On this October Noon the season change becomes more and more evident. The gradual shift in the atmospheric hue...the subtle chilling of the summers’ air, it all reminds me of how change is simultaneously rapid and noticeably slow. I try in more mindful moments to draw parallels from this annual seasonal shift to my personal legend as my life is written according to Gods’ program of each day.
In fact today I recall a critical point in my evolution as an Artist that occurred in the autumn of 2013. The situation at the Dopamine Clinic is very challenging now but they were certainly more precarious at that time. I was heavily depressed and chemically dependent on alcohol,tobacco, and D.C.s’ infamous “Bizarro bag (JWH-18)”. It finally resulted in my collapse on the evening of a failed art show the Dopamine Clinic had put on at the Electric Maid in Takoma Park...like it was BAD...Less than 30 people showed up and I just broke from all of the pressure and had a colleague of the time drive me to the Psychiatric Institute of Washington. I was going in to detox and subsequently be placed into a drug rehabilitation program for low income people in Safe Haven Ministries...
I got to P.I.W and after 5 days of detoxing was transported to the drug rehabilitation program for the intake process. So began the 28 day countdown. To prepare for this situation I had brought along a cache of art supplies hoping the experience would at least be marked by some potentially ground breaking work on my own end. I began making collages at a furious pace. After all “I am the Dopamine Clinics’ collage master...This is what I do “ was the thinking. I made so many that I had enough to give away to program peers and staff members alike... I was satisfied, but something changed that smug satisfaction along the path to exit...Forever.
That change came when I fell into the company of a man named “Gooby” who was an ex convict from the “Lorton-era” and he was a program graduate who was taking up residency in the transitional housing provided to certain alumni. He took notice of my work and was one of the few people I met in that period who said he “wasn’t feelin’ it” (referencing my collage artistry). I was a bit floored...but his feedback struck me in a very core way when he said “ They said you were an artist. I thought you DRAW...like don’t you DRAW?” I was speechless. I was speechless because I didn’t draw...not anymore at the time. In fact I couldn’t! I had lost the ability in my teens and I had been hiding that insecurity behind the collages... Gooby had exposed me! Months before (another psychiatric hospital stint), an artist in the makeshift APS (Adult psychiatric Services) collective I put together under the Dopamine Clinic imprint had a guy I’ll call “Hope”. Hope was working constantly with markers on Graffiti Black Book type works...He was the first person to put the “bug in my ear” while all 6 or so of us were working at one of the tables in the unit...”Dude, you’ve gotta draw…Dude you’ve gotta start drawing”...He repeated it a few more times but I had found a way to eschew it...but this time it had come to full circle and I couldn’t escape it...
Gooby went to his room and pulled out an array of black and white pencil drawings on thick,hard, chip board that were full of virtually photographic detail of popular culture icons from Michael Jackson to Chuck Brown. I was amazed and to be honest thoroughly intimidated by the clear and apparent skill quality of his work. I mean, this guys work was evincing unquestionable skill and dedication as a true artist of the atelier traditions of lore, whereas mine were subject to the caprice of modernist sentiments...I mean let’s be real...there are ALOT of artists like me at the time who simply CAN’T draw! Like myself formerly, they hide behind the pervasiveness of abstraction to sustain their career momentum in an era that permits that. It is not dissimilar, but is in fact parallel to the trends in modern pop-rap as opposed to classic hip- hop.
Classic hip-hop required the “emcee” to have a clear skill set on the microphone and be “nice”. These days a man or woman with the most imbecilic range of creativity and skill (if we can call it that) earns a place among the greats based on the simplicity of the multitude... I digress...but yes I was once the art world equivalent of a “mumble rapper”…living on my own hype so to speak. Yet having at once ceded that I submitted to what I will dub the Pai Mei/Kill Bill” level of instruction under “Cifu” Gooby. I did not become a master draftsman in the weeks I studied and worked under him. However the seeds were planted that would make me a much more versatile and confident artist. After graduating from the drug program in early November of 2013 I didn’t return to the pencil and paper until early 2015.
Like a classic relapse, I slipped back into what was more native to my hands and eyes...After all, the Dopamine Clinic was virtually a synagogue of Scissors...a mosque of magazines! A guild of glue! However today I stand tall as an Artist who has full confidence in his skill set that has roots in abstract creative expression and technical sophistication...because once I picked up the pencil again...I never put it down. In fact I married my previous collage work to draftsmanship and painting, which is the foundation of my inimitable signature style at today’s Dopamine Clinic...
I am grateful to have met “Gooby the master”. In a world where ones’ confidence can be shaken so easily by the sheer subjectivity of the forces within the realm I find my center of gravity in knowing…not believing…but KNOWING…that like a true emcee… I’m “nice”...even when the world doesn’t “recognize” ;-)
(The Closing words were written with a smirk on my face as Eric B & Rakims’ “Don’t Sweat The Technique played in my head.)