“Susquehanna”, Loveless Letters Series, No. 64

Travel is what moves me.

I spend many hours of my life in my apartment sitting at a drafting table to create these pieces. Being an artist can be quite lonely, and with all the hours of the day that rise through the sun and pass through the moon, I find myself desperate to inhale inspiration from my apartment walls to breathe out imagination in my work. After returning to Los Angeles from San Francisco, I felt myself quite frustrated with my predicament. I walked around Los Feliz with my pieces and felt ultimately blocked from anything to burst from my fingertips through my brushes.

I wish I could be that artist who could find inspiration in a stationary state, but my mind refuses to work like that. I have to be consistently in a state of visual immersion to feel something. I am always… just trying to feel something.

I saved up all the money I could from the job at the diner, and planned flights across the United States. I knew that if I took myself out of my own environment, the clockwork in my brain would begin to work ,and the gears in my head would eventually sync up with the gears up in the stars.. and I would think again.

This piece started in a little restaurant in the middle of Curtis Park in Denver, Colorado. I was arriving in town to speak with a gallery about a possible piece about Denver. I sat there struggling to come up with an idea.. and watched two women enter my vicinity. The woman was talking about her boyfriend and how their astrological signs did not match up. She said to her friend, “Oh.. he and I just don’t match astrologically… we are just trouble written in the stars”

Suddenly, like a cannon blast, my brain shot forward through my heart, and a thousand images split and multiplied in front my eyes within a quick second. My hand shot forward with my brush against the canvas, and just like that, I found myself painting something in Mickey’s left ear. What came to fruition was a picture of the galaxy. I drew the woman as the constellation of Andromeda, with circular shapes and dots representing the ‘trouble written in the stars’ around her.

What I realized at that point, was that other locations were not the only beacons of inspiration to jumpstart my imagination, but that other people were as well. This piece suddenly became like a sounding board of other people’s fascinating and intricate lives, both eavesdropped and personally conversed. I wanted to finally paint a piece about the strangers I encountered and how their words transpired visions across the map of Mickey himself.

Here are the explanations below:

1. Left ear to forehead: Previous explanation of “trouble written in the stars”, Diamond represents strength.

2. Right ear: At the Denver Art Museum (DAM) I watched two young men complain about an abstract expressionism piece involving simple displays of circles and lines. One of them said “I don’t get it. I just don’t get the circles. I don’t know how this is called art. This makes me feel stupid”. Underneath the ear are dripping patterns representing rain in Los Angeles. A woman was talking to herself  on Edgemont and Hollywood Blvd about how she purposely moved away from the Pacific Northwest to escape the weather, and how she felt the rain was following her.

3. Background // Conversation Bubbles: Two women in a Echo Park diner in Los Angeles were talking about their friends. One girl said “I can’t tell if three of my friends have multiple personality disorders or whether they are just dedicated actors” I chose three characters and multiplied their poses in the speech bubbles”.

4. Background // Right // Left // Mountains: I drew these in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. I sparked a conversation with friends about the overwhelming beauty of Denver, and it began this long conversation about American mountain culture.

5. Background // Bottom // Clouds: In Anaheim California during the D23 convention, a woman burst sashaying with her friend through the gallery where I was painting. She said “Oh… you haven’t been to the Southwest?? Oh you just have to go. The skies in the Southwest are spectacular. And as soon as she said this, she was sashaying away to another space, This phrase resonated a memory of a song called “Little Fluffy Clouds” by The Orb, and I immediately started drawing clouds.

6. Background // Upper Left // Cloud + Lightbulb: While painting the clouds at the D23 convention in Anaheim, California.. a child came up to me and asked me how I painted clouds. She didn’t believe that I painted them. I showed her a live demonstration on how a cloud is painted. She then asked me to paint lightning.. to which I painted a light bulb popping out underneath it. She asked me “Why did you do that?” and I replied “Lightning is just someone up there testing on the light switch for us”

7.  Background // Upper Right // Skulls: This was a test of a Lichtenstein dot pattern. This was going to be left blank until I heard a conversation in a cafe in the Adams Morgan District of Washington D.C. A couple was talking about Dia De Los Muertos, and how the East Coast didn’t properly represent it. The woman said to her boyfriend “Well if you are ever going to see it right, .. you have to visit Tijuana or somewhere San Francisco’ish”.

8. Background // Middle Right // BELLE EPOQUE: In a restaurant in DuPont Circle in Washington D.C. I was having coffee with Leslie Combemale of Art Insights, a gallery out in the D.C. Metro//Virginia area. When she asked me why I was traveling to Berlin, I mentioned in my awful version of French that it was the “Belle Epoque” for artists in this era. Laughing at my terrible French, she corrected me and then said “Oh, now… you must put this on the canvas”.

9. Tongue: TRAVEL TICKET. This is the epicenter of the piece, mentioning of my travel ticket to find inspiration.

10. Clouds within the face // Eyes: HWY 431 was the highway that I wrote down to get to a specific town in Pennsylvania that I missed. The cat and rocket and coffee cup represented “Rocket Cat Cafe” in Fishtown in Philadelphia.. where I went to pick up my keys to the place I was staying in. Eggs represent the food that I ate in a diner in New Jersey later on that week, and scissors represent the tools I used for a project.

11. Clouds within the face // Upper left side: The skull represented me being happy about being back in Philadelphia.. a place I used to live. I smelled flowers outside in the garden of the complex I lived in.

12. Clouds within the face // Lower left side: My friends took me out roller skating in New Jersey one night in where a good friend and I skated together to live organ music among the colorful Northeastern crowd in skating costumes. We then drove to a diner and laughed about the past and living in Philly.

13. Clouds within the face // Upper right side: This was also directions I was writing down in case I was going to take my rental car to my next destination, New York City.

14. Clouds within the face // Lower right side:  I decided against the idea of driving to New York City, and instead I wrote down the directions to get there via the old way I used to when I lived in Philly. I took the blue line headed to 69th street from Berk Station (Fishtown) to another station (Center City), and transferred to a train north to Trenton, New Jersey, to get on ANOTHER train (NJ transit N.E. corridor line) to Penn Station // NYC.

In the end I wrote, like all the other pieces in the Loveless Letters section, a history of the piece. It reads:

“WASHINGTON D.C. // PHILADELPHIA

It all started with a conversation in a restaurant in Denver, Colorado. A young woman next to me said that her love and her were ‘trouble written in the stars’.. so I drew the concept in the ear. This piece is about other people’s words all over the U.S. and how people’s words can change the course of our lives and our art.  Everything is directional. Nothing is frozen. Everything is happening NOW”

This piece is entitled “Susquehanna”, which was the street in Philadelphia where this piece was finalized. If you look at the circles in the piece, you will find all the places of where I transcribed the power of peoples words into this creation.

– D23 Expo, Anaheim, CA

– 23rd/Fairmont, Philadelphia, PA

– Hollywood Blvd/Edgemont Street, Los Angeles, CA

– 28th and Race Street, Denver, Colorado

– 16th and Tremont Street, Denver, Colorado

– 25th and Gilpin Street, Denver, Colorado

– Melrose and Fairfax, Los Angeles, California

– Franklin near the 101 HWY, Los Angeles, California

– New Hampshire and T Street, Washington D.C.

This is the 7th in the Loveless Letters Series, and 73rd in the TENxTENxTEN collection.

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