King of The Jungle

The King Is In The Castle

“Dust everywhere… and out of that emerged this beautiful boy with the bluest eyes I’d ever seen, holding his hand out to help me to my feet.” – Marie Lu, Legend.

We ate sushi and spaghetti for Thanksgiving last week with a giggly group of old and new friends in the remote Costa Rican surf/yoga mecca of Nosara, a place my wife and I hold deeply sacred. Sitting alone on my board the following morning, Black Friday, I stared into the vast blue and recalled the last time we visited – twelve years earlier – utterly broken and terrified we’d never have children. 

Nosara Thanksgiving 2018
Nosara Thanksgiving 2018
Our Sausalito, CA Houseboat 2006

Three miscarriages in one year had turned the lights out on our typically shiny, happy life. The third, at 19 weeks, shut our hearts down completely. All we wanted was kids. A few weeks before Christmas 2006, we opted to bury ourselves deep in Nosara’s jungle with hopes of healing. Sunlight dusted the sky our first morning, as Jodi slept, and I paddled into the warm, buttery ocean. I stared into that same Pacific void, taking deep circular breaths. And got magnificently lost in the ocean’s bounty for the next three hours, until my arms were spaghetti, and I came in to meet my wife for breakfast. Jodi sat immersed in Overcoming Life’s Disappointments by Harold Kushner, and she handed me a passage that read, “When we open our hearts to pain and suffering, we begin to heal, not because suffering is redemptive but because opening our hearts is.”

Tell Me Again, 70"x48" Acrylic, paper, antique maps, linen on panel 2005
Tell Me Again, 70″x48″ Acrylic, paper, antique maps, linen on panel 2006

When we returned to Sausalito, Jodi told me she was ready to try again but that this was the last time. If our fourth pregnancy did not work, she simply could not handle another attempt physically or emotionally. That was a tough pill to swallow, but I swallowed it in silence. 

The fourth pregnancy with Jodi on bedrest with her dog and manservant in our houseboat.
The fourth pregnancy – Jodi on houseboat bedrest with her dog and manservant.

Opening our hearts

Watching my squealing boys jump into the bean-shaped pool last weekend … and paddle out by my side into the forgiving surf … and engage smartly with interested adults, I felt music in me … a soulful bass line that thumped in my open heart. A rhythm born of both agony and ecstasy beneath a melody sung in the voices of children. My children. 

Before we ever met, Jodi and I dreamt of living abroad with our future families. We had no idea that the family part would be such a struggle. But that struggle produced in us both a hyper awareness, not intellectual but cellular. Akin to a blind person who one day gets to see. Every color, every shape, even the most mundane, becomes sanctified. One simply wants to keep one’s eyes open and see see see. 

Really Good Food - acrylic paint, 1950s Betty Crocker Cookbook on wood panel, 48x32” 2016
Really Good Food – acrylic paint, 1950s Betty Crocker Cookbook on wood panel, 48×32” 2016. Available.

Yes, the world is a mess, but my gratitude burns hotter than ever … for the privilege of fatherhood and the love of a fine woman. And living parents. And friends who keep me laughing. And the opportunity to live simply in unspoiled nature. And the ability to transform whimsy into works of art. Mine is a full belly that has known the pain of hunger. 

Art Basel 2018

Find my work at Pinta Art Fair during Art Basel Miami 2018

For the first time in a while, I won’t be attending Art Basel Miami this year (I’ll be surfing). But I invite you and your friends to find my paintings at the Pinta Fair in Wynwood. 

Gratitude not Attitude!

Smart People Being Smart

Peay Vineyards July 4 2008I’m generally a happy guy. Cute wife. Bouncy kids. Fuzzy dog. So it’s hard to wake up each morning to something like this:

“How does a lie come to be widely taken as the truth? The answer is disturbingly simple: Repeat it over and over again. When faced with facts that contradict the lie, repeat it louder.”

