Two Johns and a Whore: Conjugating Myself

Last Sunday’s LA Times let the cat of the bag:  If you read to the end in the awesome profile of  the magazine-publisher-turned-successful-gallery-owner Mat Gleason, you’ll see that I’m an artist and I’m curating an art show that opens January 11, 2014 at Coagula Curatorial.

Part of the reason I began writing about art as part of pop culture is that I love it; the other part is that it is a job and it’s awesome to get offered a gig doing what you love. So here I am, a pop culture journalist, curating a show which if I wasn’t curating I would be writing about (and probably with better sentence construction!). So I guess I should write about it, even though it feels in many ways like shameless self-promotion–though more importantly it’s excited promotion of artists whose work I like, and is a show that is pretty wow (if I do say so myself).

Here’s why I would be writing about this show: “Two Johns and a Whore” is the gallery debut of two artists who create outside of the white cube: Award-winning performance artist and actor John Fleck, and filmmaker John Roecker, who I have written about before here, and who has been a guest twice on FDL Movie Night, once for Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Gay Porn Stars, and again for his awesome gender-bending Svengali webseries.

“Two Johns and Whore” features internationally known Los Angeles-based artists Anthony Ausgang (who I have also written about here), Stacy Lande, Louie Metz, Mike Street and Kelly Thompson; plus Sheila Cameron who created the notorious “Free Katie” tee-shirts and took on NY art critic’s Jerry Saltz’s challenge to make 55 works of art in 3 months with no allusion to fairy-tale; San Diego-based visual artist, author, and musician Rafael Reyes; Bradford J. Salaman who is on exhibit at Lancaster’s Museum of Art and History through January 5;  singer/artist/writer/director/ Jane Cantillon; adult star and author Oriana Small Nazworthy (aka Ashley Blue); multi-media artist Kelly Blunt; and artist Mimi Universe, who owned Silver Lake’s popular Iota Gallery.

John Fleck is one of NEA 4, lynchpins of the culture wars, and his one-man shows delve into love, sex, death, families, pop iconography, and celebrity culture. John Roecker’s first feature film, Live Freaky Die Freaky is a claymation re-visioning of the Manson Family; his documentary, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Gay Male Porn Stars, was banned by Amazon; an article I wrote for La Figa, which was x-posted to Huffington Post changed that. His Green Day documentary, Heart Like a Hand Grenade, is due out in 2014. Both Johns are heroes of mine; they fearlessly and unabashedly dive into their work with passion and fierce dedication. Their lives are also works of art; they are constantly creating, while inspiring those around them.

I know both the Johns socially, we have meals in others homes, celebrate the holidays together. Earlier this year I was taking Curator’s College from Mat Gleason, which gave us students a chance to not only co-curate a one night show with art from his office, but to pitch him on a dream show. Three nights before the pitch class, I went to dinner with Fleck and his boyfriend Randy at my favorite neighborhood restaurant Papilles, and John mentioned he was curious about doing an art show. Roecker–who I have known since he opened the Silver Lake shock shop You’ve Got Bad Taste and curated an LA punk rock retrospective at Track 16–had over the past couple years told me he wanted to show his art in a gallery. Light bulbs went off as the Bordeaux went down and our braised lamb arrived at the table: Two Johns…two Johns…what goes with “johns”?  Whore. Two Johns and a whore, duh.

The whore part was easy to figure: Eleven or twelve artists interpreting “whore” and/or prostitution.  And I know at least a dozen artists. One thing Mat had stressed in Curator’s College was “associations.” Who you know, how you know them. I’m lucky that somehow a lot of artists and I have crossed paths (and it helps that my other is as editor for CARTWHEEL, a Los Angeles-based art website!. So I asked a couple of them:

If I could do this, would you participate?

And then on pitch day, I pitched Mat:

Two Johns and Whore, John Fleck, who like Karen Finley [Mat had shown Finley at Coagula and brought her to Miami for the Miami Art Fairs in 2012] one of the NEA 4. John Roecker,  controversial filmmaker. gallery debuts for both of them.

Then I listed off a few artists who had said yes. He liked it. And I was serious.

So over the next couple months, I checked in with Mat about dates. He said yes, definitely, once he got everything worked out at with move from 977 to 974 Chung King Road and Kim Dingle’s show was in place. I had a yes and a date (which turned out to be during the LA Art Show and photo la, talk about great timing!), and went for it, putting together the final list of artists for the whore portion, and cheerleading my Johns. Meanwhile, I took Mat’s class, Art World Boot Camp, to learn more about the how to of art in LA.

