El Segundo TV recently profiled video artist Jon9 and the Virtularium Gallery space as we launched our immersive multimedia experience in a rare public opportunity and participated in the El Segundo Art Walk for the first time on June 21.
I was interviewed about why we’re excited to present such videowall technology as a methodology for expansive storytelling – we’re producing some original content and in using such a platform the possibilities are truly endless. We enjoy being part of the burgeoning technology scene that is currently revitalizing the historic industrial core south of LAX known as Smoky Hollow. The eclectic mix of businesses still has a cozy small town feel to it and is part of what makes the City of El Segundo so great. Watch here:
It was a pleasure to participate in the City of Glendale, California’s first ever PRIDE month celebration. Thanks to the efforts of folks like Grey James, Gary Freeman, Nick Macierz, Ben Evans and others, the ACE/121 Gallery participated in an exhibition of art and worked with Hank Henderson of homo-centric to organize a literary evening of spoken word. Here is my contribution – the original poem “I painted my fingernails a rainbow”:
I painted my fingernails a rainbow To help answer the question what makes you queer? (original version: so you would know what kind of person I am)
(holding up the right pinky – painted pink)
See here on my pinky – a dollop so dinky But powerful, potent and purposely pink Within its tiny confines my little girl dream twinkles To distract from all the growing wrinkles Once upon a time you might think pink was weak But have you not seen its profound power united? Not tickled pink but ticked off pussy pink and taking no more shit From the stink of anything foul Pink is strength imparted from its corresponding tender parts To nab something drab and transform the norm Oh pink! Queerest shade under the sun Oh pink! Always on the brink of something fun Pink! Pink! Pink! I don’t think I could squeal any more in delight Than I do for you, pink!
(holding up the left pinky – painted purple)
And on the other hand reflecting time so refined The regal and stately shade known as purple Properly placed for my dainty old lady to sip her tea In calm and comfort with a sense of high society Not wishing any harm just wisdom upon everyone Well respected as reflected through the ages like the sages Dressed in various sensible shades and bountiful brocades so glorious purple The perspicacity of plum, the vibrancy of violet The exquisite ambiance imbued by amethyst Or the light lift that you get as a gift from lavender Vaulted and exalted in its holiness loyal to its royalty
Purposefully elegant and tastefully poignant – purple!
(holding up both thumbs – painted green)
Now hang loose you’ll find on my hand’s caboose My apprehensible and indispensable opposable green thumbs To represent the lush Eden inside me Both the untamed jungles of sensuous mystery within Alongside my meticulously groomed hothouse Now should I still be found sucking my thumb It means I’ve come to enjoy the endless green pastures of delight All manner of savory succulents and vivacious vegetation for elation For that is how my garden grows But it’s also where my envy shows I hope my bitter herbs aren’t tossed in the mix too often A little spice when I’m not feeling nice For should I bite my thumb at you – it is indeed intended as an insult What can I say, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry It’s only natural – green
(holding up left ring finger – painted yellow)
Now watch out! Pay attention! Look here! You’ve been warned, but don’t be too alarmed dear fellow That beneath the sunny disposition warm and mellow To be faced with vibrant vivid livid not really so timid yellow Now, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t fear That you’ll dismiss me as a mere lilting daffodil or dandelion queer You can paint me a coward yellow But whatever might dribble down my pant leg metaphorically Is merely one moment of this bold and buttery blonde – so beware! Should I release my wits upon you’ll be showered and certainly not in praise Like the wasp or bee that stings you will feel the burn Caution is required for such awesomeness acquired Highlighted in the accent of yellow
(holding up right ring finger – painted blue)
And here we find ourselves at blue Among the throngs a frequent favorite hue Not just for baby boys, but go on paint up your beards And release your tension lest I mention your balls Sunk into a funk of a picasso period somber mood indigo The weight of regrets where blue bruises forge tearful rivulets Or fleeting moments cut off too soon – come back I miss you midnight blue Things that were never said or said with dread until all blue in the face I want to moan – oh why do I feel so alone!? Give me strength to embrace navy blue – shock me into awareness electric blue Let me dive into a pool of cool mid-century blue or Soar once more into the vast and wild blue yonder of the sky Oh, yes, give me smooth soothing baby blue I love you How could I not stay true on a planet so blue!?
