I have been in the studio when possible, working on a large interior project, planning out future endeavors, and seeking within and in new books and sources of information to continue to learn and grow The new year has arrived, a continuing moment in the narrative of every breath. I am stoked to have a few studio shots and share some more travel images with you. I have been discovering more about myself and my painting and am looking forward to embarking on some new drawings soon as well. Things are shifting, changing, and directions forming and beckoning. Pretty happy to have closed the door on a successful 2018 and be able to look back at one of the best years of my life.
My solo exhibition Anime Mixtape opened this past Friday in Durham, NC at the Runaway Flagship store. The reception was something else. I cranked with my friends and art installation assistant until the wee hours of Friday morning and sleeplessly went throughout the day finishing up the details and getting everything smoothed out. The reception was insane, so many good people came out to support and I saw old friends, new friends, family, and folks I had never before met that were fans of the work. I feel hella blessed right now and am about to hit the hay at my father’s house in Raleigh, NC. Here are some images
This summer I was asked to create a commissioned work for the lobby of the historic IMagnin Building in downtown Oakland. The building was erected in 1931 and designed by architecture firm Weeks and Day. It housed an upscale department store until it closed in 1995. It is an amazingly beautiful green marble art deco building and an official historic Oakland structure. It was recently renovated and as per the renovation I was asked to create a piece for its lobby. Having been a part of the Bay Area and specifically Oakland off and on for the last 12 years I was honored to be asked to do this. The only request was that the piece reflect a vision of Oakland by way of an intimate relationship with this city. I chose to explore this task with a style of found wood assemblage that at one point of my career I was very much known for. A style which I have been slowly re-immersing myself in, thus this was absolutely perfect timing. In this series of blog posts I will go more in depth and explain the project further, my process, my feelings on it, how it came together, the narrative behind, and its installation.
In this first post, it is important to note that as the city of Oakland is developed at an extremely fast pace, as people are displaced and old dwellings torn down in the name of progress, I find it vital to work to save aspect of this physical come metaphysical history from being destroyed and forgotten or lost in the attention deficit short term memory of our accelerated culture. The beginning of this project was a practice in communicating, in listening to the street and letting the city guide me in the collection and discovery of cast away pieces of wood from many different areas. Thus creating a real time based narrative tapestry of tangible objects packed with stories, spirit, energy, and a vibrant history that will continue to transmit its truth from the lobby of the IMagnin building well into the future for Oaklanders new and old to reflect on and investigate. The act of gratitude and humility in turning to this living breathing place steeped in history accepting it’s direction and guidance is one of the most felt experience I get to have as an artist. It is a true conversation with time and my surroundings. To be set on a path to explore and give thanks for those things left behind that are there waiting to be repurposed and given a new place to continue to inspire us is really an honor and something that I do take as a gift. This city has so much to say and this process allows me to hear so much of it and honor that language.
In the next post I will speak more on the construction of the panels and the dialogue felt with the materials as well as how the studio came to be utilized and more of the intuitive and intellectual process of creating the work one step at a time… stay tuned and thank you for reading.
Not long ago a great artist, business man, and friend commissioned me to create "literally whatever you want" as was explained by him. We share a love of anime and manga, a love of expressive painting and art that evokes narrative, feeling, and permits us to explore time and our own emotional content as tied to memory and to the way that certain pieces of our upbringings help us to channel our present and communicate with others. He is a painter as am I, but our languages aesthetically are very different, yet we find so much depth and connection in one another's language. So it was an honor to paint this for him with the freedom to just go in on it. I wanted to craft something that spoke to our mutual love of certain manga, to our mutual reality of facing adversity and through acceptance, hard work, dedication, surrender, passion, persistence, and the duality of chaos and thus finding the space to be still through the journey we call life. This is piece is very special too me. It is so personal and then upon it's delivery my friend Kent who commissioned said to me, "This painting is everything to me." Sometimes we have moments in this cosmic puzzle that really shed light on the fact that existence is so far beyond what we see and think on a daily basis. I am working on editing some better shots of this piece but here are images of this diptych for you to see. It is two panels, both 3'x4', house paint, spray paint, acrylic paint, tempera, pencil, oil pastel, acrylic lacquer, and more. 2018
I am working on my site a bit currently. I have been digging through some old images from my portfolio archives in search for a series of shots from a show I did in 2014 titled Pilgrimage. I have really also needed them to set up a series for some applications for residencies and funding I am in the process of working to attain good favor into. Along my quest for this powerful goal, I ran into some high res images of some work that I thought I had unfortunately lost all of in a drive crash ages ago. Much to my happiness and surprise, after trying to reformat some god awful images that were extremely low res (from before websites like Squarespace resized your images in the programming and you had to save depending on screen size and at a viewable 72 dpi), I stumbled upon two images I had long forgotten that I myself had shot (not thinking I was a good enough shot at the time) and was able to color correct them and relive some of the energy and power that came with that time in my life.
They are both from the Findings series from 2014. Relics of the World of Unstoppable Tomorrow, from that distant future past where the humans reconcile their survival after the reset of civilization due to our inability to control creations of war that we ourselves created under the guise of control. Classic storyline, but pertinent in my mind to my personal view of how our obsession as a race with speeding up our technological advances without thinking of the outcomes, or realizing we repeat the same mistakes of control over and over. Needless to say, these pieces are some of my favorites. One of them was shown at Fecal Face Dot Gallery for a show that Rachel Ralph curated right before an epic road trip I went on as part of my Superchief Gallery NYC solo show "The Scourge". Good times.
As I write this we are hurtling faster and faster to the brink of nuclear war and I feel that this work, no coincidence, is more pertinent than ever in my life. Even more relevant that in the 1980s when I though Regan and Bush were going to take us to the Promise Land Eating Cheeseburgers and Dying As Our Skin Melted Off. Uplifting times. Here is to the New Year... My Big New Years Update is coming soon. Hold onto your hats already!
