I can’t remember the last time I wrote a statement for one of my pieces but this painting never got one. A year later, here I go…
Things were going well. I was making thousands of dollars every month, I was getting booked at galleries, I was traveling the country with a girl with whom I was deeply in love, and I still wasn’t happy. (Or happy enough).
In March, I had an exhibition at Instinct in Minneapolis. Everyday – to help promote the exhibit and to make extra money selling prints – I’d set up on the sidewalk in front of the gallery with an easel, working on this, my next painting.
Some days, I didn’t wanna go set up though and spend twelve hours on the street, painting. Other days, I was frustrated having to park and carry my supplies too far away (or parking closer – illegally – and having to keep an eye over my shoulder for tow trucks all day). I was making money just for making art but I was actually having to work for it.
I wanted to paint in some studio or at home. I wanted to finish a painting and know that there were already galleries lined up to take them or collectors ready to buy them the moment each was finished. “I’m fucking brilliant!” (Right?) “My genius should be enough to generate an income all on its own! This should be easier.”
Alright, so maybe my thinking wasn’t quite that arrogant but … you know … pretty much.
Look – I don’t like myself a whole lotta the time and I could expand on that for days but – when it comes to my art – I know that it’s great. As a human being, I’m seriously flawed, but those same flaws (and my willingness to bare them so candidly and honestly) is what overwhelmingly/primarily accounts for the power and singularity of my art and is the reason I’ve sold as much of it as I have. I’ve hated so many things about me for long enough that I’m okay with being unapologetically proud of the art I’ve created.
I figured that once I got wide enough exposure and enough people knew about my art (once I was famous) my life would be a whole lot easier. No more worrying about bills. Lots of attention (to fill the empty void where my soul should live). You know: FAME. Money. Whatever.
Admittedly, that might be a little naive but – fuck it – I was getting really sick of having to work and I was getting really sick of not being famous.
Beyond all that, there’s a passage of smaller text hidden in the canvas that sort of jumps all over the place. I wrote about feeling fat and self-conscious and tugging at my clothes, pulling them straight a million times a day (even though I was well underweight at that point (and probably still am)). I wrote about other frustrations and how they made me want to use heroin, even though I’d been clean forever at that point and had gained so much to lose. And I wrote about how I didn’t know what I was doing wrong but that I was going to keep trying anyway, finding new approaches if necessary.
Like most of my work, this painting is meant to be funny and it’s supposed to seem dense and trivial but its humor is born of sincere frustration, genuine sadness, hopelessness, and a sense of uncertainty. And like a lot of the optimism I inject into my work, what little is here is mostly for my own benefit and not the painting’s. It’s forced with the hope that it will take hold.
And I think it did take hold for a while but ultimately, about a year after finishing this piece, I did cave and give in to heroin, letting it replace art as my full-time occupation. And seven months into that, in a state of drug-induced psychosis, I slashed away at this painting (and several others) shortly before eating an absurd quantity of Xanax and Klonopin and injecting an intentionally strong shot of heroin with the intention of killing myself. I’m not sure why I didn’t want the art to outlive me but the damage didn’t turn out to be all that bad anyway and I, myself, woke up in the hospital a few days later.
That was six weeks ago and I’m now in the process of stitching up all of the slashes I put into my paintings. This is the first I’ve finished sewing up which makes it the first in what I’m calling my “Suicide Stitches” series of paintings. More on that in another blog entry/post soon to follow.
