A Hole Is To Dig

 

A Hole Is To Dig

We’ve been in the faraway jungle nearly three months, and one enormous benefit I’ve noticed is how much less decision-making I face each day. I did not realize how previously burdened I was with constant choices, some big, most small … but all relentless and so often, pointless. Now, with the nearest stoplight one hour’s drive, choices are far less complex, i.e. which protein to put on my rice and beans or which of my two pair of shoes to wear, flip-flops or sneakers (flip-flops 96% of the time). Last Saturday, my youngest invited me to dig a hole on the beach with him. That decision was simple. 

Father & Son Dig a Hole
What is it about digging a hole on the beach?

As my wife and Kai paddled out to surf, I joined Bodhi on the cool, camel-colored sand. Game face on, my son took to both knees and immediately provided me very specific instructions on where I was to dig and where I was to place the excavated sand. I obeyed readily, delighted to be engulfed in my little captain’s zeal.

small father/son moment as a metaphor for a life well lived

Scoop by glorious scoop, my cheeky partner and I aimed at a goal and labored manually and patiently to achieve it. We enjoyed the beauty of sun-kissed nature together. The deeper we dug, the more the muddy, wet, layered truth of the world revealed itself, eventually unveiling the water that flows beneath everything. And, at last, when the time came to exit, the sea reclaimed what is and will always be hers.

These uncluttered, familial moments in nature are the whole point of living on a rural, remote coast of Central America. This slowing down and noticing is the thing itself. And Bodhi is my chief noticer. My lover of all things wild. Coiner of the phrase, “man-madey,” as in, I don’t like this wooden walkway, it’s too man-madey (in Muir Woods). Bodhi, on three separate occasions, requested three separate laminated Costa Rica Wildlife Guides, when he could choose any book he wanted. He rightly demanded last week that we stop the car to look at a family of monkeys swinging in the trees on the roadside near our favorite surf break. And those happy monkeys were worth the extra ninety seconds. 

Ellie Award Page

Speaking of happy monkeys, I’m thrilled to report that my For Freedoms, How Was School Today? billboard won an inaugural 2018 Ellie Award. “The Ellies celebrate the individual artists who are the backbone of Miami’s visual arts community,” says presenter, ArtCenter South Florida. I’m truly humbled to be recognized for this effort and to be included among a crew of fabulously talented creators. Amidst loads of local and national press, we even got loved up in ARTFORUM, a first in my long and woeful career. I started painting nearly twenty years ago to fix a broken heart. Thankfully, my heart is full. Now I paint to fix the world (which is slowly breaking my heart again). Thanks to all who supported the Kickstarter campaign and joined in the largest creative collaboration in US history. For Freedoms is really changing the game and actually might have real impact on this election, as this article so elegantly posits.

Curbed For Freedoms article
Brilliant analysis of the impact of our billboards nationwide.

While How Was School Today? speaks to the gun issue, you can now find my second For Freedoms Billboard, The Best Words, at Florida International University bus stops. This work is based on an actual Trump quote, “I went to an Ivy League school. I’m very educated. I know words. I have the best words.” It is a call to students, hungry for truth and knowledge, to recognize the value of their words and use them to propel society morally forward and not drag it backwards into darkness. 

For Freedoms Billboard at FIU. Based on original painting, The Best Words, Acrylic, electrical tape, vinyl on wood, 2018.
For Freedoms Billboard at FIU campus. Original painting – The Best Words, Acrylic, electrical tape, vinyl on wood, 2018. Available – DM for details. 
Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, 2018
This painting’s debut – Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, 2018

The fact that the whole world appears to be digging itself into a deep dark hole is all the more reason to sit on a beach with one you love and dig your nails into the wet dirt. Your head empties out with each handful, and the conversation tends to flow languidly sideways. 

When I got home from an early morning surf today, a small Gray Fox (Zorra Gris – I looked it up in Bodhi’s guide) stood in the garden. It’s quiet eyes and soft, metal-colored coat reminded me of an adorable dog I wanted to pet, and I immediately wished Bodhi was with me. He’d feel so deeply and purely exhilarated by this moment. The beautiful animal and I silently contemplated one another for a few earnest breaths until he turned and disappeared into the deep green. 

