For my friend and co-worker Lulu, bein' part of an authentic art community is a big deal. Her first experience of teamwork was back in Montreal in ’97 when she was part of a group of thirty people buildin’ trade booths for the American Chemical Society, a client of Fresh Fruit & Architecture, G’s firm. I remember thinkin’ at the time that G might have been inhaling too much of that spray mount glue he uses cause how was this ragtag bunch he had hired for the job ever gonna accomplish what amounted to buildin’ the pyramids? They were swaggerin’, bunglin’ and fumblin’ architecture students, construction joes full of beer, cigarettes and profanities, gawky high school kids so wet behind the ears they left a trail of greasy milk solids behind them, an eccentric pot smokin’ documentary film maker/boat builder, an ex-coke addict who wrote insultin’ graffiti about the group on the workshop walls - you get the picture. They built two gigantic trade booths (least ways that’s what they called ‘em - one looked more like a Wright brothers plane crash to me), then disassembled ‘em, packed ‘em up in two 18 wheelers and drove ‘em down to Dallas, Texas where they reassembled ‘em in 5 short days at the convention center. Those booths received plenty of accolades and Lulu was overwhelmed by the experience. She realized that everyone has a spark of genius deeply embedded within themselves that was brought out by the group effort. Since then she has been seekin’ out , joinin’ up with and foundin’ artist collectives. Her and G founded Roy Street Collective in Montreal and ran that for 10 years. When they came down to Miami they joined up with the Bakehouse Art Complex, which came recommended by their new and fabulous friend, Myra Wexler – art enthusiast. Lulu and G were very impressed by the warm reception they received upon first meetin’ Lauren Wagner , one of the directors. Next thing I knew G was buildin’ a studio/showroom outside in the complex’s backyard.
Now the backyard of the Bakehouse has always had some problems - mainly that art lovers visitin’ the inside never manage to find the outside – a frustratin’ problem for the artists back there. Well G and Lulu were determined to fix this problem and so they invited some of the backyard artists over to their place for dinner. (G can’t think unless he knows he’s gonna get fed). Well, the group decided to drum up interest in the backyard artists by puttin’ on “Baked” a group show for Art Basel that took place outside the Bakehouse. You can find out a lot about a person when you ask them to participate – especially these flighty artistic types who can talk the talk but can they walk the walk. Take the McKnight brothers for instance - Don and Robert. Since the “Baked” event was last minute and they were committed to various other Basel events, time wouldn’t allow much more than transportin’ their pieces to the “Baked” show. Fair enough – no false promises. But then they showed up and painted walls, swept floors and hung paintings. G and Lulu were flattered to no end cause the McKnight brothers were authentic Miami artists. Why each time G and Lulu drove down I95 on their way to the Bakehouse they looked up in wonder and respect as they passed Rob McKnight’s huge mosaic mural of BB King. I already knew those brothers were special. They were always helpin’ people out when no one was noticin’, cleaning up the grounds at the Bakehouse and stuff like that.
Anyway the “Baked” event worked out real well and the backyard artists decided to inaugurate “Art in the Yard” a second Friday art show in the Bakehouse backyard featurin’ roasted pig and yucca cause like G, most people will do anything, even look at art, if there’s food involved. Well, that too was a huge success. They were over a hundred people out back, kids and dogs, chowin’ on pork, lookin’ at art and dancin’ to the music – a veritable inner city street party. You can imagine how excited those backyard artists were with the results. They had banded together and made a fine art party – all of it done on the DIY – with no financial help from the Bakehouse. They were a tight community now – they could go on to conquer the world with pig and art - Lulu was all jazzed up.