This NYT editorial from earlier this week discussed the remarkable success of the voter fraud myth. Despite being statistically non-existent (31 cases in over a billion ballots), this false narrative has convinced nearly half of registered voters that voter fraud is a problem that justifies making voting more difficult for many (read brown people). While this makes me want to throw up in my mouth and this mass deception is being created almost entirely by one party, I’m not going all political diatribe here. 

The artist Hoxxoh at work
The artist Hoxxoh at work

Instead, to keep me from walking into a Dairy Queen and punching everybody in the face, I will pivot to something utterly joyful. I’m thrilled to introduce my newest project, MEET YOUR MAKERS, a collaboration with the phenomenal editorial team at The New Tropic. 

For each episode of MYM, I sit down with creative geniuses and pick their brains about their process and what makes them do their thing. Our first episode features uber worldwide muralist Douglas Hoekzema aka Hoxxoh. Here’s a little taste (the main event is at the bottom of this post).

Over decades, Hoxxoh developed an instantly recognizable style based on his dedication and fascination with a particular mark and its infinite variations. His work graces the far corners of the globe, and he’s currently painting (as you read this) the largest commission of his life, a 25,000 square foot wall on a gorgeous beachfront high rise. 

Hoxxoh 25000sf wall
Hoxxoh’s largest wall ever. You’re looking at just 1/6 of what it will be.

Through these delightful artist-to-artist interactions I, and hopefully you, are reminded that our world is not just a giant shit-storm of hate and lies. And that our best impulses can and are being put to their right uses by many. And that magic dust is real and is being sprinkled daily by makers and thinkers who cannot and will not be influenced by anything but their own inner compasses. 

Hoxxoh mural at Miami Marine Stadium

Meet Your Makers honors the good guys. The fearless. The heartbeats. Those on an endless quest to express the truth for the greater good, whether that truth hurts or not. We fight the spineless who cheat via falsehoods, paying attention only to their personal benefit without caring one iota for what is fair or just or globally harmful.

Voter Map of Shame
In these dark times when politics often ruins my days before they begin, I am tingly all over to be a part of something solely aimed at celebrating smart people being really smart. 

Hoxxoh Process

Ladies & Gentlemen…it is my distinct pleasure to present to you the inaugural episode of Meet Your Makers!

Fancy Nasty Forever!

Stuart Sheldon

If you made it to the epic Fancy Nasty finale bonfire last Saturday night, hosted by The New Tropic, lucky YOU. If not … next time (we’re just warming up). Many people are calling this grassroots installation and Art Basel favorite an important milestone in Miami’s creative evolution, one whose purity will evoke smiles and hand-to-heart respect for decades. I don’t disagree.  

Fancy Nasty

My name is Stuart Sheldon. I’m both very fancy and very nasty, a fine artist, author, curator, blogger, Build Crew non-profit co-founder and Miami native. I created Fancy Nasty to let both artists I admired and art-lovers, like you, immerse themselves without limitations. Free from any commercial considerations. Knowing the whole things was to be scraped away by bulldozers.  

@stuart_sheldon building Fancy Nasty
@stuart_sheldon building Fancy Nasty

With Build Crew, we fully intend to produce many more site-specific celebrations in the years ahead. More art for art’s sake. So, hit me with YOUR ideas for venues and concepts. And visit me in my studio any time. Learn more about my creative journey here. Together, let’s continue to throw logs on the bonfire of Miami’s stunning creative ascent.

In the Meantime, chew on these delicious mementos of the Fancy Nasty freak show!!!

Come hang by the FN fire THIS FRIDAY NIGHT 9pm. BYOB.
Wall by @Hoxxoh & Brandon Opalka @bopalka

 

Typoe
@Typoe. photo by @wyattgallery

 

t_w_o_o_n_e & NOVE
t_w_o_o_n_e & NOVE collaboration.

