2 weeks into 6. And for good cause. If you get a chance Google this photo essay it is not only heart wrenchingly beautiful but thought provoking. I for one am endlessly fascinated by Doc Ceriani. He might have looked like a movie star, but what he was was a saint. A saint with a lot of stamina, because his work was endless. He was general physician, surgeon, dentist, obstetrician, pediatrician and laboratory technician to a town of people in desperate need of all of the above. A married man with 2 small children when he arrived in Kremmling, he was seldom able to be home. His son Gary told me that he and his brother would hang out with with him at the hospital, helping to set broken bones and whatnot, if they wanted to hang out with their dad. Or maybe at the office developing X-Rays with him to save money. Which brings me to a thought that kept circling through my mind when I was working on this project. Who would want to be married to a saint? Not much in it for the wife and kids if you ask me. But if anyones wife and kids have to suffer on in isolation, I hope they belong to my doctor.
The Country Doctor jacket was stolen out of my old studio before I had a chance to finish, properly photograph, show, or sell it.
When I was a kid everyone watched Rex Trailer's Boomtown on Saturday mornings from 8:00 to 10:00. Where else were you going to see a blond, a sidekick, a T.V. cowboy and an Irishman playing Mexican.
The Boomtown jacket is a throw back, excuse to use fringe, baby boomer homage to 'go play outside' life lessons we learned in kindergarten.
Give me a minute to get the photos up.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
I am currently working on a number of jacket projects.
Wish me luck.
Wish me luck.
What doesn't kill me doesn't thrill me.
A Drop in the Bucket
When you get, give.
Mississippi Fred McDowell
Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine.
Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
The Barn Gallery
May 20 - June 20 2009
Mid-Season - Open Juried Show
June 24 - July 26
Barn Gallery 50th Anniversary Show
August 5 - August 30, 2009