You could call this piece the second in a series of three, detailing my second “romantic entanglement” in Chicago last year. The caption/title of the piece is (obviously) an acknowledgment of the way I’ve commercialized my “disease.” The text scattered throughout this piece is a pretty good document of that disease. It was all written as the piece was created (between August 15th and September 26th, 2014) and is as follows:
AAAANNNNNDDD – emotional attachment severed in 5… 4… 3… 2… gone. And I don’t give a fuck about anyone. Good thing I told Spillane earlier how much this girl likes me – and how (obviously) that means I need to be cutting it off soon. By nonchalantly bailing on our (admittedly) tentative (but – as of an hour ago – confirmed) plans for tonight, she’s given me all the cause I need. Except I know she’s gonna materialize by my side tomorrow when I’m downtown working on this piece and selling prints. So we’ll see how the fuck THAT pans out. Or – fuck it – maybe she won’t and maybe we won’t. Did I mention that I don’t give a fuck? ‘Cause I really wanna stress that point. Does it sound like I’m trying really hard to prove it. If not to you, then to me? Whatever. (Forever). If I were feeling mean (and I am), I’d say: “That ‘love letter’ I wrote you is nothing but another product for my inventory. You’re just a couple pages in a chapter in my story. A subplot, a side story, a tangent.” ON/OFF. ON/OFF. I still keep my feelings wired to a light switch. And I don’t care anymore.
Oh – wait – new day. Don’t care about any of that nonsense yesterday. Switch back on! I’m “in love” again!
Ink requires so much more precision than paint. I’m having a hard time finishing this drawing without my Adderall, which the police took, as evidence, the other night. A little over a year ago, I got out of Tranquil Shores and turned myself in for an outstanding warrant. As I sat in jail, I remember thinking, “This is the last time I’ll ever have to do this.” And now I’m facing charges again. FELONY charges. Felony DRUG charges. For my fucking Adderall. I need to get my shit together for my case. Letters from doctors, counselors, Tranquil Shores – to prove that I’m not some kid abusing this stuff – I just happened to let my prescription lapse (irresponsibly, I know). But that’s hard to do [manage my prescriptions in new cities] without my Adderall. Everything is. Everything is more difficult. And I’m overwhelmed. I can do it. Call a lawyer, call the doctors, get my suit shipped up here from Florida. It doesn’t sound like much but the anxiety of it all has me almost to panic mode. I want to shut down, block it all out, and just leave the state [of Illinois]. If this had happened in Kansas or Oklahoma, I’d just never go back. But it was on this side of the Illinois line. I hate it. This court doesn’t care about me. The judge, the prosecutors, the system. None of them care. I hate it so much. It’s cold and mean and awful and it makes me wanna give up. Two Saturdays ago, I got invited to two parties. I invited Nicole to go with me to both. I went to pick her up, anxiety set in, I told her to forget it, and I went out to my car to… I wasn’t sure. She sent a text: “Are you okay? What are you doing?” I was online, researching dope spots in Chicago so I could go cop. I told her ‘cause she’s twenty, might not understand how serious that is, might be naive enough and like me enough to just want to do it with me. But she knew better. She stopped me. Saved me from myself. Not that I didn’t put up a fight. She cried. I felt terrible. It was a mess. But she stuck it out. She really cares. That’s scary. We’re still seeing each other. That’s scary. I’m [this] close to referring to her as my girlfriend. If I were a better person, I’d probably break it off with her and stop getting involved with girls. IT ALWAYS ENDS THE SAME. Or maybe I should quit playing fortune teller, just live life, and let what happens happen.
OUT OF ADDERALL PROBLEMS: Meanwhile, I won’t shower or even get dressed until I have clean socks to put on. But I won’t have that until I go to the laundromat and I can’t go to the laundromat unless I get dressed and I can’t do that until I have clean socks to put on.