(holding up left middle finger – painted orange)
Now, how to define a color that defies to rhyme The brash and bold, does not always do what is told, orange But do not get me started on that vile atrocity and hypocrisy A disgrace to the particular hue and the entire human race… But yes orange can be gaudy and audacious, bawdy and salacious Like daggers in the eyes of sensibility So feisty and zesty in testing the limits of taste Tart and tangy, sweet and sultry Appropriate color for a citrus fruit and much more to boot The chakra source of our creative and erotic self Sending vibrations to our imaginations from mild to wild Orange ubiquitously encapsulates an entire season of autumnal splendor From falling leaves to all hallowed eves So wicked when you need it to be So cute as a pumpkin as required Abounding and astounding so, go for it already! Orange you glad you did?
(holding up right middle finger – painted red)
Now at last give in to your temptations and bite the apple red It may be reductive, but what could be more seductive? Such a striking stunning cunning color Worn in all the right places and dressed to impress Intoxicating like a fine wine – feel the rush as cheeks blush Lips drip and bosoms blossom popping with rosy radiance and a cherry on top So totally thrilling – and simultaneously chilling Afterall, cut us open will we not bleed – red Spill too much of it and we’re dead – red Wrap us in ribbons, bandage our wounds, paint the town – red Are we seeing nothing but – red Are we boiling over as the world heats up in anger– red More than a scarlet fever has reached a ferocious fervor in our head There’s a most uncivil war of otherness overwhelming all our senses Political fires burning bridges, burning crosses, burning truth and reason! Witness the witless demise of our society! Is this what we get with republican, right wing, fascist red? No! No! No! No! Fuck you red! We are ready to serve it right back to you Red revolution Red resistance Red rage God damn you, mother fucking, what the hell is happening If we keep this up we’ll all end up dead red!!!!!!
(putting together both index fingers – left painted black, right painted white)
But oh there is a calm to be found in the palette of the palm When the black and the white unite We just might be alright Making adjustments in this teeter totter balancing act of the universe The cosmic dance of yin and yang through time and space Combining all the colors, removing all the colors The blending of sight and the absence of light Everything and nothing Tranquility and clarity In the realm of possibility Reset restore renew refresh rebegin There is so much to be said about black and white But they speak volumes for themselves in voluptuous wavelengths of silence Shhhhhhhhh
As I gaze upon these fingertips I am reminded That I possess all of this and more A kaleidoscopic collage of colors and contradictions And in the patchwork pattern a most dramatic chromatic diorama My fingertips are bright little signposts Tell tale transmissions Of this is who I am This is the queer I am here to be And I see the prism you imprison behind yours as well Free the full spectrum of who you are We all contain Whitman’s magnificent multitudes
I painted my fingernails a rainbow To help answer the question what makes you queer?
June events keep on building! The social calendar has been busy every day in June (sometimes with multiple events to keep the butterfly wings flapping). I definitely appreciate living in a city like Los Angeles that treasures its artistic diversity and queer culture.
This friday you will find me involved in two art openings on display. First in the City of West Hollywood for the opening reception of the exhibition “Out There” – at the Los Angeles Art Association / Gallery 825 as part of the One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival. My collage work “Reptile Mind Release” will hang on the wall along with a fantastic array of artists.
Second you can join be in the latter half of the evening to celebrate the city of Glendale’s first pride celebration with the opening exhibition simply entitled: “QUEER.” The hard work from organizers of the event (Gary Freeman, Lousine Shamamian, Grey James, and others) was recognized by the Los Angeles Times. In this day and age we still have great strides to go in recognizing queer arts and culture, so it’s great to be part of this groundbreaking event for Glendale. My photograph “Beast of the Backyard Wilds” will hang along side another great group of artists. You’ll find me attending the opening during the latter half of the evening at ACE /121 Gallery.
The carousel of life has brought another series of event associated with June and Pride, making this another busy summertime.
I’m PROUD to have my artwork, photography, and poetry featured in the official ‘Calendar and Cultural Guide’ that the Dept. of Cultural Affairs publishes each year featuring work culled from the Los Angeles artistic community. An opening ceremony and the official unveiling of the guide was held on Wednesday, May 30. The cover image (painted by Patrick Marston) honored openly gay city councilmember and the Bill Rosendahl Memorial Lifeguard Tower, a rainbow symbol of Venice Beach pride.
It’s exciting to live in a city that respects and celebrates its diverse culture and art – the large number of events and size of the guide attests to a vibrant and active scene.
Memorial Day Monday brought together a packed audience to blast off for Planet Queer: Animal Instinct. Keeping with the theme of the evening I presented a test run of a work in progress: “Minotaur of the Mental Labyrinth” – a collaboration with painter Mr. Voice Love. Together we’re part of a team
called Flourish Projects
“Minotaur” is part of a larger piece that explores the interconnectedness of fine art paintings, mythological storytelling, contemporary references, and an intricate puzzle for audiences to solve. For this presentation, we adapted the piece in order to create a ritual that audience members could connect with and ruminate over.
