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.
John Felix Arnold III
A visual narrative of my trip to Japan... Osaka to Kyoto to Tokyo, May 2016. Thanks to Juso Paint Dojo, Keiko Hakozaki, and the city of Tokyo.
Japan Travels and Art Adventures, 2016 Osaka to Kyoto to Tokyo
And here we are, standing in the soup of air, the humid entrance to a changing weather front, the thunder rumbling in translucent sound deep in the distance. The hum of crickets and the trickle of raindrops fill open ears. The glow of a Waffle House sign and the blinding nature of gas station LED lights offsetting it in a strange dichotomy of dimensional travel, of transparency between times. The loving lurch forward, the hating speed up to slow down, the laws swirl through air made of judgmental and righteous feelings. The mosquitos interface with gods original bizzaro land, one where the logic of the universe and all that occurs become a mesh of communication, a confusion of steadfast eyes and closed ears and open mouths screaming for the inevitable to halt and let their hearts congeal into stopping position before they change. Yet the change is the only constant no matter how hard they fight.
A young man asks me "Is that a Nikon or a Cannon?" with a limber slight drawl, or rather an airy relaxed almost classy slowed down accent, in no rush to then tell me how he has a Cannon rebel. He likes the Nikon's sensor and the overall image size, but he still loves the Cannon and the action and the way she moves. Then he says my waitress will be right with me and I proceed to say thank you and order a meal of proportions fit for Thor and Odin and all the warriors at the God's temple of Waffle House. North Carolina you are a strange mistress, an old soul full of sickness and beauty. You will forever be captivating to me in your slow yet unrelenting humid gusts of evolution. I'll enjoy this coffee, and then go outside in the the hot tub that is the spring night.
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..
Hello hello... Well is it would seem that after a lot of work and a lot of digging and a lot of real reflection, time with those I love, and honest, intuitive art making I am really ready to embrace this beautiful summer we are having and the upcoming fall which will see my Black Book Gallery Project Space Solo and my Joseph Gross Gallery Solo Show which I am so so proud of. I also have a piece in the upcoming Joseph Gross Gallery Summer Group Show called "Healing Galactus". I am really into where my painting is going at the moment, unearthing darkness, embracing light, feeling through intensity and anxiety, depression and nostalgia, cerebral landscapes and emotional waves of fluidity. It all becomes the moment at each breath. I also had the amazing opportunity to hang out with one of my old Pratt Peers, ( who is also a fucking genius and will go down as one of the greatest book artists of our time) and we talked about race and cities and gentrification and reality and change and love and hate and traveling and the underlying passion and gift we have as artists in this world. If you don't know about him yet check out Ron Whimberly asap! SHOUT OUT TO YOU RON!!!! This dude kind of sent me some geood energy while we had burritos without even knowing he was opening my eyes and helping me to see big and see clearly again. I may live in Cali but when I spend time with my East Coast hustlin brethren it reminds me of what I am made of to the core and truly rejuvenates me to get back in the studio and get out of my head and my own self centered fearful thoughts of failure.
Here is a rather lengthy statement and explanation that I wrote sort of stream of consciousness in regards the this new painting.
"My work as of late has been the point of reconciling so much of this concept of self and ego. The action of digging into process and unearthing the dark and light beings of a multiplex of energies that make up "me". From here I can find my way through the world in moments where past ignorance and upheaval I once caused can become a new source of positive influence simply by being aware of the power of ego and self. We all contain a Galactus somewhere within. A world eater, an energy that is just bent on consuming "worlds" or worldly things for our own gain and to sustain our own levels of power as we grow, and this energy never comes for me from a place of truth and honest love of myself. It can be in a humble manner which is more of an absorption than a consumption to aid in the growth of ideas and evolution, or it can be in a destructive and self centered manner if that growth is unchecked and aids an ego that becomes the driving factor of a life, thus is the World Eater lost in the darkness outside of an inter dimensional portal of beingness in the painting. He is being reconciled by strokes of white and experimentation helping to fill his being with a sense of calm and embracing a different kind of power. This piece is very much about the development of the awareness of my inner Galactus and the subsequent acceptance of its existence after a series of very hard experiences that forced a new growth and acceptance in my own life. The process becomes the act of letting go and having the internal conversation necessary to be at ease with the desires and insecurities that the World Eater is spawned from and is motivated by so as to take away its blind power and dig further inward to not constantly be in the grip of that inner maelstrom. Without Galactus inside of us somewhere the world would be out of balance, but to be consumed by our need to consume worlds we become the slaves to our own fears and hunger and lose any sense of gratitude which is what for me makes life the beautiful state of being I have come to love. Be careful to not let the pendulum swing to the hunger of Galactus."-JFA III
Lastly here is the flyer for the upcoming group show! If you are in NYC go see! I am showing with Ron English yo! And my SF hometown heros Jet Martinez and Ben Venom, amongst an amazing lineup of giants I am very honored to show with.
