Arts & Culture » Blister




If art indeed imitates life, I'm not exactly sure where I fit in. Sure, there are your splashes of Pollack disinterest, your undergrowth of Monet foliage, and even a bit of Da Vinci in the creative coding of my finances. But for the most part, I'm sort of a poster of a photograph of a painting stolen from a small-town art show by the blind. You'll find me behind the heavy-duty cellophane of a Spencer Gifts point-of-purchase display, pressed against a dead moth. But at least you'll find me.

Tonight, I'm finding myself a few Pat Benatar sheets to the Belushi wind, stumbling affably around an art opening at the Urban Think Bookstore in Thornton Park, pouring hot-breathed wisdom into any imaginary ear I can find. Tonight, I am nothing short of a piece of work.

"Um, there's something on your lip," smirks a gentleman I have been talking nonsense to for the past five minutes.

Sure, maybe it's a cracking scab of cabernet to the average eye. But to me it's art.

"Um, I know," I start to scrub at my small, unintentional Macbeth tribute. "Is it gone?"

"Yes." And then he is.

Altogether less antiquated with his tributes is the artist responsible for this evening's festivities, a polite kindred spirit by the name of Crawford. Scattered throughout Urban Think – which is both a bookstore and a bar and therefore very dangerous to somebody like me – are acrylic portraits of icons. There's your Marilyn Monroe and your Barbie, naturally, but there's also Boy George, Dead or Alive, and a sparkly puffy-paint rendering of the genius that is Bananarama ($45? Mine!). I, frankly, am entranced.

"We should hang out sometime," splashes Crawford in my general direction. "I think we have a lot in common."

So much, in fact, that I feel like I am flashbacked to the sweaty box of my teenage bedroom, all made-up eyes of pop stars past staring out at me from the walls as if to ask, "What are you going to do next, Billy? Are you going to join us? Y'know, after you're old enough to drink too much?"

By now, I'm pressing my nibbled fingernails to my bruised temples, and need some sort of nicotine reprieve. Mostly because it's really hard to be me.

Outside, Friday-night posing with a crossed-leg cigarette sitdown, I catch someone running out of the house across the street and over in my, uh, general direction. He pauses for a second with a sideways glance, runs in the store, grabs a Weekly, and then runs out. A few moments later another form approaches from the very same house, this one with a smile on his face and paint on his pants.

"Are you Billy Manes?" he reaches his hand out like a heavenly visitor with paint on his pants might.

"Uh," I uh. "Yeah."

"You've got to come over across the street. I'm turning my house into a gallery, and my friend Morgan over there is a huge fan." I look over toward the house and in the doorframe is a painting of a giant inviting sunflower, which of course is enough to convince me to jaywalk on over at the risk of my own peril. But not just yet.

"I need to run in and grab my wine," I envision reapplying my cabernet lipstick. "But then I'll be there."

So I do just that, popping in just in time to hear a dance mix of Queen's "Radio Ga Ga," which makes me realize how much I love that song for not being prophetic. Queen, thankfully, were never deep.

Morgan, however, turns out to be very very deep; something of a Hunter S. Thompson disciple – Thompson's Rolling Stone obit cover is taped up over the fireplace – he is also something of a troubled twig in the stream that we call consciousness. Morgan's proffering a 'zine/stapled-leaflet situation titled "Holy Babble" that on its cover reveals its origins to be with the "Gidiots." Within its pages Morgan compiles various cast-off quotes from the likes of Ronald Reagan and Billy Corgan. So it's sort of political, but mostly weird.

Jim, the other gentleman who is reconstructing his living quarters, is equally fantastically bizarre. Something of a commercial artist – he paints the sides of Lynx buses – he's also a flashy artist with a thing for paint re-creations of film posters. So we're very similar, or something.

"We're trying to bring the trailer park back to the city of Orlando," he pontificates with all sincerity.

"Yeah?" I risk my pending political career. "Me, too!"

Meanwhile, back at the bookstore, a palpable buzz is circulating over the heads and paintings of heads assembled. Councilwoman Patty Sheehan has arrived, marking the 100th time I've seen her in the past 10 minutes (we are, as a matter of fact, the same person) and I've set to staining her ears with my political red lips. She's nothing if not gracious, even if I am close to becoming a dead moth next to her flame. That is, until she sees a painting of Barbie.

"I want Barbie for the bathroom," she interrupts my slurred monologue on impact fees and development. "What do you think, Billy?"

I think I've just been shut down. Or is that hung up? Urban Think assistant manager John Sullivan has arranged an unveiling of one of Crawford's latest pieces, and word is that my own day-glo head might be involved. So I stand there and stare at a gold lamé cloth draped over a canvas, trying to peer through the woven holes to see my shriveled soul captured in acrylic. This, apparently, is what my life has become.

Sullivan removes the cloth with a flourish, adding, "This is Billy Manes, the next mayor of Orlando," only to reveal a really good pinky-yellow portrait of a skinny, bleached-blond guy sucking on a cigarette.

My parents would be so proud. I am a work of art.

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