Pure Vida! 

Tamarindo surf day

Kai surf Oct 2018

PS. Speaking of choices, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE VOTE … NO EXCUSES … and make sure everyone you know votes.  Our society, lives and well-being depend on it.

Two Months in the Jungle

Moments after the car honked and we kissed the kids goodbye for another school day, backpacks on their shoulders, I heard excited voices outside and opened the door. In the bright Costa Rican sunlight stood my soft-spoken/board shorts/no shirt/six-pack-abs/carpool-driving neighbor holding his flipflop and swatting repeatedly at the back of Kai’s red uniform shirt. He then bends over, raises the flipflop like a hammer and smashes something on the ground with a crack. Scorpion! Welcome to the jungle.

Squad!
Squad!
Homemade BBQ
Homemade BBQ
That's how you serve bananas. This way the birds, butterflies and humans call enjoy.
That’s how you serve bananas – the birds, butterflies and humans can all enjoy.

It’s different here. We live on the edge of one of the world’s five Blue Zones, unique places where, for some inexplicable reason, many people live to 100. One can go days without shoes or shirt. Makeup does not exist. Nary a manmade light mars night’s sublime emptiness. We four arrived with five rollie suitcases which was three too many.

Nature does not play here. She rules. And conquers. One must surrender. Become her lover. Enjoy the ride. Or perish. Last week, both boys experienced gut-wrenching hold-downs in the surf, after which they told me they actually thought they were going to die. Not what a dad wants to hear, but the most effective way to learn respect for the elements in which you live and play. The rain, when it comes, comes hard. Fierce poundings in which swarms of small black bugs magically enter our home and cover the ceiling in the evenings, only to magically disappear the next morning. 

Wild monkey!
Wild monkey!

Grommet!

Shut up and dance!
Shut up and dance!

Our most compelling new reality is the repositioning of time. I’m not a particularly early riser yet, since day one I’ve awoken with the sun around 5:30, rested and ready. These early misty mornings begin alone on the veranda behind binoculars, scanning the layered distance for movement in the trees: monkeys, yellow/blue/red birds, pizotes (raccoon meets anteater). I still feel compelled to read the bitter U.S. news in the morning, but less and less of it. Daytime hours fill themselves like tide pools: surf, yoga, art projects, writing, reading, cooking, homework. The kids hit it hard at class each day as do my wife and I at Spanish school (past tense irregular verbs … que dificil!). I run my business affairs with a phone and a laptop. Darkness falls 5:30ish, when we eat dinner. Rich sleep takes our youngest soon after 8. The rest of us before ten.

Mi vida!
Mi vida!
Homework with a view.

We are not on vacation. In fact, September and October have been milestone months in my career. As part of the For Freedoms 50 State Initiative, “the largest creative collaboration in U.S. history,” I’m proud to be employing creativity in an attempt to inspire solutions to our existential problems. This collective effort has been covered on CNN, Vanity Fair, the NYT and many more. Read more about my project here.
 

 

Art World Ballers!
Fine company: David Byrne, Gordon Parks, Hank Willis Thomas … 

An integral aspect of this effort is its widespread activation – a nationwide network of over 300 artists and 200 institutional partners producing public art installations and local community dialogues that inject nuanced, artistic thinking into public discourse. My For Freedoms Billboard sits on I-95 in Miami, geared to urge voters to find candidates who support reasonable gun safety policy to make America a less militant & violent place. The New Tropic really captured the essence of the workI urge you to join this epic collaboration – donate a dollar just to say you were part of something that just might change the game. 