The performance began with the minotaur mask over the face discussing how lately the mind has been plagued by raging thoughts like the mythological bull-man.
Rotating around I reveal the painted labyrinth on the skull and upper back, relating the myth to inner-psychological feelings surrounding the challenges of modern life. A quick discussion summarizes the myth, including the importance of how Ariadne’s thread is the key to hero Theseus’ journey success in finding his way back out of the labyrinth’s depths. A rainbow colored thread was passed out among the audience, for each member to hold onto a part of the strand – therefore connecting them all. A ritual was performed, asking the audience to meditate about how the myth relates to their life, with various questions posed during the process along the lines of:
“Who is your thread – who leads you out of the mental labyrinths? Who are you the thread for and can you answer the call of those in need? What form does the minotaur take in your life? How can you vanquish the negative thoughts?” Etc.
The larger performance will take participants on a complex journey from one subject of a painting and mythology to another.
I’m riding on an sparkling tsunami wave of profound gratitude for the epic adventure that was the performance art concert of Taylor Mac’s “A 24-Decade History of American Popular Music.” For the Los Angeles run of the show, it was split into four parts of six nonstop exciting hours each. And WOW it lived up to the anticipation – it was a musical thrill-ride, twisted fashion show, fun-house of audience participation, and historic sociopolitical/educational experience all rolled into one! There’s a lot being said about MacArthur Genius grantee Taylor Mac and this epic production – and for good reason!
I’m so glad I was able to participate and revel in the role as a Dandy Minion with such a remarkable cast and crew of lovely people – reuniting with some old friends and forging some wonderful new. I was truly impressed by all the people involved in bringing this vision to life. I have enough varied experiences in my theatrical career to know that the collaboration between CAP_UCLA and Pomegranate Arts with Taylor Mac was something quite wonderful and rare – not to forget taking place in something as grand and historic as the Theatre at the Ace Hotel (aka United Artists Theatre). It’s encouraging to know that such supportive producers are out there helping bringing visionary works like “A 24-Decade…” to audiences. I also feel very fortunate that in my history I’ve worked on some incredible shows with a lot of beautiful people – most of them have been under the radar, unlike this stellar production, but a lot of them have been full of a sublime energy that I can truly say have been divine.
So for this, I enjoyed putting my few of my performance art wardrobe archives to good use (the organized bins of costumes in the garage came in quite handy) and crafting a few new pieces inspired by the glorious creations donned each hour by Taylor Mac that were brilliantly crafted by designer Machine Dazzle. Each decade pulled from a particular theme and reference (like the 60’s involving a wig made from red & blue 3-D glasses along with a dress of white picket fences) that helped to echo the deconstruction of history Taylor Mac was discussing. The scope and vision of “A 24-Decade…” casts a much-needed queer light upon America, dispelling some of the popular white-male dominant myths and misconceptions, inviting in thought to include more of the entire diverse community. Such a task could have been woefully preachy, but this was a most entertaining gospel according to Taylor Mac, who possesses a thunderous talent and consummate control over the theatrical energies at play. He gifts the whole audience and supporting artists the chance to play and shine alongside.
The show brilliantly digs its glittery heel into legitimacy and paves the way for more understanding and exposure to underground performance art. I’m certain everyone who experienced even a fraction of the production were planted with seeds for further contemplation. I know I’ve been I’ve been charmed by all the great people involved, which encourages and emboldens me to keep along this creative path in this incredible community. There is continued hard work to do to see old and new projects to completion. Worthy challenges! Taylor Mac’s final words from his original song were after all – “you can lie down or get up and play…” Let’s see what happens! Stay tuned. Play along!
You can see the pictures and videos of Taylor Mac in numerous places online, but you really need to experience Taylor Mac live and for those in Los Angeles you have 4 opportunities that you don’t want to miss. Yes, seeing the wild images online reveal part of the colorful charms the upcoming show “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music” hold in store for audiences, but I can assure you the whole experience of getting to the theatre and sharing a live event as it unfolds with hundreds of other guests for a most unusual dive into music, history, philosophy, and the spectacular vibrancy of it all is where the magic is truly at. I cannot recommend enough that you get your butt into the theatre and be a participant in the ride – I can assure you that you’ll be glad you did. Here’s the link to get your tickets – because you need to get them right now:
I feel very fortunate that I’ll be on my own peculiar journey playing the role of a Dandy Minion, charged with helping to bridge the gap between stage and audience during the proceedings this month. What the 4 distinct shows, which split the 24 decades into segments of 6 decades/6 hours, have exactly in store for me as a Dandy cast member actually remains a bit of a sublime mystery – and I’m thrilled at the prospects of the adventure that awaits. It’s a fabulous opportunity that means so much beyond the typical show experience for me, bringing together the years of training and development together with some deep emotional connections and personal meaning, along with an incredible team assembled under the shining beacon of MacArthur Genius Taylor Mac.
