Friday, May 28, 2010


Action artist David Ellis aka SKWERM

… who, among other things, is the founder of the Barnstormers
as featured in the December 2009 issue of Juxtapoz
was layering down the paint in Austin recently,
as the first international artist invited to create work
for the new Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas.

I interviewed Ellis for a short piece in the Chronicle.
It was a sort of hey-check-this-out press shout about his residency,
so's to stir up (or satisfy) some general interest about
the man's work and what the Center promises
for the future of UT-sponsored art.

Since Ellis's big thing (aside from the painting itself)
is videodocumentation of what he does,
YouTube was a great source for research,
for seeing what his paintings look like
as they morph from one image to the next.
And how the man collaborates with other artists,
as seen in this mindblowing collaboration with Italy's BLU.

I'm pointing this out to you not just because
you'll enjoy watching those videos (which you probably will)
or because the Chron article is especially well-written
~ it's merely adequate ~
but because I want you to be aware, if you're not already,
of the vivid graphics that Ellis creates and the
~ dare I say it? ~ oh sweet jesus, I'mma say it ~
the paradigm-shifting way he videographically captures
and intarwebbishly distributes his acts of creation.

And I want you to be aware of this because
this year's printed edition of Minerva's Wreck will be released soon.

Which means I'll be free to begin work
on next year's edition, on Minerva's Wreck: 2011.

And, among the other wonders to be found in its pages,
each instance of Minerva's Wreck: 2011 will include
an original painting by David Ellis.

Whoa, you may say.
W, you may wonder, TF?

This: I was in the Visual Arts Center, pre-interview, waiting for Ellis.
I was talking to Nicole Vlado, the internal affairs coordinator
of UT's "Landmarks" public art program.

As Vlado described the program and its planned future,
I was looking around the enormous front studio
that held the structure that Ellis & his crew had built
to house and light the painting surfaces for best video recording.
Sitting to one side of this working structure was a canvas:
A big canvas … an enormous fucking canvas … a canvas
that was so large that it had been folded into itself many times
& was still larger than the back seat of my car.

The part of the canvas that was visible was covered with familiar colors and lines. I knew, because it was obviously one of Ellis's worksurfaces, that the bright latex marking the giant canvas must be in, what, ten, fifteen layers?

The giant folded canvas was sitting atop
a scattering of rags and wires and sawdust.

I asked Vlado, "Uh, what's ... that?"

"That's a used canvas," she said.
"David's going to take it out to the Dumpster later."

"The Dumpster? He's just going to ... throw it away?"

"Yeah," said Vlado, "he ~"

"I could do that for him," I said.
"I mean, I could take it, if that's okay. If he wouldn't mind?"

"Well," said Vlado, "you can certainly ask him ..."

And so I did. After the interview wound down ~ Ellis had to get back to painting, I had to get back to the office, the afternoon was grinding on through an overcast, grackle-bothered sky ~ I pointed to the folded canvas. Told Ellis that I'd be glad to take care of it for him. Told him that I did an annual anthology to which pieces of the canvas, accompanying an article about its creator and the cultural ramifications of his work, would be a perfect addition.

"Sure," he said, shrugging. "Yeah, that's cool."

The folded canvas was just slightly larger than the back seat of my car; a bit more folding & its bulk was accommodated.

The mass of paint-thickened fabric is in my apartment now,
taking up about one-sixth of my small bedroom.

And so: For the oversized Minerva's Wreck: 2011, which will be released in an edition of 250 in the summer of that year, Ellis's canvas will be cut into pieces approximately 10 x 12 inches each and ~ enclosed in a heavy-gauge clear plastic bag ~ affixed to the inside back cover of the anthology ... to illuminate an article ~ a combination of fact-based reportage and critical essay ~ by design journalist William Bostwick.

Yeah, we're pretty excited about this.