These works are both from the Findings series... Both around 26"x28 or 30". I love the cuts and shaping. They are Acrylic Lacquer, Spray Paint, and Graphite on Found Wood Assemblage Panels, 2014. Both sold immediately upon their releases.
I am writing this while in a bungalo at my new friend Kemistry's house about an hour and a half outside of Bangkok in Thailand. I arrived in country two days ago after a bizarre and exhaustingly surreal layover in the outskirts of Beijing, China. I finally arrived to Bangkok and as we descended into the dark thick cloud cover and were engulfed in the dark pulsing green landscape of rice patties and grass I immediately took a deep breath as the power and intense of energy of this place became apparent to me. My first steps in Bangkok were full of more sensory input than I could have ever imagined. This place is a living breathing organism of chaos and total beauty in every way. Rather than go on and on about it I will show a picture a narrative of some of the aspects so far. I just edited a few images thus far so this in no way encapsulates even a fraction of the last couple days, but will definitely immerse you in the journey.
Time has been flying by. I have some major announcements to make. First off, Andrew Kline and I have been working on a massive new show to debut at Superchief Gallery LA on November 12th, 2016. We have been working hard to bring you an immersive art, sound, and installation experience taking you through a future world where samples and visual reference from today have become the foundation of a society in the world of Unstoppable Tomorrow. It is also a conceptual exploration of shared reference creating a unifying but also very singular experience.
here are some works
Goddess 12"x12" House Paint, Oil Pastel, Pencil, Acrylic Lacquer on Wood Panel
Split Tales, 2'x4' House Paint, Acrylic Lacquer, Acrylic Paint, Soft Pastel, Oil Pastel, Pencil on Wood Panel
Time Signature 12"x12" House Paint, Spray Paint, Acrylic Lacquer, pencil on Wood Panel
Story of Life 24"x27" Spray Paint, House Paint, Acrylic Paint, Soft Pastel, Oil Pastel, Tempera, Pencil, Acrylic Lacquer on Wood Panel
I will be in LA living at Superchief for two months working on the installations leading up to the show. Get ready for some awesome documentation.
In other news, this website hosted by Bits & Bristles will unfortunately be coming down in October. I am working to get a new site up by then so please bare with me in the interim as I will be transferring the name over to a temporary blog style site due to time constraints.
Thank you for all your support. If you would like a preview of the show works and are interested in purchasing send me a comment or email to email@example.com and I will connect you with the good people at Superchief as well as supply you with any info you need from my end.
Much Love and thank you to all for your support!
Excited to announce that I am going to have a piece in the upcoming Stephanie Chefas Projects Group Show entitled "Selfie". I will be dropping a new piece entitled "Alignment" next week on social media which will be represented in the show. I wrote an insightful, albeit thorough (as fuck haha) paragraph about the context for the piece and for where I seem to have found myself these days. 'In the last year of self discovery many moments have seemed to engulf me in their fullness and seeming unending intensity. The truth is that feelings, thoughts, states of being whether it be fear, joy, uplifting momentum, painful drowning, relief, darkness, amazement all are simply temporary moments within our humanity and our connection with the universal and one another. No state of being is a forever moment, I feel that even death in the end is simply a doorway to another dimension or state of our energies path through time and space. I have ebbed and flowed through some very intense pockets of being that at times felt permanent, or unending in the last year. I have worked through ghosts and the effects of my own past that finally were meant to be unwoven and dissected and confronted. And always with every stage and step a larger feeling of connection and a vision of the balance of the spiritual center amidst all things, one entity yet part of all entities is what I can see and feel. This piece is truly a self portrait of being and perception at the convergence of so many different elements of existence. It encompasses a visualization of the unseeable as well as tangible aspects of being, not consumed by any one feeling or way or thought. Just a moment amidst the intersecting energies and landscapes of the soul and psyche to see the beauty of it all in alignment, of it all just as it is meant to be at this certain moment. A freeze frame of all that makes up the passing of time and my place in the forever undulating universal architecture of energy. Even Tetsuo's rebirth was not a place of permanent pain, but a doorway to let his unending explosion of energy become right sized and fluid in a new state of existence, in the next dimension and stage of his alignment.' -JFA III
Also I will be having a yet another new piece showing with the wild animals of Good Mother Gallery in Oakland.
I have been using direct references from comics, manga, anime, books, folklore, Hokusai, Yoshitoshi, Kirby, Buscema, and many many more for a long time now. I find that the use of these references generally stem from a familiarity found during my life span, and I attach certain memories, thoughts, feelings, experiences, and the passing of time and all that comes with it to these iconic references. The ability to craft a narrative that speaks of our story due to the use of sampled elements that come from our world, or our specific moments in time that show a relationship of experience, is something that I began learning from great producers like DJ Premier, Pete Rock, The Rza, Dilla, even Kanye. There is something so sacred, so universal, and so personal yet communal about being able to utilize an image (or sound) that already exists in a certain context in history and was created with a certain purpose in mind, but due to the immersion into the tableau of our own personal histories these images take on new definitions and representations for all of us as individuals. I may not have created the image but I am using it just as a writer uses a word or a composer a note to begin to share my experience with my materials and surface and then ultimately to you. I feel everything that I have learned from these images and their makers coupled with all of my feelings, memories, thoughts, ideas, and experiences that I associate them with throughout every part of my life that I invoked their energy so to speak, and the result of re-purposing them creates something that I find to be beyond powerful, nurturing, cathartic, challenging and aids in a deep sense of growth and connection.
