Okay so I know I have been pretty silent for the last month. Honestly I needed to take a break. I was approached to do the “…and all that could have been…” exhibit by Mercedes Rodgers, the owner of the Full Circle Gallery, on the night of my good friend Doria Grace’s exhibit on May 29th. As soon as Mercedes mentioned it to me I got the idea to build a life size cross and instantly knew the exhibit title. I have always been fascinated by religion and I wanted to challenge myself and force myself to go outside of my comfort zone with the exhibit. I have never been a fan of monotony or being stale; I think the minute you stop challenging yourself and learning is the minute you become extinct.
I didn’t initially tell Mercedes about the cross. I waited for a while because I needed to understand what the purpose was in my mind. I hadn’t planned it; it was more of an instinctual, gut reaction and I needed to understand it from my reality before trying to convince someone else of it. Before I ran it by Mercedes I ran it by my coworker Todd Stevenson. Todd is a Christian and I wanted his thoughts on what I was doing before I moved ahead. I wanted to be sure my idea was sound and wasn’t just shock for the sake of shock. Todd understood the concept. I don’t think he understood what it would like initially but he got the theory behind it and supported it.
When I approached Mercedes with it she had a very hesitant reaction. I have a tendency to not only be offensive, but offend for the sake of offending. Mercedes had a very valid concern that I was only doing this to piss people off but she trusted me to move forward with it. A few weeks later we sat down and discussed the logistics of it and we got into the theory of the piece and she completely supported it and stood by me. So from there… it was just about building the damn thing… and I know nothing about construction…
I drew out the above diagram and emailed it to a good friend of mine. A truly brilliant photographer named Marcus Ranum. Marcus helped me understand some of the pitfalls I would encounter as well as the best equipment to do this kind of thing. He guided me on what could hold the weight of the glass, what kind of wood, etc. Marcus was incredibly valuable to bounce ideas off of because he’s very scientifically minded. He loves construction and physics theory. We sent probably 30 emails back and forth one night just getting a lot of the theory of the construction hammered out but once we had it, I had a shopping list and a plan!
The next hurdle was figuring out the adhesives. A few friends had the idea to use Elmers Glue and just paint it onto glass and attach an image. Another idea was the Elmers spray on adhesive. I had some broken glass around the house so I cut up a picture and did some tests. The spray on adhesive worked best but there was still absolutely no way it would support the weight of the glass. It peeled right off. I contacted my good friends Holly Bain and Charlotte Snyder about this problem. Holly owns ASAP Graphics, the company that does all of my printing. She said we could use vinyl like she uses on windows. It would be transparent and would be easy to apply. We decided that was our best bet.
I needed a model for the cross. After all, I needed a hot girl to let me crucify them!
A few weeks prior I had met up with an old friend from High School, Larrisa Powell. She had her friend with her, Jennifer Grimm. Jennifer is a very beautiful goth girl who luckily likes my art.
So I asked her randomly one day if she’d be down to be a part of something new for me. Something I had never done. She would be one of a kind and a part of a potential break through for me. She said yes.
We scheduled a shoot at the Revive Media Services studio on July 11th, 2010. She was AMAZING.
It was around this time (August-ish) that a huge change was happening in my personal life; I had to move. I had never lived on my own and since my father died a couple of years ago my mother and I had been scraping by in the same house. However our finances had reached a breaking point and it was time to move out. This also meant I needed to buy a car and I only had a 2 month notice to do all of this. 2 months to find a place, pack, buy a car, and move.
This obviously screwed up a lot of the work on the exhibit and pretty much put it on hold for 2 months while I sorted all of that out. I found an apartment I really liked in Navarre, Florida and prepared to move there. The reason I chose Navarre was because I want to expand with my art and in 2011, I will focus on Pensacola a lot more than Fort Walton Beach. Before I moved however, I had some business to finish…
I set the cross on fire! I have never poured gasoline on an open flame but GOD DAMNIT IT FELT GOOD! I remember when I was doing it in my front yard (safety precautions are for pussies?) my neighbors came over and jokingly asked “What are you doing? Burning a cross!?” I laughed and told them “I suppose it depends on your perspective…” since it wasn’t a cross… yet.
