So why do we keep on doing Thunder-Sky, Inc.? We're 6 years in now, and sometimes it feels like a never-ending cycle of chores -- news releases and Facebook posts and nails into walls and spackle and paint and bathroom cleaner and paper-towels and buying beer and wine and pop and ice, all in the name of curating the best and weirdest and sweetest art shows we can pull together, 6 times a year. What is it now? 33 shows so far, with maybe about the same number installed in other galleries and places across the region. God knows we don't do it for the cash. Thunder-Sky, Inc. is all non-profit, all volunteer, all kind of makeshift and holy and silly and serious and sarcastic simultaneously. It's about Raymond Thunder-Sky sure, but I think what's evolved from the initial desire to keep Raymond in the mix is this:
Antonio Adams. He met Raymond the same time Bill and I did, and he was with us through the whole V+V evolution, and when we had to find an escape and a life-raft from the whole complicated V+V thing he came with us. The life-raft was that space next to N-Vision, next to the Comet, 4573 Hamilton Avenue, Northside. And in those six years Antonio has found a voice deeper and more hilarious and smarter and assured than ever before. He uses the space during the week as a studio. He calls "Artist's Meetings" to order on Saturdays, whether other artists are there or not. He creates his own sense of super-stylish chic through costume and custom, always looking forward to next year. And look at those gloves. Damn.
Last night we opened our 34th in-house gig called "History Channel: New Art from Old Art," and as usual the opening was joyous, off-kilter, clumsy, sweet, perfect. I screwed up the wall-text with using the wrong abbreviation for "Price on Request," and Bill had a cow. But despite that (or perhaps because of it) it was still hilariously what always happens: lots of people from all kinds of different backgrounds, creeds, classes, etc., hanging out, walking around, making conversation, laughing. There was a rainbow outside above the joint for a little while too, kind of like the 5:4 decision given its own God-blessed neon light. Antonio invited his mom and sister and they all showed, and he got costumed and held court awaiting their presence. Some artists from a studio in Hamilton called InsideOut, a place, like V+V, for artists with developmental disabilities, were there, totally enjoying their little bit of spotlight, and their excitement kind of got to me in the same way seeing Antonio holding court gets me. They were all excited to see their art-history-inspired art on our humble white walls. I truly loved the work. Loved Cassie Sullivan's quilted Warhol "Marilyns" and Alicia Jones' "Frida Kahlo" painting, an astute rendering of the artist as both goddess and cartoon and David Campbell's beautiful and fragile and kind of satiric take on Grant Woods' "American Gothic" sour-pusses... Hanging with the InsideOut-ers was a flashback to the days when Bill and I were pulling together gigs for the artists with disabilities we'd stumble upon doing out regular work, that sense of discovery and bliss, like art can truly matter when you let everything else go.
The other artists we've gotten to know through Thunder-Sky, Inc., some labeled, some not, were there last night too, hanging out. Marc Lambert, super-genius painter of sci-fi visions on ceiling tiles, contributed an archive of Styrofoam pharaohs and a couple ceiling-tile Sistine-Chapel fist-bumps to "History Channel," and he came to the opening with his whole extended family all dolled up and pleasant and affable. Robert McFate did a great Cincy riff on Hopper's "Nighthawks," and Emily Brandehoff came up with some great historical zingers, the best of which combines Goya and the snack-meat product Slim Jim's. It's to die for. Scott Carney merged Japanese nautical art with Peter Max. Alex Bartenberger Rothko'ed it up. Avril Thurman took on Jenny Holzer in the best teletype kind of way. Dale Jackson turned Yoko Ono's instructions from Grapefruit into gorgeous recipe cards. And Antonio took on Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Thomas Hart Benton, all in a deluxe super-Antonio manner.
It's all like that: arbitrary, heart-felt, odd, but exactly what it should be.
We're not creating anything institutional or pretentious or even practical at Thunder-Sky, Inc. We are not building it to last, because nothing really does. Just take a look at Raymond's drawings and you'll get that doom validated and made fun of. What we do at Thunder-Sky, Inc. is very momentary and slap-happy because it has to be: we only want what is authentically here, weird enough to tickle us, solidly made, simply presented, but also nutty enough to not be like anything else.
And then everybody gets together and eats potato chips. And drinks some beer and wine and pop.
Last night was such a great example of why we do it. So thanks to everybody who does it with us.
And then when we got home on CNN President Obama was singing "Amazing Grace."