come along on a weird trip to a planet without men!
If you know me at all, you know that I have a special place in my heart for Phillip R. Ford's epic drag queen space adventure Vegas in Space starring the ever-glamourous Doris Fish. You can imagine my thrill when I was asked by Peaches Christ herself to create a commemorative poster to celebrate the 25th anniversary of this sparkly gem of a movie. Nat Swope from Bloom Press and I decided that neon colors were a must (see below for the final print).
San Francisco is the city where New Wave will never die. Generations of inspired weirdoes flock here to hot glue things to other things at 3 am. If you listen close (even now) you can hear the neon ghosts on Market Street singing. Vegas in Space is truly a magical gem of a film, a sparkling time machine, an anarchic mishmash of glitter, glamour, and girlinium. Thanks to Peaches Christ for bringing it back to to the big screen, and for asking me to participate.
For the film’s 25th anniversary, Frameline, in association with Peaches Christ Productions and Troma Entertainment, is proud to present a fully fledged celebration of the movie that took us to the stars. Featuring an accompanying pre-show with Vegas in Space cast and crew in person, including director Phillip R. Ford, Miss X, Ramona Fischer, Lori Naslund, Timmy Spence, Kate Guthorn, Silvana Nova, and Connie Champagne! Get your tickets here.
This movie took nine years to complete. Phil Ford documented the entire production here.
I have a weird history with this film: in 2007, artist Jim Winters and myself made a set of prints of the legendary Doris Fish. The wood-frame screens (there were several!) were found in a box on the streets of San Francisco. I believe that Doris herself made the screens, and they found their way into Jim’s hands. With Philip Ford’s blessing, Jim and I created a set of prints using the screens and some spraypaint and donated a set of the prints and the screens to the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco.
I'm excited to announce that I will be showing along with illustrator (and mensch) Josh Ellingson at the first-ever show at Mule Gallery in the lovely North beach district of San Francisco from January 20th through February 26. The opening is on February 5, from 6-9 pm. This event is part of North Beach's First Fridays gallery walk. Join us?
Josh Ellingson & Michael Wertz
Jan 20th-Feb 26th, 2016
Opening Feb 5th, 6-9pm
80 Fresno St.
San Francisco, CA 94133
I'll be showing a bunch of the Some Wags prints : see below. All prints are framed & ready to move. We'll also have a small collection of unframed prints for sale.
Here's my contributions to this year's Post-It Show at Giant Robot in Los Angeles. Thanks to Isabel Samaras for the hook-up and Mark Todd for inviting me! the show opens December 5. All post-its sell for $25!
I'm very excited. SomeWags has been printed, prepped, and hung on the walls of the oh-so-pink-and-pretty Glama-Rama Salon and Gallery in Oakland. The opening is this Saturday night, October 17, from 6-9 pm. The address is 6399 Telegraph Avenue near the corner of Alcatraz. It should be a hoot. I think there will be a short set of music by our band Special Ghosts (featuring AJ Pinecone and Isabel Samaras), as well as some uke and singing by my nephew Kellen Wertz. Punch and Pie! This is a show of new two-color screenprints created with paper stencils under a big tent on my back deck. PRINTING IN HEAT AND WIND CHALLENGE: ACCEPTED. To see some snaps of the work in progress, head over to m'Instergrahams to see #somewags in action.
this month I interviewed one of my very favorite musicians, Karry Walker from Ultralash. Based out of Oakland, California, Ultralash is a folk electronica project made up by Karry Walker with a revolving cast of characters both real and imagined. Karry has several musical projects (we'll learn more about those in a bit), but Ultralash is her solo project. Her new album, A River Listless, is wildly compelling, atmospheric, spooky. I wanted to know more (and so will you), and so I asked.
Here you go.
Q: Can you describe Ultralash for a new listener? Who is Ultralash?
A: Ultralash is a character based on this young girl I used to see riding around in my neighborhood on a low rider BMX bike with a banana seat. She had freckles and flaming red hair, and she always had this huge backpack on. She would ride down the street on her way to wherever, and one day when I was sitting out on the front porch having a smoke it occurred to me that she was perfectly Ultralash. It was one of those moments when I didn't try to question what came out of me. I just went with it.
About 5 years later I walked into a bank and there she was, working as a bank teller. All the spark in her had been tucked away or discarded, as she greeted the customers in her black bank suit and bright, contrived smile. It was a sad day for me, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. It happens every day, to all girls who grow to be young women, unless you are extraordinarily vigilant about protecting that light within you from the pressures of conformity.
Q: How did you begin A River Listless? Did you set out to make a concept record, and/or did the concept arrive as you wrote?
A: Well, one day I was looking at my iTunes music collection. It contained a huge lot of recordings I had made over a period of about 10 years and I thought "geez what is all this stuff?" Most of it didn't even have names, just numbers and dates. So I began listening to the recordings, and then I thought "hey, some of this stuff is pretty good. I should catalog it." So I created two folders named "Light" and "Dark" and I just started shoving stuff into each of the folders based on my first impression.