A friend asked me if I ever saw myself living in a remote corner of the world. Short answer is no. I’d say I’m more a city boy. My wife too. Yet, we’re both enjoying being utterly and gloriously disconnected from the life we left just 2 hours, 17 minutes northeast by plane. No night time sirens here. Just the buzzes and chirps of cicadas and geckos and god knows what else. And our kids, who can already surf and who run out the door to play with the lovely children just next door, have never been happier, more joyous, more their best selves. Just finished lunch of fresh mahi caught yesterday by aforementioned scorpion-slaying carpool neighbor. I’m not missing home yet. In fact, in the new digital dystopia, I’m trying to get a handle on what home means.

Stay tuned… 

Find it. It's out there!
Find it. It’s out there!

 

I Love Libraries – Museum of Contemporary Art Miami Exhibition Opens THIS THUR, May 31

The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.                          Albert Einstein                                                       

I just spent a year as a ProjectArt resident teaching young kids in a wonderful, tiny, beat up, inner-city library. Here is what I learned. The public library remains one of our last optimistic spaces, a refuge of focus, exploration and escape, no matter your age, wealth, race or education level. 

All hail the nerds!

Each Wed and Thur afternoon, as I set up my art table with the week’s lesson, a group of studious coed teens sauntered in from Edison High across the street. Week after week, as I taught clay and mandalas to 8-yr-olds, I had the distinct pleasure of witnessing these not-quite-kids’ and their teenage interpersonal dynamics. Over spirited games of Uno, as they earnestly debated the merits of various Superheroes, they also navigated obvious crushes with telltale touches on an arm or shoulder. They argued playfully about various video games and dug into meaty topics with a genuine hunger to know the truth, ie. “are we born gay or is it learned?”

Living the library dream!
Wannabe nerd!

Watching their camaraderie and the unmistakable smack-talking affection of friends-for-life filled my chest and gave me hope. I worked so hard at being a cool kid in high school, when I’m really a bookish nerd deep down. Could I do it all again, I’d far prefer to have hung out in the library with these goofballs, debating history and pop culture instead of wasting time and getting high. No tough guys here. No players. Just kind-hearted, smart kids trying to be normal, happy people in a world stacked against them as young black men and women. I’d love to hug their parents for instilling such basic decency and hope my wife and I succeed likewise with our kids.

The Best Words, 2018. Created in a public library.
The Best Words, 2018. Created in a public library.

Another unique aspect of my ProjectArt residency was that each of the eight Miami artists were tasked with making work IN the library. We had no limitations other than responding to the library environment. Come out to MOCA THIS THURSDAY to see what each talented creator conjured up in his or her spot. The works will be exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami from 6-8pm – On view May 31 – June 3, 2018.

ProjectArt Article May 2018

I’m not going to rant about how America is becoming dumber, fatter and less tolerant as our right brains wither into brittle bitter fossils. But I do urge you to read this wonderful article above, A Response to Creativity Crisis, for a lovely take on how ProjectArt, currently in six cities, is part of the solution. Or just look at the face of my student below.  

Mandala class for ProjectArt
Mandala class for ProjectArt

And while you’re reading articles, check out this terrific piece titled, From dystopia to utopia and back with Stuart Sheldon, chronicling my Fall 2017 London exhibition and my Art Basel 2017 installation, LUSH at Fancy Nasty Studios. London based writer, Fiona Doyle, really captures the essence of these recent epic endeavors. 

LUSH at Fancy Nasty Studios
LUSH at Fancy Nasty Studios, Art Basel Miami 2017

Hope to see you at MOCA this week or at a library somewhere soon. 

Artist March June 14th

We each have a song inside. We just need a bit of courage to sing it.

I co-founded the Worldwide Artist March because, in our so-called post-truth society, talk is cheap (read worthless). So how do we penetrate the minds of the masses and move the needle toward our common decency? Enter the creatives! 

Believe it or not, that means YOU.

On June 14th, Flag Day and Trump’s birthday, we’re asking you to perform any small action – make a poster, write a poem, song, dance, etc.

Take a photo/video, tag it #artistmarch and post it. Bonus points if you Tweet @realDonaldTrump. Let the world know what you want from your leaders and your country. Be clever or serious or both. Just be real. Spit your truth.

