Life Is Just A Circus

Artist Joe Coleman

Death by Party | Joe Coleman Paintings

I’ll never forget the first time I discovered who Joe Coleman was. I was in high school, hungry for all things edgy, punk rock or subversive. I acquired a beat up VHS bootleg copy of Mondo New York. It was a rather pointless Mondo entry that had my obsessive crush Lydia Lunch wandering around a pre-Giuliani cleansed New York showing off the the city’s twisted outsider denizens. She wanders into what I recall being an abandoned church full of strange Nick Zed-esk 80’s freaks. Joe Coleman came out, gave one of his mind blowing rants and then pulled out two little white mice. In a sickly sweet cartoony voice he apologized to them for what for what he was about to do but let them know that it was for the best because we live in a world of shit. Then he bit their heads off. Like the Geeks of old he bit their heads off on by one and spat them into the audience. Then he tore off his coat off and exposed a vest full of fireworks like some mad terrorist. Suddenly his whole body lit up with little explosions and he faded out as the room blacked with smoke. The end.

I sat with my jaw dropped and my heart racing. I had never seen anything like it.

But I can say that every time I’ve experienced a facet of Joe Coleman. The first painting, the first interview, the first spoken word. Always the same, my jaw dropped and my heart raced. Every time I thought “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Reading articles and seeing video’s of him perform utterly effected and sculpted my own world view. His hyper dense painting has been a major influence on my prints. His mind blowing oddities collection sparked my own love affair with the sideshow and circus. Joe Coleman has always been something for me to aspire to but never achieve.

I always snidely say that I denounce and refuse to acknowledge celebrity. But once I saw him at Coney Island. At least I believe it was him. Like a giddy little kid, I couldn’t believe my widened eyes. It was a cold shitty day he was sitting on the beach by himself with his shoes off. I just stood a few feet away and stared frozen, unable to conceive of what I was seeing. After a moment my wife called to me from the board walk. Like a little school boy I ran up the wooden planks and walked away with her, never saying what I saw. How could I say I saw the image of my own filthy Jesus. How could I admit that I had one?

-R.E. Brown

Tags: , , , , , , ,

One Response to “Life Is Just A Circus”

  1. […] Joe Coleman is one of the greatest painters alive. Period […]

Leave a Reply