By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
"I hit a plate-glass window instead of a very good friend of mine," the Emperor Jules says over the phone. "So I've been painting with my left while I recover. But that's not why I called. I'm inviting you down to Wet Paint's back-to-school party. It should be insane. They haven't had a Final Friday Art Walk in a while, and you know how it is when you meet up with some hot bitch who likes to fuck but hasn't gotten fucked in a while, right?"
"That hasn't happened to me in way too long," I sigh. "But I smell you, Cap'n. We'll be there."
I drop a dime to the L-word Lea, and we coordinate our arrival at Wet Paint at Seventh Street and Forest in downtown Tempe. Aside from serving as an art-supply store, an alternative gallery, a performance space and a record shop, the W.P. is also hosting a bangin' Final Friday blowout with art, fashion, spoken word, rap, and plenty o' cuties with fine boo-tays.
When we arrive, the event is slammin', spilling out onto the street, while the baggy-pant crowd inside is eyeballin' the art on two floors: ground level, where a performance area has been set up for the bands to go on later; and the second floor, which is more of a catwalk with a guardrail that runs around all four walls, so playas and playettes can peep the ghettofab ones below.
Upstairs we find Jules pouring shots of Southern Comfort at the bar, not too far from his piece titled A Brush With the Law. The bifurcated canvas depicts Officer Not-So-Friendly on the right, and a big-assed hog on the left. (Seems Jules has had issues of late with the po-po.) Jules is sportin' a black tee that reads "Alpha Monster" in red, and when we ask what's up with that, he points us in the direction of lead Alpha Monster Baron Gordon, who's seated next to his expressionistic painting of a ghostly Ray Charles and is also rockin' the Alpha Monster tee.
"Alpha Monster, is that like Alpha Male?" asks the J-grrl.
"It's more than that," explains the bearded, bohemian Baron. "It's about being the best of the best, Alpha being number one, and monster being hungry and very aggressive. So that's where we're coming from. It's an artists' collective, and we've got everyone from Jason Rudolph Pe--a, Dumperfoo, Jess Jordan, Jules, and a lot of others. This is our first show under the Alpha Monster umbrella. We're all about getting people to appreciate the art."
"Cool. Right now I'm appreciating this TV set over here," says Jett, indicating a regular TV set that's been painted over by the Baron so you can barely make out what's on the screen through the paint.
"I guess you could say I'm not a big fan of television," he smirks.
"What, you don't like Skinamax? You know, the soft-core stuff they show on cable at night?" asks Jett.
"See, the Baron's art is deeper than that," I spit.
"Deeper than the bitches on Skinamax?" asks the J-grrl. "Have you seen them ho's? I don't think so."
It's getting a little too thick with folks up in here to conversate properly, so we head downstairs. There, some chick in a whacked-out paper dress reminiscent of those green-and-red Chinese handcuffs you get at the State Fair is singing a cappella with some backbeats as her only accompaniment. It's none other than designer/performance artist Camille Messina, who's also designed two other paper dresses being worn by models parading around the gallery. As we're waiting for Funky Cold Messina to finish her set, we rub up on two of the finest dimes in the joint, Lolita Sahwany and sis Venus. These sloe-eyed, olive-skinned lovelies have recently bailed on the Big Apple and relocated to Tempe to be closer to family, and to judge by their words, they seem to be feelin' the Valley.
"So what do you think about P-town so far?" I inquire of the duo, who could pass for twins, but swear they ain't.
"I think it's awesome," gushes Lolita, a video artist who studied film at NYU. "I was a little surprised. I wasn't sure how it was going to be coming from a really big city. But I totally changed my opinion of the desert. I didn't think anything was going on over here. I thought this was going to be a pit stop for me on the way to L.A. But I've kinda settled in, and I'm thinking I can do things here."
"How 'bout you, Venus?" wonders the Jettster.
