I started at it the other evening and then ended up going, I swear to god, all the way back to my goddam childhood. Seriously? I've always done that. It's essentially impossible for me to write something short when I get on a roll. It'd take you hours and hours, maybe even days, just to read a few months of my old LiveJournal.
Anyway. I'm stopping to regroup and re-read what I have and then I'll add more and edit more still and hopefully this whole thing will make sense eventually. It's being edited right now and what is posted just below is a way to force-remind myself to stay on top of the idea and to finish it off entirely. Feel free to read what I have so far and I'll post it all here when I'm entirely finished with it.]
That said, there is some kind of pre-Mosley stuff that informs the post-Mosley stuff and I figure I'll mention it first.
If I didn't want to be thought of as being cheesy or sappy or simple I'd want to say, first off, that art saved my life. Although it's true that it has saved my life it's also true that I figured out a way for this to happen and I did a lot of the legwork for such a thing to take place. Art can take the credit for it, fine. But it's important to mention that I'm the one that did all the goddam work. But, yeah. Art has most assuredly been the only way I have ever learned to get out of it alive.
[I will tell you why.]
I was raised loving and appreciating art and since I was a small child I told everybody that that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. [Either an artist or an astronaut.] My Grandfather was an artist and he introduced me to so much when I was growing up. It's what I cared about the most after my family and that has always been the truth for me.
I have experienced a lot of death and loss as a kid and in a very short period of time. My Uncle Cornelius drowned when he was just 22. Before they could even find his body my dad just one day left without a word and I never heard from him again until many years later. My Uncle Alphonsus was murdered a year after my Uncle Cornelius drowned. As if this wasn’t enough death my Grandfather, who was my only hero ever, died from cancer of the everything and a while after that my Grandmother died of a heart attack and stroke. [And ultimately from the trauma she must have felt watching the people she loved the most just die off like they had, one by one.]
This was all when I was around 9 years old or so. Give or take. But pretty much all within a span of just over a year or so, regardless.
During this time I totally found escape in books and music and drawing. I immersed myself in these things and studied them like my own life depended on it. Like death was coming for me next. Or at least soon. And I mean this in a very literal way. But I also felt relatively certain that there might be something within my own power to do to stop this. Or at least gain some control over the situation. [Or, at the very minimum, I could seriously start learning as much as I can about this whole life thing and see if I could understand it all at least.] When I was around 9 years old I really got introspectively intense. I looked for signs and signals in Mark Twain and Peter Gabriel liner notes and in art.
ADD: [Reading list as a kid.] + See Ulysses journal entry.
Continually Crushed + Crashing Click to enlarge.
Four years later there is another election and this time I'm really getting into politics. In November 1984 I am in middle school and I am so excited that our school is holding mock elections. I end up getting interviewed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and state my opposition to Reagan and support of Mondale. I also give a shout out to Geraldine Ferraro as the first female Vice Presidential nominee. [Years later I used the clipping that I saved from the newspaper to paste into one of my personal sketchbooks. It's mostly readable.] Anyway. You know what happened with that election too. Crushed yet again. [Further proof that there were outside forces at work against me.]
[Years later when I was in the almost-exact middle of the 52 Weeks project the Space Shuttle Columbia suffered a similar fate and the piece I made for that week reflected that event. The image is of that Week 28 piece.]
During this time I really develop my own taste and appreciation of certain works and styles and mediums and all the rest one of my favorite artists was Howard Finster. Howard Finster did the cover for Talking Heads Little Creatures album and that is when I first learned about his work. He had also done the cover for R.E.M. Reckoning album and was featured on MTV in both their Cutting Edge and 120 Minutes series. R.E.M. and Talking Heads were two of my favorite bands [still] and that was how I discovered more about Finster. [April 1989 Rolling Stone with R.E.M. on the cover and Finster article inside.]
Warhol and Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat were other influences for me. I had a subscription for Interview magazine in 9th grade and would just pore over those issues. Listening to music and reading books and drawing and thinking that art in very many ways was my ‘way out’ of wherever it was I was at. Art in that regard really served as some escape from Missouri and my own life that I might end up living if I didn't do something about it otherwise. [Whatever that meant or means.] I could see this new group of artists during this time actually making art as their living and being able to do this for the rest of their lives. They served as a sort of blueprint for me in that they took these certain steps and did these specific things and found success because of doing their art. [Not entirely clear here on what I’m trying to say. I’ll explain more.] Warhol even had a book that explained exactly how to do it. It all sounded very good to me.