You can also join one of the many actual marches taking place across America (Miami, Boston, Kansas City, etc).

We even have a march at Mar-a-Lago. Let’s make enough noise that the powers that be cannot avoid hearing it. Info at artistmarch.org and artistmarch@gmail.com. 

I just returned from an exhibition in Berlin, where I showed new flag paintings and the installation, How Was School Today (which debuted at Macaya Gallery last Fall). In this reflection on the Sandy Hook shooting massacre, I obliterated twenty first-grade chairs with an AR-15 and set them up as a normal classroom, complete with a video and spent bullet casing littering the floor. My aim was to fly under the radar of politics and reach people in their hearts.

Even the local monks were engaged.

A few things struck me about the hundreds of German responses I witnessed:

  1. Unlike we weapon-crazy Americans, gun violence is extremely rare in Germany. Despite the WWII caricatures, most had never held a bullet, let alone known anyone ever shot. The idea of this classroom shooting was simply not in their realm of possibility. And they rightly viewed our culture of ongoing mass shootings as utterly barbaric.
  2. Germans are not only well educated (everyone spoke superb English) but also well-informed about events outside their borders. Every single person expressed shock, dismay and disappointment at America’s current choices. Trump is considered a classless joke. Nobody there understands what we are doing and why re the environment, institutional racism, healthcare and on and on. And this was before Trump’s dumbfounding Twitter tirade against Merkel this past weekend.
  3. The country which propagated one of the most malignant and inhuman propaganda narratives in history now owns their dark past without reservation. Monuments to the Holocaust and other atrocities are central. By being forthright about their mistakes, this once hyper-militant nation has evolved into a peace-loving and humane society willing to tackle intractable issues like immigration like dignified adults. Which begs the question – When are we Americans going to again be the leaders the world wants us to be?
The Success of the Voter Fraud Myth, 96x96" 2016
The Success of the Voter Fraud Myth, 96×96″ 2016

Let’s oil the rusty levers of our democracy!

It starts with our votes and voices and actions. So PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stand up and say something on June 14th. Do something. Be something that means something. And keep it going beyond that day.

Part of my Berlin installation included pre-addressed postcards to US Senators. I asked the enthusiastic audience to write something thoughtful and actionable to US leaders. A great many European voices will be heard in the halls of the US Senate, each offering heartfelt advice on how to actually make America great again.

Germany evolved from fascism and Nazism to the leading democracy on Earth in 75 years.

Let’s hope it doesn’t take us that long to reclaim that title. 

 

 

Go Find Yourself, Go Fund Yourself

My father at my Bay Area opening 2015. Standing before the piece he inspired - BEST BOOKS EVER WRITTEN - THANK YOU DAD, acrylic, inkjet book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60"x136", 2015
My father before the Best Books Ever Written piece he inspired – Thank You Dad, acrylic, book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60″x136″, 2015

My dad represents what is right about America. Born to immigrant parents, he grew up poor in Miami, attended state college for a pittance, served in the Army, then started his climb up the professional mountain. He eventually started his own construction company, Florida Fill, and made a decent living until Florida’s whipsaw economy got the better of him. But it was this “failure” that exposed what I consider one of his great successes. As he shuttered his business, he faced a difficult choice: make his final payroll or tell all his people who’d been with him forever and who’d toiled to earn that check, sorry, but the till is empty (which it was). Though he had no legal obligation to do so, my father cashed in his own retirement to make that final payroll, leaving him with very little as he faced a dark and uncertain future. He searched his soul and found himself … in lieu of funding himself. 

America's Moral Dilemma, Mixed media site-specific installation, currently on display in Miami's Historic Dupont Building lobby, 2017.
America’s Moral Dilemma, 2017, Mixed media site-specific installation, currently on display in Miami’s Historic Dupont Building lobby. Come to the opening Monday, March 13, 5-7pm. Email me for details. 

In my most recent site-specific installation, America’s Moral Dilemma, stacks of literary criticism text books invite us to spend some time pondering how our nation’s story shifted so drastically, to one of profit at any cost.