I have recently found my way back into the use of comic book references. After some continued digging and self reflection and self work I have found my way back to a period of my life where I began growing and forming ideas, and emotions, and modes that continued to move forward. A lot of these moments had been forgotten for a long time and I find myself re-experiencing some of this time internally as I come to realizations about how it informs who I am now. A certain attachment and learning came in the form of specifically Wolverine from Marvel comics for instance. It is almost as if I am having conversations as an adult reflecting on my inner child from then and now with Wolverine. I also am revisiting how I connected myself to Wolverine's adventures and pain and good times and battles and loves and loss and intense personal narrative. I am finding how so many of these references from John Buscema and Mark Texiera and Barry Windsor Smith really helped to teach me so much of morals, and ways, and approaches, wrong things, influences and ethics, good and bad habits as well that I embraced and helped me to grow. I find that reformulating these relationships in adulthood helps me to accept, love, cultivate and define my experiences and my narrative from this time period and how it continues to help me evolve today as I have re-embraced it while moving through present life and learning to accept more of who I am day by day.
I plan to continue writing more about this concept of sampling as a mode for deep, personal story telling by reintroducing iconic references in a new way. About how it is truly a tool that can bridge my experience with others and do more to welcome viewers and patrons into the work I create as they find their own story and also wonder how our stories are similar and unified as well as contrasting and individual. I feel like I have found a powerful tool to speak with in turn with my abstract painting and wood work and loose contour drawing and more. The root of much of my childhood growth and positive relationships with art (comic and abstract) are today more and more becoming the tools I use to truly explore and visualize my experience of those things unseen and intangible. I am happy to be doing what I am doing.
I have been working in the studio a bit more lately, finding some regular time as I get some perspective on what I am will be making for some upcoming adventures later in the year. I have discovered some new mixtures of solvents and paints and such and really have been diving into process. My train of thought and ability to really dig into the core of my subject matter inside and let the work become an internal dialogue of a kind of narrative expressionism has me elated and nervous and confident and anxious and calm and grateful all at the same time. Here is a work in progress looking back at new ways to use iconic references from my childhood into my teenage years.
The new year has been born. The gregorian calendar new year that is. As many of you know I generally write a post at the end of the year summarizing the past events of the year and leading into the new. I have chosen to wait this time until the new year has dawned because, simply put, this year was fucking hard. To sum up 2015, utterly painfully gut wrenching, challenging, ego destroying, beautifully enlightening, intense, and full of awakening and coming to a place and feeling of real self worth like I have never known before.
2015 began with a move back to the East Coast, one that I publicized greatly, that I seemed to make a huge deal about and sort of base my entire being upon. It saw the supposed "end of an era" of living in California and a move into the resurrection of a nostalgic existence redefined by a very arrogant view of "inevitable success" that would become my reality left up to the wind as if I could do no wrong. It saw six months leading up to my huge move without much recovery, without much perspective, without much work inward, with really no moments of selflessness, and without much thought for what could happen.
Essentially blinded by my own sudden uphill climb into a life gaining attention and momentum in certain aspects, I began coasting and I ran headlong into the darkest moment I have ever had since before getting sober. I ran blindly with almost no real defense into what truly was the end of an era, and not at all the one I had planned on. Suffice to say, I was brought to my knees by my own fears, insecurities, unresolved issues, and arrogance and began the insanely hard process of addressing aspects of myself that were not working anymore, that simply put were cancerous which I had used as fuel to move forward for so long. The engines I thought that were "me" ceased to work so that a healthier "self" could be finally nudged to the surface, sometimes yanked, and replace them. While I now know this is what was happening, at the time I simply had no earthly idea as to why after this grand exit from California I was suddenly in the darkest place internally I had been stuck in for the past 5 years. I honestly thought I was losing my mind and that I was either going to drink or somehow go off the deep end.
The pain became so unbearable inside, while in Brooklyn on the 5th floor of an apartment building in Flatbush as an intense blizzard hit and acute bronchitis set in with my dear friend Katie who was also going through her own intense shit, and the darkest thoughts one can imagine cycled through my mind like a hamster wheel 24/7 leaving me sleepless and afraid to my core. I was truly lost and feeling my soul being ripped apart by the lack of work I had done on myself before leaving to embark on this geographical and spiritual journey. But it had to happen this way I now see. In what felt like an eternity (but was only a matter of weeks) the beauty of acceptance set in as I finally, in the most liberating and successful way (next to getting sober), "gave up".
I will never forget the clod of slushy ice that fell from an awning and hit me in the head on a rainy 33 degree day walking to the train feverish and coughing as I went to a job interview in none other than time square. I will never forget that moment where the powers that be, the voice of the universe simply allowed me to let go. And it all made sense, the test made sense. I had work to do, different work than I had thought. I had so much more inward training and work to do spiritually and psychologically. I needed to address my intentions, my motives, my goals, my outcomes, my needs, the needs of others, my place in things. So I packed it all up quickly and it was back to California. I simply knew with no fear and no fight and no more pain that I needed to be there, to dig deep and get right truly and fundamentally before forging out into a new geographical reality. I let the spirit in and suddenly my actions became sound and I was no longer fighting the tide, the tide was loving and liberating, and just a little bit, day by day, the edge began to wear down.
Now this is not to say that the pain just was gone. My insides still felt as if I had a war of angels and devils being fought inside, but it did not feel as if the darkside was winning any longer. It felt as if I knew finally that everything was going to be fine, I just had to hunker down and do the work and dig inside and truly unearth who the fuck I am and work to be of service and toward a life not ruled by negative ego to see that bright sun rise again over the ocean's waves. I felt as if I had been destroyed, ripped apart, left as a husk of a person, and still the bits that remained were being razed and chewed up and ground down and I realized I had to go with it. I got to work, quickly yet lived slowly, with an open eye for the things that brought healthy change in the state of hyper sensitivity that I awoke too and carried with me daily.