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 should actually say California Livin'. Yes, as many had the foresight into, I am back in California... It was a necessary adventure to go to the East Coast and to really know if I truly want to live in NYC again, to truly end and get closure on 8 years of wondering. And I now have closure, I love my part time NYC citizenship, I love visiting and bringing some sunshine and love with me there, and working on amazing projects and art adventures and eating pizza and reconnecting with my friends in that amazing metropolis. But in all honesty, my New York changed a long time ago, it is not the place my heart is anymore as far as where I wan to live full time, as far as where I am needed full time and where I belong on a day to day basis. I love my life in Oakland far to much and very quickly realized I had taken much of it for granted, so I write this with a deep sense of closure and love knowing that life is full of growth and experiences that allow us to find ourselves. No matter how hard it seems during the process, growth and finding the true knowledge of self and place in the universe is what life is all about to me. Now back to the art making, to exploring this amazing state I live in, and spending time building with the world... its good to have roots, the foundation is happy.
What a Year what a year what a year! This was probably my most focused year to date! When I established the production calendar for 2014 I was a bit nervous to be honest, anxious in a healthy way though. I found myself saying "Holy shit can I really do this? Can I really handle this entire chain of events and stay sane with a job and my AA program and all in between?" But it was a healthy thought, a positive forward looking sort of nervousness, an affirmation that I was meant to take this challenge and push forward! And sure enough, it all happened, and more that came down the pipe out of the blue, and honestly I have to say I fucking rocked it (Hahaha)! I definitely hit my limit, and it is good to know ones limits for sure. Needless to say, I will be in NYC in 2015, and Coby Kennedy and I are coming for you (hahaha)! Blade Runner Steez!
As I grow and change and move and progress and love and live, coming to understand ones self and ones strengths, ones weaknesses, ones limitations and once fierce powerful drive, to find those things that keep us going, to find those things we need to let go of, to find those relationships that hurt and those that help and nurture us is really at this point in my development what life is all about. It is this process of seeking that is LIFE to me. It is not how many shows I can do, it is not how many instagram followers one has, it is not how many things one can pile on and accomplish, it is not praise, it is not critique, it is not money, it is not recognition, it is not affirmations of love and working through loss; it is all of those things, it is every piece of the cosmic puzzle, it is the SEEKING that all of those elements are a part of, that creates the road map and the experiences and signs and guides and milestones and failures and successes and insights that one can truly manifest and become knowing of their own energy so as to continue seeking as a part of all things. We are all a part of all things in the universe, we are all connected constantly whether we realize it our not. It is how when I seek, when I concentrate inward my spiritual center can be found amidst and working through all of these things. It is simply to be aware, to be positive, to be seeking, and simply BE.
I have to say, the spiritual practice that I have come to find as the cornerstone of my life has really expanded and been investigated, and really is what saw me through this year and made me come to find what true happiness is. I can honestly say, this year I found what happiness truly is to me at this point. I had an awesome partner in this journey, my friend Jen, that I was fortunate enough to have come along for what we ended up calling TTT or Transcendental Taco Tuesday, where we explored some new heights and complexities and simplicities in exploring the world within our selves that is a gateway to the universe and all of its different dimensions and planes of existence. Needless to say, I say some visions, saw intricacies and portals, guides and animal friends, pure energy and the elements of creation and destruction and all that is everything and nothing. We also ate some incredible tacos and talked about life and the universe and contemplated our places in it all to an extent I have never really experienced with another person.
I experienced pure love like I have never felt before as I grew and learned and felt and loved with Julie Moon (the illest Piano player ever btw) and saw another person in recovery climb up out of the ego and the fear that is addiction and alcoholism, through trauma and pain, to find herself and help me find myself, and in the process find ourselves together. We experienced new heights in understanding, compassion, exploration of ourselves and each other. We found what acceptance, patience, intimacy, chemistry, attraction, arousal, sexual exploration and openness, respect, willingness, compassion and an utter devotion to one another's creative evolution and freedom, to understanding that we have to be happy with ourselves in order to love one another, to what respecting and truly loving another human being for who they are on all levels truly means. She is in Korea right now living out her own dream of seeking, and playing music, and re-investigating her homeland and confronting so many things that she needs closure and clarity and growth from. She is a force of nature and continues to be a magnetic energy everywhere she goes.
I drove across the country with an amazingly talented young tattooer and artist name Carolyn. We shared an intimate two weeks that people do not often get to experience. Intimate in the fact that neither of us had ever driven cross country and we established some incredible memories and a real friendship in the process. We got to see some family in Austin Texas as we hung with Terry Addison, saw Bob MaCready in Houston, Nathaniel and his amazing restaurant Boucherie in NOLA, hung with my mom and ate BBQ in NC and more. We ate our way across the nation and brought an incredible happening to New York City, building with Superchief and making life long bonds! And a huge thanks to John and Lizz for their hospitality and friendship! We will never forget that damn trip, or South of the Border! I further got to know Joel and Rhea St. Julien and there amazing daughter Olive as Joel and I made soundscapes and connected our creative minds on multiple projects. I appreciate that I have such an amazing family everywhere I go now!
