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"This is called 'Serpent in the Garden,'" he says, pointing one out, "after Adam and Eve." There are the requisite shells, some intricate black-and-white weaving, and a large feather sticking out.
Ivy highlights another.
"This is called 'Lucky,' because it reminds me of a leprechaun. It's abstract. I should have put some green in it."
You know, it is abstract.
"This is called 'Blood,'" he states of a Rorschach-looking shape of shelled webbing that is, indeed, red.
And then we have . . .
"This piece right here is called 'Sex on the Beach,'" intones the sentimental curator. They don't call abstract art abstract for nothing, but Ivy is more than willing to explain it to me. "If you look up under here, you'll know what I'm talking about," he says as we crane our necks. "This is the penis and that's the pussy. You understand what I'm saying?"
Very much so.
"When I originally made this, I dedicated it to Jonathan Livingston Seagull."
One piece really stands out. "Manique," it is called, which Ivy claims is Peruvian for "gateway" or "doorway." The aliens took a special interest in "Manique."
"When I was working on that, I have seen beams fly into my house, stop right in front of that and disappear," he says. I suggest perhaps those were headlights.
"That wasn't no headlight," Ivy emphasizes, "I'm talking about small circles of light. Very bright. But that didn't shock me. I'm pretty open-minded."
He has to be, after what's happened to him in bed.
"In my dreams, I have been to other planets," he explains. "I've been to Saturn. And I have seen aliens. I've seen spaceships and stuff, up in Yarnell. The aliens, they're in another dimension. It's only when they want us to see them that they come to the plane that we're on now, but they're constantly here. On Tuesday nights and Thursday nights, they're real active."
This may sound odd to you, but I believe in Sun Ra. So let's keep going.
"Human beings have to keep evolving. And when mankind does evolve, the aliens will be glad to meet us, they'll be very glad to meet us. A lot of them, right now they're not too happy with us because they're afraid of us. That's why they don't make themselves plain."
There's a work-in-progress in Keith Leonard Ivy's apartment right now. It is to be a hummingbird. At the moment, it appears to be an antler, parts of which are covered with a finely woven material hanging on a thin wire in his breakfast nook. Beneath it are plastic food containers full of shells. Sade sings on the tape player as Ivy speaks.
"I'll hang the naked piece up and walk by and look at it, walk by and look at it, walk by and look at it, then slap myself in the brain a couple times and say, 'It's time for you to get busy.'"
And the shells provide unsolicited guidance.
"Sometimes they'll talk to me, the shells will say, 'Put me in, put me in!' What it all boils down to is being in touch."
Ivy and his work may never be in touch with gallery owners (he says Scottsdale art houses have given him the brush-off) or the public, but let it be said that Mr. Ivy is in touch with something. The sea. The Earth. Aliens. Good intentions. His own greater force, certainly, whatever that may be.
And whatever it is, I like it. And him.
"When I first moved out here, I was hanging out with some Navajos," Ivy recalls, "and this one guy, they said he was crazy, but he looked at me and said, 'You're The One Who Sees Underwater.' He gave me that name. He didn't know what type of artwork I did or anything about me. But I really liked that."
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