You can imagine her surprise when she arrived at the Bakehouse for the second edition of “Art in the Yard” only to find Robert and Don McKnight packin’ up their studio and movin’ out. Seems they were behind 3 months in their rent and cause of that they were gettin’ the boot. If you ask me it’s a big mystery cause I heard a rumor that someone from the Bakehouse inside been 4 months behind and they’re still there. But you know how gossip is - sometimes the hens'll get a hold of a juicy worm and dress it up with whipped cream, peanuts and chocolate sauce - anything to distract them from their real work. As usual the McKnight brothers are handlin’ the situation with grace and aplomb. Question is – what will happen to the Bakehouse backyard community without these valuable members? I guess we'll see at the next “Art in the Yard” event set for Friday, April 8 startin’ at 7pm. Amongst other features they gonna have a participatory paintin' installation - and that's no rumor - that's straight from the pickup's mouth. I’m hopin’ you’ll make it cause soon after the team of yours truly, Ole Blu, G and Lulu will be makin’ the great trek up north to the wild, mysterious island of Newfoundland. No matter what – life’s a big adventure so bookmark this here blog and I’ll continue to keep you informed and entertained.
Click on image to enlarge.
The Miss Yip kitchen staff weren't that excited about the art!
These days I been explorin’ Miami Beach and Safety Harbor on Florida’s west coast. Lulu had a show at Buck 15, a bar above Miss Yip, a Chinese restaurant in trendy Lincoln Road Mall. Durin' the day the cooks and kitchen workers nap upstairs on the bar’s couches. G steppin’ round them hangin’ pictures made a great comment on art. Goin’ back home from the openin’ we got caught in a detour cause of a fire. Now, I’m ready to admit I’m stubborn as a mule with a curious disposition - for that matter so is G. Together we make a kinda “superhero in the city” complex. Thing is - I just can’t help myself. When I see a DO NOT ENTER sign you can be sure that Ole Blu here is gonna enter. Anyway it wasn’t until we turned the corner and a crowd of bystanders screamed and whistled at us, that I reckoned we’d made a wrong move. Nobody was out there to stop us until we poked our way to the end of the road where a policeman directin’ traffic gave us the ‘who’s this wiseguy’ look . On our way back the crowd cheered cause we’d gotten away clean - once again provin' that slow can get you places speed’ll never see.
Ridin' Alligator Alley.
When we ride the open road the superhero complex evaporates into the natural landscape that borders Alligator Alley, the road cuttin’ through the Florida Everglades, connectin' the east coast with the west. I haven’t seen any real alligators but it’s a pretty ride, what with all the birds and cypress trees all decked out with air plants and lookin’ like a Dr. Seuss drawin’. Maybe they call this Alligator Alley cause of all the SUV’s sportin’ Gator football team decals. They act like they own the road. Or maybe they’re thinkin’ that decal makes them part of the Gator offence and they can tackle their way past all the rest of us. So much for nature. How I came to do all this back and forth is cause G met an interestin’ couple, Todd and Kiaralinda at the “Baked” show (see blog entry 12/15/2010) durin’ Miami’s Art Basel. No sooner had we packed up that show than we hit the road for Safety Harbor, five hours away, to pay them a visit. I heard Lulu ask G some questions like who these people were and where were they gonna stay but G just kept sayin’ “dunno”. Lulu didn’t care. That’s the way these two are – if they sense adventure in the air, then they’re just gonna jump in Ole Blu and chase it down.
Bowlin' Ball art.
“Jackpot!” said Lulu when we arrived at Whimzey, Todd and Kiaralinda’s house in Safety Harbor. I guess she could tell from the artful mosaics and color crazy painted bowlin’ balls encirclin’ the property that this was gonna be an amazin’ adventure. Well, turned out when Todd and Kiaralinda saw G’s architectural models at “Baked” they figured he might be the one to design the new art and music center they had in mind. Well that certainly put a spark under G’s butt, I can tell you, ‘cause the moment we got back to Miami he dove into his studio, head first and proceeded to assemble a model.
The SHAM model.
