ART IN PROGRESS
PART ONE • WHAT IS IT?
Well, MEAN GREEN JELLY BEAN the title of my upcoming art-show at La Luz de Jesus Gallery; the world-famous home of the Low-Brow Art movement.
I wasn’t always going to call my show that. I had another tile. OK, picture this…
A couple weeks back, I was with my art-agent Abbas, along with longtime friend and art-patron ( and owner of 1 of the worlds largest surf brands ) Billy Meistrell. We had a lunch meeting with La Luz de Jesus curator Matthew Gradocki and La Luz de Jesus Gallery owner Billy Shire. We’re going over the particulars for my next art show, ( of which I’ve been lucky to have a handful. )
How many pieces. How many framed pencils. Fun stand-up wooden Tiki souvenirs. A limited edition collectible Tiki Mug… etc.
And the Show’s Title?
“Oh yeah” I frown, “I have two in mind. First one: The Esoteric Art of Tiki Shark.”
Dead silence from the other side of the table.
Billy Shire looks even more wild-haired & gruff than usual.
“ OR….” I quickly add…
Grimacing at the wild last few weeks of life-changing events whirling in my mind.
All that has brought me to utter these next very strange words:
“Or…. ‘Mean Green Jelly Bean”.
Matthew emits a short laugh.
Billy Shire cracks a smile. “Yeah, that’s it.”
Abbas moans, “Oh no!” …and puts his face in his hands.
See… to tell you what and who Mean Green Jelly Bean is, we have to skip back a week or two.
Visit the Kona Community Hospital Emergency Room.
PART TWO • BLOOD, SWEAT, AND FEAR
I spent 25 hours in the local hospital’s Emergency Room with my best friend, Abbas, until they took him into surgery. The human body holds 12 pints of blood. I watched 6 pints come out of my very best friend. Half the blood in a human body is a lot of blood. I held onto him as black-blood-bile poured out of him onto the ER bed in a deep noxious puddle.
What happened? It came on suddenly. He got sick to his stomach in the middle of the night. Kept throwing up. Hours later, I saw what was coming out was black and I figured it was bad. We sought medical help & ended up at the local ER. They said it was internal bleeding and stabilized him. Started tests. Abbas faded in and out of consciousness - a tangled mess of monitor wires, and IV tubes, and hospital gown and sheets - all smeared with blood.
Emergency Room’s are chaotic places. People are bleeding, crying, screaming, & dying. It smells like chemicals and blood and urine and things way worse than vomit. The medical staff working there are saints.
Abbas is the most important person in my world, so I wanted to help. The ER nurses got this. Showed me what to do. Let me clean him up as he was still losing blood. I change bedding, tried to calm him. They allowed me to stay as long as I wanted.
He was pumped full of drugs. The low blood pressure flowing to his vitals was starting to cause a lack of oxygen to his brain. I stroked ice chips across Abbas’ fever-hot brow as he started talking gibberish.
I’ve never been so scared.
You read about these situations but never think you’ll experience them. Reading about it doesn’t get across how intense and terrifyingly, inescapably real it is. Everything you wish, hope, and pray not to happen… suddenly it just happens.
So much blood.
However, it’s amazing how love & friendship can raise people up, beat down shock, and ready a guy to do anything when the rubber hits the road. Looking back, I’m glad I was there for Abbas. I’ve never met anyone else like him.
Abbas: he’s the very best friend, partner, and the hardest working art-agent in the low-brow art world an artist could hope to meet. He believed in me enough to launch me from the cushy commercial art rat-race of Hollywood into my life-long dream of being a real-deal Low-Brow Artist. Even got me art shows in the most important Low-brow art gallery on the planet; La Luz de Jesus Gallery. Yeah, Abbas changed my life completely.
So, I crouched there, gripping his amazingly huge long-fingered hand, and thought… I might be watching my best friend die. Abbas went unconscious.
Shaking, I pulled out my sketchbook.
Drawing was the only thing I could think of doing to stop myself from completely freaking-out.
The ER staff saw my drawings. Said they liked ‘em.
I tore out a drawing of “Tiki Dog”, signed it, and gave it to a nurse who smiled.
