I went to the VD clinic yesterday ‘cause I thought there was something wrong with me. I suspected that I might have been a bit hypochondriacal but – sure enough – there was something wrong. To quote the doctor’s precise and horrifying diagnosis, I was suffering from “a minor skin irritation.”
So that’s good news but it doesn’t end there. While I was sitting in the waiting room, I got to watch an educational video in which a cartoon penis rolled a condom over his body and then proceeded to lube himself up. I swear to god, I’m not fucking with you. This exists. Giant cartoon condom – rolls a condom over his body – and then covers himself with lube.
I made this painting over a year ago, in a state of sheer terror, while waiting for test results. Being back at a clinic yesterday, I remembered that I had never put it online.
Early in 2014, I sold some art to a girl named Rachel Rabinowitz in Delray Beach, FL. She emailed me later and told me that she was an artist too and that I should hit her up if I was ever in Asheville. Later that year, while in Asheville, Chris Spillane and I met her for coffee. She asked if I’d be interested in collaborating and I told her that she could paint something and then I could paint something over it. (That’s the only way I know how to collaborate; I had done it twice before with my buddy, William Somma, on “Limp” and “Yo – I Painted a Fuckin’ Unicorn“). Here’s what the canvas looked like when she gave it to me:
The other new piece from Thursday night. The one that’s mean and shitty and makes me not like myself.
“Diaper Baby” by Sass Dragons seems appropriate right now…
I don’t care. I want attention. It doesn’t matter just where it comes from.
I’m as needy as the day I was born. Like a crying baby.
SOMEBODY CHANGE ME.
Before I went to bed at 8 AM, I uploaded the new high-resolution photos of 28 and Eradicating the Threat of Happiness.
Both are available in my webstore, as are prints of my newer pieces.
The good people of the Wunderground collective have been sweet enough to include me in their quarterly event at 1904 Music Hall. If you’re in/near Jacksonville, come hang out with me on January 11th. Art, music, burlesque, spoken word, food… IT’LL BE AN EVENING.
I feel sick to my stomach but the problem is all in my head. Funny how that works, huh?
I remember when I used to directly address with total transparency whatever was crushing my fucking soul. These days, I don’t have the guts. I can’t handle the consequences.
This strikes me as the kind of shit someone writes or says when they’re relapsing. I’m not, but this is probably also the kind of shit someone writes *just before* they relapse.
Luckily, I know myself well enough to know two things. 1) If there were drugs right here, I’d be fucked; but immediate and effortless accessibility is a prerequisite for me to fuck up in that way. 2) I’m a fucking basketcase, overly invested in the present moment. So while I might feel like I’m in crisis right now – realistically – I’ll paint a fucking picture, go to bed, and tomorrow I’ll be manically happy about some stupid pop punk song and be okay until the next time something brings my regularly simmering gloom, shit, and misery to its boiling point.
Countdown to the feelings of shame, embarrassment, and regret consequent to writing this entry… 5, 4…
I have friends that call me when they’re in a rough spot. I have a lot of friends that turn to me when they’re struggling. But I don’t turn to anyone. I turn to the fucking internet. I don’t have the courage they have. Why am I better at being a comfort to others than I am to myself?
I alluded to this piece in “Titrating,” when I described myself as feeling scared, stuck, and trapped, but smiling. (See the red text in the background).
Like the pieces in “The Weak End” series of paintings, this (along with several others) started out as one large painting that I eventually cut up into a lot of smaller ones. Unlike that series though, all of the paintings in this series (“Your Higher Power is Literally Garbage”) were painted and repainted so much that they don’t really share much in common.
In the center of this piece is a strip of pink duct tape that I drew on, while riding in the car, because I had no paper. Yet another weird/poor drawing of a kid with fucked up teeth. It’s pretty representative of my belief that I’ve got a lot more willingness than I do talent (or even creativity).
As often as I feel “inspired,” I’ve got nothing. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still have the need to create something. So I do. Because it’s good for me. It helps me, emotionally.
And if you read my last post, you know that right now is one of those occasions where I desperately need to create something. And I knew that I’d come to that conclusion if I wrote up the entry for this piece, which is why I chose to write an entry around “Pulp” first. I wasn’t ready to do what I needed to do to get better. But I am now.
I knew it’d be a problem. No one took me seriously. I gave up – I wanted to be agreeable. Now the consequences are here and I hate myself. Addressing it directly now will only make it worse. So – here I am – fumbling around with vague bullshit. I want to say “am” but will settle for “feel.” I feel weak, dependent, vain, and trivial.