IMG_3371Just last week, the new regime at the EPA voted to relax clean water standards. This is not a liberal or conservative issue; dumping industrial poison into our drinking sources is a basic human health issue. I’m all for minimizing bureaucracy and maximizing profits, but let’s not commit suicide in the process. Back in the 80s, I was actually there, as part of the Wall Street guys selling his casino bonds, when our current president used every trick in the bankruptcy book to get out from under his bad business decisions. All of it was legal. But was it right? What would my dad do? What would you do?

On a lighter note, it’s been a busy week. In collaboration with my good friends at The New Tropic, my series, Meet Your Makers, debuted on PBS as a segment in the show Art Loft. This episode features my soul brother and art beast, Typoe. Check it out above and tell me what you think.

One of the new flag works debuting at my opening this week at the Miami Beach JCC. The Artful Activist The Artful Activist is a blog where artists, activists and gallerists can express their views on social and environmental issues. Articles/story ideas can be submitted to theartfulactivist@gmail.com or the Submit link. His work is making resistance irresistible. AN INTERVIEW WITH MIAMI ARTIST & WRITER STUART SHELDON 3.6.17 | By Melanie Oliva I first stepped into Stuart Sheldon’s “whorled” world at Fancy Nasty two years ago during Art Basel. Stuart and his collaborators transformed a soon-to-be-demolished house in Morningside into a gold-gilded art installation. image My husband and I talked about it for days. It was one of those experiences that made an impact on how I viewed art, collaboration and their limitless potential when combined. I didn’t expect my path to cross with Stuart’s again, but thankfully it did. The winding road I traveled when forming The Artful Activist was complete with signs telling me where to go. I know enough now to follow them without resisting. Funny that this path of least resistance led me to Stuart and others whose work is most about resistance. One sign on my journey was so large it was a billboard. Through a mutual connection, I was led to artist Michele Pred, who created a powerful set of thought-provoking billboards last November. They were sponsored by For Freedoms, the first artist-run super-PAC. Several weeks later, while walking through Wynwood on a solo stroll, I found myself in front of Stuart’s mural, also sponsored by For Freedoms. Finally after ending up in Macaya Gallery’s space at SCOPE, where his I’m With The Banned series was featured, I decided to connect with Stuart. I’m so glad I did. image It’s not only Stuart Sheldon’s work that is so inspiring, but also his work ethic. He seems incredibly driven to expose the truths that many cannot see, via his artwork and eloquence. Many communities are lucky to benefit from Stuart’s generous, collaborative spirit, including The Artful Activist. ***** How do you describe yourself & what you do? Metaphorically, I’m a chef who finds deep pleasure in the cooking and even greater satisfaction knowing others find meaning, provocation and nourishment in the eating. What inspired you to get involved in political art? What was your journey like? My friend, the poet Aja Monet, said it best recently, “It is the duty of artists to make revolution irresistible.” My art has always been intention-based, aimed at manifesting specific outcomes in my personal journey. Early on I painted to find a soul mate, then to have a child. Now, the pitiful state of humanity weighs so deeply on my heart and mind, that I no longer feel compelled to save myself as much as to save the world. What specific issues do you address with your artwork? My issues are truth and fairness. My fight is to perfect democracy so that equality becomes implicit. My recent exhibition, I’m With The Banned, focused on the corrosive power of false narratives in political discourse, specifically relating to: The Myth of Voter Fraud – which has been used to disenfranchise millions, and though statistically non-existent, is believed to be a problem by 40% of Americans Censorship – books have changed my life and when we ban profound works of literature, we stunted progress and wisdom in our society Gun Sense Laws – how do we dispel the baffling notion that any safety-driven restriction of access, no matter how reasonable, is a violation of our 2nd Amendment rights? image image Have you witnessed your work change or open minds? I’m With The Banned opened purposely two weeks before the 2016 election – lot of good that did. I do believe my work fuels respectful conversation. The challenge now is getting