“Just save my friend… please!” I sputtered.
PART 3 • THE MYSTERY TATTOO
THEN… I realized I was gazing at Abbas’ TATTOO.
The tattoo is on his left shoulder, which was exposed, cause his hospital robe was pulled askew, as a hundred tubes n’ wires snaked into him. I realized I didn’t even know what the tattoo was. My best friend was going to die and I’d never even known what his tattoo was. How pathetic and sad. I had to change that.
I knew Abbas got the tattoo back in college because his sister wanted to get one. They were in Venice Beach, she wanted to get tattooed, but she was afraid. Being the selfless brother, Abbas went in and got inked with her… even though he really didn’t want one. He told me he just pointed to a design on the shop wall, suggested a few changes.
The Mystery Tattoo.
I pulled out a pencil. Started sketching.
Hmmm… what is that thing?
I decided then and there, I would figure out what IT was.
Plus, I would figure out what IT meant.
Somehow, if I could decipher this Mystery Tattoo; this cryptic symbol, maybe… just maybe… I could hold Abbas onto to this physical plane.
He wouldn’t die.
Not rational thinking.
The kind of thinking artists are famous for.
But… I was very tired and really really really scared.
I drew it… and drew it, and drew it.
Over and over.
Slowly it started to change as I sketched it.
Could be a spider?
A magical symbol?
But a symbol of what?
Could it be a symbol of a… mystical-creature?
( GASP! )
It’s some kinda’ Mythical Emblem describing a Celestial Guardian.
But guarding what?
Here it is.
Coming at me like a spectral-shark-attack out of the hot Hawaiian night.
The point of KNOW return… at this exact very dire moment.
The tattoo is a symbolic sentry between this physical world… and the next one.
The TATTOO’S a metaphysical symbol.
It signifies an inter-dimensional being that guards “The Gate-Way”.
The Gateway from this, our physical world… to the Realms of Death.
(Of course! How obvious!)
I frantically drew it floating above a spectral sea-shore.
( sea-shore: a classic place indicating spiritual transition. )
It’s unearthly appendages transformed into divine weapons.
A single alien eye burns out from its phantom horned head.
Above the last drawing, I scrawl the words…
“M E A N G R E E N J E L L Y B E A N ”
(Yeah, I was VERY tired)
Maybe because I’ve read all the literature of H.P. Lovecraft.
Maybe because I thought Rob Halford, lead singer of the heavy metal band Judas Priest, was the voice of God speaking personally to me through their music since I was 16 years old.
Whatever the reason… maybe… I dunno why…
Whatever the reality, my low-brow Art Muse raised it’s hand and pointed to this blazing hallowed truth;
If I could capture this secret-symbol-tattoo and put it into my Low-Brow Art… I could save Abbas.
…and, at that moment, this all made perfect sense to me.
PART 4 • AFTERMATH
Several days later, Abbas got out of the ICU. The doctor gave him a good prognosis.
It had been like an esophageal hernia, or something, very common in people his age.
Nothing to operate on.
His body had healed itself up.
They had just needed to replenished his fluids plus all that blood he lost.
Take it easy.
Watch the ol’ blood pressure.
Should be better in… a while.
As we got slowly back to work, I showed Abbas the drawings I did of his tattoo. I explained my ER “epiphany".
I declared I would dedicate my art show to him.
He looked at me.
Raised an eyebrow. (Abbas loves helping other folks but doesn’t like being in the spotlight himself.)
He sighed: “Let’s just keep it ‘The Esoteric Art thing’ for now, OK?”
Of course, fate (and La Luz de Jesus Gallery) stepped in and changed that.
PART 5 • RESOLUTION
So now my Art Show at La Luz will talk about revealing this mysterious, perhaps imaginary, subject.
An artist does their best work when they are deeply impassioned about what they are trying to say with their art.
I feel passionate about this.
Plus, this “subject”- this phenomenon, this idea… it just drips with the absurd yet glorious strangeness of the most primo kind of low-brow art.
I always try to chase after that Low-Brow feeling with my art.
I hope I can catch it and put it on canvas.
See you August 3rd, at La Luz de Jesus Gallery, and perhaps find out.