Life is one huge series of lessons, and I have to say at this point, humility truly is the best teacher sometimes. Humbled to the point of which I was willing to actually give up making art entirely simply to be sane and happy I began working hard in my recovery again, harder than I ever had to that point. I did as I was told, I took advice, I began working with others, I accepted my place in things, I accepted that this was reality and it is simply not about "me" and what I want, but about what I am here to do, how I can be useful beyond simply survival, how I can help others and live by principles and be of service to my surroundings and those who are going through life's torrent. I let go further and further and got back into a very healthy routine with a very different set of priorities than when I had moved at the end of 2014.
The art started coming by itself, or rather through me in a way it had not in some time. I was once again a conduit to express the unseen intangible aspects of growth and change and realization and fear and working through pain (as an indicator for change) that we all go through. I became incapable of deciding what I was going to make, what image I was going to craft, what technic I was going to use as my hands literally made work before my eyes from the most intuitive and deeply, honestly, communicative place I have experienced in years. I tried to force myself to revisit conventions and found them being ripped apart in a liberating performance of discovery and being in the present as I could feel myself becoming this new person. I simply became a channel for what needed to be said and shared. It became the most healing and cathartic work and experience I have ever had. I finally began to be freed of so many limitations of "self" and "ego" that I had placed upon myself so that I could be destroyed in order to be reborn. I mean this with all my heart, this experience took me to my limit and then allowed me to break through to an existence and level of gratitude I have never quite known before.
This was not just a sudden moment though where the year became easy by any stretch of the imagination. This was just the catalyst to begin letting the path of growth and change move forward, to let go of myself in order to let my energy develop. And thus the year took shape. A new apartment, a new studio, and a long hard road of work and acceptance to walk through. Interestingly enough, the highs of this year have been as intense in good ways as the lows were in hard ways. Part of it is that I feel I was reduced to this simple foundation again much like when I got sober, but in a deeper way. In a way where the devices that still ran me from the "old me" when I got sober finally ceased to work. In the way in which we find ourselves forced to change when we actually get what we want and it is killing us and we need to make a shift in understanding our path, that was and is my journey.
I succeeded in making two wonderful bodies of work that were a process of paring down, saying more with less. They challenged and overcame a sense of what I thought I needed to do to make art. This action showed me a new foundation to build from, deep in process and in the practice of "losing the image" in order to truly see what is beyond what our eyes and surface thoughts tell us and make us judge and want. I met amazing new people, including someone who has grabbed my heart and nurtured it as I have nurtured theirs and we find new things out about ourselves through one another in a dance of beautiful truth and eroticism and humor and deep honesty and growth as we grow together and bring others into our energy. This wouldn't have been possible without the intense and painful reality of what I went through in the beginning of the year and I know that. My armor and my sense of direction have been stripped down and I realized that I am just the person I am and that is beautiful and that is okay. This in turn allows me to truly see my friends and lovers and my art making with honest open eyes and love who they are at their raw core of being. Suddenly my inner strength and real love and acceptance of self worth and search for purpose beyond this abstract world humans have built has put me in places and moments that have become so incredibly powerful.
I had a solo show in Chelsea, NYC with long time friend and brother Joseph Gross. While in New York I spent an entire day and night with someone so close to my heart talking sharing about our growth, about the world, about intimacy and perversion, about psychic voyages, about love, and of course about food while eating at Yakitori Taisho. I did those exact things another night with another friend very near to my heart at Oh Taisho. I walked with an old flame and long time friend on the high line and across the city. At the opening to "From Here" at Joseph Gross Gallery I was so fortunate to have people I have known since the age of 17 to those I just met this year come and have deep discussions and loud laughs and hugs and all be so stoked to be able to come together again and be growing and finding our ways. I walked the city with a very dear friend as well the next day and got to the spend days with my brother Pete catching up and meeting our brother Charlie's newborn little Roscoe.
I even went to Dublin, Ireland to see my partner, this person I have found this wild cosmic and intensely bright connection with. I experienced a whole new culture and sense of time and explored ancient aspects of civilization. We laughed we loved we walked we explored minds, hearts, and flesh, we rolled around we kissed we ate delicious things we held each other closely, we absolutely made the most out of every second we had together.
I reconnected with my cousin, whom I had not seen for 24 years. who is a brilliant writer while on my first trip ever to Denver, CO for a solo show with Black Book Gallery. We went to Casa Bonita (see South Park). And on the same trip saw my newborn nephew and my sister and brother in law and my father even showed up. I traveled to LA and back a couple times. I went to shows, I went on dates, I explored a bit more kink in my life, I went swimming, I ate all sorts of foods, I let go of my conception of myself and also moved with a bit more caution yet also with a bit more hunger for experiencing more than just career advances and notches in my belt of life. I got to know Oakland and SF a bit more as well. I went to Harbin one last time with my partner before it burned down. I finally found a studio in a place with many other artists rather than in my own little world as I have been for years.
I have finally become more in tune with the idea of a life meant to be explored rather than a line of events that lead to a known result and a selfish as well as small view of what success means. It is as if life has opened up into the realization that no one thing makes or breaks a person, no one moment in life defines us for all of it, there is nothing that we do, no level we get to that suddenly we can say "I did it, boom thats it it's all gravy from here". That does not exist. Living in that concept drove me as far as it could, and while I am grateful that it did get me to a certain checkpoint in life, it is also a figment of my alcoholic mind. Life is four dimensional, maybe more dimensional. It is as tangible and firm as it is elusive and unexplainable.
Life is about loving others, about doing the best we can every day, even if somedays that means doing very little and resting and healing making sure we are healthy within so that we can once again go forth and truly be a part of the world and let our vision explode and become a part of the fabric of time. I took more time to tell people I love them this year, I made myself slow down so that I did not fall flat, I have begun to learn what it means to move forward into something sustainable rather than explosively into the ether without caring how I affect myself and others. I began to learn to love myself as well.
