This painting had a bit of a long and tortured beginning, as with a lot of my paintings. I made this 25″ square panel 4 or 5 years ago, and the first painting it became was an oil of a logo I designed for a brand I invented called Koby Teith. The brand’s image, as I conceived it, was about rugged Americanism expressed through poetry, with lots of deep, earthy colors and a logo that looked like it wouldn’t be out of place on a cattle brand or bottle of hot sauce. Here’s that old painting, which is now destroyed. (On the off chance that you like this old painting, please refrain from expressing it now that it’s gone: you had your chance during the 4 years it existed:) Believe me, it needed to be put to rest.)
The next job for this canvas was to be a neat experiment in painting with UV light. I layered many glazes of fluorescent acrylic on it until it was a strangely vibrant, dark monochrome. For the next stage of the plan I was going to create a solid stencil to cover it, affix the stencil to the painting, cover it in clear plastic, and leave it on my roof for several months. Fluorescent paint being poor at holding up to direct sunlight, this technique was going to burn the image from the stencil into the paint. It was an exciting idea for a spell, this notion of making an image using only light rays, but in the end it didn’t really say anything I wanted to say about art or the world, so once again I set it aside.
Next, most recently, I pulled it back out and started layering acrylic on it for sanding. My first pass with the sander was circular; I thought a rough, blurry, sanded circle would look nice on the square canvas. I was wrong. So I renewed my sanding and got the painting to a point where I thought it was good and finished, with something like a white contrail passing across it.
But, after looking at this image for a few weeks it felt contrived and didn’t look so hot; it couldn’t stand up to repeated viewing. I got pissed and really went after it with the sander until gesso and canvas started to come through. Finally, I arrived at the image you see above, which is more spontaneous and gritty. The image has a chip-on-its-shoulder attitude. I titled it What You Looking At: a canvas that’s been through this much pain shows a raw face to the world, and “What you looking at?” is how I imagine it would address a viewer it it could.
What You Looking At is acrylic on canvas, 25″ x 25.” Back in the day when this canvas was Koby Teith Star I was convinced that I was in the middle of my ascension to the contemporary art pantheon, so I priced that painting at $1,000. Now that my feet are back on the ground and I have a new, less pretentious vision of what I want out of my life as an artist, I’ve priced this canvas at $500, which I feel does justice to you and me both.
You painted over Koby Teith? What about the other sign paintings? Are they still alive?
There are a few sign paintings extant. One or two Koby Teith paintings were part of the Heather and Sam collection last I checked. There’s another one called “Remember” but lovingly nicknamed “Hemo G” in an illustrious private collection in Las Vegas. “Stay at Home Stay Alive” became “Jormungand Releases His Tail.” The rest of them have all moved on to puppy heaven.