Friday, September 28, 2012

Usurp Toe revisited

         I feel like a dumbshit writing about art.  But that hasn’t stopped me from doing it.  Partially by design but mostly by accident this blog/project has become a repository for my own throw away “art” and a place where I like to think I’m celebrating the graveyard of art that nobody seems to give a shit about.  I’m stumbling around in the dark as I navigate these waters.  I’m sure it shows.     

            I’ve always been at a crossroad either lost in art and having a snide aversion to it.  Maybe I see too much “art” not enough action?  I’ve come to understand I’m surrounded by art, and artists and it’s like living in a made up world.  I mean that in the everyday sense.  From the movies I’ve seen to going to concerts to walking by billboards to taking a shit in a public toilet.  The art is everywhere and it feels like a façade with no real meaning that builds a reality that is shared and leased.  It’s made me start to revere history a little more as it seems to be less “made up” than art and a lot more hopeful than politics.  But my actions with this blog have been less than academic in respect to history.  I talk too much shit.  History is written by whoever takes the time but the permanency of the written word makes me feel like a fool.  I’m more interested in entertaining myself here as opposed to saying how shit “went down.”  But maybe the two are not mutually exclusive.  I mean history is made up too right? 

            A portion of this mixed feeling stems from my own lack of direction to where my “art” will be taking me next or if I’m willing to keep riding that art train at all.  I’m sick of always wondering what’s it all about.  But it doesn’t feel like I’m able to stop.  I still feel like yelling.  Constantly.  Loudly.  Even if it’s yelling at a wall.  And yet no matter how loud I get I’m screaming in a vacuum.  The intensity of the silence scares me knowing my voice is just echoing off the canyons and it’ll soon die down.  I think about all those things that happen that disappear into nothingness. 

            Mortality creeps in.  I sense the Earth and the universe of which I’m a tiny atom.  I talk myself into believing that to create is to make something that outlasts life.  It tricks me into thinking there’s more to what I’m doing then there really is.  Even if the words are bullshit the fact that they’re written and forever engraved on the page makes it truth whether or not it is.  The fact that so few people write makes it seem more truthful even if it’s lies.  Not just that; it also lives on as my mortal shell disintegrates.  It makes history appear as subjective as art.  It makes propaganda seem like valid education.  It makes me fucking flush with myself and perhaps that’s the point of creating to make something outside myself for which I have a semblance of control.  Goddamn it’s been a while since I got laid.

            Maybe some perspective is in order.

            I was dating a woman last year who worked as a stage manager for a local theatrical company.  One night we were talking about our work and she mentioned how she was looking to get out of the theatre world.  She’d grown tired of demanding actors and artists who lived only in the ME and punctuated it with a story about how she was involved in a play that had a rape scene.  She confided in me how she was a victim of sexual assault herself and went on to describe the pains she went through trying to maintain a professional disposition as an actor tried to immerse herself in the role of the rape victim over and over again in rehearsals.
            Art has been a religion to me at different times in my life.  Food and drink.  Sustenance.  When I see the shortcomings like the one illustrated above it makes me wonder how much phony bullshit I’ve been eating. How healthy can that be?  How much phony bullshit have I spouted?  How close to the truth can you come?  And who gives a shit if you did?  So what else can I do as I crawl into middle age?  Have a family? Activism? Terrorism? Hedonism? Hiding away?  I’ve been a chipping away at all these things too.  Except terrorism.  OK FBI?   

            Yelling at a wall is all well and good but it’s a few steps away from being a schizophrenic.  And perhaps it’s less amusing when everyone else is yelling too.  I laugh at how meaningless it can feel.  Somehow it relaxes me as I think of how unimportant my voice is among millions.  Billions.  It makes me more determined to never shut up.  Why stop now?  We’re all talking at the same time anyways and ultimately no one speaks for me.  I gave up caring whether I was heard a while ago.  Yet I keep listening, and I’m not hearing anything that has anything to do with me.  It’s that silence that pisses me off more than any sound in the world.  It’s unnerving more than pathetic to know there are so many people and yet a stony silence pervades.  It makes the loneliness more unbearable.

         And so the yelling continues.  I look into the past for some foothold from when I seemed to have a firm grasp.  Into the future I look for a destination to make sense.  In the present I shake in my shoes or find some way to light the fuse.  Or just to escape.   Again.    