There were beach adventures, there were AA meetings, there were great meals with great minds with incredible conversations. My super close friend and art ally Terry Addison moved back to the bay. A lot of my friends had babies and tied the knot and families were created and bonds strengthened. Some people died as well and others were lost in the fabric of time. Cities changed, people changed, and the world continues to spin. I learned this year that I truly can feel deeply, that my life is going to go amazing places as long as I let it and stay in a forward state of being, and it may not be within the architecture that I thought that had to be. 2015 has been one of the hardest years of my life, and equally the most enlightening and filled with a sense of awakening like I have never known.
Last night, New Years Eve, saw a free ticket to see The Flaming Lips. Amazing! I was able to share New Years in Ireland via the internet with the person I am so deeply connected to on her time. I was able to eat a delicious meal with someone I have become quite honestly very good friends with due to the realities of this being the hard year that is has been, and after were able to go our friends' new home and see others that we are connected to. I was able to see the new year change with my best friend and his amazing wife (also a dear friend) and I was able to take a deep breath as the balloons dropped and the lights exploded and the youngsters enjoyed their drugs and detaching from reality as I used to when I was their age and I just got be so incredibly happy to be alive.
This year brought a constant ebb and flow of hardship and awakening. It was a none stop hold on tight journey through the extremely raw experience of having to let go of what we think we know and are and let who we really are come to light as we try to hold on to certain aspects until they are too painful and destructive and inevitably find pure energy and happiness in the lessons life teaches us and the realizations we exist in as new and old faces and feelings become the present. When I breathed in the first breath of 2016 I finally, finally felt balanced.
2016 has already started off in a way that makes me feel that this past year was one of the most important foundation laying experiences of my life. That shit had to happen that way and no other. My mind is much more clear, yet much less fixated on specific results. I have a vision of where I want to go, I have some projects in the works, some projects in the planning stages, some recent successes under my belt and a firm and true belief that I am worth working hard toward my visions of what I hope life to become. And that is to say, I feel that I finally do love myself more than I have ever really known in the past, in a real way, not in a way based on my perception of what others think about me or want from me. A real true belief that I am worth loving and that I am still here for a reason. It has taken a lot to get here, and I have to say 2016 seems like it is going to unfold beautifully, no doubt with hardships and victories as it should, but I feel like some of the greatest actions I will have ever taken or begun are starting here. Without having had this year throw me off of the course I had really tried to force myself into and be in turn forced to let the universe channel through me into my work find myself on the path I am meant to be on the work that will be coming out in 2016 simply will not have been possible. I mean this to say that I am insanely grateful because I am in tune with my voice in a way I never fathomed I would be. It is one of the hugest blessings all said and done that I have ever been granted. The rawest most honest art and lives come from intense pain and change and the new found awakenings that they become, and I feel that the catalyst has occurred and the foundation laid. I guess one could say lift off, but I feel more like it is a consistent stride toward positive and amazing things. Thank you for being part of it all.
-John Felix Arnold III 01/01/2016
This coming November 5th, one week and two days away, I will open my latest exhibition at Joseph Gross Gallery. A collection of works that were created when I returned from a rather quick and cyclical exodus to find home back in NYC only to return to California with a new understanding of what the reality of that concept truly is. Home is where we are when all of our facets are running correctly and our fluid movement in the universe is meant to be in its then place at that moment, at least that is how I feel. The work reflects and shows almost in a performance like quality of process the pain and joy and realization and growth the act of coming to terms with ones self and accepting life on life's terms while finding gratitude within it. It is going to be so feeing to show this body of work to New York and the world.
One thing that has happened in the process of this new evolution is that my incredibly close friend and energy Jennifer Liu, a brilliant thinker and writer, was in conversation with me throughout this painful and the enlightening and powerful process. She has played an integral role in my life since meeting her in the spring of 2014. She and I have a bond found in transcendental meditation, tacos, art, music, weirdness and an ability to question and talk about the universe and life and the power of experience to no end. She came to visit California this past spring and we sat down and had Ethiopian food and we recorded a conversation about the work and the upcoming show and all that went into it and her views on it and my process and everything in between. So here I am officially publishing the transcription of that conversation which she so thoroughly put into print. I am extremely grateful that she took the time out to do this and am very happy to share it with you. Here goes. Oh and I will be posting images of the work along with it.
conversation with JFA III on june 21, 2015 asmara restaurant, telegraph ave. oakland, ca
j: So, we can first start with what mediums you’ve been using, ‘cause I feel like you don’t typically use pastels that much…
f: Yeah. It’s a huge departure from, like — everything I had been doing for a while had a sort of formula to it, where I was using kind of a set of materials that created an aesthetic effect that was consistent, and I really wanted to work on paper. I always like working on paper —
j: — which also made you break away from paints, right?
f: Yeah, totally. So I went to an art store, and I just bought what I felt like I needed to buy at the time, rather than basing my decision on what I knew worked.
j: What you were good at.
f: Yeah, exactly. I knew I wanted to make marks. I knew something inside of me was like, I need to make raw marks. With black pastel. I could see these orbs, these vortexes, these really chaotic energy kind of vortexes that I had to create. And I was like, oil pastels, spray paint, just regular house paint — I bought as limited of a color palette, as limited an amount of materials as I could. It wasn’t about what I was using. I mean, somewhat. But more about having to make something with the things I had, because I didn’t have a lot of money either.
j: That’s interesting. This is reminding me of primary process thinking versus secondary process thinking. Primary process is kind of what it sounds like: it’s about the process. Whereas secondary process thinking is when you’re sort of using a means to an end, like trying to achieve a logical goal. Trying to manifest some image you have. Primary process thinking is very prominent in children, like when they doodle they don’t really care if it looks like shit, or if they play an instrument, they’re not phased by whether or not they sound good.