it out of the echo chamber of my reality and in front of those who do NOT share my worldview. That’s when the work can move the needle and hopefully build bridges. You’re extremely prolific and determined. What keeps you going? I revel in the making process, watching something evolve from a revelation to a sketch to an actual thing with layers of meaning. I feel privileged to wake each day able to explore my thoughts in a variety of media, be it painting, installation, magazine columns, my blog. I slogged it out for a long time, as a sales guy and an aspiring artist, so now that people are actually paying attention, my appreciation level is red-lining. I just installed a site-specific work in the lobby of the Dupont Building in downtown Miami. I’m eager to do more of this type of work, that responds to events in real time. My newest project is a TV series called Meet Your Makers coming out this month on PBS. Watch for it on the show Art Loft. image image Who have you collaborated with (individuals, collectives and/or organizations)? Harry Truman really nailed it when he said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” My practice has always been rooted in sharing strengths. I love the genius unicorns at The New Tropic who are my co-conspirators on Meet Your Makers. I was honored when For Freedoms, America’s only artist-run Super-PAC, invited me to join their 100-foot mural activation in Wynwood for the election. I had a blast making Fancy Nasty with my good friends at Primary Projects and The Fountainhead. I’m off to Berlin in May to join forces with a group of cutting-edge digital philosophers called re:publica to present my gun-sense installation and video, “How Was School Today.” And the pipeline for some yet-to-be-announced collaborations is full. Tell us about your experience with finding gallery representation. It’s easy. Just toil in obscurity for fifteen years. And the moment you stop giving a shit, and your work matures, galleries start calling you. What advice do you have for artists? Activists? Gallerists? The only advice I have for a creative person is to be true to what lies in the deepest part of you. THAT is your truth and that is the most interesting, inspired and inspiring thing you have to say. Say it loud and unapologetically. What is your biggest fear about the next four years? How do you respond to that fear & what would you like to tell people who may also be fearful? Life in America is Orwellian right now. Up is down. Black is white. Just this week, the new regime at the EPA voted to relax clean water standards. This is not a liberal or conservative issue; it’s a basic human health issue. And it’s emblematic of the wave of false narratives gutting the soul of America, in this case that “regulations” are inherently bad and profitability trumps poisonous water. I’m all for minimizing bureaucracy, but let’s not commit suicide in the process. Let’s be clear, I am afraid … that our country has been hijacked by bad actors who lack compassion and have mastered the game of messaging. Whoever controls the message controls the future. image image Tell us about your show opening this Thursday, March 9th. What do you want viewers to take away from it? Who do you most hope it reaches? In the work I’m exploring right now, I cut American flags to shreds, deconstruct and then reconstruct them into beautiful new forms. This is both a call to folks to take action, any action, which makes them part of the solution to our current crises. And my wish for our country – that we survive these dark times and come out the other side with an even brighter future. In addition to these flag works, select pieces from both my recent series, I’m with The Banned and The Best Books Ever Written, will be displayed. So you get a juicy taste of what I’ve been cooking up the past two years. The exhibition opens March 9th, 7:30-10pm and runs through March 30th - Miami Beach JCC, 4221 Pine Tree Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33140. For more info, contact gallery director Karen Sepsenwol karen@mbjcc.org, 305.534.3206 x214.
One of the new flag works debuting at my Miami Beach opening Thur, March 9th, 7:30-10p! Thru March 31th – Miami Beach JCC, 4221 Pine Tree Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33140. For more info, contact gallery director Karen Sepsenwol karen@mbjcc.org, 305.534.3206 x214.

I also have a solo show opening tonite (March 9th) in Miami Beach. It features American flags cut to shreds, deconstructed and then reconstructed into beautiful new forms. This is my wish for our country – that we survive these dark times and come out the other side with an even brighter future. 

