Closer to the Maddening Crowd (Part Three)

First day clean: September 6, 2007.

First day clean: September 6, 2007.

“More than those who hate you, more than all of your enemies, an undisciplined mind does greater harm. More than your mother, more than your father, more than all your family, a well-disciplined mind does greater good.” – The Buddha, “The Dhammapada,” (3:33-43)

People describe “hitting bottom” in various ways. In my experience, while still using I would think that I had fallen to some plateau of degradation but then just kept digging myself lower and lower. In hindsight, I believe the “bottom” is really just the graveyard. I was lucky enough to somehow hit the brakes before that happened. But I admittedly had some menacing obstacles that encouraged that surrender.

At one point near the end of my using, I had come down with a case of “cotton fever,” a condition resulting from a bacteria-tainted-fragment of the cotton, used to draw up drugs into the syringe, quietly entering my bloodstream. I had heard of this health risk related to ongoing-IV-drug-use but if the threat of AIDS, Hepatitis, and even Myocarditis didn’t scare me away, this possible ailment surely did not. I was incredibly ill within what seemed like minutes of shooting up: fever and chills, body aches, and gasping for air were some of the hilarities I experienced. Over the course of a very long day, these symptoms eventually wore off. But while shaken up by this incident, I barreled forward into the madness.

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Game of Thrones

Artist Lee Walton has got you all in check with his upcoming mass chess challenge

[Screen still from Lee Walton's video "Mato Jelic."]

[Screen still from Lee Walton’s video “Mato Jelic.”]

While the art world can be competitive, Lee Walton certainly has racked up some impressive stats. Walton attended undergraduate programs in Sonoma State University, Chico State University, and finally San Jose State University; where he received his BFA. In 2000, Walton then garnered an MFA from the California College of Arts. Since then, the now-39-year-old multimedia artist has been featured in 20-plus solo and group exhibits in venues ranging from Manhattan’s legendary White Columns gallery space to the innovative Raygun Project Space located in Toowoomba, Australia. In the past decade, Walton has also been invited to deliver artist talks, participate as a panel member, and facilitate workshops on such highly-contemporary topics as experiential art, social media, public engagement, psychogeography, and game play in venues including Carnegie Mellon University, Parsons School of Design, and MIT. Walton is currently an Associate Professor of Art at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Continue reading

Closer to the Maddening Crowd (Part Two)

(What follows is the second part of a larger memoir piece chronicling my experiences of living with mental illness and addiction. I will be posting the third and final chapter, where I ultimately discover hope, in a forthcoming post. As an aside, I have once-again deliberately left out the names of anyone alluded to in this piece; for the sake of privacy and, at times, my own embarrassment. )

1989: 17-years-old and priced to move.

1989: 17-years-old and priced to move.

Throughout these years, my compulsions manifested themselves in interesting ways that were, in hindsight, based on self-negation, if not attempts at disintegration. Decades later, I discovered that in a healthier approach, Theravadan Buddhists called this Anatta or “no-self,” but rather than freeing myself from my ego and attachments I was actually drowning myself daily in its self-centered pool. I wanted to not exist so I would distract myself from thinking by succumbing to odd behaviors and inane, self-appointed tasks. I would spend hours systemically rearranging all of the furniture in my room, removing the bed frame and box spring so I had only a mattress on the ground. Changing the bulbs in my lamps to different wattages, I would then take a measuring tape and measure the distance of each piece of furniture from any neighboring adjacent item. I was cleaning up the crime scene, even though I would follow the trail of bloody footprints that always led back to me. Furious at the time I wasted in trying to find some harmony in my living space, I would then return all of these things to their original place. And then do it again, sometimes hours later. I had accumulated hundreds of books, so I would aim my attention on them, re-organizing them by utilizing some arcane mathematics that sizzled through my skull. Siegfried and Roy had nothing on my constant wardrobe changes. We lived in a fairly safe neighborhood; yet every door was routinely double-checked for security reasons. Later at night, when my family was asleep, I would go as far as taking a screwdriver and tightening all of the screws in the strikeplates. And after all of these laborious attempts at an amateur hour vanishing act I would reappear, realizing that I was in fact terrified of not being me: this almost-devotedly sad, angry, and distracted boy who could not stop looking in the mirror, even if he was hoping for even the slightest change in that reflection.

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Closer to the Maddening Crowd (Part One)

(The following is an excerpt from a larger memoir piece chronicling my experiences of living with mental illness and addiction. I will be posting the rest of the story in forthcoming blog posts.)

Teenage Lobotomy: acclaimed neurologist Walter Freeman performs a little mental health adjustment, early 1950s-style.

Teenage Lobotomy: acclaimed neurologist Dr. Walter Freeman performs a little mental health adjustment, early 1950s-style.