f: That’s exactly what it was.
j: I feel like as an established artist, you have to mostly be in secondary process thinking because you need to make money, you need to think about what people like, if what you’re doing is offensive or illegal… You have to have this sort of logical checklist.
f: Yeah, and so much of my work that I have been making for so long — I realized after this really intense experience that really broke me back down to this core level of being, that a lot of the stuff I had made really did begin with that in mind, with this, “How am I gonna make this look cool?”
j: Or make it the most technically impressive thing you can. Just one-up something you did before.
f: And consistency, and…
j: Yeah. I think what was interesting about your recent work, it did kind of have this Basquiat vibe where it was very childish but in a way that — it’s not easy to be childish. It’s really not. As an adult, it’s not easy to be childish. To unlearn what you —
f: You can’t fake it.
j: And that nagging voice that’s telling you to shade something properly, or to add more detail, all the things you learned in art school or from society, it’s all engrained in us now and the older we get the harder it is to not listen to those voices. So when I think of Adventure Time, the TV show, it’s like a cartoon that’s just nonsense. This nonsense world. And I remember having this thought where I was just like — and Tim & Eric, stuff like that — “I can’t believe people get paid to write this shit.” But then I was like, wait, I totally can believe that, because it’s not easy to make a fleshed out nonsensical thing, you know?
f: Yeah, and to present it.
j: It’s not unintentional. It’s not haphazard. It’s very thought out, but broken away from what we’d normally think is sensible or good.
f: And I think that that’s a lot of what’s so different and so much purer to me about this work: I think that it’s extremely intentional, and a lot of the stuff before, when I look at it — I love it, and it was really important because it did convey what was going on. But some of it became unintentional because it was like, “How do I craft this into this thing that I’m trying to show you?” rather than just, “I need to convey what’s going on inside onto this piece of paper, and however that’s perceived by the world is gonna be how it’s perceived, but this is what I have to make right now. I’m not gonna overanalyze or over think it. I’m just gonna let it pour out.”
j: I feel like there’s a sort of… utilitarian intention that turns into non-intention really quickly. Just having everything be a means to an end is limiting. I think western culture prioritizes —
f: — the end? [laughs]
j: Yeah, that sort of linear point of view, where it’s like: point A will get you to point B. You work really hard and then you’ll make it, or whatever. And also there’s that idea I was talking to you about before, how things don’t happen in the future; they happen now. When you just have your eyes fixated on the end goal, you’re completely missing everything that makes that end goal exist — which is now.
f: Well, I was defining now. I feel like for the first time since childhood, or since I first got sober, I was truly in that channel. I was just a conduit for what was happening and what had recently happened, too. I was reconciling my existence, in a way, on all those pieces of paper and panels, by just making marks and writing and letting thoughts pour out and then editing with paint and being really rudimentary.
j: The erasures are really interesting, because typically it’s about showing more and not less. You’re sort of getting into this reverse mentality where — I don’t know, it’s very zen, to be able to accept that it’s not quantifiable, it’s not literally like the more detail there is the better it is. It’s not such a direct correlation that way.
f: When I look at stuff that I did a few years ago, and some of the stuff last year — I started to get more minimal last year as I started to kind of know myself more. In the past it’s been really huge, chaotic, intense, full of detail, and I realized that that was a signifier of where I was at.
j: Trying to fill the void instead of accepting the void.
f: Yeah. I didn’t really know myself. I had this image of who I was and what I wanted and it was based off of insecurity and some deep-rooted fears, and I was very much projecting that out. And this experience that I went through broke that down to the level where that sense of ego and self was no longer working. It was not healthy. I was just covering up a lot of —
j: You were literally covering up every inch of white space on a canvas.
f: Yeah, and this time, I was actively in the work and process and trying to dig down to the core meanings and fundamental truths that were the catalysts for why I was in so much pain. And through that, I created this body of work that, to me, signifies why I was in so much pain, what it felt like, and what needed to change. And actively working to change it, and leading into this whole awakening. By all that editing and erasure and creating these same kind of intricate panel paintings and then just starting to paint over them and finding that moment where I was finally just… meat, at a level that I had never really known before, was really where it all came from.
j: I definitely felt a difference when I saw your new stuff — I feel like when I look at your old work, I’m like, “Wow, that is really impressive.” But I looked at your new stuff and I actually felt, like, emotional about it.
f: That’s awesome.
j: Yeah, that’s why that one was my phone background for a while. There’s something kind of — it was very much like a snapshot that implied a narrative, instead of a snapshot that implied an image. You know? You kind of got into this world where, not only was it doing something different for you, but, in turn, it was also doing something different for the audience. These new works sort of imply a process and make me think about the narrative.
f: And they’re vulnerable. It’s not like, “Look at this crazy thing that you can’t really step inside of.” It’s broken down, and totally vulnerable, you know?
j: Something else I’ve also been thinking about, in general, is instant gratification, and that same linear process of “A will get me to B” — and how New York was like an embodiment of — like, New York and cocaine —
j: — are the embodiment of instant gratification and the way I keep putting it is: the good thing about instant gratification is that you get what you want, and the bad thing about instant gratification is that you get what you want. You don’t get any less, but you don’t get any more. You get exactly what you want, but what we really learn from in life are the times when we get something different than what we expected. So I feel like what you’ve been doing is sort of a means to a means, instead of a means to an end.
f: Yeah, it’s actually like being aware of my feelings and emotions and who I really am. Getting away from this idea that I need people to perceive me in a certain way, which is not reality. It’s trying to hide from reality.
j: So do you feel like what you made has to do with your returning to the Bay?