We’ve been seeing each other for six weeks. Became “boyfriend/girlfriend-official” last week. I haven’t put it on Facebook because I guess I just figure it won’t last. We got into an argument this morning. I started repeating “idon’tcareidon’tcareidon’tcare,” she goes “and you don’t care about me so FUCK OFF,” and then she hung up. (I think – I did anyway). I think that’s it. I think we’re done now. I talked to my south Florida girl last night. It was great except she sounded high but assured me she wasn’t. She invited me to come stay with her when I go back down there. If she’s clean, that’d be great! She called again this morning, moments after hanging up with my girlfriend. It turns out she is getting high and everything’s a mess. I’m stuck in Illinois on bail. Mike and I butt heads. I don’t feel secure here. I’m always walking on eggshells. My relationship with Nicole is dicey if not over. I’m ready to get the fuck out and go somewhere new. Sometimes I feel like I’m floating – for what? Is it about art? A career? Or do I do it all for girls, sex, love? Is it for myself – ego, fulfillment, ACTUALIZATION? What am I looking for? What am I after? UGH – WHO THE FUCK CARES??? Oh – WAIT – SHE JUST TEXTED ME. We’re still cool. (Or cool again). Game on. I feel better, I guess.
Don’t let the fact that I usually sleep indoors fool you. I might be charming but no place feels safe. This is what it means to be really homeless. I’m reinventing homelessness. And I do technically live in a minivan. If you did, your art would have unintentional creases and pressure spots too.
Depression, isolation, giving up… I started this piece over a month ago. My life was different then. It’s gotten worse. My faith’s been shaken. I’m so sad. It’s cold outside. I don’t wanna kill myself…
On Saturday, March 22nd, I set up at Rain Dogs for a Wunderground art show. There were bands playing too. A poetry troupe. A stand-up comic. I knew all of this when it was booked in January. “Can I sign up to go on stage too?” “For poetry or comedy?” Mandie asked me. “I guess that all depends on the audience’s response!”
I had two poems I wanted to recite. They’re really bold. The kind of stuff that I’ve held off even from sharing on my website. A lot of my writing is painfully honest and extremely vulnerable but these are on another level. I didn’t know if I’d have the guts to share them for the first time from a stage. I also had some “material” that I thought would work as a stand-up routine. In the end, I didn’t prepare myself for poetry or comedy. About halfway through the night, I remembered that I had said I wanted to perform and – as tempting as it was to not bring it up and not take the stage – I didn’t want to be all talk. I had said I was going to get on stage, so I was going to get on stage; it didn’t matter how scared I was. I decided to just tell my story and then speak off the cuff about some of my pieces. I chose a couple dozen and put them in an order that’d flow well.
Rosaly said I’d go up in forty-five minutes. I was nervous. I scratched it out onto the canvas I had started that night.
“I am trying my best to kill time and anxiety. I know there is a certain weight and power to the things I do. I am not incredible but some of my actions might be. I hope this goes well but the response I get doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I’m doing it.”
The room had maybe thirty people scattered across it. Some of them continued to have conversations while I spoke. I just went on ahead and didn’t let it get to me. One guy in the back of the room started heckling me. He said I should’ve killed myself. He called me a “jerk-off.” I kept going. It helped that I couldn’t make out everything he was saying.
For the most part, I thought it went well. I got laughs at the parts I wanted to get laughs at. I got applause a couple times. People came up to me the rest of the night and told me how much they appreciated and liked what I had said. Still, I had somewhat higher hopes in terms of response. All I could think when I got off the stage was, “So… I did it, I guess…”
I don’t think my performance had an incredible impact on my income that night but it was still the single most profitable night I’ve had selling prints. It didn’t really phase me though because that’s the direction things have been moving. Consistently and quickly. I think that’s because I’m constantly facing my fears and acting in spite of them. My artwork and my writing, my stories, they’re intimate. I’m never excited to walk into a gallery, meet with some stranger (who’s probably itching to dismiss me the moment I walk through the door), and open myself up to him or her. But I fucking do it anyway. I don’t enjoy walking up to strangers on the street, smiling, and offering up a flier to my art show. But I do it anyway. Because that’s what it takes and that’s what accounts for my success thus far. And that’s what this painting is all about. As I wrote in the green box near the top left corner:
“I’m not terrified of the future the way I used to be but it’s scary enough to keep me moving. I’ve learned that “success” is possible but it’s something I have to be perpetually working toward and for. I’m not gonna sit back and wait to be discovered. I don’t WAIT for anything. I have to make things happen. It’s all on me. Success / failure – I’m responsible. I’m happy I found something where – whatever happens – I’m having fun along the way. I feel successful already. (Most days). I’m tearing forward and I don’t see my momentum dying anytime soon. But each milestone, every new achievement sets a new bar that must continually be surpassed. Four figures is no longer a huge deal. Sometimes I look into the future and I’m afraid. That IT’S NEVER GOING TO BE ENOUGH.”
