The first time I had visited Sacramento was back in 2004. It was for a drunken Chinese bachelorette party at a gay bar in the Lavender district. I was a +1 of my friend, Miss Wang, who was a coworker at my job at the Whitney Houston Platinum Club down in San Francisco. The night was surreal, and I remember blips and drunken bleeps of me line dancing with a group of cowboys to the high speed circuit dance remixes of Justin Timberlake and Destiny’s Child. The night involved weird dance moves, a random guy named “The Joker”, and lots of bridesmaids crying and screaming over why the men weren’t dancing with them or complimenting their tiaras for some odd reason.
I had arrived in Sacramento in darkness, and I left Sacramento in darkness.. All I remember is telling my friend Miss Wang while resting in the passenger seat of her car , “This city seems symmetrical, like its a nice grid, .. I’d… I’d like to see in the daylight.. zzzzz..I’m going to go to sleep now”
It took 9 years and far more sober circumstances to finally complete that desire. In February during my 5 month stay in San Francisco, I collaborated with Logan Mauro and Troy Carlson of Stage 9 Gallery in Oldtown Sacramento. I wanted to build the entire city inside a Mickey Mouse portrait for my TENxTENxTEN collection, and sought out their advice as residents to paint something from a locals perspective. In 4 hours we managed to cram the entire city into my head. It went a little like this:
“To your right! Thats the Delta King and in Disneyland the exact replica is near Orleans Square”
“Orleans… ..Delta.. boat… thingy…GOT IT!”
“Now turn left, thats the I-Street Bridge”
“..things… pivot.. OK!”
“And this is the Eagle Theatre, which was the first theatre in California”
“plays…first plays… in Calif…YEP”
My notes took a miracle to transcribe, but in the end I compiled them, and because of the many incredible facts about the town, I didn’t edit much when creating the piece. I became in awe of the town… specifically because it was so…. CALIFORNIAN. Granted I’ve lived in this state for 12 years now, but San Francisco is quintessentially San Francisco… and Los Angeles… Los Angeles is pretty much a state of its own. Sacramento however, was … the embodiment of California and the West. It was the first time I got to really embrace the history of the state.
Months later the piece was done, and the reception was phenomenal. It featured in arts section of the Sacramento Bee, as well in the “Best of 2013” issue in Sactown News. Bret Iwan, the voice of Mickey Mouse was the guest artist, and we did a spot on ABC at 5:45am and another one on NBC’s Good Day Sacramento at 9:00am. Being that we had a private gala of the event the night before that ended after midnight, I had only gotten 2 hours of sleep as I had to wake up at 4:30 for the news. .. and then the public event opened from 12 to 6.
Needless to say I was a little off kilter. The proof was at 6:15 am when the reporter Patrick Walker had pointed to one of my pieces and asked “So… how much do one of these go for, and I replied … “Uhh. .. I don’t know much about the prices, I’m just the little painting monkey”. .. to which the crew back at the studio laughed at my response.. and subsequently some of the people who caught the AM show came in later to the show to make monkey screeches and armpit dances in front of my desk.
(As I type this, I am smacking my forehead.)
As 6:00pm rolled around, my head began to get heavy and dull, as the lack of sleep was kicking in. As I rubbed my eyes, and downed my 4th iced coffee next to Bret, I saw my friend Jennifer Swistak roll in through the door from San Francisco.
Jennifer Swistak was a monumental figurehead in my sanity during the loss of my love and her best friend, TJ Thompson. She is a metal sculptor out in San Francisco and works out of a studio in Hunters Point. Reconnecting during my short stay in SF, she helped me with the process of metal etching, specifically steel (copper sulfate) etching with the Metal Mickey piece. She came in with her friend, Lauren Matsumoto, a metal jewelry designer, just to have a coffee with me… but I leaped out of my desk and attached myself to her and asked if we could do dinner.
Driving out of Old Town, Jenny took me out to meet the renowned “Alan Osborne” and his metal foundry/studio out past midtown in Sacramento. I walked around these 10 foot metal art pieces, and .. I’m not sure if it was the sleep deprivation, but I became incredibly attached to the idea of changing everything from painting to sculpture at that point. I decided I needed more sleep. I was also starting to hallucinate little tinkerbell’s were flying in front of my face.
We ended up at Michelangelo’s Art Restaurant, and sat out back in this little Italian grotto. It was just me, Jennifer Swistak, Lauren Matsumoto, and Alan Osborne. .. sitting for hours, picking at food, ordering and eating at a snails pace while the sun set…. and we talked about nothing.. art… nothing… sculpture… nothing… Cher’s weird hair…. nothing… TJ…. nothing… and it was one of the most monumental dinners I have ever had in my life.
Its quite difficult to have those dinners. I was born to rush through conversations and dinner. I don’t know whether this is an American concept, as I’ve heard this many times, or… it was just the way I was raised.. or maybe Los Angeles has… for the most part unsocialized me…. but this experience was incredible. Jennifer, Lauren, and I left Alan after dinner and I walked around midtown aimlessly… and picked up one last coffee before retuning me to my hotel.
I crashed to sleep to wake to another spot on NBC’s morning show for the last leg of the “Sactown Heart” exhibition. On this show, which was outside of the studio, we were paired catty corner to a gluten free cooking spot for a local gourmet bakery. They were on the guest spot after Stage 9 and I were demonstrating the collection… to which they were steadfast in preparing their food to show how it was made. This preparation attracted this fearless bird, that decided to dive-bomb sporadically at the chefs and I right before airing. While on live television, I am slightly… flinching, because I am anticipating the bird to swoop down and attack me at any moment.
All was clear, and the show continued, and as soon as it was over, I was in a car (thanks Logan!) and off to the airport. Tired, slightly, crazy, and extremely grateful for DFA and Stage 9 for all their work, I just laid there while the sky got darker and the airport got closer. … and kind of really concentrated on all that has happened in the past few years to this point. .. how all of it … really isn’t surreal at all because the proof is in the work.. but there is massive gratitude to the public’s response to the collection. … ..
And back in LA,… when things get intense or too much, and my head feels like its going to shoot off my shoulders like roman candle fireworks…. I used to.. close my eyes and imagine this one street corner in Paris that I walked onto… I think it was Rue De Sebastopol… near one of the Metro stations…. but now.. its all changed. .. When I am stressed beyond imagination, I close my eyes, and I imagine I’m in that grotto with Jennifer, Lauren, and Alan… enjoying food and their company while the sun sets. .