MiamiBchJCCInvite

My friend, the poet Aja Monet, recently said, “It is the duty of artists to make revolution irresistible.” I must admit I am angst-ridden trying to figure how to do this – to Find Myself AND Fund Myself simultaneously. To build bridges … and light a fire under others to do likewise. For starters, a percentage of my art sales this month will be donated to the ACLU and Anti-Defamation League. Hopefully, that still leaves money for me to enjoy the fruits of my labors.

While that alone is clearly not enough, I believe that’s what my dad would do.

All-star year?

Follow the Turkey Vultures To Paradise

t_w_o_o_n_e sketches his Fancy Nasty dreams

World-renownded street artist, t_w_o_o_n_e (Hiroyasu Tsuri) didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life as high school ended in 2003. This posed a big problem, because in Japan you’re supposed to choose your life path at that time, and few ever veer from it.

Not ready to pull that trigger, Hiro bolted the comfort of his native land for Australia, because he desired to learn English, and it was nearer than England. He’d heard of Sydney, so he chose Melbourne, about which he knew nothing.

t_w_o_o_n_e "Black bird" completed for Re.Discover Street Art Festival, Bunbury, Australia, 2014
t_w_o_o_n_e “Black bird” Re.Discover Street Art Festival, Bunbury, Australia, 2014

Hanging at his local one night soon after arriving, Hiro noticed some interesting drawings on the bathroom stall. Whimsically, he grabbed a pencil and added his own flourishes to the existing marks. When he returned the next evening, he noticed that the original artist had drawn his own fresh additions to Hiro’s marks. Over the next few days, the bathroom installation grew and grew, as two total strangers dialogued in spontaneous illustration. Hiro finally met his toilet collaborator, and they became fast friends who began drawing together in public places. Not long after, that pub hosted a show for Hiro, where he sold work and, lucky for the rest of us, realized his path.

t_w_o_o_n_e
t_w_o_o_n_e gets right down to business at Fancy Nasty.

A few weeks ago, I stood at my grill flipping sausages for a gathering of Fancy Nasty artists who’d flown in from various parts of Europe, Asia and South America.

We sipped beers and philosophized about our work, our families, our dreams. All the while, Hiro, now 30, sat drawing on the brown paper in which the sausages had been wrapped. His eyes twinkled when I asked him if I could keep it. “Surely,” he said in soft, musical, perfect English. 

t_w_o_o_n_e drawing
Hiro draws on a sausage wrapper.

In the days that followed, my new friend got busy. Hiro’s first of two exterior walls featured a man’s resolute profile, perhaps a shaman or warrior preparing for battle.

What struck me was how, after Hiro rendered the face perfectly, he chose to mar it with slashes of pink, as if to say, perfection is overrated and life is made compelling by one’s scars. 

t_w_o_o_n_e adds the turkey vulture
t_w_o_o_n_e adds the turkey vulture

The next time I saw the face, Hiro had overlaid it with a bird. When I asked him about it, he said, “When I go to a new place to paint, I like to research the local wildlife. I discovered that the turkey vulture is popular here.” When he said “turkey vulture,” I got chills. “Hiro, do you see that island,” I said, pointing to a cluster of mangroves 300 meters from where we stood. “That is a turkey vulture sanctuary.” Within minutes, turkey vultures swirled high above us.

Stuart Sheldon - Wipeout
@stuart_sheldon – Wipeout (See Notes) aka The Gold Room, 2015 

These past 6 months, crystalizing the vision that became Fancy Nasty, have been some of the most serendipitous and satisfying of my life as an artist … and a person.

Not just because the work that we each made was strong. But because a group of disparate personalities, from the far corners of the globe, each understood immediately the opportunity, and proceeded to roll up their sleeves, put their heads down and get their jobs done, said job being to pull forth from their chests the very beating heart that makes them creative geniuses. Each recognized that Fancy Nasty was not just another art show but an affirmation, in a fraught world, that creative purity abounds, non-commercial excellence compels and mystical connectivity, when acknowledged, spins straw into gold.

The artist sits in quiet contemplation of a job well done.

Hiro is gone, swept off to paint his next masterpiece in Paris and then who knows where. Ditto many of the twenty majestic creatures who touched down briefly, sprinkled their fairy dust and flew away.

