Wednesday, June 18, 2014
I was completely alone and lost and living in the tiniest apartment you've ever seen on the upper west side with no kitchen and only one small window with a glorious view of nothing but the filthy bricks of the next building. I was in my mid 20s and had absolutely no friends but other models that talked incessantly about nothing but chicks and modeling. In hindsight, I was probably suffering from my first real bout of depression as well as the brutal sting of the reality of having absolutely no idea what to do with myself but to just keep doing what I was doing which was only digging me in further, making things worse. Then one day I woke up and started walking. I walked and walked without direction or any destination in mind. I tried not to think much. I just walked. I did this for days, going into bars and book stores and galleries. I talked to no one. My pager would go off from the agency but I wouldn't respond. Finally, maybe a month later, my money started to run out. I called the agency. "Where the hell have you been?! screamed my agent. "I'm really sorry, I just, you know, I had this thing I had to do."
Monday, June 16, 2014
POETS DON'T TAN: The Life and Times of Phil Bram In a dark, disheveled grotto in Beacon’s east end, one man's psychic manifesto is taking shape. An explosion of makeshift archetypes fill the cramped space, littered with empty beer bottles and snack food casings. I wondered a few times during my recent visit if this might be the ideal forum to view Phil Bram’s stuff — if he shouldn’t just recreate the entire messy scenario inside Mad Dooley Gallery, on the other side of town. Amputated superheroes, bed-headed dollies, used paper towels, rusted car parts, dirty dish rags, North American driftwood, a blasphemous dildo, and freshly tanned pigskins are just some of the found/lost/acquired materials Bram has reassembled to give form to his dreams, anxieties and Freudian attachments. Known as a prolific wordsmith, it looks like he has found a way to funnel his verbal compulsions into something three-dimensional. Are you a writer who makes art, or an artist who writes? I really have no idea. I only began making art recently. I did a show of my words burned into wood at Fabhaus here last year and things just started coming out. I honestly don't know how anyone knows what to do or be in this world anymore. I haven't read a novel in years. Every now and then I'll pick up Celine or Bukowski or Henry Miller and I'll read a paragraph or two while I'm sitting on the pot or something but that's about it. The opening to Death On The Installment Plan are my favorite words ever written. I remember the first time I ever read them, I couldn't go any further. I bit the book hard enough to leave teethmarks and then I threw it against the wall. I think I still have that copy. My only connection to the writing world is that I enjoy going into bookstores and picking up the new arrivals and checking out all the authors' photos. That always makes me laugh. There's something about the staging of images that's hilarious to me. I love it! It's mesmerizing. Catalogs, ads, selfies, magazine covers, movie posters…I can't get enough of that shit. Anyway, I think the art is healthier for me right now. I can leave it and come back to it with no problem. I have little attachment to it. If my studio burned down right now I would just be a bit bummed for the show. There will always be new pieces to make. When I write, when I truly write, my whole world starts to collapse. It feels like I'm being surrounded by beasts. Drama always ensues. All hell breaks loose. Problems, drama. Drama must be the comedy of the gods. Only fools vilify. How would you describe your art? Could you be considered an “outsider”? Ha ha. Someone actually got mad at me the other night. They kept asking me about mediums and materials and shit. I just kept saying, “Just come to the show, man.” I can't believe how angry he was. Remember the opening to Crumb? Those first words when we first see Robert drawing? He's got his head down and he's sort of whistling and Terry asks him, "So what are you trying to get at in your art?" Robert's reaction to the question is perfect! "JESUS!" he says. You know he's already regretting the whole thing. Then he says, "I don't know" in this dopey sort of voice. I LOVE that movie! Is this your first real gallery show? Is there a theme? What can we expect? Oh boy. Yeah, it's a real deal show. I love Catherine's space. She's a great artist and she's really taking a chance with me. I love her for that. The work she shows, the stuff I've seen anyway, is more personal than most around here, more emotional, not so goddamn cerebral. It's a perfect fit for me. My mother kept creeping into the work. I didn't want it to be about her but there was nothing I could do about it. Another artist asked me a while back about the work and I told her it was mostly about my mother, and she cringed and said, "Oooooh." Or maybe she said, "Oh no.” Ha ha. Something like that. You’ve mastered Facebook as a platform for your ideas, including the ability to remain somewhat uncensored. Why did you leave, and why did you come back? Facebook is a very dangerous realm when you're using it as an art form. I've been kicked off and investigated many times. Mostly, I either get sickened with it all and myself and I feel like I'm wasting too much