Tag Archives: happiness

Modern Art is Stupid; Everything Is

"Modern Art is Stupid; Everything Is." 1/12/14. Acrylic, spray, and watercolor paints, ink, oil pastels, food coloring, and charcoal. 60x40".
“Modern Art is Stupid; Everything Is.” 1/12/14. Acrylic, spray, and watercolor paints, ink, oil pastels, food coloring, and charcoal. 60×40″.

Artist’s statement (revised 4/2/14):

This piece was started in the last week of December and finished in mid-January, during the final days of my relationship with Heather. There’s a lot of emotional back-and-forth in it. On New Year’s Eve, I wrote:

If you’ve never walked the train tracks alone on New Year’s Eve, singing along (badly) to a song only you can hear and maybe – just once, in the course of that walk – thrown a fist in the air… Well – I don’t envy you.
Hit the pavement, light another cigarette. Life is beautiful.
I just jumped in the air and laughed. I’ve never even heard this song before.

The joy I felt in that moment soon gave way to dejection. I was walking to meet Heather to go out for the night. Our outing only lasted fifteen minutes or so, before she got mad at me, and I walked home alone in a very different state of mind. Hembrough called me around 2 AM. He was walking home along the tracks back in Sarasota. I laughed. “What am I doing?” he asked me, “Why is this happening? Because punk rock told me so, I guess.”

The next morning, I was feeling drained of any and all spirit. I wrote out two lists:

(1) A Facebook post about the rain
(2) A pop punk song about resilience

(1) Me

A few days later, I added more text: “It gets better, it gets worse, it gets better, it gets worse. As soon as it’s good enough, it isn’t. Why am I so sad?”

Another day or two passed and Rational Anthem sent me the demos of their new eight-song EP that they were gearing up to record. One song in particular fucking wrecked me. The chorus begins: “I can’t convince myself that I’m happy.

Fuck. They nailed it.

The last lyric in the song repeats through the end. “Does it matter anyway?” I heard it differently though: “It doesn’t matter anyway.” If I had heard that song on New Year’s Day, I wouldn’t have just been crying, I’d probably have been bawling.

The song had a goofy working-title.  ”No,” I told Chris. “There’s nothing fucking silly about this song. It needs a real, honest title.” I told him to call it, “I Wish I Could Be Happy.” He, Noelle, and Pete took me up on it so that’ll be the title when the record comes out. Since then, it’s also been decided that my watercolor painting/cartoon, “Autobiography,” will be used as the front cover for the record (recaptioned with the album’s title, “Emotionally Unavailable”). (Before I move past punk rock, I wanna note that the album I was listening to as I walked on NYE was “The Constant One” by Iron Chic, and the song referenced in my list is “The Shades of Grey” by The Murderburgers.

The text about it getting better and getting worse was originally the largest caption on the canvas, but I decided to relegate it to semi-obscurity by rewriting it in pen in the shadows. I blocked out that original caption with a series of primary-colored rectangles. I liked them but they reminded me of what I guess I’d call the proverbial “modern art.” I don’t like to be so negative or critical as to suggest that any art is stupid (after all, I have no idea what goes into it or why the artist is making it) but – if I’m being honest – when I look at most artwork, I have the same response that I think most people have to art:“Um… okay.” Basically, I don’t get it. I’m not sure why I should care. I mean, if the artist is getting something out of it, then I think that’s spectacular (genuinely!) but I don’t think that that necessarily makes it worth my time or attention. “Modern Art is Stupid; Everything Is” is reflective of that attitude as well as the bad / hurt feelings swirling around my relationship and my general state of being as I painted this. It’s also part self-deprecation. After all (IN CASE YOU CAN’T TELL), this piece is itself a work of modern art. (And – depending on who you ask – thoroughly stupid!)

All of this sort of adds up to one big jumbled mess of emotion and incident. That’s what happens when my work on some piece spans two or even three weeks. Struggling with whether or not I should break up with my girlfriend, trying to figure out if I’m happy, walking along train tracks, pop punk, modern art, being an artist. I don’t know what’s what. I summed it up with one last caption along the bottom of the canvas: “This is one of them MAGIC EYE paintings. Look close, at just the right angle, and you can see… how full of shit I am.”


