Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Live Mural Performance, Utica Greens Festival, September 15 2012

At the Jam 4 Change compound on Varick Street, Saturday September 15 2012 at the Utica Greens Festival. The purpose of the event was to promote the Jam 4 Change benefit the following day at Utica's Lincoln Plaza, home of the Utica Skate Park which many of the artists I have been working with this summer are affiliated. I was invited to take part in the proceedings by my friends Tony Thompson and Erick Florez as well as Melissa Watson, one of the organizers of the Utica Music & Arts Fest, of which the Greens Festival was just one part.

Specifically the objective of the event was the execution of live murals to be installed as permanent re-usable mural surfaces at the skate park as part of the urban funk aesthetic of the skate crew who makes use of it -- A project I believe deeply in. But there was some confusion in the days leading up to the event, not the least of which was some preoccupation with the pop-up gallery show at the Utica Radisson the night before (see the previous posts for a look at how that shaped up). 

No one quite knew just how Saturday's activities would take place except that we would be "performing" live in front of the festival goers by making art, though just how was unclear until actually on site at the venue: A parking lot along Varick Street which had been closed off by the city for the Greens Festival. For want of an objective of my own efforts I decided to bring along a pile of unfinished work including a box of small surfaces prepared for painting on. Then just set up, get to work, and see what happened.

On the way to Utica with artist Nathianel West and Brand X on the CD changer. Nate and I were both on very little sleep, exhausted from the previous evening's work but determined to play a role in the proceedings. And we got there.

Live mural event organizer Tony Thompson guided us in for a perfect landing behind police lines right on Varick St., pretty cool!

The live mural lot as we first encountered it, arriving just before 12:30pm. What I'd gathered from Tony via text & phone is that when the crew arrived on site at 8:30am for setup the lot was still filled with cars and the real painting did not start until just before we had arrived.

Tony and artist Adam Spiridilozzi well under way.

Artist Nate West at right getting started immediately upon arrival. I putzed around for a bit, confused as to what I should do -- My plan had involved bringing a small folding table and work on small wood surfaces to make paintings for sale at $15 - $20 each. As it is by the time we had loaded up at Nate's I realized I'd forgotten the table, making a diversion to collect it + reload the Jeep was out of the question, and the best thing to do was to just GO and see what happened. 

Here's the rest of the story in pictures, and it's a good one.

The panel I took a shine too, which just happened to have been placed in a horizontal positioning. Upon reflecting on it for a few minutes I saw the outlines of clouds in the patterning of the crackle board plywood surface.

The original location of my surface, kind of tucked off to the side. I would have been perfectly happy to work on it right there, but I doubt if the outcome would have been the same. There are reasons!

Looking around the scene, the ebb and flow of which definitely influenced how our work evolved over the course of the next few hours.

The fence area where my board would finally be placed on suggestion from Hamilton Center for the Arts comrade Amber Snow Pasiak to get me out of the corner. I owe you another one my dear! 

The Utica Skate Park crew, On the Grind as always.

Tony Thompson, with an admirer -- I caught that young lady sneaking looks at our paintings all day and predict a career in the visual arts. Thank you for being there to see what we could do!  ;]

And be sure to visit Tony's website for information on his upcoming projects at

Or on his Facebook business page at

Painter Nathaniel West -- Nate had been excited about the prospect of executing a mural sized version of his painting style for weeks since we were first invited to take part in this mayhem, and in my estimation he got more out of it than all of us combined. Nate has never permitted himself to pursue his painting seriously as a "career" before, and the ease with which he interacted with the other artists + their across the board acceptance of his work has been a huge confidence boost. Nate's tenacity for executing his mural was inspiring to us all and he is eager to get busy on another. I plan to be there!

Sgt. Pepper's stopped by ...

Tony Thompson's nearby apartment became a vital nerve center for the operations, most importantly the bathroom, and I took the opportunity to snag a few pix of the paintings of his on display.

Asparagus fingers!

Dang! A new favorite.

Artist Nathaniel West, finding himself the subject of an impromptu interview by a member of the Utica press roaming the festival. We are eagerly searching for their posted coverage of the event!

And YES! The panel after being moved. Cleaned up the gravel pit, broke out the gel medium and got busy fixing those opening marks down. Believe it or not the piece as follows more or less painted itself.  The image I decided to pursue was an enlargement of the "city" region of my long Drone Zone painting showing Syracuse about to be overrun by an army of Steve Nyland pictograms: Smallish bare trees, soup cans, small round tables, and folding chairs. Never got to the tables or chairs, and would not be surprised if either or both of those elements are dropped in later efforts. This vision of it had a purity which the original had long since lost, tangled in a mass of tree limbs and soup can sides.

Now things really begin to pick up with the arrival of artist Timothy Rand, lending his hand to fill up that panel between Nate West and Tony Thompson's creation.

Grinding away at the surface for about an hour at this point and even I had gotten somewhat disheartened about the progress. Especially seeing the response the other painters were getting with their more figurative creations. A "landscape" by contrast seemed kind of ordinary, and at this point I like many others around us had no idea where this was headed. I say it again -- The mural painted itself. I was just channel transferring the materials to the surface.

Pure mayhem. Three rock bands and a DJ were all competing for sound space. Kids where whirling hula hoops around us, street vendors hawking their wares, random guys with novelty horns roaming around making frenetic sounds, and everywhere you looked PEOPLE, watching us paint. 
It was electrifying.