There’s one more scrap of text on the canvas that I think’s important. I wrote it last night just before I finished the painting. “I won’t let me defeat me.”
STATUS UPDATE for 4/21/14:
I wrote the statement for this piece three weeks ago but held off on sharing it until I had a good photograph of the painting to share. I’m really happy to report though that the weeks following what I’d describe as a painting “about ambition” have been some of my most successful. The rate at which I’m moving forward this month has been a little unbelievable. And while I’m definitely not going to allow myself to sit back, become complacent, or breathe too easily, I’m really happy with where I’m at today. I’ve been slacking on updating my blog regularly but this week should be a relatively quiet one, so – in the next few days – I’m going to spend a little time detailing this last (incredibly eventful) month. (Though anyone that follows me on Facebook probably already has a pretty good idea).
So far as basic/practical stuff (today) is concerned…
1) My exhibit at The Silver Cow has opened and closed.
2) Issues of Folio Weekly featuring the article about me are still on newsstands for another couple of days, in and around Jacksonville.
3) My original pieces are no longer on display anywhere in the city of Jacksonville but I have about two dozen different prints hanging (and for sale) at Burrito Gallery (21 E. Adams St.), probably for another two weeks or so.
4) My run in Jacksonville is officially over and I’m currently focusing on Delray Beach (for an as yet undetermined length of time). While here, I’ll be operating primarily out of/in conjunction with Ettra (149 NE 2nd Ave) and will have more details concerning that later in the week.
5) “The Future Scares the Sit Out of Me” is available as a 7×14″ print (if you can find me!); the original painting is already sold.
“Snowflakes Anonymous.” 11/22/13. Acrylic, watercolor, and spray paints, food coloring, markers, pen, resin sand, cardboard and EBT card – on 24×30″ stretched canvas.
This piece took me over a week to finish. That left a lot of time for different issues to pop up, play off each other, and rearrange my ideas. I started it one nigh while I was thinking about missing Tranquil Shores. Then I thought about how I might like to work at a place like that except… For starters, I don’t have enough clean time. I’d have to pretend like
I didn’t fuck up at any point. That made me sad. You know what I eventually realized though? Fuck that. Someone recently complimented my honesty / willingness to be vulnerable through my artwork – “especially for someone with so little clean time.” That threw me for a loop! There was nothing mean-spirited about the comment (it came from someone that’s been really positive and supportive) but still – the implication is that I’ve only recently started getting well. In reality, most of the pieces she had seen and read about were created before that – sometime after my previous clean date (the day I got to Tranquil Shores: August 17th, 2012). And I didn’t really start getting better ’til December 12th. The vast majority of honest text in my pieces was always scribbled out up until that point.
So – yeah – I may have fucked up over the summer, but that didn’t hit the reset button on my recovery; I didn’t fall down into a gutter with a needle in my arm, desperate and miserable as ever. I made a mistake, called myself on it, told the people I needed to tell, and carried the fuck on and moved forward with the things I know to be good for me and good for my mental health and emotional well-being. And you know what else? The dangerous position I allowed myself to be in (that led to my relapse): it was worth it. That month I spent working on that project – it had incredible highs, some (very obvious) lows, I learned a lot about myself, a lot about the world around me, and – overall – was a better stronger person when all was said and done.
And it still affects me today (both positively and negatively). I wouldn’t say I regret any of it. Life is for living and anyone that’s really living is gonna fuck up every now and then. That’s not a preemptive copout for future relapse, it’s just reality. You can count on my not repeating that mistake but I’m sure as shit gonna fuck up at one thing or another!
