Sunday, August 14, 2011

First Friday, Stencil Art, Guerrilla Marketing & Upcoming Events

Over the past few months, I have regularly been selling cookies for donations out in front of my friends Matt & Lesli Yazzie's gallery, Longhouse Studios on 5th Street in the heart of the Downtown Phoenix arts district, sharing the street with Jobot Coffee and Crepes, Made Arts Boutique, the art collective, performance space and vegan cafe Conspire, Of the Earth, Lost Leaf, and Tumbleweed Drop In Center, where I work, among others. Though it is a far cry from similar bohemian neighborhoods in other cities, it is a place that many of us downtown creatives share a love/hate relationship with, and like it or not, it seems, the only place that seems like "home" to us, where a few hundred of us all know each other, and you can always find something going on. If you haven't yet been and live in Phoenix, I hope you will come check it out, preferably on any day but First Friday, though that is a different kind of experience in and of itself. I think that many of us just wish that the 1000s of wanderers who show up on that night would acknowledge that it is not the only night of the month that it is "cool" to support the arts in Phoenix. If we are in fact, your "entertainment" and a point of Phoenix pride, please recognize, we're here all week. Many of us in fact, seem to never leave.

This past First Friday Lesli invited me to put some work up in the gallery in addition to hustling my reasonably famous if I do say so myself vegan, gluten-free, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. I have begun to bake a little bit for Conspire again also and recently a customer actually cleaned out the whole remaining supply of 18 cookies--$18.00 worth. I was a vegan fiend for years always looking for cookies and snacks everywhere I went but I must tell you despite my 11 years vegan, I don't think I even ever spent that much on cookies in a day. So they must be good :-)

While I haven't really made too much visual art in the past few years, and I have rarely seemed to be able to both focus on writing AND visual arts at once, successfully, I am trying to begin slowly to work on some stencils again. Though I am still a little unfamiliar with how they work or how popular they are with my crappy old Cricket phone and general resistance to embracing shiny new technology, I recently cut a stencil of a QR code via the website that people with smartphones can take a picture of  with the right app and be taken directly to my blog. Try it!
I am brainstorming some new guerrilla marketing techniques for my blog and have been putting a few of these in public just to try and see what other random people I might be able to reach, though I am trying to be careful and not do it in any way that could be perceived as "vandalism" because it basically links to my whole life. Though I wholeheartedly support graffiti as an art form, guerrilla art and taking art out of galleries and creating things in a public context to reach out and make people think, there is a fine line when it comes to the law, and I cannot afford to get arrested at this junction of my life. I do however, think there is still a lot of room to play around with this code without damaging any property, like making inserts to place in the New Times around town, in dentist office waiting rooms, making stickers of it, etc. We will see what else I come up with in the coming weeks. For now I have just put up a few in the Roosevelt area, which is already covered with all sorts of flyers and graffiti.
Guess where this is? If you know me, this should be an extremely easy question.

I screenprinted some shirts and gathered several of my favorite old stenciled works to prep for First Friday. Though for years they have been dear to me, I am feeling more easily ready to part with them, even though many are one of a kind and the stencils that created them no longer exist. I feel that all of my creativity is a rallying cry toward my one focus of healing and raising the next several thousand dollars needed over the next few months. Everything must go! If everything goes as planned with my next several appointments, I think that we should be able to begin placing implants by late September/early October. I have made it my aim to try and raise $4-5K by that time as of the beginning of this month between my own wages at Tumbleweed, cookie sales at Conspire and elsewhere, fundraising events I organize, art and tshirt sales and commissions, random donations, and whatever means I can come up with. Here is how I started out the month at the Longhouse:
In case you don't happen to be aware, all of the pictures in my blog are much larger if you click on them!
Domino/Keira Knightley in the lower left is the most detailed stencil I ever made in my first 6 months or so of stenciling while selling stencils in the streets of Portland. The tree in the middle is still by far the most elaborate single layer stencil I have ever cut, with around 1,800 pieces cut out of a single sheet of posterboard and using over 40 X-acto blades. The antique Singer sewing machine is one of the more popular images I have made and is also on the tshirts I just made.

