Archive for the ‘Legends, the Series’ Category

Legends, the Series 2: Jesse Mosher

September 3, 2009
Jesse Mosher - on the road

Jesse Mosher - on the road

Jesse Mosher is a painter living in San Francisco. His subjects are primarily portraits of famous musicians, poets, revolutionaries, and characters that have inspired him, and nowadays most of his painting is done live on stage with musical performers. He exclusively uses all recycled material for his canvases, utilizing found pieces of plywood, Masonite, old doors, etc. He sticks to common water-based house (as opposed to traditional oil-based) paints and inexpensive synthetic brushes instead of ones made using real animal hair. He also creates stencil designs and spray paints them on temporary walls, old palettes, poster boards, sidewalks, etc, which are removable.

Hangin' in Portland

Hangin' in Portland

Jesse was born and raised near Shutesbury, Massachusetts, and was a competitive wrestler in high school and college. He attended college in Lowell, MA for a while, as well as Fresno, CA, until a career-threatening injury forced him to stop wrestling. At this point he picked up a paintbrush and has never looked back. In the early days he sold prints of his art at Dead shows and the like, but more recently he has progressed into live painting with bands, and sells them at shows and online. Early works were many-layered designs based on traces and overlays of various elements, using pen and spray paint for effect, but more recently this style has given way to direct interpretations of famous photographs of his subjects.

Jesse demonstrates a "proper" brushstroke technique

Jesse demonstrates a "proper" brushstroke technique

Jesse’s style bridges the gap between folk and modern art. Folk art elements include the use of recycled materials with inconsistent sizes,shapes and textures, high volume of productivity (he averages more than one painting a day), and simple, straightforward interpretations of his subjects. On the other hand, his work exhibits progressive signs of modern art by turning the act of painting into live performance on stage with bands, featuring contemporary pop figures like Debby Harry, Ryan Adams, Amy Winehouse, Johnny Thunders, Joan Jett, and Barack Obama as his subjects to provide political and cultural relevance to his pieces. Jesse injects an interpretive style in all of his paintings, and repeated studies of the same subject often vary wildly from one another. Each piece of art is unique in expressing a particular emotion, or time and place, that makes the painting significant.

Some selections from the man

Some selections from the man

As an artist, Jesse lives almost exclusively off of the proceeds from his paintings without the assistance of an art dealer or philanthropist (or daddy). His pieces reflect the head-down, hard-working aesthetic that has provided him with sustenance over the years and allows him to create such a great volume of work with very little capital. Driven by his art alone, Jesse is determined to create with honesty and abundance in his lifetime. His inspiration is derived from the works of the Beat poets (he actually painted the building of the Beat Museum in North Beach), the non-stop touring of the Grateful Dead (he has toured with rock band Strangefeather for months at a time), Lou Reed’s scummy street poetry (Jesse also writes poetry), and the onstage antics of Iggy Pop (his live painting persona most resembles this character). Ultimately, Jesse has become a one-0f-a-kind artist by creating his own path. There are many live painters on the scene right now, but Jesse does it his own way. It is safe to say without a doubt, Jesse is an American original.

John Lee Hooker and Pigpen, I believe

John Lee Hooker and Pigpen, I believe

I have spent an extensive amount of time with Mr. Mosher. I have met his family and slept on his couch. We’ve spent months at a time on the road together, sharing floors, futons, dinner and drinks. I’ve watched him starve and I’ve watched him prosper. I’ve seen him on his best days and I’ve watched his worst. What makes Jesse a legend is that he never gives up or doubts in what he is doing. He will not stop fighting, even when all odds are against him, and his desire to create something begins every morning when he wakes up, and doesn’t stop until he lies down to sleep at night. He isn’t interested in the flighty concepts or statements of modern art, which often overshadow the simple aesthetic value of a piece of someone’s soul. Jesse’s work can be appreciated by anyone who has an awareness of American culture and can appreciate his interpretation of that. He respects and salutes the blue collar work ethics that he was raised with through his paintings, and understands that most great artists have followed a path from humble beginnings through paying dues to become the individual persona that we revere so much.