Back on point: on Tuesday, I was reading the NA literature and I realized that so much of it really has nothing to do with me. It’s totally undescriptive of my thinking and my behavior. Not all of it, but enough of it. Does that mean I’m gonna quit going to meetings? No. But it explains why I stopped going more than once a week back in February – and why my
counselors at Tranquil Shores didn’t throw a monumental fit about it the way they’d always done with everyone else. I may not be some beautiful fucking snowflake, thoroughly unlike all to come before me, but – you know what? I am different than a lotta people and meetings, meetings, meetings isn’t the fucking cure-all for everyone.
And if you wanna get technical – it’s got nothing to do with the twelve steps as they were originally written (and are still written in the AA text). Same with sponsorship – there’s nothing in the original text about going to meetings or finding a sponsor. It’s just about working with / helping other alcoholics [or addicts]. And I do that shit constantly. I hate a lot of the attitudes that dominate the rooms of AA and NA: “Do this or die” (especially when “this” isn’t even part of the program). You know why they think that the only people who succeed in recovery are the ones that continue going to meetings for the rest of their lives? Because the people that come back are the one that fucked up and needed to come back; they never hear the stories of the people that leave their group and succeed because they don’t have any reason to come back around and tell their tale. It’s right for some people – not everyone. And fuck the notion that “clean time” is the only measure of success. I do pretty okay. I like myself. I like my life. And it’s been that way for a while now. It didn’t start ’til I got clean (and then some) but it didn’t go away just ’cause I had a lapse in judgment. I still have that time. There are documents of it – all over my walls and all over this website.
SECOND (reason I can’t get a job at a treatment facility), I don’t think I’m cut out to work anywhere. I’m not some wild, outta control basket case but that’s ’cause I know what I need to do to keep my grip. When things get rough, I’ve got tools I can use to get ’em back on the right track. But mental health is a chore and I can’t schedule my emotions. Being on the clock, being on someone else’s time… it doesn’t work for me. I have too much to do – sick or well, fucked or not. So while I might like to do some volunteer kinda stuff now and then, I don’t think that “getting a job” is anything that’s ever gonna work out for me.
From there I was thinking about something that’s occurred to me before: that I could almost certainly qualify to receive disability payments. Up ’til my “recovery” began, I’d have taken those without a second thought; I had (and still have) no moral objections to something like that (even if I were/am fully capable of working). But getting disability doesn’t really seem in line with what I’m about these days. My brain might be a little off but I’ve been creatively building a life out of that, through my artwork. I’m not sure I want a label like “disabled” on me.
But – also on Tuesday – I realized that I use food stamps and… is that really any different? It’s basically partial-disability with no questions asked. “Oh? You don’t make enough money? Okay, here you go. No – we don’t care why, just take it.” Strangely enough, the very next day, I met a girl who does receive disability payments (and for borderline personality disorder!) That had me actually considering it for the first time but it wasn’t ’til later that night I realized that – immediately after meeting her – I volunteered to pick up a shift at Sun-Ray over the weekend if they needed any extra help. AND THEN(!) I had to modify my offer to exclude Saturday because I’m going to some kind of seven hour “personal growth” / mental health thing tomorrow.
Just like that – I went from ruling out work because of my obligations to myself and my mental health but rejecting the prospect of disability payments on principle, meeting a girl on disability with the same issues I have and starting to reconsider, to unthinkingly offering to work, and then realizing I couldn’t because of a (very concrete, specific) mental health obligation.
For now, I’m gonna keep on as I have been. I already have everything I need. Well, maybe not a sense of security but what fun would that be?
Hey – speaking of “clean time,” “clean dates,” and what a beautiful fucking snowflake I am… When someone completes their treatment plan at Tranquil Shores, they have their coin-out ceremony and they get a little keychain with their clean date on it. Here’s the one they gave me back in February.