I forget how it came up, but I found myself in rehab, defending some view as not being illegitimate or immoral. Something to do with property and how this world has enough for everyone to have everything that they need. But how people get scared, their fear morphs into greed, and they feel like they need to hoard wealth or resources to the detriment of others. One way or another, we got to that thing from the Beatitudes where Jesus says it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven. And from there, “For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son to burn the banks to the fucking ground and drink the blood of the rich” popped into my head – which I, of course, thought was hilarious. And I immediately started jokingly trying to recruit my fellow inpatients for a crusade to burn down the banks and – you know – drink the blood of the rich.
The next day, in expressive art therapy group, we were told that the theme was Christmas (it was December 22nd). “Not really Christmas though – just in terms of birth or re-birth – just as a metaphor.” Everyone else in the group kind of ignored that. We produced a lot of paintings of Christmas trees and Santa Claus that day. I – predictably – went really literal with it though. I started painting myself being born (fully grown and clothed). And not so much being born, as much as pulling myself out of a woman’s birth canal. (The distinction is that birth wasn’t “happening” to me, I was taking the action). I thought that was pretty great given my circumstances. Recovery or rehabilitation weren’t happening to me – I was making them happen. I was bringing them about. Doing the work to get better.
And then it occurred to me that the “For God so loved the world…” thing that I had come up with the day before would be PERFECT for this painting. It was supposed to be about Christmas, right? The celebration of the birth of Christ. And while I had intended for the character in the painting to be me (and – no – I don’t think I’m the messiah) adding the caption would make this a depiction of what must be the second coming of Christ. When he comes back as a lion instead of a lamb. Lion Christ just might be the kind of guy that WOULD burn the banks to the fucking ground and drink the blood of the rich, the greedy, and the selfish. After all, Jesus never spoke ill of homosexuals or [whoever evangelists are bummed out about these days] but he sure as fuck had a distaste for the rich.
So this may sound absurd, but this painting, the little things leading up to it, and the process itself.. this was a spiritual experience for me. No offense to any of my peers, but they all painted Christmas trees and (by their own admission in group that day) didn’t get much out of it, so this assignment/prompt MUST have been for my benefit. And the way that it all panned out – what I chose to paint without even thinking of the previous day – and then remembering it at just the right time – this was all predestined. Similarly, back when I was told that I needed to have some kind of faith – that I’d need to believe in some kind of higher power if I ever wanted to get better and stop shooting heroin – the first belief I adopted (albeit sarcastically) was that “my higher power thinks I’m fucking hilarious“; if this whole episode isn’t proof of that, then I don’t know what is. The universe really brought it all together for me this time around.
HISTORICAL note!: Our art therapy counselor brought us acrylic paint and canvas boards as a Christmas present, so this was my first time using “real” art supplies. (Normally we used cheap paper and tempera/poster-paint). And I kinda can’t mention that counselor without saying something else…
Even when everyone else thought that “something might need to be done” about the kind of stuff I was turning out in art group, Julie stuck up for me and insisted that I be allowed (and encouraged) to create whatever I was feeling. It’s so much more than entirely possible that – were it not for Julie – what little enjoyment I got out of those early art groups might have been snuffed out. Had that been the case, there’s no way in hell that you’d be reading this right now because this website (and all of these pieces) wouldn’t even exist. And It’s not quite as certain, but it’s extremely likely that I’d either still be shooting heroin or dead. A lot of people and factors played into my recovery but the one piece that I’m almost positive is totally crucial is art. And Julie gets total credit for that. (With an assist from my friend (and fellow inpatient) Mary Beth, who was also a huge source of encouragement in the early stages of the game.
And so long as I’m going on tangents: After I finished this painting, as I was carrying it from group to my room, one of the property techs stopped and asked me if he could see what I had made. Staff aren’t really supposed to be “friends” with patients/clients, but I definitely considered Kenny a friend and (as a Christian) I was afraid this would bum him out. But I showed it to him and he surprised me. He knew exactly what I was going for, got the joke, told me it was actually a really Christian sentiment, and even gave me the [call number or whatever it’s called] for a verse of scripture. That sort of reaffirmed my faith in humanity that day. It was really awesome.
By the way, that movie I was cast in over the summer… the production designer saw this painting and asked if I could redraw it so that it could be screened onto a t-shirt for my character to wear. So I did!
