My Days on Earth
My Days on Earth
Paintings, Drawings, Photographs, Poetry, Assemblage/Sculpture
My needs are shrinking as I continue to jettison the dead weight of possessions, debts, desires. I go where the wind blows me, being as helpful and considerate as I can be along the way. I value kindness, tenderness, humor, humility, honesty, and generosity above all else, and I try to make the art and write the kind of poetry that expects as much of me. I know my work can be funny as hell, as well as absurd, dark and difficult, reflecting the depravity of a world of lies, greed, inequity, and selfishness.
Jim Storm holds up a mirror in which I see my own dark humor, silliness, and bedrock insanity. He shows me that my Bosch/Brain has a pal.
His paintings are “full of the devil” as my parents would say. Full of outrageous irreverence, and a fair share of gore. They are also full of the sweetness of the ever present bunny, which plays a leading role in this collection…
I met Jim Storm in San Francisco at his warehouse Babyland. It was a space filled with projects in process, in motion, a cacophony of color & form. He nailed shit into shit. He melted shit in a fifty-pound microwave. He drew shit on walls. He didn’t just have his own rulebook; he had his own entire universal law. I always loved his work.
I carried one of his drawings around with me for 40 years, through chaos, catastrophe and multi cross country moves. Cows Seeking Sadness. It is a bit tattered with coffee stains but intact. A survivor much like myself it resonates not just of the past but of an artistic sensibility that I relate to on a core level. So, when he re-entered my orbit driving hell bent towards Texas, announcing he was considering a show of his life’s work here in Tucson, I was excited.
I should have been apprehensive, too.
A year plus later, Jim finally arrives with a van filled with 50 years of work. Jim had shared a couple of his newer pieces, but I was unprepared. When I walked through his studio door and was confronted with the roiling landscape of his life, I was suddenly breathless. As if I had been punched in the stomach. There was a mix of sadness, horror, joy and humor. Sometimes child-like, often playful, pretty fucking disturbing, it was a kaleidoscope of poetry, drawings, paintings, sculptures and what the fuck is that.
A true narrative, Jim’s work spans the decades. The amazing mural that graced Babyland is intact as are the guitars with huge rusty nails replacing the tuning pegs. There are his photos that celebrate the beauty of women and the scraps of poetry that punctuate his paintings. Everywhere are his tribute to his lifelong love of rock and roll.
In his later works, Jim’s palette darkens, and his vision turns inward. At times, I felt like I was walking through dreams of twisting figures caught in atmospheric forces only to be pulled to the surface by the whimsy of a can pierced by nails mimicking stars at night. I was close to tears at several points then the laughter would bubble up.
I feared that I was experiencing a psychotic break. It was fabulous.
Born May 28th, 1950
Corpus Christi, Texas
A true gemini
Jim Storm currently lives in his van, traveling around the country for the last 4 years. He has lived in Texas, Hawaii, Colorado, Detroit, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Wyoming, and Oregon. He got a BFA in Art from U of Hawaii, and an MFA in Photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Detroit, in 1978. He has worked many different jobs, always keeping his art in its own little haunted house.
He spent one year in Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, off-grid in the Ventana Wilderness east of Monterey, CA. He has done volunteer political work in Texas, worked for Meals on Wheels during COVID in Tillamook, Oregon, and worked in different jobs for a food/energy/diaper assistance organization in Rockland, Maine. His only paying job in all this time was working in the dining room and cabin crew at a guest ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He is currently working on his 4th book of poetry.
As I try to recover some meaning from the ‘80s, a decade spent making art, creating spaces to live in on very small budgets, and… partying; sometimes the excess of it all overwhelms me. We were young. Back then Jim was an artist. No apologies. People who knew of him and people who really knew him, like me, considered him the “West Coast Basquiat”.
Well as it turned out, living on the bi-coastal expressway, I knew both of them. They were remarkably alike in demeanor. Shy-seeming, but not shy. Full of fucking mirth when things were fucking funny. Serious as hell. Loved drugs.
Basquiat OD'd and Storm traded that kind of death for another. He raged on through the ’90s, not getting clean and sober until 1997. Much of his brutal and tortured art during that period was lost. What remains is in this exhibition.
He put himself together. He wrote poetry, publishing his third book of poems and photographs Itself the Struggle in 2007. He had moved to New York City and found himself the perfect job with the NY Botanical Gardens, as head of the Art Department in the Children’s Garden, a union job (DC 37) that he held for eleven years, earning a decent pension.
After his book came out, he quit writing poetry for a decade. He painted and made assemblages, many of which we have included in this retrospective of his work.
Along the way he discovered a brand of Zen Buddhism that made sense to him.
And that brings us to now— 73 years old, crossing the country in his van, working in monasteries like the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in Northern California, or working as a door to door canvasser on political campaigns, such as Beto’s in his beloved state of Texas where he was born and raised.
Jim has never shown his art publicly and in more ways than he would care to acknowledge, never wanted to. Maybe he lacks that self-promotion gene, or maybe other forces intervened. All we can do now is bring our mind’s eye to the party and look and feel his art with all the clarity, dimensionality, and absurdity intended by it.