I moved in to my apartment on a Friday. It was the day of an exhibit at the Full Circle Gallery for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The day after the exhibit, I got a call that a good friend of mine, Sharon Ramirez, had passed away. I deeply miss her and think of her every single day. It’s still hard to believe she isn’t here with me.
I had a very hard time with losing her. Sharon was always there and always supportive of me. It was hard to believe she wouldn’t be there to keep my chin up for the exhibit. To keep me motivated and believing in myself. Throughout the entire process, I continued to think of advice she had given me to stay motivated.
After the funeral, my best friend Michele came to visit me one weekend. We talked a lot and decided that I needed to really focus so after that weekend, every weekend until the exhibit all I did was work. Work on art. Nonstop. I stopped playing World of Warcraft completely and focused.
In the meantime, the Northwest Florida Arts Association had grown exponentially. We got a place in the Santa Rosa Mall so I was working a lot on stuff for NWFLAA exhibits as well. When I entered the “Consumerism” exhibit, I knew my style needed to change.
I knew I needed to do something different for my exhibit…
I didn’t know what. But it needed to be something different. Something new. One night I was looking at my art and had the idea. The next day I went to work and Todd asked me what I was doing that weekend. I told him “This weekend I’m going to make girls out of light.”
He said “Out of light? How?”
I told him “I don’t know. But it’s going to work.”
That weekend I started work on what would now be known as Invisible Light.
Jennifer Grimm was also the model for this image.
Once I had the style down it was only a matter of doing it several more times. However schedule wise, I was going to have to double dip a little. The NWFLAA had an exhibit coming up called “Lyrically Inspired.” I badly wanted to enter it but I didn’t have time to make something seperate for it that wouldn’t be in my exhibit so I had to come up with an idea that would work for both exhibits.
And I couldn’t. Every single piece I have done is inspired by music but when I tried to do it… I couldn’t. I had nothing.
I mentioned it to Michele and she recalled a conversation we had about a song by The Limousines called “The Future.” She helped me put it into image form in theory and I started work on it. The final product was hardly like what our conversation entailed… but it worked.
Holly and I decided to do a test print for the Lyrically Inspired exhibit as well. I had her order a roll of glossy canvas, a product she had never used before. I needed a great way to display my work at the exhibit without frames.
The canvas worked PERFECTLY! It looked amazing! I ended up taking home first place in the exhibit. This was the first time anyone publicly had seen the style I was doing for my exhibit, both art wise and printing wise. The reception to the style was great and it fueled me to push on. My social life had died but I was focused and wanted to succeed.
It was around this time I printed up official Brandon Pence “…and all that could have been…” exhibit shirts. I felt so renewed. So many new ground was being broken that I was excited! Making art was easy at this point. It all poured out of me.
Once the shirts were out people were getting very excited. It was all my friends talked about. By this point the official exhibit Flyers had arrived as well…
There was just one big hurdle left… the cross.
Holly, Charlotte and I knew it would be a lot of work. We tried to plan everything as best we could. Initially we laid the glass out on top of a life size print out of Jennifer…
However we had a speed bump. Marcus Ranum had mailed me some glass rods to use for the cross.
He didn’t realize the edges were rounded and neither did I… so now we’re less than a month away from the reception and we don’t have a cross! We were less than 30 days from when people would be showing up to see the show and the big center piece was far from finished!
I over nighted some lucite rods meant for display cases and they worked perfectly…
We met on October 16th and worked all day. All 3 of us. We cut the wood, built it into a cross, cut all of the vinyl and attached it to the vinyl in one day.
It was an incredibly busy and stressful day and at the end of it we only had 3 pieces in the actual cross. We made arrangements for me to come over the next morning and put them all in and we did. The cross was finished.
On October 20th, 2 days after building it and 9 days before the exhibit, we delivered it to the Full Circle Gallery.
I made arrangements with Mercedes to install everything October 23rd. When we started installing things we realized one thing… with the size of the walls and my prints, we needed one more piece. I still hadn’t finished one but we needed that one finished and a completely new one.
Normally pieces in this style were taking me 3-5 days of work each. Now I was being asked to finish 2 in less than 36 hours. I went to the local grocery, bought some Franzia, went back to my apartment and cranked my music and got to work.
I actually managed to do it. Finished both pieces, sent them to Holly and relaxed.