Yes, that is an “X” in place of a clean date. No, I had no idea that mine was going to be different and – no – of all the people that have been through the program, no one else has ever gotten anything other than their actual clean date.
Something I wrote in this entry reminded me of a lyric from a song I haven’t heard in a few years. “She asked me if I want to die / I said of course I do sometimes / Anyone who never wants to die / must not really be alive.” And now that I’m listening to it, I’m realizing that it’s right for this entry in more ways than one.
I got the Like Bats cassettes in the mail today. They’ll be the first new Traffic Street release in more than two years and will go on sale tomorrow! (This is a one-off sorta thing though; I’m not picking back up with Traffic Street for real – not anytime soon anyway).
Fun fact: Did you notice my (expired) EBT/foodstamp card glued to the top-right corner of the canvas? Did you notice that it says “ASK FOR VD” on the signature line? Just below that, it says “ARTS SUBSIDY” which I added after the card was on the canvas). I wrote “ASK FOR VD” on it back when it was still valid though – back when I first got it in March. I am a ridiculous human being.
This piece is available for purchase as a 12×15″ print. The original sold in December 2013.
Granted – I’m out of mind but, for an emotional basket case, I’m a pretty nice kid. I’m friendly. And because I isolate and know that I shouldn’t, chances are – that if you ask me – I’ll probably hang out with you.I have enough of an interest in people (and interact with them so rarely) that I’ll sit and talk with just about anyone for an hour.
I’m trying to eke out a living as an artist. That’s not the easiest thing to do and I’m not above charity. Last week, I saw some guy with his hands full and I offered to help him. It took me all of thirty seconds and I certainly didn’t expect to be compensated, but he pulled out a five dollar bill. I paused – unsure whether or not I should accept it. But I did and I thanked him. If he felt that my little bit of help was worth five dollars, I’m not gonna tell him he’s wrong. Five dollars makes a difference in my life and I was grateful for it.
I was organizing my prints at Sun Ray and some guy asked me if the art on the walls was mine. I talked to him for a while, he was friendly enough, said he collects art, said he couldn’t make it to the opening tomorrow but that he wanted to get in touch later and asked for my phone number [which isn’t something I’m protective of; I even have it listed, here, on the internet]. I wrote it on one of my cards and gave it to him. “I really wanna keep in touch,” he said. ” I can really help you out. What I’m really interested in is hearing more about your background, maybe over a meal.”
“Yeah, okay, cool…” I said somewhat warily, trying to be polite, trying to not be socially awkward. (I have a hard time knowing when it’s me that’s being weird). If I take him at his word, after all, all of that would be cool. I mean, I (CLEARLY) don’t have a problem talking about myself, I eat food, and I’m stoked as fuck to sell my artwork. So… sounds like a win? Even if his choice of words is a little strange…
And then I realized that I was falling for the same shit I’ve fallen for before. And I remembered something else he had said in our conversation that now made a lot more sense to me. How he was disappointed the last time he bought a painting because, as he put it, “I was hoping the artist would have been a lot more appreciative.”
Being put in this position sucks because it makes me feel like a prostitute. I don’t want to come right out and say, “Hey, I’d be happy to eat lunch and talk to you, and more than happy to sell you a painting, but I’m not going to have sex with you.” Because no one’s actually said anything about sex and it makes ME feel like an asshole for jumping to that conclusion. But I fucking know that’s what it’s about. And I also (unfortunately) know from experience that even if I do state all that explicitly, an attempt is going to be made to coax me into meeting up under the pretense of selling art and having a meal and then I’m still gonna get propositioned. And even if I’m not, I’m still gonna feel like a prostitute because it’s not really my art that the guy is trying to buy, it’s me (or my time or my attention or [whatever]). That doesn’t sound so bad, but I just can’t do it. Even without the bullshit art pretense. I know because I tried once.