I first experienced Taylor Mac just a few years ago when judy (Mac’s preferred pronoun) came to LA’s Hammer Museum on a tuesday evening as part “More! More! More! An Evening with Joey Arias, Justin Vivian Bond, and Taylor Mac.” The energy of the gathered audience in attendance was palpable – providing a buzzing energy of so many bodies gathered (much like what one can expect at the Ace Hotel for this most anticipated event). The artwork on exhibit by Jim Hodges, whom the evening was in honor of, was spectacular and transcendent in its own right. I met up with some friends, fellow performance artists who studied under Rachel Rosenthal together, R.SKY Palkowitz and Yozmit – and thanks to Yozmit’s friendship with the event’s producer we lucked out with three front row seats that seemed so destined for us. I found myself directly in line with the microphone and therefore the trio of incredible performers. I didn’t know what to expect with Taylor Mac opening the show, but I was quickly blown away. Taylor Mac was a kindred spirit, a fellow performance artist with a shaved head and a penchant for glittery makeup and dazzling costumes who engaged the audience while singing and storytelling that had meaning and spirit, while simultaneously reminding me of so many of my friends and colleagues all rolled into one inspiring dynamo.
I had arrived at the museum with a dark cloud over my head and a sunken heart. A dear friend of mine, Randy Harrison, was gravely ill in the hospital several miles away. I spent several hours on monday night holding his hand through a series of some horrifically painful cycles brought on from his illness. I was distraught by it all, for I had just seen him looking and feeling perky on sunday evening at his house during a little party to celebrate the upcoming surgery that was going to extend his life battling cancer – but in less than a day things took an unexpected turn.
The future was now very bleak. I needed my own sort of spiritual medicine, and Taylor Mac was exactly the fabulous shaman-doctor that helped to clear my heart and take me out of body into the vast universe above offering perspective on the fragility and temporal beauty of life. I was taken on a cathartic journey, full of tears and laughter brought on by the brilliance of Taylor Mac’s keen way of including the audience in a most entertaining and enlightening conversation. I’ve seen audience participation go terribly wrong, but under his playful expertise it was delightfully oh-so-right. I also loved seeing my dear friend and theatrical cohort, Robert Patrick Playwright (one of the originators of modern gay theatre) randomly get pulled up on stage that evening for some of the participation. Taylor Mac was instantly propelled into the heights of my all-time favorite artists that night and I have been blessed to see him several more times for continued delights.
There’s so much more I could share (and perhaps over time I shall), of just why I love the performance of Taylor Mac so much. Anyone familiar with my work will see obvious connections and understand a bit why. But you really need to experience Taylor Mac for yourself and form your own kind of transcendent experience from it all. There’s a reason he’s gaining so much acclaim and attention – and it’s not just because judy sparkles in the spotlight (although judy really SPARKLES in the spotlight). There will be your own conclusions and revelations to be made from this astounding production, but I suspect you’ll find yourself the one sparkling after the show.
A few weeks after that first experience — my friend passed away. It’s been several years, but he forever resides in my heart, in fond memories, and in a soon to be completed short documentary about his sculpture and photography. Randy and I shared a lot of history together, including sharing a lot of time crafting spectacular events, space on a stage where I wore a lot of colorful outfits, sang songs, and delivered messages that uplifted the audience and stimulated personal growth. He would be so happy to know that I was about to be part of the same this month in a remarkable and breath-giving endeavor like Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music.
Video from my original spoken word performance art piece written and performed for “Planet Queer: Haunted Tarot “. Taking some visual inspiration from the recent solar eclipse and contemporary issues at play in our modern world, Moonlight/Sunlight highlights the particular aspects of the Moon and Sun cards of the tarot deck.
Here’s the text:
Are you scared? Are you frightened?
Are you terrified?
In these troubled times – Uncertainty abounds
In the darkness that surrounds us in the moonlight
Nothing’s quite predictable
Everything so unreliable in the moonlight.
Outside, inside, there’s no where to hide
For fear is everywhere in the moonlight.
When the shadows stretch over the world
Does a horror fall over your heart?
Does madness possess your mind?
In the moonlight
You feel helpless like a child
Your wonder wandering wild
Stirring the imaginations mysterious visions fill your head
Unraveling the manifestations of your unyielding dread
In the moonlight
So many illusions growing
The confusion of not knowing
What is real? What is fake? What is right? What is wrong?