October 28th, the day before the exhibit, I went by the gallery to sign a bunch of prints. It was the first time I had seen everything installed and set up…
The day of the exhibit (Friday, October 29th) I had taken off work. I work a 9-5 job as a graphic designer and a computer programmer and I knew I would get nothing done that day because I’m ADHD and have issues with anxiety.
So I took the day off so I could relax. I had planned a nice relaxing day of “me” time. I was going to go to see Paranormal Activity 2 at the Rave Motion Pictures in Destin, Florida that morning around 10 then I was going to meet some friends at Thai House for some Thai food. Thai is my favorite! After that I was going to head over to Holly’s to sign some more prints for the exhibit and then finally back to my apartment to relax before Michele arrived.
I woke up early and took a nice shower. Put on my eyeliner (I was testing a new kind) and headed out. Beautiful day, bright and chipper, totally gonna be a great day.
I get to Destin and my car is handling like shit. I pulled into a gas station and realized I had a flat tire. It’s okay, we got this. We know how to change a flat… if I have the equipment. Nice. My car didn’t have any tools to change a flat although it did have the spare tire. Nice job, guys! No biggie, I’ll call my boss Lynn Dominique. Lynn owns a shuttle service named Bayside Answering Service as well as Revive Media Services. Surely someone from his company will be in the area and can swing by with some tools right? Right.
Oh wait. My phone is dead. No worries! We prepared for this! We put a car charger in our car this morning for the first time specifically so our phone worked all day! We’re responsible!
…the cigarette lighter doesn’t work eh? Great. Okay. Getting stressed.
I borrow a cell phone from a dude and call Lynns service. They immediately dispatch someone to me. He arrives, gives me a lift to his place to get the tools. During this time I called Charlotte as well and she was in Destin, just in case I needed more help. We go back to my car and start to take the tire off and realize hey, the awesome rims my car came with have a special key to remove the rim! I don’t have the key! REALLY stressed now…
I get a lift to a local hardware shot and buy a set of wrenches. Back at the car, Charlotte is there waiting. We get the plate off so we can access the bolts and oh of course the bolts are air bolted on so its impossible to take off with human hands.
But not with a human body!
I was seriously standing on the 4 square jumping on the damn thing to get the bolts to move. FINALLY we get the flat on around 12:00 and I figure fuck it. I’m in Destin, there’s a showing of PA2 at 12:30… I’m going. I head over to the theatre to calm myself down. Being alone in the theatre watching that movie… pretty scary. PA2 is great. Good game, guys.
Afterwards I head back to FWB. I go straight to Revive hoping Lynn can hook me up with a good tire guy. He gives me 3 names. The first 2, the minute they saw my tire they grunted which is never a good sign. The third guy had tons of them in stock and took good care of me. Got the tire on there and got me out the door. $200 I didn’t have but oh well.
It should also be noted I hadn’t eaten or drank anything all day.
I make it to Holly’s to sign some prints then head to my apartment to shower. It’s about 4PM at this point. Michele arrives while I am in the shower and greets me with Ke$ha as I exit the shower. Nice touch, love.
At this point I was so stressed, I swear I wanted to cry when I saw Michele. At that point in time there is no one on the planet I would have rather had in front of me. I did not want to stop hugging her. Very grateful to see her and be around her.
She realized I was talking a mile a minute. I was anxious about the day, the exhibit, everything. I was talking a mile a minute. I could not focus or form coherent thoughts. So we did shots of rum. While Michele was getting dressed I did a few more… I think 5 total.
We relaxed for a bit and talked out on my balcony before the reception. The reception started at 6PM and Michele and I planned to arrive slightly late for several reasons, the most important one was that if I was there and no one else was I would be freaking out and anxious even more. Mercedes knew I would be late and gave me the okay for it.
We planned to be about 20 minutes late.
We arrived around 6:50…
The minute I walked in everyone burst into applause and demanded a speech. From then on, the night was perfect.