The offer was a hundred bucks (paid up front) to meet at a Starbuck’s for a cup of coffee and sit and talk for an hour. I thought about it and – like I said – if there wasn’t money involved, I’d meet up with somebody and talk for an hour, so why not? If somebody I don’t know is asking me to sit and talk, they’re probably pretty lonely. It seems like a kind thing to do and maybe I’ll learn something. And in a case like this – where money is offered – well, I wouldn’t have asked for it, but if someone wants to give it to me, I’ll accept. It might not be as altruistic, but that doesn’t make it unkind.
So it seemed like the rational choice was to go. The only “why not” I could think of was that it made me feel uncomfortable. And when I reflected on that, it struck me as being somehow homophobic and I didn’t like what that said about me. So I went. I walked into the coffee shop and… turned around just as quickly, went right out the door, got on my scooter, and sped the fuck away. It was too fucking weird. I felt uneasy. It felt wrong or, at the very least, it definitely didn’t feel right. No one should wanna pay me just to hang out with them. I’M COOL BUT I’M NOT THAT COOL. Besides, this asshole didn’t even know whether or not I was cool. He didn’t know me at all.
I thought about it afterward and couldn’t quite figure it out – my reaction, I mean. Was it homophobic? My gay friends don’t make me uncomfortable. Being hit on by a guy doesn’t make me uncomfortable. Somehow, I’ve only just now arrived at a satisfying conclusion. It has nothing to do with sexuality; it’s about respect. I might be a self-promoting little fuckshit but it’s not really me that I’m selling. It was Traffic Street Records, now it’s my art, and (in a sense) it’s sometimes even my personality. (There’s a component of myself in all of it). But it’s not me. No one can actually buyme.I’m not for fucking sale.
Obviously, this stuff makes me a little angry but I’m still sympathetic. After all, I don’t think anyone out there is acting with the intent of fucking with me; we’re all just trying to get by and find some kind of happiness and we all act selfishly (to whatever degree) sometimes. But I’ve decided that I’m not interested in playing this sort of game or walking this balance beam. If you wanna buy my art because you like my art, that’s fucking awesome. But if you wanna buy it ’cause you want something else from me – with all due respect – fuck off. I might be broke but I’m not that desperate. I’d rather wait ’til I find a buyer that actually appreciates it.
If I didn’t make and wear shit like this, I probably wouldn’t have these problems but… fuck that. It’s my RIGHT to be fucking hilarious.
Among the million criticisms launched at Against Me! when they started to get popular was that all of their songs were about playing in a band or (more generally) the music industry. I thought it was a bummer when they forgot how to write catchy, engaging songs but didn’t mind those lyrical themes so much. But part of me is bothered by this piece in that same kind of way. It’s a little too self-referential / on-the-subject-of-art/business for my taste. Or maybe I’m just embarrassed by the sentiment or the vulnerability. It was my second time selling at a street fair-kinda thing, nobody was even stopping to look at my stuff, and I was getting a little down in the dumps. Eventually people did stop – and laugh, and compliment – and come back with their friends to show them certain pieces that they really liked, but no one was really buying anything.
I knew all along that I shouldn’t need validation from anyone or anything outside of myself, but it took me a little bit to realize that – if that’s what I wanted – the positive feedback should have been enough for me to feel validated in that way anyway. After all, if the lack of sales was actually about me (or, more specifically, my art), what would that mean? What would the explanation be? It would be that my pieces weren’t good enough to sell. Which would mean that if I wanted to succeed, I’d have to make “better” art. My pieces though are authentic, honest, and expressive. A lot of them are also funny and some of them even lookcool as well. Even if I didn’t know that myself, I can tell a real response or compliment from a bullshit one, and plenty of people have told me as much and genuinely meant it. I could have been peddling unearthed/never-seen Picassos, and (unless they had his name on them) I probably still wouldn’t have sold much more than I did that day. Or maybe if I had been selling technically proficient portraits of TV characters, I’d have sold everything I had. But that would have been bullshit because that’s not who I am and it’s not what I do.