f: I think what I made has to do with me losing sight of the path — kind of being taken off the path, so to speak — for good reason. In going back to New York and finding that I had created this illusion in my head of what success was and who I was… my ego had grown quite a bit. It’s a response to, essentially, getting what I had wanted. Exactly what you were saying. I had come to a point where I got what I wanted and what I wanted was based off of a lot of dark, very insecure things. It was a response to a lot of fear, and I needed to just break myself down to being able to accept reality.
j: And everything is the reality — it’s not just about the end. Wasn’t one of your earlier shows called “No Destination” or something?
f: That was the last show I did before I left.
j: That was such an awesome name. It almost would be perfect for this one. [laughs] Revamp it!
f: It was perfect for that one! Because that show was the beginning of me visually unlearning a lot in front of an audience. It was the first time I was like, “I’m going to take a break from this whole Unstoppable Tomorrow third-party filter on everything.” I was gonna do it with some of that in mind, but in the statement I made it clear that it was a lot of information that was coming out of me from a lot of experiences I’d had in the past few years, and creating a narrative about all these awakenings — the things we can’t always see or touch or explain in the moment, you know?
j: A lot of the concepts you’ve been talking about are very Buddhist and eastern, so it may have to do with your practice, too. You learning a new definition of fulfillment that has to do with emptying.
f: That’s… yes! [laughs] Absolutely. That piece that you like so much was such a fundamental moment for me. I literally put a piece of paper on the wall and I was like, okay, I got these shows coming up, I need to make stuff, I’m freaking out. In my head, still, I was having thoughts about drinking and killing myself and all this crazy shit, and I was like, well I guess I should do letters how I’ve been doin’ them. So I drew the letters on there. I was like, “I’ll do them in pencil, ‘cause that’ll look cool.” And then I slept on it. And then the next day, I got so full of pain inside. I was going to A.A. like crazy, and I was just constantly in this brutal pain deep inside, and I was processing all this shit and just constantly asking for the strength to get through the day, and to work. To get through it. And I’ll never forget — I picked up the red oil pastel, and it was like, I wasn’t doing it. I wasn’t consciously doing that. I stood there and my hand started shaking, and I looked at it, and my hand just shot out and started marking through the letters in this really beautiful moment, and just broke it up. I felt this huge sense of relief because I had, in essence, let go to the point where I was in the channel again, and something was guiding me to break this formula of self, of ego, of what I thought the world needed to see from me. Just ruin it, and make a big mistake to grow from it. And it ended up being one of the most beautiful things I ever made. Then I took a pencil and struck the letters out, I was like, “Fuck you, letters!” and whatever formula of living I thought was like, “How We Live” — that’s not life. And then I started writing all this stuff about what had happened in New York under it. I picked up a brush and started marking out letters and words, took the spray paint and started spraying over parts of it, and by the end of it I realized that all I needed to get at, all I needed to convey was that I was in a moment of profound acceptance and pain, and I was growing. And that’s what growing is. So that’s why the only two words left on there are grow and acceptance. It’s circled, and it’s cut out of the paint — the “acceptance” part. I painted over it and kept cutting it out and I was like, I just need to accept that it needs to be there, and then I did, and I painted the bottom white to represent that divulgence into bliss. And then it was done. And then it was just like, fuck yes.
j: I think the white is another example of how it implies a narrative, because I could see that you had whited stuff out. But you weren’t doing it just to be clever. It’s obvious that there was a process involved, and that there are layers that went into it that are unseen in the finished product.
f: Absolutely. This is the first body of work that I’ve made, maybe ever since I was a kid, that was not made with any cleverness in mind. None of it was made with like, “This is gonna look so cool.” It was just so pure, you know?
j: I feel like intentions and motives are different, and what you had before were motives, and this is intention. There’s a really good quote by Freud or Jung or someone, and it’s super simple, it’s that “healing takes place in the present.” Not in the future, not in the past — healing takes place now. And I think what the defining factor of this new work is that it’s all very about the present.
f: And looking at the past, actually looking at it with a sense of what is real, not what is a projection, you know? In order to understand how the present is happening.
So I will be leaving for Denver Colorado tomorrow morning. I have never been to Colorado, through Colorado, even really near Colorado, I have flown over Colorado many times, but I have so many friends from and who all love Colorado, so I am excited. I just saw a woman off at the airport this past Thursday that I can honestly say has really affected my heart and my being in the most amazing way possible, and I really miss her now that she is back in Ireland so this trip is a welcome diversion from the routine of life I have here in Oakland that for the last month and half was punctuated by her presence and was insanely awesome with her being here. The life of an artist, often alone with amazing moments of love and romance and excitement to punctuate the long periods of insane amounts of work and time alone and time put into being able to work and be alone so as to continue to make work. Unless you are 100% inescapably wired to be an artist, and you can't not make art in a way that is obsessive and full of delirium and the excitement of the next creation over all, do yourself a favor and don't walk this path hahaha. So anyway, I board a plane at 10 AM tomorrow and upon arrival I will be seeing my cousin whom I have not seen since I was probably 11 or 13 years old. Needless to say, I am excited.
My reason for journeying to Denver is to have my first ever show with Black Book Gallery. I have been watching Black Book for a while now, met Will and Tom at Art Basel last year, and have to say I am very proud to be showing with them. I have a huge amount of respect for their programming and their interest in showing a range of different artists. They really care about artists expanding their vision and thus far from my experience they are very supportive and very solid to work with. We also seem to have a mutual love for BBQ so I definitely look forward to chowing down with them when I get there.
This is a little preview of some selected works that I will have up in the show. The main figure, except for one piece, in the exhibition is my incredibly close friend, meditation partner, fellow universal explorer, inter-dimensional traveler, and taco enthusiast Jen. She is a very Prime Gnome indeed. We have had some amazing adventures together and her presence and energy in my life, including the moment we came into one another's lives as friends, have built a dynamic that has helped both of us grow immensely into the people we are today. Without her friendship in so many ways I would not be as clear and making the work I am today and I am definitely very grateful for this.
