An Artist’s Life

A somewhat funny story for you

The setup- When I was a young man I was a stoner, my artistic vision was limited to stoner art. I would draw things fueled by L.S.D. or Cannabis, and they looked good but I found myself drawing the same subjects over and over again. Then in my late 20’s I found Heroin and I left my art life behind.

Then in 1986 I got clean and sober. I spent a lot of time going to Twelve Step meetings with the purpose of changing my life, the last thing on my mind was art. In my second year of staying clean, I went to a Twelve step meeting in the southwest area of Detroit. I met this man who was 6ft 2in tall, slender, his head was about 98% shaved except 1 ft braided ponytail he grew at the back of his head. He wore a black leather jacket, black jeans and black biker boots… I wanted to know this guy, he just drew me to him. I sat near him at the table he was sharing his story at. As I listened to him I found out that he was a recovering junkie just like me, and then the clincher came, HE SAID THAT HE WAS AN ARTIST! I just died and went to heaven! I had felt like a Misfit in recovery for the last year or so and here was a man that was from the streets just like me.

We started to hang out together, he took to the Detroit Institute of arts and showed me around and he pointed out all of his favorite artists and their paintings and drawings. I zeroed in on Salvador Dali instantly! I became inspired by Dali, so inspired that the minute I got home I went to my pencils and worked on my first drawing in what felt like years.

I almost forgot to tell you his name, he was Kirk. Kirk and I went to downtown Detroit a lot to see some of the best bands in the 1980’s, we went to Saint Andrews Hall most of the time. Saint Andrews Hall was a concert venue located near Greektown in Detroit, MI. We saw bands such as: Revolting Cocks, Ministry, The Ramones, Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy and many more. I was almost attacked by Wendy O’ Williams of the Plasmatics, I was so taken by her act that I locked eyes with her and she didn’t like it. Kirk was an oil painter and he was damn good too, but he also used soft pastels, and clay in his art. I was not as good at drawing as he was, but he never said that I was not. Kirk was taking a Life drawing class over at The Center For Creative Studies in Detroit and he asked me to come sit in on a class, so I did, and I learned how to set up a human figure drawing. To this day I’m still not good with faces, but I can draw the human figure. Kirk taught me that it was alright not to have a face on my humans as long as the message of what they were doing in the drawing was conveyed.

Kirk got a strange but really cool job as a seasonal desk clerk at the Grand Hotel over on Mackinac Island (Yes, the same hotel where the movie “The Shining” was filmed at) the hotel didn’t have but 4 guests in the Winter time when he worked so we didn’t see each other much. He came back to the mainland in the Spring and then we would hang out.

One year, Kirk entered an art exhibit that was being held at high class shopping center called “Trappers Alley” in downtown Detroit,MI. he told me that if I wanted to I could be in it to. I asked him what he wanted me to do and he exclaimed “You’ll see” with that kind of an answer I wasn’t sure what to say. The next day we went to a local art store and he bought a box of plaster covered gauze bandages, then we stopped and got a large jar of vaseline and then we went to a hardware store and bought some painters drop clothes.