When I was done doing that, sez me to myself "Let's make a record." So I flipped a coin - Heads for Light, Tails for Dark. Tails. So then I started listening in earnest, stitching together the tracks that told a story. I never really know where it's going. The story reveals itself as I work on it, and it's based purely on what makes me happy as I listen - what makes the little hairs rise up on the back of my neck.
Later, just like when you try to tell someone about a dream you had, the plot presents itself. I always have mixed feelings about this part, because it can become confined by it prematurely. I have my ideas about what that plot is, and there are certain elements built into the finished album that are my own meaningful bits, but those are personal.
The final decision to dispense with track numbers came after Myles Boisen and I mixed the record. Determining where one song ended and another began was proving difficult. Around that time I was with a friend and we were talking about how visual artists - painters, sculptors, film-makers get to have installations - a one time showing of their work. It was then that I came up with the idea of doing it as a sound installation - one complete composition, listened to one time. Several songs are available for download online for anyone who would like to listen in a shuffle.
Q: What was the timeline for this record? Did it all happen at once, or was it gradual? Both?
A: Fits and starts. The labeling project began in 2011. I stitched together a rough mix of about half of it in the next couple of months. Then I abandoned the project for a while because I was involved in other music projects like She Mob, an all girl garage rock band fronted by Joy Sue Hutchinson. I played bass, which I'd never done before! That resulted in recording She Mob's album Right In The Head.
I was also writing songs with Myles Boisen for a ukelele/slide guitar duet we call The Hollywood Laundrette. That also resulted in an album with brilliantly illustrated cover art by Michael Wertz!
But I didn't pick up the Ultralash project again in earnest until a year ago, April. I was reeling emotionally from some personal changes, so I threw myself back into the project to distract me from my own misery. And it did, because hey. There's working on yer shit, and then there's working on yer shit. And the latter has always, without exception, been more productive. At least for me.
Q: What's your writing process like? Acoustic guitar and recorder? Piano? Notebook? What's your best time of day to make music?
A: I daydream a lot. Occasionally there's something in that stream of consciousness that's worth writing down. And if I'm lucky and paying attention, I will. Some of my most favorite lyrics were written in less than a minute, and most of my favorites were written in ten. It's just a matter of paying attention at the right time. Often it happens when I'm outside on the front porch having a smoke. But my favorite time to record acoustic songs is first thing in the morning, sitting up against the wall, dog at the foot of the bed. That's how I recorded two songs on A River Listless. I used Garage Band to record "Skin." I used my iPhone voice memo app to record "Do You Ever Think About Me."
Q: Upcoming shows or events? What should we know?
A: I'm throwing around ideas and footage for a music video for Terminal Velocity, one of the songs on A River Listless.
I'm also currently working on a contemporary remix of Kitka. Kitka is an internationally renowned women's choir who perform traditional Eastern European women's music. The Ultralash remix should be released sometime in the latter part of this year.
So there she is, folks. I'd like to thank Karry for the interview, and for all her beautiful music.
please know that the Campout 11 Poster for 2015 is now available for sale in the shop. Also! Also! AND! I just cut the prices of MOST of the posters in the shop by HALF. I need to make room in the flat files. It's gettin' crowded in there, and we have lots more posters on the way. So! Point your glowing boxes over to the shop, have a gander, and drop some coins. You'll be glad you did.
the Mojave Phonebooth was a working telephone in the middle of the Mojave Desert in the middle of nowhere, and our pal Doc was its champion. I came across mentions of the booth in the late 90's ; this little booth attracted travellers (and callers) from all over the world. Doc is putting a book together about the entire experience called Adventures with the Mojave Phonebooth. NPR interviewed Doc about the booth, and that's a good listen. I also asked him a few questions about the Booth, and Doc kindly took the time to reply. Read on, after the photo.
Q: I know the booth itself is long-gone, but I heard you can still call the phone number? (psst: 760-733-9969)
A: After the NPS destroyed the Mojave Phone Booth, I tried to obtain its number but (probably under pressure from the NPS) Pacific Bell told me it was permanently "retired." I tried again, with the same result, when ownership passed from Pac Bell to SBC and again it passed from SBC to AT&T. Last year, though, someone screwed up and noted phreak Lucky225 acquired it. Right now it's a conference line but Lucky is amenable to using it for other purposes to be revealed in due course.
Q: Besides phone booths, what's the other most peculiar thing you've found in the desert?
A: Given what becoming known did to the poor Booth, maybe I should skip this question? (But maybe the Door in the Floor!) (I can say no more.)
Q: What was the best thing left at the booth by visitors?
A: What springs to mind is something left after the Booth was destroyed: someone made a colorful, tiled, full-size headstone for the Booth. (It was confiscated, almost certainly by the NPS, who also came out to break up and cart away even the concrete pad on which the Booth had stood, in an effort to discourage people who were coming out to visit it. You know what they say about tax dollars.)