Status update (2/22/14):
Here are two photos of the painting, hanging in Ettra (the gallery in which it was sold).

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I also got set up at Burrito Gallery in Jacksonville this week. I have twenty-one pieces on their wall right now, though I may add more. The exhibit will run through the first week of April.

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I’m posting this from Chamblin’s Uptown. A few of my pieces are still up on the walls here, though I’ll be rearranging and adding more later in the week.

And I still have plenty of new pieces that I’ve yet to share online. I’ve been incredibly busy though so I’m going to hold off until I have time to write up proper statements to accompany them.

Anyway, things are going really well so far as all my art nonsense is concerned. Breaking my lease and moving into a van might not have seemed like the most sound game plan, but I couldn’t be happier with how things have been developing. Life’s been going a mile a minute and I’m just doing my best to keep up. I’ll be in Jacksonville until the show at Burrito Gallery ends and then I’ll head north to try and line up a show in a new city. The uncertainty and instability of my life can get scary at times but it’s also really exciting and – more than anything – I feel grateful. And I feel free. I don’t have to convince myself that I’m happy today; I just am.

My first beard got long enough that I was starting to feel like the grimy "homeless" kid that I sort of am. This is me after cutting it off, while working on some graphic stuff at the laundromat last night.
My first beard got long enough that I was starting to feel like the grimy “homeless” kid that I sort of am. Here I am after trimming it last night, working on some graphic stuff at the laundromat.

I Wish I Could Get Everyone to Stop Waiting

"I Wish I Could Get Everyone to Stop Waiting." 6/7/13. Tempera and pencil on paper, cut up and rearranged. 12x12".

“I Wish I Could Get Everyone to Stop Waiting.” June 7th, 2013. Tempera and pencil on paper, cut up and rearranged. 12×12”.

This was the last piece I made in my Wednesday night “Art of Recovery” group, before moving to Jacksonville.

The text says, “I wish I could get everyone to stop waiting. They’d rather die than try something new and risk being happy.” It’s about the people in my life caught in patterns of addiction, codependency/enabling, and other kinds of mental illness. Or, rather, it’s about my own frustration in not being able to help/change/save them. It’s about the way we have a tendency to think things like, “Once [this] happens, then I can do [that], and THEN I’ll be happy.”

I know that if I can’t be happy now, regardless of my current situation, there’s nothing that could happen that will make me happy. Happiness comes from within and has nothing to do with external factors outside of my own control. In that sense, this piece is very much an echo of the sentiment (as I’ve interpreted it anyway) in the opening song on one of my favorite records. The chorus is: “What does your dream home look like? It’ll take you years to even tell, and I’ll be sleeping well, here in hell.”

This statement isn’t from June. I just wrote it. So I still know these things, it’s just that I’m having trouble applying them. I’m gonna give it my best shot today.

Fifteen Alligators

I might not like my earliest art, but I think I like the chronological approach to this blog/gallery so here’s number two.

"Fifteen Alligators." August 22nd, 2012. Oil pastels on scrap paper. 9x12".

“Fifteen Alligators.” August 22nd, 2012. Oil pastels on scrap paper. 9×12″.

Here’s how my first art group worked: we paired up, each person had a turn to talk, and each person drew something in relation to what they talked about as well as what their partner talked about. I drew “Kicking Dirt” after my partner talked and “Fifteen Alligators” after I talked. Neither has anything to do with the conversation. And all I remember about the conversation was being really weirded out by my partner’s facial expression while he was listening to whatever it was that I had to say that afternoon. He looked super attentive. Like – to such an extent that it seemed exaggerated. Maybe it wasn’t; maybe it was just new to me. I don’t know, but as you’ll see from this next journal excerpt, my perception (and, more generally, thinking) wasn’t exactly top-notch at this point.