When I was nine years old I could control the weather. My parents had bought their first ever “new” house, a tract home in a fairly new subdivision. This was a big purchase for them; upward mobility as exemplified by a life-changing purchase. While both were frugal with money, a trait their youngest son would not inherit, after 16 years of marriage, raising two sons, and much hard work, they were finally able to buy a new home. They had both grown up poor, my mom a child of the brutal climes of Eastern Kentucky; my dad a product of a colorful Irish American ghetto in Louisville. They were born out of a kind of poverty that seems to be retained at the genetic level, generations of lacking that is encoded in the marrow. I have never actually sat down and eaten in a restaurant with my family. “It’s a waste of money,” is my dad’s lifelong rationale. The home was a two story house with four bedrooms, a fireplace, and a large backyard. It was there that I would secretly display my occult powers of meteorological prowess. At that time I was obsessed with the idea of magic. Not stage illusion but the real deal; wizardry, sorcery, necromancy – the works. Much of this interest was surely spawned by the innate imagination of childhood. Once I discovered standard fantasy stories like fairy tales, “The Hobbit,” and “Conan the Barbarian,” that initial spark of dreams was soon engulfed by the fires of a specific form of self-hypnosis that surely falls away from all children over time. The problem was that my magical gift was a secret. As soon as I was certain that no one would possibly see me, I would sneak out into the fenced backyard. Our dog would invariably try to follow me out there but I would issue her a stern look and quietly close the sliding glass door behind me. My parents had opted not to purchase any grass sod for the back of the house. “Who will ever see it but us?” was both a question and statement of finality posed by my dad.

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Material Flow

Marcus Kenney streams his vision through mixed-media with Shed My Skin

["How to Make a War," mixed media, 48" x 48"; 2007.

[“How to Make a War,” mixed media, 48″ x 48″; 2007.]

The singular artwork of Marcus Kenney is as mercurial and ever-changing as the media he employs. Equally adept at disciplines including collage, sculpture, painting, photography, and installation, Kenney’s work is at once personal and transparent, inviting the audience to navigate his imagery of animals, family, and political musings. Colorful and modified taxidermied wildlife, agitprop collages, and enigmatic black and white photos are all fair game to be hot-wired in Kenney’s creative universe.

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Circular Motion

Liz Rodda explores belief, fate, and the unknown with Clockwise

[Liz Rodda's, "Plan For Victory," black jade icosahedron, 16 millimeters.

[Liz Rodda’s, “Plan For Victory,” black jade icosahedron, 16 millimeters.]

In the past decade, Liz Rodda has been creating a body of work that is seemingly guided by a compass magnetized with forces of self-inquiry, notions of providence versus powerlessness, and anchored with a healthy measure of skepticism for the uncertainty of what lies ahead. Yet Rodda is hardly a humorless pessimist but more akin to a savvy pragmatist gifted with the natural, open-ended approach of a truly multimedia-based artist. Through video, sculpture and two-dimensional works, Rodda scrutinizes, celebrates, and even satirizes the shared human experience of the inevitable, forging her ideas out of uniquely signature materials. Are we masters of our own destinies, even favored by fortune, or merely another innocuous article pulled along with the rest of the rising and falling waves of an impartial Universe? Are we participants and even co-creators of our lives; or simply observers deluded by belief? In her upcoming show Clockwise, Rodda uses the motif of the circle to investigate and question “the intersection between what we believe and what we know as well as the degree to which thought can direct the outcome of experience.”

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Collective Impact

space: eight gallery prepares for the visual onslaught of Art Dorks Rise

[Brendan Danielsson's "Cpl. Brach Lee," 12 x12, oil on panel, 2013.]

[Brendan Danielsson’s “Cpl. Brach Lee,” 12 x12, oil on panel, 2013.]

Northeast Florida art lovers, brace thineselves! The 30 person-strong group known as the Art Dorks are invading St. Augustine’s space: eight gallery with their upcoming show, Art Dorks Rise.

The line-up for this exhibit of original work is an impressive regime of visual artists that includes Aeron Alfrey, Dan Barry, John Casey, David Chung, Brendan Danielsson, Justin DeGarmo, Mark Elliott, Jad Fair, Joseph Daniel Fiedler, Charles Glaubitz, Robert Hardgrave, Gregory Hergert, Gregory Jacobsen, Jonnie Jacquet, Colin Johnson, Jason Limon, Jon MacNair, Dan May, Christian Rex van Minnen, Chris Mostyn, Heiko Müller, Jason Murphy, Katie Ridley Murphy, Kristian Olson, Matthew Pasquarello, Anthony Pontius, Meagan Ridley, Kim Scott, Scot Sothern and Scott D. Wilson.

Individually and collectively, the Art Dorks work in a variety of media ranging from illustration and painting to photography and mixed-media. Some are highly trained with extensive academic backgrounds; others are purely self-taught. And their work is just as diverse, with imagery and concepts that exist on the outer terrain of contemporary art. Bizarre, humorous, poignant, brilliant and even baffling, the Art Dorks strength lies not only in the numbers of their ranks but also in their respective array of vision and approach to present-day art. A link featuring bios and images of their work can also be found here.

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