Q: Can you tell us a little about the Mojave Phone Book?
I had the pleasure with working with Ron Rifkin at the Design Office and Daniel Swafford from the Montclair Village Association in creating street banners and this mural dedicated to sweet little Montclair Village in Oakland, California. Yesterday was the dedication ceremony. More about the mural (and the kind folks who made it happen) here.
Here's the completed illustration. This image was used for banners that were (and are!) flying over Montclair.
This is Pam Consear from Rare Bird and the Skyline High Art Club, who spent weeks and weeks painting the mural.
Guess who came to the Dedication Ceremony? That's Daniel, Ron, and I, plus Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Councilmember Libby Schaff.
Wow. I'm stunned.
Chris Rathman has taken the cover art I created for Camper Van Beethoven's La Costa Perdida and has done stop-motion animation with plastic beads to create this super-groovy video. There's lots of great CVB in-jokes that whiz by. You'll have to see for yourself. Behold:
The kind folks from ALO have hired me to do their "Tour D'Amour" poster for a few years now. Here's the 2014 offering: say hello to Saint Valentine! He was martyred (at least one of several Saint Valentines was) for illegally marrying Christian couples against Roman law. Hey, people. Love is love is love.
the kind folks at Paxton Gate Curiosities for Kids asked me to show the original letterpress prints for Dog Dreams, so I've installed those prints plus a few extra in their front room. The show will be up through January 2014, so visit the Mission, grab some gifties, and check the shop out. It's a goody-goody. The framed prints (yes, the framed Dog Dreams prints are for sale) are priced to move! Paxton Gate Curiosities for Kids is located at 766 Valencia Street in lovely San Francisco, California.
you know that "art cult" thing I've been going on (and on and on) about? You can see the documentary about it via iTunes. It's a fun watch. Yours truly appears in the film for a minute. Associate-produced by our friend Phil Benson.
Check it out by going here. Down the rabbit hole you go...
Campout 9 is upon us. Here's the poster I just finished. Stay tuned for the printed version. This was a meditation on an upcoming birthday, on the death of the glaciers, on the old traditions and religions. Remember when rock and roll used to be dangerous? Apparently a 9 enneagram is "the peacemaker". That sounds good to me.
Jim Winters and myself are having a show of screenprints at the Dolores Park Cafe, and we’d love it if you could come down for the opening. The opening party is Friday, August 2, from 6-8 pm, at the ever-lovely Dolores Park Cafe (501 Dolores St x 18th St) in ever-lovin' San Francisco.
There will be prints for sale, a set of music by the Argyll Adventure Tree, and snacks. Snacks.
You will see: vanitas, op art, cityscapes, bulls, dogs, our limited edition collaborative book entitled ‘Queen For Two Weeks’, and a few portraits.
the new Camper Van Beethoven record is out today, and it is, indeed, a goody goody. The package design and illustrations were done by yours truly. You can stream the whole thing here, and you can buy yourself a copy here. I recommend getting a "hard copy" of the CD, since that will give you the full sensory experience of owning the record (as opposed to having these little pop gems lost in the "shuffle" of your playlists).
Go ahead, treat yourself. Buy the CD from your local music purveyor, wait for it to arrive, pour yourself a frosty beverage, put the CD on, find a comfortable place to sit and listen, and relax. Listen to each track carefully, noting your physical reaction to each song. You might get distracted. That's ok. Sit back down, and listen to the next track. And so on. See? Feels good, right?
my presence has been requested as part of the All of Us or None poster show at the Oakland Museum, and I'm eager (yet full of trepidation). A good friend recently pointed out that my current level of neurosis is rather high, and I think it's because I keep on making public appearances in very public places. Like, for instance, in museums and bookstores. And I don't just appear, darlings, I do things in public. Like sing, or, in this case, pull screenprints that will be given away to the gathered masses for free.
I usually spend a good deal of time by myself with just a pencil and some paper and my dog to talk to, so you understand. Things could go wrong. Terribly wrong. My good friend (and collaborator*) Jim Winters will be there to help out if we have to clean out a screen or extract a squeegee from my eye socket, so that's good.
I'll be pulling (about 50) prints in the gallery from 5:00-6:30 pm on Friday, April 27, 2012, in the galleries of the Oakland Museum. It's free, I think.
Here's the mantra for the evening : IMPERFECT = REAL. Write this on your hand with a sharpie, and come on down to the galleries to see me pull prints. Directly afterwards, I'll be signing the large Peace Sign OMCA Prints at the OMCA Store. See below.
Hope to see you there!
Here's a preview of the print I'll be pulling:
Here's the OMCA Peace Sculpture Print:
Here's me mixing colors for the OMCA print:
* Plus the guy is an amazing artist, and got me on the road to silkscreen - I should be there supporting him, not the other way around.