The narrative thread or journey through this show started when I finally came down from my intense soul crushing experience post New York City this winter. I suddenly could really think calmly again and began to see and remember in my meditations so many places I have been in the past few years where I really felt deeply in the realm of the spirit, open to the soft voices of the universe guiding me in total acceptance of my path. Punctuated by moments with Jen and by moments of intensity, the show sort of starts at where I was before meeting her and journey's through the places unseen I entered and explored throughout 2014. A lot of it came from the culmination of a long term awakening in sobriety that I was able to reflect on and visualize in purely abstract work as well as figurative pieces to punctuate the timeline and different modes of experience the narrative.
All in all this is going to be an awesome week. Zach Tutor at Supersonic Art did a killer studio visit recently you showed absolutely check out as well by clicking this link, Supersonic Studio Visit. I may even be working on something large while there, but I also may just explore Colorado a bit and enjoy some time away from the chaos. This show continues to mark a time in my career where I am really breaking out of my conventions in a big ways and letting the art come out from deep within rather than pursuing a formulaic approach to certain modes of seeing or image building. Regardless I am hopping on a plane in about 18 hours and I will update you from the road.
I will be leaving to go to Denver on September 8th, less than two weeks from now. Damn, it's been a whole summer already. I have been back from the East Coast since the end of February and I feel like a lifetime has passed by. I am very happy with the work that is going to be show at my project space solo with Black Book Gallery, and very curious to see how people connect with it. It finds much more simplicity, to me a new sense of clarity, and a certain meditative vibe to the whole endeavor... I will post more soon..
The feelings that come with making art, the push and pull, the life experiences spewing forth onto the paper or wood or canvas or being made into sculpture or installation etc can be very mighty. They can be intense overwhelming, sometimes even cause a certain sense of shock that requires a moment of rest after their culmination. I went extremely hard, like I was being a channel for some universal energy for years, hell I still am in the channel and I still go hard. But what I have found since my rather traumatic albeit eye opening experience of going back east and coming to some personal realizations about my place in things, is that the moments of gestation, of mental and spiritual digestion of all these life experiences are very important. To reflect and refocus and reassess and then move forward carefully is a point I have found myself in. As a recovering addict/alcoholic and artist I often want things now now now so to speak, I have found that with age and wisdom comes the necessity of learning how to pace ones self so as not to combust or run ones energy raw. The work I have been making, and my slow moving urges and thoughts about finally embarking into found object assemblage have been evidence of this for me lately. I am so blessed to have a life that I am afforded the time to just be and think and find my center. Just some thoughts for the day. New Painting for Black Book Gallery for my September show. "Rakushisha Vision" 22"x22" Acrylic, Spray Paint, and Oil Pastel on Wood Panel.
I am coming back to the light now, making work like seen above, wrapping shared experience in a cosmic blanket, finding love and compassion again. But...It got dark. What you may ask? The sky? The Earth? The water? All of it. It became dark. The inside of my spirit. The inside of my spirit. A rift in time space, the Yokai came into my chest, a host of demons, of Oni and miscreant beings and tearing cables of pain and dysfunction. The blossoming of ice in that black vortex of memory and fear. It was too much for me. I found the road back to the path. Someone I greatly respect told me that sometimes we have to get knocked off the path to realize there is a path that we are on in the first place. I found this place, its confusing corridors of obsessive insanity and debilitating fear. No excellent pork chop would do. No fine Pho this time. The ice elbows of small being ribbed my cage and found me full of crazy. Out of shear survival instinct I began to do everything I could to find the path again. This experience which took place in the winter of 2015 will never be forgotten.
My words in this short narrative have only scratched the surface. I have learned things about myself and the realities of life and the beauty of existence that I could have never fathomed previously I must say. This is where my new work was born, this is where it grew and wrenched its way out of me onto paper helping me survive and grow and evolve. This is where the work that suddenly finds color again now has been born of. I am not a Giant Robot after all I reckon. The black hole energy inside of me has turned back to light... or was it always light, just so powerful that it was devoid of anything I understood so as to force me to my foundation to accept that I am simply a being and my re-education is not always of my own creation. The universe guides me, and my story will continue to unfold here for you to see. Thank you for being here.
I am sitting on a couch in Raleigh, North Carolina typing to you post Bojangles Chicken Fillet Biscuit Combo meal and watching Constantine on HBO. Not a bad life. Actually compared to how life was at one point, an extremely fortunate situation to be in. Anyway, I successfully made my way from California's SFO Airport, with the early morning, rain covered, traffic jammed help of my love Julie Moon, to Raleigh-Durham's RDU airport at the very beginning of this month of December 2014. 2014 has been amazing, a exhausting, and hard fought, and full of love and opportunity and forward movement. Anyway, I ate my last In N Out burger meal in Cali for a while on the night of December 1st, and got to NC, then got back on a plane to go to Miami, did Art Basel for the the first time, and just now finally had my inaugural Bojangles welcome home meal. To say the least, after 8 years in the Bay Area, it feels very good to be back on the East Coast indeed. I will soon journey back to NYC to live, and begin the next big chapter of life, sobriety, and art making.
Art Basel was, well, like nothing I have ever experienced nor seen before. I can't even really begin to explain it nor truly even gather the right analysis and stream of thoughts about it now for it was something that was so new to me that it will take some digestion. It was, above all things though, fun. An adventure. Here are some photos to satisfy the curiosities of those who have never been and would like to go or those just wondering what the hell my experience there was like. I am only going to post a few as I am working on a larger story for a media outlet and my own blog here, but rest assured the thoughts and memory will come at you full force soon. Call this a teaser...