Charlie Boots on light-rail adventures, being a poor artist and why he is like Jesus
Editor's note: Artist Charlie Boots, represents the inaugural pair of PAIR residents at Denver's Powerhaüs Studio. As part of his residency, he and his fashion-designing counterpart will be reporting from the real world via Show and Tell, as they learn the ropes from studio mentors Mona Lucero, Lauri Lynnxe Murphy and Jimmy Sellars. Boots's second post follows.
"This one is great, but try talking about your life and work more next time."
Jimmy handed back my iPad after reading over my first blog post and correcting any misspelled words. "Just out of habit," he said.
"Really? Like...talk about myself more? I figured people wouldn't be interested if I wrote about myself."
"You'd be surprised. People are interested in your life as an artist. Write about how you came up with one of your paintings. Or you can write about how you get to Powerhaüs every day. You could start it by saying, 'Every day, I take the light rail to my studio.'"
"Okay. Yeah. I like that idea."
My seven-foot-long stretcher bars, riding with me to Powerhaüs, after being purchased at Meininger's.
Every day I take the light rail to my studio. I ride the D Line from Mineral to 30th and Downing. For the past, what was it? For three years, I have ridden on that light rail --wherever I needed to be, almost every day and night. If you are a frequenter of the D Line, you probably sat next to me at one point in your life. I was either the guy reading his book, looking pissed at the other guy playing his music ridiculously loud, or I was the guy playing his music ridiculously loud.
I've lost my cell phone on the D Line. I've seen people vomit up a mixture of a night's worth of alcohol and Taco Bell on the D Line. I've met some make-up embellished men who were given a ticket for riding without a fare and subsequently shattered a window with their bare hands on the D Line.
It's been good times.
One thing I've had to do out of pure necessity is transport my paintings and supplies via light rail. Yes, this is a horrible idea. Again, people vomit on the light rail. I can picture the day when I have to explain to a collector, "Oh that stain. It was completely intentional."
Perpetually Bored, Mildly Ashamed (Skittles), in its temporary resting place at Powerhaüs.
Luckily, no one has vomited on one of my paintings yet.
The main concern is not damaging the work. For example, I recently had to pick up my painting Perpetually Bored, Mildly Ashamed (Skittles) from Anthology Gallery on Santa Fe Drive. This painting is six feet tall and four feet wide. This painting is bigger than me.
This situation, which happens often, requires me to balance the most comfortable position available to me with a position that will not result in dents, cuts, scratches or dirt. Preference is never given to comfort.
To transport Skittles, I assumed a Christ-like pose, which entailed holding the painting by the bracer bars (little bars attached to the stretcher bars to prevent warping) with the painting on my back, thereby forcing my arms back and up.
The second issue had to do with not having any entertainment while I moved a painting. Not having anything to occupy my mind always results in an inner dialogue such as this:
Voice 1 (in my head): Hey! I kinda look like Jesus, walking around with this thing on my back like this.
Voice 2: Don't compare yourself to Jesus.
Voice 1: Why?
Voice 2: It's prideful and weird.
Voice 3: Make sure that branch doesn't hit your painting.
Voice 1: What if I am prideful and weird?
Voice 2: Then I don't want to be associated with you.
Voice 1: Well, it's too late for that, isn't it?
Voice 3: Watch out for the curb. If you trip, it is your face, not the painting that I will make you land on.
Voice 1: Is that the D Line?
Voice 2: It's about to leave! Run!
Voice 3: HELL NO! There is a painting on our back!
Voice 1: Damn it! It's gone!
Voice 2: Well, if you weren't lollygagging back there...
Voice 3: You both are useless.
You can see how this is fertile ground for insanity to be cultivated in my mind.
Continue reading for more from Charlie Boots
The light rail after a Rockies game.
But I think one of the things that is central to the experience of using the light rail to move a painting is the responses it generates. I have taken to covering a painting when I can, but sometimes it's too much of a hassle. Skittles was covered with my bed sheet and some packaging tape, but imagine if it weren't: It's a large painting of myself with no shirt, wearing a Spiderman mask, holding a Louisville Slugger, with the Skittles logo carved into my stomach.
I've had several discussions such as this:
"Do you really have that tattoo?" No. I do not. And it's not a tattoo. "What is it?" A cut. I carved it in using an X-Acto knife. "Did it hurt?" Yes. "Are you, like, a cutter?" No. "Do you have a scar?" Not really.
Maybe if I get sunburned.
There is no reason to take that conversation with me on the light rail.
But I'm making this all sound too negative. The light rail takes me right to Powerhaüs studios and also to my internship (called Design and Build) at the Museum of Outdoor Arts in Englewood. It's remarkably convenient. And the two hours it takes for me to ride are devoted to reading and writing. I wrote this, for example, while sitting on the D Line.
And there are some subtle, lovely moments on the D Line. I've lost track of the number of young men who have given up their seat to someone who could use it. I've seen couples ride together in gentle silence, holding hands and resting their heads on each other's shoulder. I've seen groups, impromptu teams of kindness, try to figure out a way to tell a lost visitor who speaks the bare minimum of English how to get to her location.
I was involved in one of these moments. I was heading home, trying to learn how to draw on my iPad as well as Jimmy does, when a crowd who had clearly just gotten out of a Rockies game boarded. I usually hate being crowded by these people. Half of them never use the light rail and squawk at each other in embarrassed confusion and the other half reek of Coors Light (microbreweries are so much better).
This time, a woman and what I assumed to be her three children sat around me. I busied my mind, playing with my drawing app, as the children craned their necks to see what I was doing. Not pretending as if I didn't notice, I turned the iPad around to show them what I was up to. Their eyes signified their approval.
"Wanna try?" I said as I handed my iPad and stylus to the oldest. He drew an "S" and a couple of squiggles. "There!" He proclaimed as he showed me the screen. Then he handed the iPad to the youngest who, looking unsure, lightly drew a few lines and handed it to the second oldest. I could tell he was excited as he switched between colors and line-types. Unfortunately, his vision was greater than his skill-set. He handed my iPad back with a subtle explanation, "It's not really how it's supposed to look."
It happens to the best of us, buddy.
I took the stylus and iPad back, and their mother asked her children, "What do we say?" "Thank you," they responded. It was about then that I realized everyone around us was watching, all wearing the small smiles one gets when one sees a child playing.
I don't know why, but it feels like there is some sort of victory in that.
Still, for those days when I need to carry an object larger than me across a city, I wish I had a truck.
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