Lulu and G presented it two weeks later at Whimsy where a special mystery guest was performin' in a lawn concert. The guest turned out to be Jeff Daniels the movie actor and who is also a kind of comic minstrel who drives across the USA raisin’ money for his pet project and supportin’ grass root art ventures. With the help of the National Endowment for the Arts, Jeff Daniels founded, the Purple Rose Theatre, a non-profit venture that boosted the economy of the small town of Chelsea, Michigan. You could say that for Jeff Daniels art is god and he works hard to convert people. As he walked past me up the pathway to the stage I heard him ask himself, “Did I play yet?” Ha! He must’ve just come off a string of one-nighters. Still he was 100% pro and everyone got a good chuckle. I went to bed after the concert but Lulu and G stuck around to meet all Kiaralinda and Todd’s friends and supporters who were very enthusiastic about the Safety Harbor Art & Music Center – or SHAM as they are now callin’ it. Judgin’ by the spring in my gas petal as we gallop along to Safety Harbor I’d say that this is a good vibe project and that the work ahead will be hard but it will also be fun.
What’s up for the dynamic trio of Ole Blu, G & Lulu next time? Check back in a coupla weeks and I’ll let you know.
Lulu's paintin's up at Buck 15
You can enlarge these photos by clickin' on 'em.
One of G's models
Now Lulu & G are part of an art complex in Miami called the Bakehouse. And that’s complex with a capitol ‘C’. Combinin’ 70 visual artists under one roof with an administration on top makes a spicy kitchen sink cake that’ll make you wonder where in the heck you found that recipe in the first place. Some of the artists seem to have coagulated and formed their very own gastronomy. You got all kinds of factions here. You got the Bake-ins, the Bake-outs, the Over-baked, the Half-baked and those that are just plain fried. Anyway you get the picture.
Lulu's paintin' entitled 'Industrial Monster #4'
There’s been some burn-out and mutiny over the last 20 years or so but that’s to be expected when you have 70 egomaniacs under one roof. Lulu and G are part of the Bake-outs. That’s not their official name. They're also known as the Backyard Artists and the Outbacks. These people can’t agree on anythin'. But they have agreed to put on an art event to promote themselves seein' as nobody ever goes back there. And they’re doin' a special performance piece involvin’ roastin’ a pig. Heck, where I come from, they call that a barbeque but you know these artists - they gotta boggle everything. They’ll also be cookin’ some raku ceramics but I don’t think you can eat that. They’ll be a live band playin' and some amazin' art showin’ – featurin’ G’s models & Lulu’s paintin’s. So come on out folks. You’re guaranteed to have a good time!
Miss Lena Falcon
Here it is 2011 and the world is still a’rotatin’. I don’t understand what all the fuss about a new year is. All’s I know is I get some time off; time to spend with my gal down here in South Florida. That’s Lena. She’s a Falcon convertible; been part of G’s family since ’65, the year she rolled off the Ford assembly line. Man, you should see the body on this gal! Whooee! Course she is patched up a little here and there. Humans ain’t the only ones who need a little plastic surgery to boost their spirits now and then. I guess that’s why they celebrate new year’s. Everybody gets to reconnect and wish each other good health. I don’t know about you, but at our age, both Lena and I need a lot of loving care to maintain our health. Oh, I know, there’s a lot of new and improved out there but should a body be discarded just ‘cause it needs attention? G says we should appreciate rather than depreciate what we already have. Strikes me that this particular philosophy is a hard one for humans to practice. Even G who takes real good care of me and Lena, abandoned me in the California desert for 9 months.