Jesse painted this pistol for Peacemaker

Jesse painted this pistol for Peacemaker

Jesse Mosher continues to travel the country to spread his one-man message to the world. After all, it is the “Individual” that America’s ideals are based on, and Jesse has learned to rely on his two hard-working hands to create his own version of America. It’s the exact opposite of what advertisements and “purveyors of society” will tell you to do. The message is to join the crowd, step in line, and shut your mouth to keep from making waves. Jesse’s life sends a different message:  live free, do what you love, don’t be afraid, and be a part of the Revolution. Look out for him in your neighborhood!

Check out and buy Jesse’s art on Etsy – support a true artist!

Legends, the Series 1: “Dead On” Kaptain Randy Turley

August 29, 2009

I’m going to try and pull off an idea from long ago when I decided to make profiles of all the people that were hanging out in my circle of friends. Back then, many of the descriptions were less than flattering and overall the whole thing was subjective and flawed in so many ways, so I scrapped ever releasing it on the Internet.

This time I’m starting fresh, and each person I describe will be lovingly portrayed with nothing but the best of intentions in an effort to share all that is great about them with the world. This is a celebration of positivity and a tribute to the people I meet on the road. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I do writing them.

Randy at the driver's seat

Randy at the driver's helm

Our first legend is “Dead On” Kaptain Randy Turley. More simply known as just Randy, this man is one of the most amazing characters you will ever meet. His prime focus in life is to hit the open road on adventures around the country, and do so in impossibly old vehicles that have a high probability of breaking down. In the case that anything quits working on the vehicle, Randy will usually fix the problem within a small period of time under great duress, using basic tools from his famous toolbox. To someone who doesn’t know him, it can be more simply stated that he is a McGyver of automobiles. Originally from Oklahoma, he ended up in California during the early 70’s and became owner and driver of the infamous “Dead On” bus (as well as many others). He brought passengers along on many Grateful Dead tours from the 70’s-90’s. He has also driven the Prankster’s new Further bus, and has been a great friend to many a fellow bus owner over the years, helping secure parts, perform repairs, lend rides, and generally bend over backwards to bail a brother or sister out.

I met Randy through our mutual friend Jesse Mosher (soon to be added to the Legends series), and had heard a lot about him from his close friend Scotty Don’t (also due up for a Legends entry), who had borrowed one of Randy’s vehicles to help drive us on (my rock band) Strangefeather’s ’08 Summer Tour. My first interaction with Randy was when we took the aforementioned vehicle (aptly named “Sky Beast”) on a road trip to play a couple of gigs in Phoenix, AZ. It was a precarious ’84 4-cylinder Toyota with Chinook-style camper on the back, towing a crap-colored Datsun truck trailer behind with all our gear in it. I remember the tires kept exploding as we went down the road. Randy would usually find a throwaway tire at a gas station, pull the dead tire off the rim, and remount it with the “new” one in about 30 minutes, using a jack, tire iron and screwdriver. He drove us about 12 hours straight from Phoenix to SF before finally handing over the wheel to someone else so that I could get to work on time at 8am the next morning. He was splashing himself in the face with water to try and stay awake towards the end there.

The next adventure Randy signed on for was Strangefeather’s two-month US Spring ’09 “Get on the Bus Tour” that covered 30 states and 50 gigs in about 60 days. This time, he broke out the Sunchaser, a 1964 International Harvester school bus, painted white w/ blue trim, complete with 2 beds and PanAm airline seats from the 70’s, reupholstered in 80’s neon orange, green and black. This experience was life-changing on so many levels, and Randy was there for almost all of it (more on that in a little bit). He drove us from New Orleans to New York without power steering. Most memorable moments were when we going through a snowstorm in Arizona (yes, I said snow), and the engine shut off coming around a corner and I woke up to the bus skidding around a tight corner with the power steering gone. Randy remained cool through it all (he is unflappable). I also remember it took us 4 hours to get from the Holland Tunnel to downtown Manhattan in a rainstorm. Randy had his CB radio hooked up to a loudspeaker on the outside of the bus. He was navigating downtown New York with only one windshield wiper and no power steering, and he kept telling people on the street to watch out or they would get hit!

