Recent Work--2020 Queens NY
In Memory of the Artist Johnnides
In Memory of the Artist Johnnides who flickered and faded and died in the summer of 2019, in the basement of his mother’s house where he lived his whole life, down the street from my best friend’s childhood home. I knew him for many years, but not well. He was Johnnides, he was an Artist, a kind of a mystical beatnik, he was always friendly to me and long ago his mind was blown one night at the Fillmore East in 1970 by the Allman Brothers Band and a prodigious amount of Lysergic Acid in combination with 1 single dose of something else the name of which he did not know. 40 years later he still didn’t know; he was still kind of high on it, too. In fact it never wore off and he never made it out of the basement, so he just smiled his way through his life and made his art.
He was wary of the Illuminati, he said and government surveillance, also. And it was inevitable, I suppose, that eventually someone would invent a device with which to listen to his thoughts. But none of it stopped him from making his art. Because he had to make art. In the most airtight case of circular reasoning ever constructed, he made Art, because he was an Artist; he was an Artist because he made Art. You see? Simple. In his heart of hearts and even more in his head. And in his mother’s basement for life. It was all he could do.
He died in the summer of 2019; I had not seen him for some time and my friend who was his neighbor said he’d been starving himself for months and looked like hell and when he was found dead on the floor of his basement studio, no one was too surprised.
I was shocked, however, as was my friend, when he went by to see Johnnides’ 91 year old mother at her house to pay his respects, and she allowed him to go down to the basement to pick a piece of art to keep. The basement was completely empty of every single thing that had been there just a couple days before. Broom-swept clean and nothing in it. Everything gone.
As soon as Johnnides died, it seems, perhaps even as his lifeless body was being removed from the basement, his brother arrived with trucks and dumpsters and laborers who hauled every single item up and out, including all his art, and brought all of it to a landfill. His brother told no one, and nothing was salvaged.
Just like that, Johnnides was erased.
So I offer up this piece of my art with his name affixed to it in memory of him, a reminder of his art and the life he devoted to making it. More evidence of the impermanence of this world. All physical and mental events, Buddhism tells us, come into being and dissolve. nothing lasts, and everything decays. But his name will live on for as long as I do, at least. God bless Johnnides, and all the artists down through the ages who spent their lives making art that no one ever saw.