            When I get in these moods when I’m so full of myself, full of shit, demanding too much, asking myself questions that are impossible to answer, jaded, uninspired, and flat out disgusted something fucking weird will usually happen.

            I met Dave Gilbert at the second Zinecon.  There were a lot of good zinesters, artists, and nincompoops in attendance but I was struck by Dave’s work.  I did a shitty interview with him that somehow got destroyed on tape.  It’s largely unwatchable but if you fast forward to about 2:45 in the clip posted above you’ll get a nice dose of his artwork that I was able to capture on that day.

            I walked away impressed with Usurp Toe and wondered how this guy was around for so long yet I’d never heard of him.  I bought a copy of his graphic novel and the years skipped by.  I posted this interview two years ago and quickly forgot about it. 

            Of all the forgotten artists I’ve written about on this blog I was most surprised when someone contact me about this horribly butchered video interview.  It happened when some guy named Thomas Cook from Ohio got in touch with me regarding Dave Gilbert.  Turns out he is a huge fan and he was real excited to see Dave in an interview.  We corresponded at length about Usurp Toe and Gilbert’s creations.  It got me excited to remember those hilarious comics that I barely got to enjoy.  I’ve since lost my one copy of Usurp Toe so I begged Thomas to send me some scans of his collection which I could share here.  He balked at the thought of sharing someone else’s work since it wasn’t his own.  But he sent along Dave’s address and told me to ask the man himself. 

            I wrote a letter to Dave anxious to see what he’s up to now.  The letter came back return to sender.  I continued to talk with Thomas Cook and we both wondered what had become of Dave.  Somewhere in the course of our emails he mentioned the fact that Dave had amassed a body of animated films.  Holy shit!  I’d forgotten how Dave mentioned working with animation in the interview and shortly thereafter Thomas sent me a link to those very animations.  It was here that I came to realize that Dave Gilbert has since passed away.  The youtube page with those animations states plainly that these are “Cartoons and videos by the late D.W. Gilbert.” 

            Mortality creeps in again but this time it was more than philosophizing about death, art, and egos.  The point being that the celebration of Gilbert’s life continues through the lasting impression of his incredible art and humor.  I justify my chest thumping stabs at free expression because I can’t see my self being represented but here is a voice that is saying the stuff I want to hear and creating worlds I want to know.  It’s that proximity to my life and my world that gives Dave’s work a value that’s hard to measure and a comfort that is hard to put into words. I see it as a gift from Dave.  He probably never thought of it that way which makes it all the more special.  It speaks to me and for me and that’s not something I see too often.  Maybe it will speak to you.  If not I really don’t care.                          

            The animations included here are only the tip of the iceberg.  I suggest cracking a beer and watching all the clips included on the Usurptoe youtube channel.  They are intelligent but grounded in reality making them equal parts genius and surreal firecracker thrown in your face.  Not to try and wrap this all up with a pretty bow but Usurp Toe is a genuine triumph of art.  Communication, understanding, and the ability to identify with something even if you aren’t sure what the point is. 

            I’m not sure what programs Dave used to make these short films but the personality and laughs are easy to discern.  It makes me thankful that he took the time to make these films.  I think he made them for himself because there is no intersection of art and commerce in these pieces.  Or maybe he was chasing the dream we’re all sold that we can be stars if we work hard enough?  That we can get our point across if we just keep trying.  In any event they’re made from pure inspiration and designed to inflict joy.  I think they do the job.

            His graphic novels were equally inspired.  I’m including the one issue that Mr. Thomas Cook was kind enough to scan for me.  Mr. Cook is a true fan of Dave’s work.  Thanks very much to him for reminding me of this immense talent.  In our email exchanges he mentioned to me that he feels that Dave Gilbert is an Outsider Artist through his work in film and illustration.  I think everyone I’ve touched on with this blog should be considered Outsider Artists.  If you’ll excuse me I’ve got some more walls to go yell at.     

            Below you will find the issue of Psychopath that Thomas Cook emailed to me.  Much thanks to Thomas for sharing. Hopefully he'll send more scans as it sounds like he's got several issues of Dave's work.


1 comment:

  1. Hey Dave this is David C. from Caesars. Whats up how you been? Cool... the animations are new to me, you didn't do that back in the day. It works man awesome keep it up.