San Diego Bolders
It was back in 2005. G had this project in San Diego that he was all charged up about. So dead of a Montreal winter we hit the road, loaded to the trusses with tools - smooth sailing all the way. We get there and G decides to camp on the site of the future house. He needs to ‘commune’ with the land or some such mumbo jumbo. So everyday he’s pacin’ back and forth round the property, layin’ out neon pink ribbon like it’s a little girl’s birthday party, talkin’ to what I figure is himself. Somethin’ about the property bein’ heavily tiered and all the boulders and how’s he gonna marry the house to the land without blowin’ the place up. Marry? I didn’t know there was such a thing as inter-entity marriage. Anyway, turns out he’s talkin’ to the boulders. Now I’m really confused. I figure these architect types must need all the help they can get. Everyday G gets up and starts pacin’ round the property and every day he gets to the swimmin’ pool area and stops dead in his tracks and looks all forlorn and confused. Some local excavator guys come by one day – the ones blowin’ the crap out of other sites, the ones G doesn’t want anythin’ to do with ‘cause he believes in preservation not intervention and they start mockin’ him and all his pink ribbon. G ignores them and keeps pacin’ and talkin’. Honestly, I don’t get these people sometimes. It only makes sense that if you’re lookin’ for answers it’s best to listen first. I mean how can anybody hear anything if they’re always yabberin’ away in their heads? Well, ole G, he finally figures it out and after a night spent listenin’ to all them boulders – a veritable rock concert - he finally figures it all out.
Sketch of San Diego Project
Problem is the housin’ crash hits California big time and the project is tanked. G flies back to Montreal leavin' Ole Blu all alone to sweat it out in the desert for nine months. Nine months, abandoned in the sand while the desert heat sucks all my joints dry. G finally shows up and I can tell he’s thinkin’ about ditchin’ me all together. But he airs up the tires and charges up the battery and miraculously, off we go. G’s got a big grin on his face like this time he’s fooled the gods. Hmmph! Little does he know Ole Blu travels with his own set of gods. And they were not happy! They know I need more attention than a spark of electricity can give. Three hundred miles later they show their disapproval when Bham! the back tire blows, ripping off the back fender and takin’ out the hydraulic brake line. There’s me loaded down and careenin’ all over a two lane desolate country back road like a drunken tower of Pisa on wheels. Folks, I gotta tell you – no such thing as a quick fix. Still, I gotta hand it to G – he’s a fast learner. He remembers our history together and all the tight situations I’d gotten him out of and realizes I am as valuable as ever. So with the help of a couple of good mechanics, he coddles and babies me all the way back to Montreal. Now it’s six years later and I’m runnin’ better than ever as we barrel down Alligator Alley. Where’re we off to? Stay tuned folks ‘cause that’s another story.
Judgin’ by what Mike looked like at the end of the ‘Baked’ show I’d say it was a big success. She was covered from wheel to gear, splattered, stroked and slapped silly with paint. Mike is G’s on the road bike. Don’t ask me why she’s named Mike, even though I’m the one who named her. I guess ‘cause she reminds me of a Montreal lesbian/bike messenger’s bike. Anyway, Mike had a great time being the center of attention in a participatin’ art installation. Usually she’s just bidin’ her time , hangin’ off my right flank, waitin’ for a breakdown on the road to happen so she and G can go off on some magical mystery goose chase. Now she’s all puffed up with art stardom – ha! She won’t never need a tire pump now.
Well, a good time was had by all at Art Basel in Wynwood, that is, when they weren’t fightin’ over grid lock. The streets were that packed! I don’ know how it was at the Miami Convention Center, which is the official location of Art Basel. That's where they show mostly all the dead painter's stuff. Lulu tole me she’s scared of that place ‘cause they treat art like so many pieces of gold bullion. And who’s makin’ the money? Ole Vince Van Gogh couldn’t sell his work when he was alive. Now he’s spinnin’ in his grave for all the coin that’s been exchanged in his name.
Wynwood is where all the satellite shows like Pulse & Scope have sprung up and where for 4 days, guerilla art rules. There must’ve been a hundred outside walls painted with murals! Those artists had to stay up for 4 days and nights to get their stuff done. Performance artists hit the streets too. One tricked out like a bird in a cage. Another wearin’ a sandwich board that said, ”Just hand over the check”! Ha! Art is a tough business alright. Not like sellin’ dishwashers, that’s for sure! Come Monday though, the streets of Wywood looked like a ghost town. The art was still on the walls but no one was around to appreciate it. I guess ole Wynwood’ll have to have some more art festivals. Here’s hopin’ they do.