"I love it," asserts this raven-haired Aphrodite, who was a lawyer in Gotham, but has yet to practice in the Zona. "It's not as diverse as New York, but some areas are diverse. It's interesting, there's a lot of opportunity out here. I think that's what brought me out. And there's money to be made."
"What about the Phoenix fellas vs. the Gotham boys? Assuming you like guys," I say, rolling my eyes at Jett, significantly. "You know, there are a lot of lesbians out here."
"Oh, we like guys," responds Venus. "There are a lot of classy guys in New York, but there are a lot of classy guys here, too."
"I dunno," says Lolita. "I think a lot of the men in New York are too full of themselves for their own good. But I've been dating a guy that I met right here. I know when I pulled into town, I was wondering, 'Where am I gonna meet someone cool?' You know, not in the clubs. A friend of mine said, 'If you wanna meet someone cool, you gotta go to where cool people hang out.' Like here."
"Hmm, so where is this mystery man?" sniffs Jett, ever on the make.
"He's on tour right now. His name is Brad B. He's in this local, progressive hip-hop crew, the Drunken Immortals."
Just then, the Funky Cold One finishes her set, so we say farewell to Lolita and Venus, and corner the vivacious fashionista so we can quiz her on her nutty designs.
"I'm really concerned about talking to you two," worries Messina.
"She says we talk shit too much," laughs Jett, who knows the gal from way back.
"When have we ever been mean?" I cry.
"Well, there were the good skinheads, Kreme," admonishes Jett.
"You're not a skinhead, are you Camille?" I ask the Funkalicious Mess. "Otherwise we promise to be gentle."
"You know, Camille once duct-taped my breasts," Jett spurts out. "Uh, for a fashion show I was in. You know, to give me a little more cleavage."
"Yes, it was exciting," says Camille. "I was thrilled. I've taped so many tits, you wouldn't believe."
"Wait a sec," I say. "Jett needed more cleavage? It ain't like the Zona needs another Grand Canyon."
"Get your snout outta my canyon, Kreme," replies Jett, disgustedly. "So are you mostly still doing the fashion now, Camille, baby?"
"I've got a lot of things in the works," says Funky Cold Messina, a book of poetry in one hand. "I'm working on a short film right now, and also on an album. And of course, I'm doing photo shoots all the time. It's just wherever the inspiration goes, you follow. I can't help it. I can't."
"I know, that's what I always tell people about my waistline," I crack.
Nearby is Jess Jordan, the 24-year-old maestro of this madness. Jordan almost single-handedly organized the Tempe art scene into a the Final Friday event, which happens, of course, just prior to downtown Phoenix's First Friday deal. Though Jordan's Wet Paint, which she runs with her dad, is the linchpin of Final Friday, about two dozen other galleries participate. Hundreds of fine artists, graff writers, poets and musicians feeding off each other's creativity descend on Wet Paint for the event each month. Jordan herself is a very talented painter, and this evening she has several canvases up.
"We always get a good crowd in," says Jordan, sipping on a little somethin' somethin' as we parley with each other. "And I've been trying to have themes to it. This month is the Alpha Monster collective, next month will be Halloween, and in November, it's going to be skateboards, original art on skateboards, sculpture and photography. We also want to get the BMXers out here, too, but we'll see how that goes."
"So which one of the canvases that you have up is your favorite?" I query.
"Oh, it has to be the one of George Clinton," says Jordan, referring to a colorful portrait of Dr. Funkenstein in the upper gallery. "He's the man."
"George Clinton?" says Jett. "Was that like President Clinton's brother?"
"Well, he is a brother," I explain. "And he is a Clinton, but unlike the ex-prez, he, uh, inhaled -- a lot. And got popped for it, I believe. He's a musician, Jett. Haven't you ever heard of Parliament/Funkadelic?"
"Puh-lease, Kreme, I know all about Parliament/Funkadelic" snorts Jett. "How dumb do you think I am? We learned all about that form of government in high school."