Molten Gold

Don't ask why Jett flaked on me this week. Something about a free eightball and a three-way in Ahwatukee. Not that I blame her. I mean, the last three-way I was invited to involved me, myself and I, all buck nekkid in the hot tub. Talk about a tight fit! Like a Mr. Science demonstration on the phenomenon of water displacement. Either that, or Fat Bastard's sumo-bathhouse scene in Goldmember.

Minus my Foxxy Cleopatra for the weekend, I figure I might as well hit an event that the ADD-addled Pink of the PHX prolly couldn't get with anyway, the Molten Brothers' one-night-only "Deck" show at the Icehouse on Jackson Street in downtown P-town. An art show like none other here in Sand Land, "Deck" promised more than 100 local and out-of-state artists marking up, dismembering, painting and re-creating average wooden skateboard decks (essentially, the board minus wheels), thereby morphing them into hangable, modern masterpieces. There would be skate videos, bands and brew-ha-has. But since the Jettster ain't exactly a First Friday type, and what she knows of "grinding" usually happens horizontally, I was happy to be rid of the bisexual bizzatch for the evening.

The so-called "Molten Brothers" are actually local paint-slinger Kenneth Richardson and mixed-media maestro Mike Goodwin, First Friday fixtures who started working on this concept more than six months ago. The idea goes back further still, to a year or so ago, when Goodwin painted the now-infamous Ill Papa deck for Art Detour. The board, which was also hung in the show, features a creepy image of Pope Benedict XVI on a black background with the words "Ill Papa" above and "Joey Ratz" below, the latter being a reference to the Catholic Godfather's real handle of Joseph Alois Ratzinger.

"I have to give credit to Jon Stewart," admits the chain-smoking, dreadlocked Goodwin. "I think he was the first one to call the new pope 'Joey Ratz' on The Daily Show, but I thought it was appropriate, because it sounds like a professional skater. The piece was very popular, and it got Ken and I to thinking about doing a whole show of decks."

Goodwin and Richardson plotted strategy over drinks at the boho eatery Carly's Bistro on Roosevelt Street, and very quickly the show was blowing up like the World Trade Center, with everyone worth knowing in the local art world wanting in, from Empress of Outré Rachel Bess, Prince of Darkness Dayvid LeMmon, and Pop-Art Wizard Mike Maas to such well-known AZ art stars as Steve Yazzie, Lisa Takata, Luis Gutierrez, Michael 23, Roy Wasson Valle, Jason Hill, and renowned Zona landscape virtuoso Ed Mell.

As if the local deck daubers weren't enough, Amy Young and Doug Grant of Grand Avenue's Perihelion Arts leapt into the fray and were soon corralling humongo names from coast to coast and beyond: folks like Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo fame, Isabel Samaras, Shepard Fairey, Carlos Batts, Emmeric James Konrad, Christine Karas, Gidget Gein, Dave Naz, John John Jesse, and Japan's Naoto Hattori. Interestingly, it was these last three artists who boggled the backward-ass aesthetics of PHX printer Courier Graphics, which, according to Goodwin and Richardson, ended up reaming the project's full-color catalogue by demanding that images from Naz, Jesse and Hattori be censored.

Cali photographer Naz's deck depicts the disrobed backside of a young blonde, something you can see in almost every art history book ever printed. Brooklyn painter Jesse's board implies that a semi-nude brunette may be masturbating. But the worst thing you actually see are her panties and parts of her breasts. Objection to Hattori's piece seems unusually wack, since the deck portrays a benign, anthropomorphic toadstool worthy of Saturday morning TV. Allegedly, the imaginative minds of Courier Graphics saw something phallic in mushroom man.

(For the record, Courier Graphics VP Larry Babka denied that C.G. had any problem with Hattori's Shrooman, but admitted that C.G. did ultimately insist on obscuring the Jesse deck.)

"When it came down to it, they were objecting to it on more of conservative-feminist grounds," states Goodwin. "They said it was degrading to women. This is with a week left to go before the show. Our backs were to the wall. But we eventually got them down to blurring one image, the John John Jesse."

Fortunately, they figured out a way to subvert the Courier bluenoses by just printing up stickers of the John John Jesse deck on their own and giving one to each purchaser of the book with a note about the controversy. This bump in the road aside, "Deck" turned out to be a huge success, with an estimated 1,500 visitors of all ages, five bands, a beer garden, exhibits on the history of skateboarding and the première of the Cowtown Skateboards' video Get on the Good Foot -- basically local Dogtown types performing all sorts of sick moves for the camera.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons