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Day Is Done

February 2, 2012

A sad day indeed.  Yesterday marked the passing of two key figures in the popular milieu.  Both within a few miles of each other off the 210 freeway, both apparent suicides.  In the words of Ariel Marcus Rosenberg – “Life in L.A. is so lonely.”

First up, contemporary American artist Mike Kelley (b. 1954).  Kelley’s work involved found objects, textile banners, drawings, assemblage, collage, performance and video.  He often worked collaboratively and had done projects with artists Paul McCarthy, Tony Oursler and John Miller.

Mike Kelley

Much can be read about Mike on the internet.  Especially now.  Coming out of Cal Arts in the seventies, he was a student of John Baldessari.  His images and assemblages plumbed the deepest chasms of his psyche and libido. The thing about Mike’s work is that I identified with it so strongly.  I saw ALOT of myself in him – his childhood traumas, extreme sensitivity, and breadth of interest.  The humor – the likes of which only could have come from deep pain.

More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid & The Wages Of Sin (1987, Stuffed fabric toys and afghans on canvas with dried corn; wax candles on wood and metal base) Whitney Museum Of American Art

I met Kelley once.   It was in 1995, when I was living in the Los Angeles area.  I was visiting my grandmother in Venice one evening and noticed in a local weekly that Mike was giving a lecture at an Architecture school in Long Beach.  Jumping on the freeway and heading down, I made it in for the beginning of his talk, which was primarily focused around Repressed Memory Syndrome – something I was interested in, and was under the impression he was in therapy for at the time.  He had recently completed the Half-a-Man series.

He described growing up in post-war suburban Detroit.  As you might imagine, Mike was not your average Wayne, Michigan teen.  His father chastised him harshly concerning this matter, insisting he “act more normal” – meaning engage in more male group activities, namely sports.  In response, he took up Crochet and knitting – spending hours in his room making afghans and sock monkeys, simply to spite his father.  These activities informed his later work.

Animal Self (l) and Friend Of The Animals (r) 1987, glued felt

Afterward, I approached him, and he sat down with me for a bit.  We discussed Trauma Search Therapy, building models of public schools we had attended from memory in an effort to exorcise repressed emotional scars, and felt church banners. I have a collection of original signed Corita Kent prints, and this interested him a great deal.  His last installation, Day is Done (2005), a funhouse-like multimedia installation including automated furniture, films of dream-like ceremonies inspired by high school year book photos of pageants, sports matches and theater productions was described as a pioneering example of “clusterfuck aesthetics,” the tendency towards overloaded multimedia environments in contemporary art.

It is just so sad to have lost another dear soul, and keen observer.  More Love Hours Than Can EVER Be Repaid.  So long, Mike.  The things of this world no longer concern you.

Don Cornelius

I grew up watching Don Cornelius hold court every Saturday Morning (after Schoolhouse Rock) on the Black Is Beautiful televised phenomena that was Soul Train.  Don was the epitome of cool, collected class.  He was youth and maturity all in one.  And then there were the Sistas.  At the age of five I went Black – and NEVER went back.

We may never know why Don chose to depart this world at his own hand.  I believe his true nature was not unlike his stage persona.. all movements, actions and decisions were totally together.  The man was in control – to the end.  God bless him, and Godspeed.

So to you Mike and Don I say this…Love, Peace, and SSSSOOOUUULLLL!


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