So this painting is about the emotional triggers I was struggling with before I took the time to really reflect and figure it all out. When I finished it, I was too embarrassed to even add it to my display. And I’m still a little embarrassed by it, but that’s okay (just like everything else).
This statement was written in May, around the time the painting sold. An 11½x12” print/poster is available in my store.
Here’s a later-period Against Me! song that I think is every bit as good as anything they’ve ever recorded.
She might be scared, but that has nothing to do with me, my choices, my attitude, or my … how I’ve been.
I’m ambitious and I have confidence but moving out starts the ticking of the clock. It sets the deadline for my success or the date of my failure. Not moving out is what I’m comfortable with. But how long is it okay for me to stall intimate relationships so that I can enjoy myself (and do the things I want to without worry)?
Is it okay for me to be okay? Complacency. Fear. Priorities. GROWING UP. I understand far less than I let on. Strange that someone with all the answers in interactions has nothing but questions when alone.
That’s the text within this piece – painted in my Friday expressive art therapy group at Tranquil Shores. It was getting closer to the time Heather and I had talked about picking up and moving to Jacksonville. We were bickering a lot. I had asked her what was really going on. When she failed to come up with anything, I suggested that maybe she was scared about moving to a new city. After all, it wasn’t me. I’m itinerant! I’m punk! All we do is move. We have no roots. “I don’t live anywhere!” She, on the other hand, had never moved to a new city before so she was scared and that was making her irritable. Obviously.
But this was expressive art therapy and (in therapy) we don’t look at what’s wrong with other people, we look at ourselves. So that’s what I tried to do as I painted and – when I started writing – all of this suddenly came out of me.
God dammit. It was totally me. I was terrified. If I moved to Jacksonville with Heather, I’d suddenly be responsible for rent and utilities and who knows what else. I had been out of (inpatient) treatment for three months and thus far was doing great. I was supporting myself without having to give in to reality and get a real job. (Which – in hindsight – I realize may not have been all that impressive a feat considering that I had absolutely no bills to pay). But if I moved to Jacksonville and came up short on money for bills one month, all of a sudden, I’d have to admit that I was wrong. I’d have to get a job and acknowledge that I couldn’t support myself creatively…
Maybe I should just break it off and stay in Bradenton and live with Taylor’s family forever…? I don’t need a girlfriend or to be an adult or…
“Moving boxes and little else” is an acknowledgment that I had moved more times than I could count but was terrified to move forward.
But I did! And – so far – so good.
This piece is important to me because the process of creating it really was revelatory. I had spend a lot time thinking about this stuff and had gotten nowhere. After I made this piece, the bickering between Heather and I stopped completely. It’s pretty remarkable how much garbage sometimes lurks just below the surface (and how badly it can fuck me up). This piece is proof that art is essential to the maintenance of my mental health.
Here’s the song I quoted in this entry. It’s from the new Dead Mechanical album out soon on Toxic Pop (who split released the last DM full-length with Traffic Street (that’s my label, you guys!)) When I lived in DC, I spent a lot of time in Baltimore. When I wasn’t copping or shooting heroin, I was usually at a Dead Mechanical show. (Sometimes both!) But getting to see them play all the time was definitely one of the best things about living up there.
Here’s another song from the same record. Just ’cause.
Hit the Toxic Pop website to check out the album art (by Julie Benoit!) and pre-order the LP, which starts shipping next week. (I know the site says that it starts shipping in early August, but Mike (Toxic Pop) sent out an update changing the shipping date due to delays at the pressing plant).
This painting is currently for sale. Or – if you’re not a big spender – you can pick up a signed and framed (behind glass) print/poster that’s the same size as the original.
has borderline personality disorder and a heroin problem. In 2012, he got clean, discovered art, and traveled the country, painting and writing. Three years later, he went back to heroin and quit painting. He's currently hard at work trying to get clean or kill himself (depending on the day).