The official “…and all that could have been…” playlist, selected by me personally, is this:
- David Bowie – New Angels of Promise
- Skold – Burn
- The Servant – Jesus Says
- Skold – Dead God
- PIG – My Sanctuary
- Anti-Flag – If You Wanna Steal (You Better Learn How To Lie)
- AFI – Miseria Cantare (The Beginning)
- Bright Eyes – Four Winds
- The Faint – A Battle Hymn For Children
- Modest Mouse – Bukowski
- Skinny Puppy – haZe
- Ozzy Osbourne – Crudify
- David Bowie – Word On A Wing
- Marilyn Manson – Cruci-Fiction In Space
- Skold – All Dies
- The Servant – Devil
- Nine Inch Nails – Hurt
- AFI – This Celluloid Dream
- PIG – Volcano
- Ozzy Osbourne – Diggin’ Me Down
- Crystal Castles – Baptism
- Chumbawamba – The Big Issue
- Nine Inch Nails – Heresy
- The Faint – Birth
- KMFDM – Preach/Pervert
- Skinny Puppy – Use Less
- Nine Inch Nails – Terrible Lie
- KMFDM – People of the Lie
- The Limousines – The Future
- Chumbawamba – Mary, Mary
- KMFDM – Bullets, Bombs and Bigotry
- My Chemical Romance – Mama
- Jack Off Jill – Angels Fuck, Devils Kiss
- Monster Magnet – Silver Future
- KMFDM – Free Your Hate
- Oasis – The Turning
- Puscifer – Rev 22:20 (4:20 Mix)
- Gravity Kills – Personal Jesus
- David Bowie – The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell
- Shiny Toy Guns – Stripped
- Gareth Emery – Sanctuary
- Corporate Avenger – Heaven’s Joke
- Cage the Elephant – Judas
- Scissor Sisters – Invisible Light
For the after party, we went to Coasters in Downtown Fort Walton Beach, Florida for drinks. It was a great time!
I’d like to take a minute and recognize a bunch of people who helped make this all possible. I’ll probably just end up listing everyone in my life but really, you all help me more than I can tell you. But I’m damn sure going to try!
So here we go…
To Holly Bain and Charlotte Snyder: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Without you 2, none of this would have been possible at all. Thanks for your endless patience and support. Love you guys. =)
To Michele Williams: Thanks for putting up with my nonstop insecurity and hard-headedness. I know it’s hard sometimes but I appreciate you always being there. I love you!
To Banu Pugh: Thanks for helping me get my work into the community and for introducing me to Mercedes. You’re the reason I even know her!
To Shelley Normand: Thanks for helping me be comfortable and confident in my work so I could get out there and promote myself.
To Charles, Angel and Ben: Thanks for being the best friends anyone could ask for. Whether it’s just shooting the shit or having serious convos, I know you guys are there.
To Tai Jun Ali: Thanks for always reminding me of who I am and keeping me grounded.
To Janis Pence: Thanks for putting up with my shit.
To Lynn Dominique and Kevin Almodovar: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to work with you guys so I have the finances to do this kind of shit.
To Mercedes Rodgers: Thanks for trusting me and letting me run with my vision.
To Marcus Ranum: Thanks for the support in building the cross as well as always emailing me pictures of beautiful naked women.
To Todd Stevenson: Thanks for listening to exhibit talk nonstop for the last 5 months…
To Jennifer Grimm: Thanks for being brave and modeling for the cross. I’m glad we got to work together!
To Hilary Stephenson: Thanks for always being there, muffin.
So what now?
The next step is going to be hard. Basically starting over. I have 2 places in Fort Walton Beach that want my art displayed permanently there (and another already displaying it, I just haven’t announced it yet) but I need to move into Pensacola with my art. I truly believe I have accomplished everything I could. I’ve won “Best in Show” awards from every organization in Okaloosa County, I’ve had a solo exhibit, I’ve got my work on display, there’s not much else I can do.
I refuse to settle and be content with the success I have now so I will be pushing my work more in Pensacola. This is intimidating but I think having the success behind me will make it a little easier this time. I will likely design and print some brochures and hit the streets in the new year.
I am taking a bit of a break from art until January. I may enter an exhibit here and there (mostly for the NWFLAA) but I’m going to be chilling a bit until January. This year was great, I accomplished more than I ever imagined I would, and I want to kind of enjoy that feeling before diving into the next challenge.
BEFORE I GO…
Here’s some sexy pictures of Jennifer Tucker, a great friend of mine, in the exhibit tanktops downtown…