A lot of what you’ve just read was written a few months back. Some of it is even older than that. The word “predestined” jumps off the page at me. Do I really believe in such a concept? I don’t know. I’m tempted to say “not really.” I’ll say this though… on December 22nd, back when all of this was happening… when I say, “this was a spiritual experience for me”, Imean it. Did I believe anything was predetermined earlier that day? No. Did I believe it in that moment? Again – I don’t really know. But I know that I was having fun acting as if I did… This really struck me as too perfect to be random (it just felt too excellent) but … eh… Well, like I sort of said: this was the best evidence I had ever seen that [to borrow from Andrew Jackson Jihad] “my god thinks my jokes are funny.” And it was all great fodder as I explained the cartoon/painting/sentiment to the patients and staff that were giving me funny looks. So I was having a lot of fun with it. So far as my real (confident) beliefs go… – only what I laid out in my entry for “Everything Works Out Exactly As It Should.”
Anyway, here’s a song that I was listening to a lot around the time this was painted.
Here’s a song that strikes me as otherwise relevant.
“I think I should (or at least want to) eat but I feel fat so I’m gonna try not to do that. I’d eat with Adderall but don’t wanna stay up too late. Got treatment tomorrow. I’d work out but don’t want to. I should get some work done or make some art (which I sort of am) but really I think I’ll just beat off. It’s a good distraction. I wanna say I wanna use heroin at times like this but I don’t. I never will. I’m not a good addict.”
Yeesh. [or something]. Right? I wrote that on a discarded USPS box with no intention of it actually becoming a piece. I was just losing my mind. There’s a lot going on here but that’s how it started (bottom center, red pencil).I’m proud to say that – like the other piece in which I express an interest in masturbating – I wound up getting pulled into art instead. (If you wanna know the truth though – on other occasions, I actually have masturbated! Don’t tell anyone though – it’s a big secret).
On the edges we have two allusions to the piece I finished earlier this same night (“Titrating”). On the right it says, “If THAT wasn’t titration-related, maybe THIS isn’t either.” On the left it says, “On a scale of one to ten, are you warm and safe? Do you find colors soothing? Is there any leftover pizza? On a scale of one to ten… Leftover pizza?” (That’s me poking fun at myself for being so concerned with pizza back on February 26th). Regarding “colors,” that’s about the neon green paint splattered across the pink duct tape that coats the far right side of my “canvas.” I like colors.
I was “making a living” at this point in my life by selling weird antique dolls on eBay. Every morning (or afternoon) I’d wake up and go out to the garage (in my ex-girlfriend’s family’s house) and list the dolls for sale. The details don’t matter, but they were basically inherited and I was enlisted to sell them in exchange for 50% of whatever they brought in. The dolls were all stored in giant plastic tubs. Some of them didn’t have clothes on, but there were a bunch of clothes floating around at the bottoms of the tubs. In order to make as much money as possible, I had to research the dolls based on their attributes and the markings carved into their backs and necks. For many of them, what clothes they were wearing was “important” (by which I mean, it affected how much I’d get for them). So here I was, sitting in a dark garage, putting different outfits on these toys and photographing them. Context aside, I was twenty-seven years old and playing dress-up with dollies. When that thought occurred to me, it struck me as being so absurd that I had to snap a ridiculous picture and post it on Facebook. The caption read, “Don’t even try to pretend I’m not the funniest motherfucker on the planet.”
Because I totally am!
When this piece was just one step away from the way it ended up, I fucking hated it. Aside from the fact that it mentions embarrassing stuff (body image issues and masturbating) I just didn’t like the way that it looked. I can’t really explain my next move. Maybe it just popped into my head and seemed characteristic of mental illness and (since that’s how I felt in this moment) I embraced it. I took the piece and I peed on it.
And – call me crazy but… that’s what did it. The slight change in color tone brought about by my urine soaking into the cardboard… really brought the whole thing together. (My phrasing is intentionally silly here, but the sentiment is 100% dead on). Suddenly, I loved this piece. I deemed it “finished” and immediately started my next piece – “Everything Works Out Exactly As It Should.”
The next day (as I always did) I brought all of my new artwork with me to Tranquil Shores to share. I wrote the name of this piece on the back of it and came up with a really funny game. I’d hand it to someone, let them look at it, and then tell them to flip it over and read the title. At which point they’d look up at me like, “seriously?” And I’d give them a big dumb grin and nod.
Urine is sterile! The piece was dry by this point! Who cares?!