 

@mina_hamada & @zosenbandido
@mina_hamada & @zosenbandido

 

Autumn Casey
Autumn Casey @litclit_

 

MSG Crew
Face by MSG Crew

 

Stuart Sheldon - Wipeout
Wipeout (See Notes) @stuart_sheldon

 

Jesse Laino
Jesse Laino @real_jesse

 

Strawberrita Dreams
Strawberrita Dreams

 

Kelly Breez
@kellybreez

 

Fuckin Feelin It
Fuckin Feelin It

 

Michael Loveland
Michael Loveland @flyinglovebucket

 

NOVE @digitalorganico
NOVE @digitalorganico

 

@stuart_sheldon
@stuart_sheldon

 

Typoe
@Typoe

 

Benji Cospolite photo by @wyattgallery
Benji Cospolite photo by @wyattgallery

 

Nove & t_w_o_o_n_e collaboration (right wall). Zosen & Mina Hamada (left wall)
Nove & t_w_o_o_n_e collaboration (right wall). Zosen & Mina Hamada (left wall)

 

Can I kick it ... @wyattgallery
Can I kick it … @wyattgallery

 

Andrea Nhuch
Andrea Nhuch @thenhuch

 

All the Information You Need is Right Here. Mixed media, 2015
@stuart_sheldon

 

@zosenbandido & @mina_hamada
@zosenbandido & @mina_hamada

 

FN typist
Fancy Nasty typist

 

Kiss.
Kiss! t_w_o_o_n_e

If you have not already, check out The New Tropic’s wonderful write-up.

The New Tropic's glowing review of Fancy Nasty

UNTIL NEXT TIME … CONGRATS … WE KILLED IT!!

We killed it!

 

How To Get Into My Pants

Eight Years in the Studio, Work Pants, Acylic on cardboard, Old window, 2014, Stuart Sheldon
Eight Years in the Studio, Work Pants, Acylic and paper on cardboard, Old window, 2014, Stuart Sheldon

We all wear uniforms that hold our secrets. Your suit, scrubs, hardhat, sensible shoes, heels, sneakers define you in some subtle or overt way.

My painting clothes, the work pants and shirts ripped and spattered over a decade in the studio, bear all the marks and scars that define any artist: triumph, failure, magic, truth, dedication, doubt, sex, beauty, repulsion and perseverance.

Nice pants!

I just finished a piece for a show this weekend at Locust Projects, a venerable Miami art space focused on experimental work. I’ve been invited into this show for a number of years and take the honor quite seriously.

The pants were not my first idea for this exhibition. My original plan was a large sculpture made of Illy coffee cans I’ve been hoarding for years (much to Jodi’s chagrin). However, I’ve not yet cracked the code on how to best present these shining metal cylinders for maximum impact.  

Daddy needs coffee
Daddy needs lots of coffee

The pants were Plan B (though I’ve been thinking about how to exhibit my painting clothes for years).

Originally, I wanted to present each cherished article of work clothing separately behind glass in wooden box frames, creating elegant tension … but at $900 a frame, that was not happening.

Hanging from monofilament
Hanging from monofilament

Next, I thought to hang the pants from monofilament to create the illusion that they were standing up, as if inhabited by a ghost. That did not feel right either.  Too limp. 

Finally, as my deadline approached, with no better solution, I opted to simply tack the battered jeans to the wall of the gallery.

Tacked to the wall
Tacked to the wall

And so the show was hung, with my pants thrust against the wall like an invisible scarecrow. As I strolled the preview last week, I thought my piece looked good amidst a sea of compelling work. The following day, as I worked in my studio for another upcoming show, my phone rang.

The gallery director from Locust said, “I want to talk to you about your piece. Some people I’ve spoken with have commented that this work doesn’t seem to fit the pattern of work you’ve submitted in past years. Those works started conversations and really made you want to know more.”

A previous year's piece
A previous year’s piece

 

Another year - a crowd favorite
Another year – a crowd favorite. One vial contains my blood.

WHAT A BUZZKILL!

For two reasons (three if you count bruised ego):

1. In my mind, I was already done with that work and onto other big art and writing projects.
2. I did not have another piece teed up to fix this.

The gallerist made her case yet made no specific demands; she left the decision up to me. I hung up and thought hard about her frank assessment.

And goddammit if she wasn’t 100% right.

Fact is, the tacked-up piece was the result of my failure NOT my success in presenting this rich concept. 