Eric Araujo, one of my best buds that I met in SF, connected me with the amazing people at BRIC arts in Brooklyn for the opportunity of a life time to work with some incredible people during the winter vortex! Julie Kim and the Littlefield crew flew me out yet again to paint on of the best large scale paintings I have ever done. There were the great people at the Shooting Gallery that helped me realize the biggest show I have ever done with "Pilgrimage". "Champagne Tigers" at LeQuivive, hanging out at Old Crow with Sean and Evan and Victor, talking about the world with Dre and Bleu Cheese with Chris Burch. I went on a couple trips to LA where I got hang out with Stephanie Inagaki, meet Andrew Kline from CMHHTD and Strife, and finally explore the city with an open mind and heart which made me finally love that place! Spent some killer times with Salem OFA! I reconnected with Joseph Gross, and was so incredibly happy to see him thriving and doing great things with his gallery. We have continued to build and I am super happy to announce that I have a solo show with Joseph Gross Gallery in October of 2015! Joey is a intensely positive force in this world and will continue to do amazing things!
I experienced the most amazing send off I could have ever had with Rachel Ralph and John Trippe at Fecal Face as I closed out 8 years of living in the Bay Area with my solo show at FFDG, "No Destination". Lale Shafaghi helped spread the word and vision of my artwork to the big world we are a part of as we built a friendship. As things wrapped up, I came to an end of over 4 years of working with the best people on earth at Clean Water Action, a place that showed me that people do care about others and have a desire to work hard for a cause that aims to help others and the world as a whole. We had a lot of fun, and that job helped me grow up into sobriety and work hard with a sense of purpose. It also goes without saying that every moment I spent with my AA peoples in Oakland and SF and my rad Sponsor Bucky were great and vital to my development as a human being. Timmy the Optimist kept popping up with a lot energy and a great vision of things to come. Manley Tantuico and his amazing family facilitated the biggest commission I have ever done. They showed me a lot of compassion, friendship, and treated me like family every step of the way (and we have some designs for some things to come in the next couple years!). Birthdays, break ups, hook ups, sign up sheets, late night calls, early morning flights, babies being born, people getting married, Fed EX, memories worked through, new pain, new pleasure, new love, old habits broken, new habits made, great food eaten, its all life, and it's all important and amazing!
I sit here in Durham, NC, in the house I grew up in writing this, seeking, living, and loving the fact that I have been given this time in this world on this planet with all of you to keep moving forward and to be grateful for all of it. The good the bad the ugly and amazing... Everything is everything. My friend Jen and I will be living in the same place again soon and will continue our TTT vision quest. May Julie Moon continue to make the world feel deeply with her music and build amazing new heights as a person and my partner. May Chris Burch keep climbing the way he is meant to, opening the eyes of all that come into contact with him. May Alfonso Cosio Monique Delauney keep tying the Bay Area art world together and supporting the arts passionately and with all the energy they put out there in the world. May Dana James keep moving up to the sky tattooing amazing work and being the prophetic voice and compassionate person he is. May Rachel Ralph keep bringing intricate and beautiful conversations that involve all of us with FFDG. And may I continue moving to NYC, one of the places that raised me up to the man I am today, and where I shall call home again and continue seeking. To all those I didn't mention, you know that you are as important as anyone else in this world! May everyone have a full 2015 and continue to grow and evolve and change!!! We All Do This Together! Thanks to everyone for making the Unstoppable Tomorrow one that I am incredibly happy to be a part of. -JFA III 12/31/2014
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...
It is officially coming down to the wire. The work is finished, the stage is set, the sound is almost ready, and I install on Tuesday at FFDG in the Mission! I cannot even believe that I am about to wrap up 8 years of living in the Bay Area with a solo exhibition at the gallery I have dreamt of working with since I arrived here. Life works out in funny ways when we continually put our best foot forward, work as hard as we humanly possibly can, and appreciate all that is around us, or at least try to as much as possible. D Young V had a show called Make an Effort once, and I have to agree, make a fucking effort! When we do life opens up and gives us more, well, life to live. Deeper, more intense, more thorough experiences, both good and bad, but none the less, life. I am into it, I am here to live it, from West to East. Anyway, I'll close this babble up. I looked through a bunch of old Blog posts that reminded me of how much energy and passion has gone into the last four years and all I can really say is, Fuck Yes, it is only just getting better! Come to my show this Friday, or will you miss some awesome shit!
Ahhhhhhh Friday. As an artist that does in fact work for a non profit org as well (fighting the good fight for the future of our drinking water no doubt), Friday's still do hold a special place in my heart. I love Friday. Tonight I even have rather wonderful plans after work and I think it is going to be a late night. What can I say, life is good. So as I have been working on pieces for my Fecal Face solo show in the studio, my commission piece for an awesome collector of mine, planning my east coast journey in the winter and much much more, I found myself thinking back to some nostalgic moments in the past few years and wanting to look at some things that I hold dear memories of. I have always thought phrases like "throwback Thursdays" and "Flashback Friday" were corny, but nonetheless I am kind of having a flashback Friday. Here are some photos of some great moments in the past few years. Thanks to everyone out there for all the support, those that have brought negativity which made me grow stronger, and to those who work hard and make the world a better place to be. Thank you all. -JFA III 07/25/2014