The following is part of the same entry (from 8/19/12) that I excerpted for my first post. In fact, it starts exactly where I chose to let the last except end. Keep in mind that I wrote these with the intention of never sharing them with anyone. So a lot of this stuff is… Well, I’m not comfortable with it. Part of me thinks that posting these is a waste of time and that they’re totally uninteresting, but part of me thinks that they might have value insofar as they really are totally raw, very private journals from a very vulnerable/confused time in my life.

A quick note: Since I never intended to share these, I wrote things that I have no right saying to anybody (you know – stuff about other people… people that aren’t me). So before I get to any of that stuff, I decided today that I should start replacing all the names of people that I referred to in these journals, even if I only mentioned them casually / innocuously. That seems like a responsible thing to do, right?

Tranquil Shores journal. First entry (cont’d).
August 19th, 2012. Sunday. Around 5:30 am.

I’ve been staring at the wall, lost in dumb thoughts for fifteen minutes now.

Sophie said she thinks I’ll pick up another rehab girlfriend. Does she not realize she’d be my only prospect? Or does she think I’d go for someone like Elizabeth? I don’t think there’s even a third option. In any case, I told her I’ve got no intention. That’s what fucked me up both at Hazelden and at Wellness. Plus she’s leaving soon. And she’s a twenty-two year-old mess who still texts with two addict ex-boyfriends and who think she can be in recovery and still go back to selling weed… which she says she gets in forty-pound bundles from Hawaii, California, and Colorado… which – as anyone who’s spoken to her for even a moment can tell – is an outright lie. So basically, she’s a mess. Fuck. I kind of like it. It’s so funny when she “worries” about other people. Kid, you’re fucked – worry about yourself. Or wait… am I doing the same thing? I think it’s different insofar as I say, “so-and-so’s fucked,” not “I’m worried about ____.” And I perpetually acknowledge just how fucked I am. Fifteen percent of addicts recover! Or is that five percent? Let’s say “five to fifteen.” That’ll be the new tagline.

I wanna play my bass and rip off that Unfun song. “Society/Friends.”
I also don’t wanna get up.
And I’m still about to shit the bed.
“And that’s not so cool.” (!)

Read philosophy last night. Nietzche and Schopenhauer. Sadly, Shopenhauer had the more lovable, relatable material for me right now. Plus he didn’t lose his fucking mind 44 years in. What stood out to me: lowered expectations. The world does not have a great deal to offer us and happiness is not guaranteed. Basically, FUCK “The Promises.” Drugs make life worse, but abstention doesn’t guarantee that it won’t still be terrible. People have difficult lives for a lot of reasons. Drugs are not the root of all evil. But are drugs the reason my life sucks? Ehhh, that’s the question. If “yes” then I guess I can overcome – and then move on to trying to overcome the next biggest reason my life is shy of ideal. Until I’m all out of reasons or until I get to one I can’t beat. I guess it’d only be rational to kill myself after an honest attempt at that process. “Rational” is the wrong word. The only “rational” thing to do is to kill myself right now. Unless I have some meaning or purpose to my life. Then I can choose to live. How long do I look? How long do I fight to overcome the terrors of my life? The “terrors of my life?” Those words just came out of me. God, I’m an asshole.

I wrote another entry a few hours later. It’s short.

Tranquil Shores journal.
August 19th, 2012. Sunday. 11:15 am.

I’m sitting in an AA meeting at the Indian Rocks town hall.

Happiness is a choice. That’s what Vivian said to me this morning (and what I used to say to other people, a long time ago). The problem (well, a problem) is that the choice seems to require shutting off your brain. Because you have to make the choice despite the lack of reason behind it. Or you need to find a reason. I’m not dead yet, so I guess I must have one. Should I (can I) make the choice?


It’s pretty tough for me to look at these old journal entries, but that probably means it’s good for me to do so anyway. One last thing: I was going to post this update earlier, but I had computer trouble. I went to a friend’s house to borrow a power adapter. On the ride back, almost home, I turned toward my street. The gates were down, the lights were flashing red, and a train was coming. I didn’t stop. I sped around the gates and over the tracks. At that moment, “High Fives” by Dear Landlord started playing in my headphones. And I don’t think I’ve ever felt better in my life.