Randy's 1964 International Harvester, being used as a dancefloor

Randy's 1964 International Harvester, being used as a dancefloor

This same tour coincided with the Dead tour that Spring, and we stopped in the parking lots at most of their shows and played in front of the bus down by Shakedown Street using generators. Randy was there for all of them except for one, the famed show at the Gorge in Washington. He usually got miracled into the Dead’s performances, and would take riders from show to show for a little gas money, and he would almost always be there when Strangefeather played a set on the tour. He left the band under Scotty Dont’s supervision once we reached Denver in order to attend the anniversary party of the Acid Test in San Francisco with the Merry Pranksters. After that he followed the Further bus up all the way to Grants Pass, OR, with plans to meet up with Strangefeather at the Gorge. Instead, the Further bus blew an engine and he stayed behind in Grants Pass to help them install a new one. He missed the Gorge show altogether and it turned out to be the best show of our tour! I know he was superbly bummed by this, but Randy is the kind of friend who will stick by you no matter what – it is a very endearing quality that is rare to find in this day and age to be sure.

Fixin' the truck - "It's nothing major, I'll just spray a little Ether on it"

Fixin' the truck - "It's nothing major, I'll just spray a little ether on it"

I just got back from another Summer tour through the Pacific Northwest, and we had a great time. It’s complicated, but Strangefeather broke apart the day before the tour, and Randy was the one who suggested I go on the road and play the shows anyway, and I’m glad I did. As soon as he pulled up in his giant Ford Centurion, rusted and falling apart with doors that didn’t lock and a hood that didn’t go down all the way, I felt like everything was going to be alright. When we ran out of gas in the middle of a busy intersection in Eugene, I watched as he pulled out his can of “ether” and popped open the hood, sprayed a little on the starter, switched over to the backup tank and got the truck rolling again in under 2 minutes without barely blocking traffic. All I could do was laugh and smile, because I know Randy is made for those kinds of situations, and everything was going to be just fine.

Randy checks out a painting of the Further Bus in Central Point, OR

Randy checks out a painting of the Further Bus in Central Point, OR

Randy is filled with nothing but generosity, empathy, kindness, and wisdom from years of experience driving trucks and buses for employment and fun. I have never seen him be anything but gentle and thoughtful towards all of the people that he meets. His spirit is very young, and his excitement for life without material comforts is both inspiring and respectful. He is usually covered in oil and grease (a by-product of being such a great mechanic), and he dresses very simply and practical. I joked with him the other day that he looks better dirty than clean, and it’s really true – he is the Real Deal. Randy represents the type of man that we see less of and need more of in this country, a dying breed if you will. He is hardworking, free-spirited, poetic, and completely down to earth. I have learned so much about how to live and treat other just by watching and conversing with him. Some might call him a Deadhead, and he is closer to what a true Grateful Dead fan is really like than what most people think of when using that term, but I hope my tribute enforces the fact that he is so much more than just a Deadhead. Others might call him a Pranskter, but that is not completely true, either. Randy is first and foremost a “Kaptain” in every sense of the word, and when he gets behind the wheel I cannot think of a more comforting and ensuring feeling in my life. When you step into one of his rides, you will enter a machine that preserves the spirit of the open road, opening possibilities to a life that most people only read about in books. Randy Turley is a legend because he has revealed a most simple equation to live by:

Velocity + Uncertainty = Freedom!

(I encourage you to befriend Randy on MySpace – http://www.myspace.com/459857430)