Man o’ man! I been working my tailgate off since I got to Miami. November is a big month here due to Art Basel. Just about everyone has art fever. Lulu & G are right in the middle of the action. Last minute and renegade as usual! That’s what they do best. I seen them work their magic in the past. Heck – once in Newfoundland they transformed a stripped down abandoned building full of pigeon poop (pardon my language) into an art event so powerful they had people weepin’! Cryin’ about how they remembered goin’ to their grandma’s every summer and the sheets dryin’ on the line and such! Don’t get me wrong – there was laughing too - human beings have all kinds of emotions bottled up inside them. All’s I’m sayin’ is they put on quite a show, not the kind where you look at the stuff on the white walls and screw up your face and your brain goes into a knot trying to figure it all out. And they do it all on the fly. Well, that makes it sound easy but it’s hard work. G and me started work at 5 am this morning! We own the road then! Anyway this art event is called ‘Baked’ and there’s over a dozen artists contributing. If you’re in Miami you should go. I hear they’re givin’ away free cupcakes too. Food for the soul and you can munch on somethin’ too! Just keep scrollin' down to get all the info. Phew! There’s G now – comin’ my way with a huge metal structure. Back to work – until the next time….
Contact: Louise Markus: firstname.lastname@example.org
G Changing a Tire
You might think that because G took me on, that somehow he’s the boss. But the team of Markus & Genova (that’s Lulu & G to me) ain’t nothin’ without yours truly. Every once in a while I’ll break down on purpose just to remind them who the real boss is. You know how these artists types can get – all uppity about how what they’re doin’ is such important work. Ha! Funny thing though, neither G nor Lulu get upset when there’s a problem. They treat it like it’s some kind of holiday. Take today for instance, when Hiho Silver lost his tire on the highway in rush hour traffic near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. G was as cool as a gallon of Prestone anti-freeze as we hurtled, scraping steal, to the shoulder. The load - paintings, boxes of tools and studio equipment, architectural artefacts, a semi-circular industrial steel sink, a model, 2 bicycles, all strapped in within an inch of it’s life - stayed intact. We had to stay in Harrisburg for 2 days for repairs. Lulu was delighted ‘cause she got to draw the bridges over the Susquehanna River.
Generally speaking we seem to cause quite a ruckus on the road. Yesterday in the state of New York, a station wagon of young men, (Lulu said they were Hassidic Jews) snapped a photo of us as they flew by with a thumbs up. But it isn’t just because I’m an ole timer still hittin’ the trail that causes all this ruckus. It’s how I’m tricked out – it’s not normal. I’m a ’65 Chevy truck with customized gear – whether we’re goin’ cross country caravan style with Steely the stainless steel trailer or, strapped into my steel peg board flanks, it’s just me and G goin’ off to paint the town electric blue.
I'm All Tricked Out!
Some of the ruckus is what I call ‘mock-us’. People makin’ fun of us. Why we were even called The Clampetts on Facebook. I don’t know why they call us that. It’s not like we got some secret oil oozin’ hole in the ground somewhere. Shoot, I’m the reason the Clampetts moved to Beverly in the first place and I don’t think they liked it there much either.
Some folks seem downright angry when they see me. Lulu says they’ve just forgotten how to use their imaginations. Well, folks can say what they want. I got me some fancy gear and I travel to places like California, Miami and Newfoundland AND I’m part of a really cool crew! We’re a band of art & architecture gypsies that travel the continent spreading imagination seeds. When you see me on the road give me a thumbs up!
a road buddy
Well, folks – I sure am feelin’ cocky today! Got me a brand new coat of electric blue and Frank tuned me to a tightened up T – new gasket, water pump, emergency break and we’re cruisin’ south down highway 95, or is it 83, maybe it’s 108 – ah, heck - I don’t know.