To each, I bow humbly, and say, WOW! Thank you for creating with me one of the highlights of my life! And for helping to inaugurate Build Crew, the non-profit I founded with friends to help artists build, install and place public art.

Hiro jumps - the island just off shore is a turkey vulture sanctuary
Wherever he goes, Hiro jumps in! In the distance – the turkey vulture island.

We just can’t stop!

Come hang by the FN fire THIS FRIDAY NIGHT 9pm. BYOB.

Come unwind with the artists
THIS FRIDAY NIGHT (Dec 18th)
around the Fancy Nasty firepit
9pm – ??

BYOB!!! 

5625 North Bayshore Drive in Morningside

Don’t take my word for it. Here is what Fusion TV had to say about Fancy Nasty:

 

t_w_o_o_n_e & NOVE
t_w_o_o_n_e & NOVE collaboration. Painted in two days.

 

NOVE @digitalorganico
NOVE @digitalorganico (Sao Paolo)

 

Strawberrita Dreams
Strawberrita Dreams

 

Andrea Nhuch
Andrea Nhuch @thenhuch

 

Kelly Breez
Kelly Breez

 

Fuckin Feelin It
Fuckin Feelin It

 

@Hoxxoh & Brandon Opalka go old-school ballistic
@Hoxxoh & Brandon Opalka go old-school ballistic

 

Another day at the office.
Another day at the Fancy Nasty office

 

DJ Strategy flew the Golden Age Hiphop in from New Orleans - OMFG!
DJ Strategy flew the Golden Age Hiphop in from New Orleans – OMFG!

 

@stuart_sheldon
@stuart_sheldon

 

Gustavo Amaral & Andrea Nhuch
Gustavo Amaral & Andrea Nhuch

 

Strawberrita Dreams
Strawberrita Dreams. It’s lit, alright!

 

Gary Feinberg
Gary Feinberg

 

@zosenbandido & @mina_hamada
@zosenbandido & @mina_hamada (Buenos Aires & Tokyo)

 

Kelly Breez
@KellyBreez

 

Michael Loveland
Michael Loveland @flyinglovebucket

 

Lee-Joon Youn
Lee-Joon Youn (S. Korea)

 

Randy Burman
@RandyBurman

 

Jesse Laino
Light sculpture by Jesse Laino @real_jesse . Mirror etching by Kyle Chapman @krbchapman

 

Dracula
Dracula performs around the Bambi shrine and nightmare disco ball.

 

Typoe
@Typoe

 

Kiss.
Kiss me now!

 

Benji Cospolite
Benji Cospolite

 

Wyatt Gallery
@wyattgallery

 

MSG Crew
MSG Crew

 

Autumn Casey
Autumn Casey @strawbrry5trill_

 

Benji Cospolite
Benji Cospolite

 

Shiny happy people.
Shiny happy people.

 

Autumn Casey
Autumn Casey

 

Magic
Magic

 

Jesse Laino
Jesse Laino & Kyle Chapman

 

@stuart_sheldon
@stuart_sheldon

 

Autumn Casey
Autumn Casey

 

Gustavo Amaral
@GustavoAmaral (Sao Paolo)

 

Primary Projects makes a rainbow
Primary Projects makes a rainbow

 

@stuart_sheldon
Gimme That Cold Money! @stuart_sheldon

 

t_w_o_o_n_e & NOVE sketch their next moves
t_w_o_o_n_e & NOVE sketch their next moves. With Elif Ucan from @spokeofficial

 

FN typist

 

Magic
More Magic

 

We killed it!
We killed it!

Fancy Nasty is all over Instagram at #FancyNasty and #thegoldhouse. 

If you missed it, read more about it here and see more photos here. Message me for a private tour before the show gets scraped off the planet by bulldozers next month. And, if you’re the media, hit me to cover the destruction of the installation with all this killer art inside.

Hells yeah!!

Stuart Sheldon
Mic Drop!