A progression of pictures from about the two hour mark, left to right artists Nathaniel West, Timothy Rand and Tony Thompson, standing in front of my surface.

Cell phone image.

Camera image at the same moment -- By this time I had the final composition more or less blocked out & was working acrylic paint with color onto the surface.

Artist Nate West, who actually asked if it was OK to smoke. Not because of the spray cans, just because he wanted to know if it was OK. That's Nate, and please take a minute later to visit his new Facebook artist's page at

Approaching the three hour mark, with Nate West's composition evolving nicely and Timothy Rand off on a break getting a burger or something ... that guy's a pro, he was done in about an hour while I'm crawling in the gravel like a nerd. LOL.

Tony Thompson being interviewed by another roving member of the Utica press corps. She dropped my name!! Thank you my dear  ;D

Tim back from his break, Tony more or less has his in the bag, so does Adam at the end and Nate West is just letting loose his barrage of color. 

The rest of them just sort of chilled out and watched us go nuts, aware they had created two Frankenstein monsters and it was best just to let them rampage. 


My favorite image of the day! taken by photographer Kathy Bottorff Stockbridge at about the three hour mark, and who shared some magnificent pictures of the final mural.

If interested, please feel welcome to visit my Facebook artists page with examples of my work dating back to the mid 1980s at

Left to right artists Nate West, Adam Spiridilozzi, Tony Thompson, Timothy Rand, and friend.

Someone offered to buy Tim's mural before he was even finished with it, or so I was told! and he sold it the next day at the Jam 4 Change benefit for the Skate Park at Utica's Lincoln Plaza.

Look at the guy -- mismatched socks and everything. Half my age and I'm a beginner compared to this gentleman. Proud to be a part of his scene, and check out his website at

.... And here comes the wind! Rain had been on the forecast but never became a reality. The wind however was an issue; I was holding my board in place every once in a while all day, but the other guys had worked in a vertical format and the right gust finally came along. Just strong enough to pull the boards loose from their bindings to the fence, and bammo.

Crisis resolved and on we go.

My mural at about the four hour mark, maybe 75% completed. The last hour was my best! have not painted like that since graduate school, if even.

Artists Tim Rand, Amber Snow Pasiak, and Nathaniel West.

My 2nd favorite picture of the day taken on the inevitable cell cam, Mr. Dick Case.

And a camera image of a second or two later, with artists Nate West, Tony Thompson, Timothy Rand, and Amber Snow Pasiak getting her shot at the big board.

80% of the way there. No clue where the sunset came from, except that I sort of knew it was going to look like that later. Many interpreted the soup cans as oil drums and the imagery depicting a post-apocalyptic wasteland resulting from our polluting the planet. Well, maybe ...

This was a wonderful distraction to ponder between bursts of painting, a gorgeous young woman from the Skate Plaza posse putting on an impromptu hula-hoop show. Very relaxing just to watch & I took the liberty of letting the camera do some time lapse ...

<3 colored hair  ;]

Artist Tim Rand whipping up a sandwich or something on another break back at Tony's amazing crib.

Pretty close to the final state if not completed ... the final hour was a blur.

Photographer Kathy Stockbridge made a point to come back to document the final state.

I've seen a proof! We're talking!

Nathaniel West, about to call it a day, his quest to execute a mural of his work in public fulfilled.

With artist Adam Spiridilozzi, who's background in theater is a shared interest. Looking forward to working together on something else soon!

Clean up just before 6pm: Tony, Tim and Adam having long since finished and DJ/photographer/artist Marc Tucci clocked us all with his small line figure, a rehash of a recurring iconic motif from his work.

Nate West had painted nonstop for 5 1/2 hours, in public, with people watching, and his results were amongst the best of his efforts I have yet to see.

The final states of the murals. I will continue to say this:
I cannot believe that I am the person who painted that!

Tony Thompson

Right to left, Timothy Rand and Nathaniel West.

Right to left, Nathaniel West, Marc Tucci, and Adam Spiridilozzi.

LOL it was only at the end of the day that I realized we had done all this in the shadow of the Utica Club brewery.


The always cheerful Tony Thompson, seated, with artist Marc Tucci at far right.

Oh yeah, that's right -- There were bands playing during the festival, I remember hearing some of them playing, sorta. Here was one of them.

Big time cool.


Thank you!! and I did introduce myself & pass off a biz card at the very end, no more Mr. Shy. 
Very nice lady and I hope we meet again soon!

Adam Spiridilozzi

Marc Tucci & Sonny Boyee

Nathaniel West

Timothy Rand

Tony Thompson

Tony's stash off to the side.

With some new friends after cleanup!

My mural, off to it's fate at the Utica Skate Park.

Dang ... We hardly knew ye.

Yep ... I miss my gravel pit!



The life of an artist. Can't wait to do it again!

Marc and Sonny Boyee, calling it a day.

Now here we go, the fate thing? Not sure how else to describe it except that as we pulled out of Utica I remarked "Now we get to drive into the sunset I just painted."

Pretty much!


And so ends the summer 2012 art event season. No time for rest: Two shows coming up in the next week, two more around Halloween, plus new responsibilities at Hamilton as part of the HCA & BSG group. Just what I wanted! Thank you everyone who helped make it happen.

And the current resting place of my mural at Lincoln Plaza, awaiting a replacement board we can swap for it. I even have a place or two in mind of where to look into showing it. More on that as things develop!

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