The next day we went over to my house and we laid the drop clothes on the floor, and then Kirk spoke softly “Gordon? here is what I want you to do” I looked at him quizzically, he continued”I want you to strip down to your underwear and rub a thin coating of vaseline all over all your exposed skin from head to toe”. I gave him a look as though he had just asked me to jump into a tub of molten lava. “Don’t worry, it’s not gonna hurt, you’ll be alright, I promise”. I grumbled under my breath “last time someone told me that, I ended up with a 45 caliber pistol to my head, during a dope deal that went wrong”. Kirk smiled and told me that this was going to work out just fine. I was not amused. “Look Gordon, if you don’t wanna be in my art exhibit, it’s ok” he sadly said. I finally agreed to do it, so I stripped down to my underwear and all of a sudden he yelled “NO! you gotta shave your body” I looked shocked as I silently cried “Really? ok then” I went in to the bathroom and shaved as much hair off of my arms, legs and head as I could. I then slathered my whole body in vaseline and practically fell on my ass on my way back to the room. I laid down on the plastic tarps and Kirk went to fill up a bucket with warm water. he took off the plastic bag from each roll of plaster coated gauze and soaked them in the bucket of warm water. As he was wrapping my right foot he asked me if I had peed? I told him I had, he said “Good, because you won’t be able to move for about three hours” “Oh Shit! really?” I replied, I felt as though I had agreed to be run through a garbage disposal. Kirk kept wrapping me up with the wet plaster gauze. It may have been in warm water, but it still felt cold and clammy as he slowly wrapped me up. We were listening to “The Sisters of Mercy” and the song “The Temple of love” came on and I pictured myself the victim of some Egyptian priest who was getting me ready for my burriel. Kirk stopped for a moment and suggested I have a last cigarette, “Awe Shit! really? now?” I exclaimed, I was not ready for this, and all he was wrapping were my hands and arms.

I was completely immobilized by now, Kirk took out a drinking straw and cut it into three pieces. He put two of the short straws into each nostril of my nose, he then put the last piece of straw into my mouth. Kirk then put a foam rubber ear plug into each of my ears. He explained that the two straws in my nose were there so that I could breath. The third straw that was in my mouth was for me to be able to smoke a cigarette or have a sip of soda. So far, I felt as though I’d been laying on the floor for what seemed like half the day, and we embarked on this task at 10 am that day.

Warning: I’m going to use lots of old and obscure film references in these next few paragraphs. Some you may remember and some you may not have ever heard of. Rest assured, you and I are going to have fun.

Kirk told me to close my eyes as he started to wrap my nose and cheeks. I felt as though I was actor “Ray Milland” in the film “The man with the x-ray eyes” as the plastered gauze bandages were being wrapped around my eyes. The bandages were setting and becoming a dry type of moist (Yes Hera, Moist) I was cautioned not to move, ” Mumph a Mumph” I exclaimed, as in, how can I? I could feel my eyeballs darting back and forth through the slight weight of the bandages over them. All of a sudden Kirk yelled “I’m finished, now we wait until the plaster sets”.

by now, I’m dying of laughter as I see all kinds of images running through my mind. I saw “Dennis The Menace and Mr. Wilson” the part where Mr. Wilson is in bed encased in a body cast (like me) and Dennis comes along side the bed and bumps into his elevated leg, and Mr. Wilson shreeks in pain. Then I see myself as Frankenstein’s monster in the Boris Karloff film “Frankenstein 1970” all wrapped up from head to toe in bandages, such as I am at this moment.

So now I’m drying up (Spongebob reference) and Kirk starts gingerly moving me around. He start’s cutting away at my waistline, then he cuts down my right leg, and then my left leg. Kirk pulls the casting off and it surprisingly stays together. Then, he works on my arms and my torso, I’m being freed a little at a time. Kirk gets to my head and I reach up and pull out the straws and ear plugs. “I’m free! ” I exclam. The whole process took about 4 hours from start to finish.

The Art exhibit

One week later on a Saturday, Kirk and I went to downtown Detroit to set up his art exhibit. To my delight he had much more artworks to set up than I had thought. The theme Kirk chose was “Homeless on the streets of Detroit, MI.” We set up paintings, and pastel paintings and then there was my figure, He had cut my figure into two sections, it was separated at the waist. He set up a replica of a park bench and then set my figure upon it. Kirk put a hat on its head and a pair of pants on him, then he put a short sleeved shirt on the top half then of course, he stuck a syringe in his arm. This replica of a homeless junkie was supposed to represent a man in “Needle Park” (I think every major city in the world has a park nicknamed Needle Park). The space looked really good, it was rumored that the then governor Engler was touring the exhibit.

This is one of my many stories.

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