time. Or I'll get in trouble with my wife. But then I always go back to it. I have an illness. But then there's nothing better to keep the energy flowing. It keeps me in shape. I'm certain Bukowski would've jumped in the ring. Speaking of censorship, much of what you’re doing is challenging what is acceptable to point out every day hypocrisies. Care to comment? I like to pop bubbles. I have to do it. It all started in my childhood when my mother would come home from the hospital and then we would all just be sitting there at the dinner table like nothing had happened, like nothing was wrong. It drove me crazy. I just can't take it. I'm constantly having these overwhelming desires to run up to people and berate them. The other day, I found myself standing in front of a cop, staring at him. I just couldn't believe it. He was just so much a cop. It couldn't be true. People just become these things, they fill a mold. I've done it. Or my mailman. He fascinates me. I'm always peeking out the window at him. I want to know things about him. I want to know how many pairs of socks he owns, what he ate for breakfast, how big his penis is and how often he masturbates. And yeah, so, the whole sex thing. It's insane how we pretend it isn't there with each other. I mean, a group of couples with kids having dinner together and the women all know all the other husbands have these sick fantasies about them. But no one's going to talk about it on any real level. I mean, I certainly could! Ha ha. Hmmm, did any of that have anything to do with your question? You seem quite disgusted with yourself and everyone around you? Again, care to comment? Life is mostly a series of humiliations. I'm tired of having to wipe my ass every day. You put on your shoes, you drive your car. Your phone rings. You have to stand there in front of people while they say things to you. I can barely hear a thing. I end up just staring at those wet lips moving around that hole of a mouth on their stupid faces. The whole thing is absurd. This can't be it. I never feel like anything is actually happening. Mostly, it feels like it's happened hundreds of years ago or a thousand years from now. I feel like a vapor, like I'm barely here. But the bills keep coming. Your taxes never go away. And speaking of Bukowski, you often refer to or directly quote him. Is he your hero? I adore Bukowski. There's something wrong with someone who doesn't value him. He was a far sweeter soul than most people think. But I don't have any heroes. I don't believe in the concept. There are people that I look to that I think made the deal. Ya know, the crossroads shit. That's a real thing. I made the deal about a year ago. People will certainly laugh when they hear that but I don't give a shit, I DID. And it's a lot like what Townes Van Zandt said, "I knew I could do it, but it meant blowing off EVERYTHING." But I don't want to have to blow everything off. I think you can be braver than that. I did a piece for my last show that said: "It's easy to be a monk in a monastery." I think those words really nailed that concept. All the young artists around here without kids and shit, you know. I really feel that you have to take life head on if you're going to be able to say anything that resonates with someone like me. Anyway, that said, to surrender to your art is no walk in the park for anyone. The reward is hardly worth the cost. It's always higher than you think. Yeah, I think I've learned more from musicians and actors than writers and artists though. It's the now of it, the performance. You get to see the creation as it's happening. I learn more from that. I'm a huge Dylan fan. He truly, truly transcended like no other. Sometimes I'll stay up late at night just watching live footage of him. I'll watch it with the sound off so I don't wake up my wife or my kids. He's mesmerizing, just his movements and his facial expressions. I learn something every time. Tell me about Oklahoma and your family. Oklahoma. God, I love that place. I have little need for it anymore but it's a huge part of who I am. I'm so glad I grew up there. But like most places, it's all gone. You still have the landscapes but the people of the world have basically become one. There's no real culture to speak of, there's not much reason to go anywhere. Even New York City. There's nothing left of that place for me anymore. What is there outside of things you must buy? So where do you go when there's no place left to go? You go inside yourself. That's all you can do. My family? My father retired in Oklahoma. He was in the Air Force. He was so allergic to people that it seemed as good a place as any. I have an older brother and an older sister. And then there's my mother. If you want to know about her, you should just come to the show. How much of what you write is the real Phil Bram and how much of it is a cultivated persona? There is no trick with anything I have ever written. It's me. How do you really feel about Beacon, New York? Beacon. Some friends of mine called it BLeaKon. I love it and I hate it. It's the beauty that first attracted me to it and the fact that I was broken down from all those years of traveling and living in the city. I needed to get out of there but I still had to work in the city. Beacon's a special place but I could easily leave it forever and never look back. I'm only hard on it because I would be hard on any