When I told Jodi she said, “Yeah … I wasn’t going to say anything, but …” Jeeeez!

I called the director back and told her, “I like the pants. They have a deep narrative and I dig their aesthetic.” I explained how my original plans did not pan out. And asked how she thought the piece might be best presented.

She bounced the question back to me but not before saying basically, Don’t make it about the pants!

So often, we fail to recognize the essence of the thing we are staring at. 

Luckily, some geniuses have eyes that see further, wider and deeper than the rest of us. Moreover, they are able to activate the sight of others, gently yet precisely. That exceptionally capable gallerist did just that with her few courageous words. 

And old window meets a lonely painting
And old window meets a lonely painting

I shut my eyes … and when I reopened them I immediately dug through my studio and found an old window I’d been saving for the better part of a decade for just such a moment. And a painting I’d been stuck on for years. And together, these forlorn ingredients became a lovely new recipe, which in a few hours came hot out of the oven.

The piece with a different pair of pants
The Locust Projects piece with a different pair of pants.

“Now we are talkin’,” the gallerist said with a wink, when I showed her the revised work. It was all she needed to say.

Locust Smash & Grab 2014
Locust Smash & Grab 2014, Saturday, Oct 25, 6:30-9:30.

If you’re local, come to Locust Projects THIS SATURDAY NITE, Oct 25th. Auction starts promptly at 7:30pm. Tix $50.

Locust Projects 3852 North Miami Avenue, Miami, FL 33127

I hope you’ll each get into my pants!

One Small Dream That Came True

Matheson Hammock

You’re on a beach, beneath a coconut palm, sipping a cold juice, as you watch the antics of a pudgy naked baby digging in the sand and splashing at the water’s edge. It’s not your baby, but the pureness of the scene delights you at your core.

I was that baby. Frolicking in the buttery waters of a small protected lagoon called Matheson Hammock in Miami. 

That joyful memory burned itself into my psyche, and I always dreamed that one day my own child would be that baby, shrieking with the same delight. But that simple little notion stood frozen for decades, buried beneath the fear that I may never have kids. Until, at age 45, my first lovely son waded through that gentle water, his own dimpled tush covered in sand. I stood a few feet away and teared up silently behind my sunnies.

Dreams need not be epic to be important.

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.” T. E. Lawrence.

We all yearn for  the home runs: wealth, creative power, professional ascendance. But, we often brush past the everyday events we hope for … and achieve.

Life is the small stuff stacked into a pile. And that pile becomes our memories. And those memories become our narrative.

It could be as basic as doing down dog with feet finally flat on the ground after 20 years of hamstrings tight as bridge girders (thank you, Day!). Or throwing your conservative upbringing to the wind to get a tattoo. Or cooking an eggplant parm tender enough to cut with a fork. Whatever it is, that quiet victory satisfied you deeply. And that satisfaction is something you should revisit and wallow in a while. “Spend some time wit it, mon,” a Rasta once said to me. Sage advice.

Regal Elephant, acrylic & Chinese funeral paper on paper, 8"x12", Stuart Sheldon
Regal Elephant, acrylic & Chinese funeral paper on paper, 8″x12″, Stuart Sheldon

Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Bullshit. Many of our dreams die on the vine. But that’s okay. Many do indeed come true. That is not to say that we should not dream big. Quite the contrary. Go big or go home. But keep those big mama dreams in perspective. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I was shooting the breeze with Terry Gross about my memoir, A Lonely Fool’s Masterpiece, and the extraordinary odyssey it represents in the life of my wife and me. But, finding an A-list publisher is tough these days. I get it. It’s fine. I’m on it.

Our big dreams will always be there, the mountains we all aim to climb. Hopefully, we all summit.

But think of a tiny dream you’ve achieved recently that really felt good in your gut? Honor that small personal triumph that meant something to you.

Do a little victory dance in the end zone of your heart. Go ahead and spike the ball! Then share it here.

 This post is dedicated to my friend and food artist, Chris L’Hommedieu and his wife Kendra Stanley. Chris died yesterday at 44. But his food and grace personally fulfilled some of my dreams.