And because it was part of class, I had to create and show two pieces of art. Okay, I had made punk rock fliers like decades ago; my interior design sense doesn’t suck, I can take nice pictures, and I can rough out ads, but make art? Yikes. I went ahead and did it anyway, since stepping  outside one’s comfort zone is necessary for growth. The pieces didn’t suck  too badly.

At Art World Boot Camp show, one of the artists in “Two Johns and Whore” asked if I wanted to be in the Arroyo Arts Collective Show, and another artist friend recruited me for Meme Democracy, a show at her gallery.  Was this because I was “good”? I’m not that naive. I write about art. But I appreciated their encouragement of my fledgling ability.

So while my curating show with artists who are my friends, and writing about it for the website I edit might be considered a conflict of interest, I can’t not write about it. It’s an awesome show.

So tl/dr: Expect to see more blog posts about Two Johns and Whore, because the artists are great and the show is provocative.

John Roecker Gives Us A Green Day Xmas with Guerrilla Film Release

It’s a very Green Day Xmas from avant-garde director John Roecker–a favorite guest on Movie Night for his web series“Svengali” and documentary “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Gay Porn Stars” and his poignant, passionate video manifesto on creativity–who delivers his short film, a modern romance “They’re All Out Without You” as an underground alternative to “It’s A Wonderful Life.”  The film is based on characters originally visualized from Green Day’s Grammy Award winning album “American Idiot,”  the first true “punk rock” opera. This a a guerrilla online release, catch it while you can!

Originally shot as part of “Heart Like a Hand Grenade,” Roecker’s documentary, filmed during the making of Green Day’s seminal album  TAOWY, is compiled from footage that was lost for several years. Roecker told me:

The characters meet when the album is recorded. I wanted that Godard moment in Sympathy for the Devil, and Heart Like A Hand Grenade was turning out really long. I cut footage from 3 hours and stashed it, and forgot where it was. When our basement flooded, I found a lunch box and opened it up and there was the footage, so Dean my editor and I cut it up and I made the short.

Though the film, which stars Mikey Brannon and Ashleigh Darkbloom, showcases four songs by Green Day with the band’s blessing, the music usage  hasn’t been authorized by Warner Bros., the band’s label. With regards to that detail, Roecker says he doesn’t like the money part or legal part, he just wants to do art. But he also knows there might be ramifications of releasing a film with music that hasn’t been licensed.

Earlier this year, I lost forty-five percent of the vision in my right eye, and they can’t repair it. At the hospital I said to myself, “You know fuck it, I’m gonna release it if they sue me, they sue me.” Green Day is okay with it. And I would rather have five people see my work who like it, and how it was meant to be, than a million see it cut to pieces. I don’t want to have any problems with Warner Bros. And record labels have their own problems to deal with. They might not even care. But it’s nerve wracking, and it’s a big decision.

“They’re All Out Without You” is lush and rich, showcasing Roecker as a superlative filmmaker, well versed in the language of cinema, bold and passionate.  Whether TAOWY will last online through the New Year remains to be seen, so see it while you can here.

(And in light of of SOPA, this could play out very interestingly)

Mississippi Court Rules Prom Girl’s Rights Violated

A federal court ruled today that Itawamba Agricultural High School violated Constance McMillen’s civil rights when they would not allow her to wear a tuxedo or bring her girlfriend as a her date to the prom. The ACLU took up Constance’s case and Ellen Degeneres had the teen as a guest on her show. There is also a Facebook page Let Constance Take her Girlfriend to the Prom

In their ruling, the court wrote:

“The record shows Constance has been openly gay since eighth grade and she intended to communicate a message by wearing a tuxedo and to express her identity through attending prom with a same-sex date. The Court finds this expression and communication of her viewpoint is the type of speech that falls squarely within the purview of the First Amendment. The Court is also of the opinion that the motive behind the School Board’s cancellation of the prom, or withdrawal of their sponsorship, was Constance’s requests and the ACLU’s demand letter sent on her behalf.”

The court id not order the school board to reinstate the canceled prom, as there is a private prom open to all students that has been organized in Itawamba. Constance and her girlfriend also plan to attend the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition’s Second Chance Prom, to be held Saturday, May 8 in Tupelo. That event, sponsored by Green Day,, Iron Chef Cat Cora, and Lance Bass, is an annual response to the complaints of LGBT teens that they can’t bring their same-sex dates to school proms.

Constance said happily:

It feels really good that the court realized that the school was violating my rights and discriminating against me by canceling the prom. All I ever wanted was for my school to treat me and my girlfriend like any other couple that wants to go to prom. Now we can all get back to things like picking out our prom night outfits and thinking about corsages.