Isolation and desolation
Loneliness and longing
Can you survive your crazy thoughts and all its fright
In the moonlight?
Do you feel the shivers down your spine
The chill from the ever closer approach of death
Waiting for the moment to deliver your final breath
Fear! Fear! Fear!
Fight or freeze or flight
In the moonlight
Oh, but don’t you see
That her soft and seductive silver gleams
Are here to soothe your worried dreams
There’s no rejection
Beneath her gentle reflection
Compassion and grace
Follow the phases of the shadows on her face
Anything is possible in the darkness of the unknown
There resides vast potential – including your own
In the moonlight
So take the time to ease your mind
As she glides across the sky
And dream away your wildest dreams
All throughout the night
In the moonlight
Until the dawn’s warm light
Reaches over the horizon
Piercing through the dark
There are too many things I worry about
But now my cold heart thaws out
In the sunlight
And these moments bring the urgency of life
Calling out to me – “set down your strife
And lift your head to the sky!
Oh! and the tears that you cry
Can be for both misery and joy – enjoy!
In the sunlight”
We have the invitation to play
Come, enjoy the rebeginning of a new day
I want to bask in the radiant glow
Warm rays to soothe the pains I know
In the sunlight
So many moments given to my grief
Balance it out for our days are so brief
I am but a tiny pebble on a wide beach of sand
In the ocean of time
So let me lay here and feel divine Apollo’s embrace
Warm fingertips of the golden god caressing my face
In the sunlight
I am humbly but a single leaf upon the tree of life
Learning to stretch up into the heights
Beyond my mere humanity
I want to feel the sparkle of divinity
All the majesty of creation and the gift of elation
I wish to feel the intensity of living life so full like a fool
In the sunlight
I want to feel happiness and laughter in the sunlight!
I want to celebrate and revel in the sunlight!
I want to dance with my friends in the sunlight!
As silly as it seems I want to shine rainbows everywhere
In your eyes and in your hair in the sunlight!
Sharing in the beautiful magnificent luminous sunlight!
I want to feel it in my heart – that’s where it starts…
On October 14, The ONE Queer Garden Club had a beautiful day creating mosaic tiles for the succulent plant Legacy Garden. Under the guidance of artist Jolino Beserra, over a dozen people participated in transforming the old garden foot stones into gorgeous works of art that will be placed in the garden as borders between plants and the walking path. Enjoy the photos below – click on them to make larger. The next tile workshop has been rescheduled for Saturday, April 24, 2018 from 10am-2pm at the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries – the largest repository of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer materials in the world! I’m so glad to be the coordinator for the OQGC, it’s so worth exploring the Archives for the treasures both inside AND outside the building! Join us in 2018 for upcoming garden parties and events!
The ONE Queer Garden Club (OQGC) began in March 2017 as a volunteer group associated with the ONE Archives. Our initial objective has been to renovate, rejuvenate, and beautify an existing, overgrown and unused succulent garden outside the building so it can increase the buildings existing outdoor space and host a variety of creative arts, educational, and community events. In the past five months, a group of about 30 members has contributed to the renovation of the space, and we’re excited by all the possibilities the transformation holds for the future at the world’s largest repository of LGBTQ materials in the world.
Here are some before & after pictures of the space in progress – as well as some group pictures from some of the gatherings.
We did a lot of work digging up overgrown plants and transplanting things that were in the way. We sculpted the garden to give it a general shape, with a several entrance pathways that wrap around clusters of plants leading to various open sections for future placement of benches, art installations, a shade structure, rainwater collection, and planters. There is a large central flat open area to be used as a performance and/or gathering space.
The next steps of OQGC will be to level the ground and cover the sand with large paving stones to create a wheelchair accessible path and make it easier to host events.
We want to increase the garden’s bio-diversity and are accepting donations of plants and planters.
We have ideas for upcoming mosaic tile art workshops, open to everyone, to learn how to create mosaic tile pieces from professional artist Jolino Beserra. First projects will have people tile the original stepping stones, so that everyone can contribute an individual art piece to the garden that when pieced together links the garden together with color. The tile pieces will also contain photos and images relating to LGBTQ heroes and icons researched from the Archives as a way to create a legacy garden honoring those who contributed to LGBTQ history.
From there we also aim to host a series of educational workshops about native species and drought tolerant plants.
We aim to work with other community organizations and artists to create both performance art events and art installations based on research Archive material – taking what exists inside the building “out” into the world.
We also look forward to hosting “Garden Tea Parties” a festive mixer and celebration featuring live performance in the garden.