place I lived. People take too much pride in where they live or where they came from. And don't get me started on sports teams. I can't for the life of me understand that shit. Is anyone spared from your dark thoughts? I try to never personally attack anyone, but if you fall into a category I'm taking on then? You know, sorry. How do you reconcile your blatant misanthropy with the relatively nice life you live: a beautiful wife, two beautiful children, living in a cute Hudson Valley town that wholeheartedly supports your artistic endeavors? Yeah, I'm a very lucky man in many regards. I remember when my first boy, Henry, was born. I was still traveling, modeling, climbing. I thought it would be the thing that finally made me get serious about life, whatever that means. But it did the opposite. When I saw that little dude for the first time, when that nurse held his wet little body up there in the air, I knew right then and there that I had to do exactly what I'm now doing, whatever the hell that is. "A year after we moved in we started getting a lot of Christmas cards in the mail and they’d say 'Hey, Skeet.' 'Hope you’re doing well, Skeet.' This guy used to live there and all of these people didn’t know he was dead." "This to me is what it feels like to be a man. To be at the mercy of your mind and your cock. It’s a prison. It’s embarrassing." "We kind of had a normal life for a while, but then my sister lost a baby. My mother got the phone call at the dinner table and there was this slow motion collapse. She wasn’t my mother for a decade after that." POETS DON'T TAN opens at Mad Dooley Gallery, 197 Main Street, on Saturday, June 14.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
That's not what it is. You shape it, you mold it into what you need, what you need it to be in order to get what you need to get out of it. It's like a woman's ass. Unless it's just so far gone it's impossible, a man can always find a way to position that thing so that it works… But you have to do it, you must use it. And you can't worry about the consequences. You may be too weak, it may be too much for you. But it doesn't matter, you have to do it, you have take the chance and light the fuse.
You ever watch a bloated dead animal decay and dissolve over time in a pool of water? There is no stench quite like it. And the water after the poor thing is fully gone; it looks like some beastly giant squatted down and let out an explosion of diarrhea. Anyway, that's about what most interactions with my fellow man does to me. GO SOONERS!
Monday, April 28, 2014
I told you this is no joke I'm serious, it's as deadly as war, as love you've gotta find a way, a way to finesse it to finesse the energy not just to be able to float upon it when things are good but when things get ugly, mean and ugly, to know how to dip down below, beneath it all when you should have known better to have ever gone in at all
Sunday, April 20, 2014
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Yeah, I think we've got this whole thing all wrong. Isn't it the redneck Republican that needs to be painting? Is it not the fat old nun that needs to be fucked? Let's take that precious vegan "celiac" cunt out on a hunt. Shouldn't we all have to participate in some sort of slaughter? Shouldn't we all be forced to gut the pig, to face that ugly truth? Ah, yes, there it is, truth. It's always worse than you think, isn't it? But there are far worse things than truth. Terrible, horrible things which have led me to this. The thoughts of the bank teller as you swipe your card, the gaze of the tollbooth attendant holding out his hand. The pimply kid behind the counter at McDonald's, the bald man in sunglasses, cruising around town in his vet. What the hell does any of it mean? Somewhere, right now, some poor bastard's about to discover a lump or perhaps his sweet old mother's corpse. All these worlds we will never know, sights and sounds which were not meant for us. The nurse sobbing in the bathroom on an 18 hour shift. The truck driver nodding off, the president of the United States whacking off to porn. What the hell's the matter with me? Why can't I just accept what we are and must be? Is this not just the natural progression of things, the obvious conclusion to our course? No, I really don't think so. Something definitely went wrong. I mean, Jesus Christ, no wonder we're all so goddamn empty inside. No wonder we're all so lost that we come here for comfort, for some sort of camaraderie. I'm telling ya, we're dwindling, baby, we're dwindling right down to the nub. Those endless fields of corn as you drive along the highway. Wait, what is that? That's not lettuce I don't think. It looks like some sort of cabbage or I don't know, chard maybe? A strange house out in the middle of nowhere. What the hell do those people do? Hey, let's knock over their mailbox! Bug guts on your windshield, another splat of bird shit and you're out of wiper fluid. What do you think of the new Beck album? Hey, you got any sours on tap? Sometimes I just want to think about tadpoles and crawdads, big thunderheads piling up in the sky. You ever see a horny toad? a dust devil? a tumbleweed? It's amazing how many people haven't. Anyway, all I really meant to say was, I miss things as much as anyone, but let's not kid ourselves, the wind knows nothing of the windmill and we all know all hell's about to break loose!