From a small portrait series I was working on of women who inspired me. Katie, my first love, fellow "thought criminal" and partner in crime, Anastasia, a Phoenix poet who helped break me out of a writing funk and inspire me to go to Mexico to try to perform poetry in Spanish with friends 3 years ago at a big writers' conference with friends, and Miranda July, a performance artist, writer, director and actress who also is the inspiration for my "tramp stamp" tattoo I got as a birthday present to my closest friend I ever met on the internet who I also stenciled for this series, Kathleen.
This show was somewhat of a retrospective "greatest hits" of many of my stencils, many of which are personal to me as far as what they represent, or the time of my life they were created. This is actually how I met a lot of my first friends in Phoenix, as the crazy new homeless guy in town at Willow House Coffeeshop who for several visits was always cutting a ramen noodle stencil. Like 540 pieces later and about 23 blades I believe, here is a cropped version of the finished product painted on a record.
Thanks Lesli and/or Lori for making me this sign!
Between my art and cookies sales there and at Conspire that night, I raised about another $160 and with my own payday that day as well I was able to add another $485 to my credit at the school, bring my new total to almost $10,000 since January 19th! I have currently spent about half of that on everything I have had done so far, leaving me with $4642 in credit for my upcoming visits. It is quite amazing to know that ever since I began this journey, there has not thus far been a single appointment or procedure I have had to miss or a schedule I have had to change due to lack of funds. I hope to keep it that way. Implants are creeping up on my soon, and after so much momentum over the past 7 months, I don't want to get stuck just sitting here forever while I raise money in waiting for the priciest procedures. I also wholeheartedly am determined to try to find any way in my power to finish my treatment plan before Rakhee graduates next June. We have come so far together, and that is seriously probably my sincerest single wish in regards to any other person in my life over the next year. It would simply be such a wonderfully profound mutual gift to the both of us and resolution to this chapter of my life, and in my humble opinion, an awesome big finish to her education. Before she and all of the other 4th year students depart to figure out the next stage of their lives, I would love nothing more than to have a huge and epic "Apple-Eating Party" in honor of so many of them from the class of 2012 I have come to know and call friends, along with the hundreds of others who have supported me throughout this transformation.

I hope if you are reading this, and if it is in any way within your means to help me achieve this dream in any way that you can, I hope that you will consider doing so. The easiest way I think possible is to repost and share my blog and encourage others to do so. Everyone keeps telling me to write to Oprah. I feel that everything kind of has a life of it's own at this point. I just keep talking to people and being honest and open and doing what I love and making things happen, and everything has seemed to fall into place, over and over again. Maybe Oprah should write to ME! Maybe one of you out there reading knows her and how to reach her, and can speak on my behalf? Or maybe I don't need a celebrity millionaire to help me, when I already have all of you :-) Everything seems to be going "according to the plan." I hope to finally get some more local press soon. I want to also finally try to submit my story to NPR. I just made some more blog promo cards:
This is the front. Picture taken by Rakhee during my 3rd appointment after my full mouth debridement on January 26th. It's practically actual size, which gave me another crazy idea to get more printed without the text to pass out at shows and get photos of those in attendance with my old teeth in their mouths!
And the back. Panoramic X-ray taken by George on January 19th..
I also have two upcoming "FUNraising" events this coming Sunday, August 20th. The above cards, the text of which I wrote over 3 years ago somewhat inspired the first one. At 3:00PM at my friends Leann and Sven's used bookstore, Bard's Books I am going to host an open mic of sorts, with a theme of "secrets, fears and confessions." I will be providing vegan snacks and refreshments for donations and also reading some of the more personal selections from my blog. The event is also a book drive of sorts, and the owners have kindly offered to donate a portion of what they would normally be paying customers who bring books in to sell but wish to instead donate  them that day to my fund, and also a portion of sales that day. Amazing.
My other event, on the SAME day which hopefully will not drive me insane this week to organize and prep for, is a punk rock show and vegan dinner party at my former residence, The Firehouse Gallery, which is also an artist collective, performance space and coffee cart, featuring several popular downtown musicians. Below is the flyer I made with an image from a Garbage Pail Kid. The fun starts around 8:00PM. Get there before the food is gone!
After posting this on the wall of my facebook event page, I couldn't help but notice how strangely similar it was to the other picture I had been using for the event, which I took a few months back with a peephole over the lens of my old Sony Cybershot I take to all my appointments:

I had forgotten how many Garbage Pail Kids seem to have had dental themes. Maybe I just grew up wanting to be a Garbage Pail Kid? Subliminal messages?? Haha. I apologize to the artist of 3/4s of these cards from my childhood, John Pound. I know not how to reach you to ask permission to use this image I found from a google search, but if it is any consolation, I hope you will forgive me and trust me when I say that you were probably the first artist I ever was introduced to or even liked as a kid. If not for you and Art Spiegelman and the other creators of Garbage Pail Kids and also those behind Mad magazine, I don't know if I would have ever even grown up wanting to be an artist. So if somehow this blog ever makes it back to you, I hope that my earnest "Thank You" now is enough. I would also someday, love to own some of your original work and would proudly display a large painting of one of your kids alongside any of the other "finest" art I will ever own :-)

I hope if the rest of you readers who happen to live in and around Phoenix will please share my event with your friends, and I hope to see you there to eat Indian food and slurp Jobot toddy through a straw with me so as not to stain our teeth! I have lots more events of all shapes and sizes in the works, and will let you in on them all real soon when I hammer out more details. Thanks, as always, for reading. I hope I can share how far I've come with more of you in person instead of always just through my writing really soon.


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  3. Thanks you for sharing such great information about Upcoming dental events