Every day when I walked into the house after climbing half a mountain from where the school bus dropped me off, I was greeted by a naked man bathing in shadows and assuming a semi-crucifixion pose in a painting at the landing of our entry way stairs. Horror. All of the neighbors must have thought we were either religious zealots or homosexuals (they were partially right, I guess). But each time they turned to shield their eyes from the oiled penis, they saw what I saw whenever I woke up in the morning: two enormous paintings by my father, full of demonic faces, empty chairs and frenzied brushstrokes of pink, red and orange. Without a doubt he was our neighborhood's Francis Bacon. Hell, they are even both Irish.
Bacon's paintings are works I grew fond of in my teenage years, no doubt aided by the aesthetic taste my parents nurtured with the art hanging on our walls. At the time, however, the paintings scared the shit out of me. Where did this side of my father come from, I wondered. He, the man who watched me perform plays and roller bladed with me on the weekend, somehow unleashed a Hulk-like beast capable of creating such haunting works; the stuff of nightmares, really.
Yet at the same time I remember being inspired by him. I often spent days in his studio downtown, a rented room in a hallway full of doors that were always hanging open revealing dusty floors covered in footprints of people I never saw -- they may have been ghosts. He'd situate me in the corner with a piece of paper and some colored pencils and let me doodle as he furrowed his brow in front of an easel, hands covered in charcoal and the smell of cigarettes.
No matter how hard I tried, my orb-eyed stick figures were immensely displeasing. I didn't have a knack for constructing something beautiful (or even grotesquely beautiful like some of my father's paintings) when you put tools in my hands...and to this day I still have no ability when armed with paint, crayons, colored pencils, markers, sharpies, or charcoal (which, let's face it, is way too messy for my taste).
In my childhood I was never afraid to try. Whenever I got together with friends we ended up doing something creative, or crafty, that allowed our parents to sit quietly, or smoke a joint, or god knows what for a few hours. Then sometime around adolescence that all stopped. I, along with a lot of my other friends, grew self conscious of trying to do something we weren't going to be experts at.
So it was with unbridled excitement that I found myself with a paintbrush and a blank piece of paper recently. The plans for the night had called for another trip down memory lane, as my friends and I had decided to watch Mary Poppins and devour bratwurst. Half of the plan stayed intact, but instead of having a jolly holiday, we had a painting party.
Jes was working on a project for an upcoming auction, but her box of colors and brushes proved too tempting for the rest of us to resist. After completing a series of paintings on the sidewalk, we moved inside and glided our brushes over pieces of glass. We were aimless, mixing colors with each other and seeing what resulted.
It felt great to be young enough again to find pleasure in the visceral nature of splattering paint aimlessly on a canvas, but old enough to not be scared of the slightly demonic results. The event Jes created her painting for is called Spontaneous Construction, and I was thrilled to live up to the first part of the name and just be spontaneous.
(Don't worry, she didn't get her head stuck between the wood.)
(Dancer foot surrounded by nail polish?)
(A see through canvas makes this photographer's eye very happy.)
(Garrett got some fuel so he could create...)
(His masterpieces: the devil, and me. Which is which?)
(Jes brought her work outside and stayed focused (even though she's out of focus).)
(new techniques/have an artistic breakdown.)
(I opened a sidewalk gallery of my masterpieces.)
(But all of my customers were busy eating food. DRAT!)
(They probably would have bought Jes's beautiful piece of work anyway!)