Five years. When I think about it, it's kind of dumbfounding and inevitable at the same time. Bill and I have been doing Thunder-Sky, Inc. for five years. We've had a lot of help from a lot of great people, but we've kind of been the ones who push and prod this whatever-it-is (gallery/studio/fan-club/clubhouse/limbo) forward, very slowly forward, the way Raymond kind of moved: intent, focused, but also nonchalant, maybe insouciant, not caring and yet caring, building and demolishing simultaneously because he knew how the world works.
Above is a photo from October 30, 2009. That was the debut gig at Thunder-Sky, Inc., when we opened a show called "Raymond Nation." Looks like a stalwart ghost dangling in a walk-in freezer. I love that chill Raymond imparts. He never really let you know exactly how he was feeling or what he was thinking; he was cryptic in the best possible way. I respect that so much looking back, how he just followed through on his own strictly self-determined purpose, how he built a life out of demolition and fury and happiness, how it all became what he wanted it to become till the very day he died.
And that's why I keep beating this dead horse. Because Raymond's purpose was to make something out of nothing and to do it without a lot of bull-shit or a lot of attention. He had a purpose beyond all that and yet he wasn't above any of it. He relished obscurity as much as relishing those tiny moments of appreciation he was allotted at the end of his life (a few shows of his work at Base Gallery, Visionaries + Voices, and other places we were able to find to exhibit his drawings). But he also understood the joke of his existence so much so that the joke became his kingdom. He played it all up -- clownishness, construction-worker-ness, his strangeness and alienness given superhero qualities by his own hand. And in those drawings he left behind you feel him laughing, sneering a little, letting us know he does not give really a shit, except for the big things like prisons crumbling and being replaced by card-tricks and clownishness, a whole industry of trickery and sarcasm.
He was punk. He was innocence. He was experience. He was a freak who made that freakishness a route to grandeur and hilarity and self-knowledge.
Most of all he was what he was, without apologies. He was scary in the way clowns can be scary. He was lovely in the way clowns can be lovely. He was hard-working, he was mysterious, he was very simple.
And so this is why we keep doing Thunder-Sky, Inc.: because I truly can't find any other role-model, any other reason, to organize/coordinate artistic endeavors outside of that stream of light. Maybe it's obsession or stupidity or stubbornness (probably all of the above), but somehow Raymond's life was too elementally metaphoric and wildly outlandish and secretively productive to forget, to be placed in a pile of other file-folders marked "outsider art" or "people with disabilities" or "folk hero" or "mysterious stranger." He deserves his own little hall of fame, and so here it is, at least for a little while. At least another year.
This is a year to year thing. It has to be. We don't want it to become bigger than it needs to be. So Thunder-Sky, Inc. has an under the radar quality, a homespun do-it-yourself-ness that tries to run away from being labeled or even being appreciated. It is a little place that does not want to be anything except exactly what it is in the very moment you see it. And for most of the year it's doors are closed anyway. Open only on weekends, and on the Fridays we have opening receptions (6 times a years), or when someone wants to do a poetry reading, or any other special occasion that seems worth it.
Thunder-Sky, Inc. is a non-profit ghost in the machine. We do what we have to do to make things move, but not a lot of anything else. Like Raymond and his drawings: elemental, precise, completed, on to the next thing.
We're celebrating the five year anniversary next Friday, October 24, 2014, with a show called "The New Clownville Amusement," with Raymond-inspired works by Robert McFate, Curtis Davis, artists who use the Visionaries + Voices studio, artists from Able Projects, Antonio Adams, the Waldecks and friends, and many wonderful others. This show came together like all of the other ones we do, things piling up and then somehow organized into a semblance of order through just doing it. The five year anniversary means Raymond has been gone for ten years. Ten years. Good Lord. He won't disappear. Even if Thunder-Sky, Inc. disappears Raymond won't. He is building and destroying things in all kinds of ways right now that we can't even fathom, which is the way it always was anyway.