I do a lot of my creative thinkin' on the road. Lately I’ve been reflectin' on the acronym DIY. I know, I know. I used that word in my bio, but I’m thinkin’ of changing it to DIO – do it ourselves. – ‘cause I’m part of a team. Without Frank, my mechanic, I’m nothin’ and that goes for G and Lulu too! But I guess that’s what DIY means – takin’ responsibility for yourself, actin’ communally and not relyin’ 100% on the so called professionals. I live an alternative lifestyle and sometimes that can really get on people’s nerves. Some folks out there take one look at me and think, “What’s that heap doing on the road?” They mock me because I don’t have a shiny paint job and I’m not all tricked out like some show off, trophy antique that’s taken out of a heated garage on the weekends only.
No siree – I work for a livin’! And when the rust starts to form, G takes out the putty and works on this ole body of mine and then I get a good rub down with a roller of electric blue paint – flat! My detractors will say that I’m a gasoholic and a polluter, but let me ask you this: who creates more pollution – the consumer who buys a car every 5 years or the DIY person who keeps a vehicle goin’ for almost 5 decades. Think of all the pollution created by the manufacturin’ business. Well, whatever - in the final analysis it’s like my pal G says – “Green is a pigment of your imagination.” Ha! Anyway – that’s all the philosophizin’ I’m doin’ today. Let’s get back to my story.
G & me
So there I was in West Virginia collectin’ pigeon poop in Farmer Jimmy’s shed and thinkin’ my days in the sun and hay were over and prayin’ Jimmy wouldn’t sell me off for scrap when you know who showed up with two city slickers from up north in Quebec. One of the slickers kept circlin’ round me, makin’ wise cracks about me not having ABS and GPS like I was some kinda cable company or somethin’. Meantime the other, (that was G), he hopped right in.
I could tell by the way he gripped my steering wheel that this was a momentous encounter, and when he cranked my ignition, I gave that engine an extra boost. Well, the other slicker got in and off we went for a trial run.
“This is it,” said G. “Sounds just like my father’s ’54 Chevy panel truck; the one he used for hauling fresh fruit. This is the pickup.”
Before I knew it we were headin' up the road towards Canada. I looked in the rear view mirror and felt tears wellin' up round my windshield wipers as I remembered my bucolic days on the farm. Jimmy had been good to me, but it was now time to move on. I knew there were more adventures left in this ole boy yet – so staye tuned if you want to hear more about the magical mystery escapades of Ole Blu on the road.
Ever hear of a car getting’ better with age?
A truck that’s 45 years old (that's 90 in human years)
with 600,000 miles under its belt and still goin’ strong?
Let me introduce myself - Ole Blu.
I'm a 1965 Chevy pickup.
Electric blue, 6 cylinder,
DIY, top of the road,
You might've had the privilege of an Ole Blu sightin'. Drivers are always coming up to me and askin' my vintage. '64 they guess incorrectly. So I'm here to set the record straight and recount the adventures of Ole Blu.
My youth was spent hauling hay and truckin' vegetables and barrels of milk for Farmer Jimmy in West Virginia. I was bright and shiny when I arrived, and green behind the wheel wells. I loved the work; bein' out in nature, the feelin' of newly turned earth between my treads. But at night it could get awful lonely. It was just me and the tractor who was so slow, I’d fall asleep before he got his first sentence out. I did get to go to the yearly fair though. One year I met Cat, a sweet front-end loader. Man, that girl knew how to scratch me in places I didn’t even know itched.
Over the years Farmer Jimmy prospered and bought himself more land and more machinery and Ford, another pickup. That was okay with me. It meant someone to share the work. But as I approached my golden years, Jimmy seemed to take less interest in me. Sure, parts were wearing down, that’s natural, but a broken gas gauge is no reason to put prime pickup like myself out to pasture, or in this case an old, rickety shed. I spent more and more time in the shed until it seemed like years had gone by.
Well that's it for right now folks. I gotta get to the shop for a tune-up. But don't you worry - Ole Blu'll get back to you in a few days.
Start blogging by creating a new post. You can edit or delete me by clicking under the comments. You can also customize your sidebar by dragging in elements from the top bar.