Andy Warhol died in 1987 while I was in 9th grade and being tested in high school by the administrators to see if I was mentally handicapped and should be sent to Special School. I ended up testing out with such a high IQ that offered me another battery of tests. These included physical aptitude testing and drawing abilities. Pretty soon they realized that I wasn't being challenged in any meaningful way so they looked for a new school that could do that. All I wanted to do was read books and listen to music and make art. That’s how I landed at the Visual and Performing Arts high school.
The next blow came when Basquiat died. He died in 1988 while I was in 9th grade and I remember being really bummed for that. He was 27.
[Seriously. I kept feeling like as soon as I let it be known to the universe that I found great value in someone or in something then almost instantly it would be damaged or taken away somehow.]
In 1989 I was in my senior year at Central Visual and Performing Arts High in St. Louis. This was the first time that I had been around other kids that shared the same interests as me. It was incredible and, at the same time, intimidating. In a lot of ways I didn't know how to handle myself in these closer relationships and in some ways I am sure I was fearful of it all ending badly. But in a lot of ways I thrived. I'm tremendously shy by nature and I'm reserved in many ways as well. But I kind of forced myself into being more outgoing and open. [But I'd also end up sabotaging so much because of this lifelong phobia I had about how the universe was out to get me and kill off all of the people I loved.]
So I had started getting into some trouble in those years and some friends and I were doing a lot of graffiti around the city and we ended up making the news over it.
We created this name for ourselves. Cool Scooter Rebels. As some ridiculous anti-nod to some more menacingly named group. [Like the opposite of Hells Angels, maybe.] I think we thought it proved we didn’t take ourselves seriously in some way. Like an anti-gang. And it was funny. We worked on art projects together and eventually that evolved into doing the graffiti that got us in trouble. I’m sure it all was inspired a lot by the SAMO© stuff that Jean-Michel Basquiat became famous for just a handful of years before. We put CSR stuff just everywhere. ‘Beat Generation 1989’ was a running subtext. A lot of the tagging was done by just barraging our environments with stuff we had drawn or printed on paper. Little disposable pieces of art/propaganda. This technique was purposefully adopted as the entire school knew who was behind it and we’d be in trouble easily had we been accused of school vandalism. We were all already firmly in the sights of our new school principal and didn’t want to give her any reason to kick us out of school. But when we weren’t in school we didn’t think too much about the whole vandalism part and just spray painted our CSR stuff all over town. We strategically [and obviously foolishly] reserved this effort to only the major St. Louis landmarks and hit the St. Louis Zoo, the Gateway Arch and the statue of St. Louis in front of the Art Museum in Forest Park. And that got people’s attention in the worst sort of way.
Things were already beyond zany for me during high school for sure but add having your name broadcast on the evening news in combination with being written up in the local newspapers was just surreal. One afternoon around this time we were skipping school and as we were walking out of my house a newspaper reporter approached us for a comment. It was obvious that we were probably going to be suspended or arrested or even both.
I ended up opting to quit school and jump right into college. I took my GED test a week or so later and then enrolled into a local community college to begin working toward my degree.
In addition to the typical Fine Art program courses I also signed on for Kim Mosley’s class Video Art. Kim Mosley taught this course on how to use and edit video and it was cool. We got to make these movies on Hi-8 and show them in class. He also taught Photography and was a photographer himself and during that time I got to go to some of his openings and see plenty of his art.
After High School
So Kim Mosley. [Now I'll finally try and get to the point.]
I remember being so struck by his work in a way that I hadn’t really experienced before that. The other artists that I liked so well were appreciated for totally different reasons. But I was never blown away by the true honesty of their work. It was there, for sure, but it wasn’t so much of an integral part of their work as Kim Mosley. It was as if he used simple honesty about his own life and thoughts and feelings as some medium. As important as the paint itself.
[Sanity break. More soon after I mull some of this over.]