Groah is a member of Backward Slate Productions, a collective of Columbus filmmakers. He is the first guest of the July edition of my show with Justin Golak, What’s Up Columbus, and the director of “Bong of the Living Dead.”
You can guess what the movie is about from the title, but, alas, as with the best drugged-up comedies, bong water runs deep.
Here’s how Groah described the movie:
“The story follows a group of lifelong friends trapped in their house during the zombie apocalypse. Just like any other self-respecting zombie movie, we just have more interesting characters. It’s really a character piece. They are thwarted by internal conflicts just as much if not more than the zombies outside, because those zombies aren’t much of a threat … at first. In this world pot acts almost like a bug spray turning fast vicious sprinting ghouls into slow lumbering, more traditional zombies. So until the pot starts running out, our stoners are not even aware of the fact that everyone else around them, who doesnt smoke, is failing in the zombie apocalypse. That kinda brings in the social allegory. All the people who look down upon smokers, the douchebag boss, or the perverted high school coach, the crabby old man neighbor, or bitchy christian mean girl–they get killed and eaten while the ‘worthless’ stoners thrive. [George A.] Romero used zombies as a metaphor for consumers, we just brought pot into the equation.”
(Backward Slate Productions also produced a popular Sad Kermit vid. If you didn’t love the collective for making a zombie pot movie, then you will after watching the beloved frog smoking cigs and singing Johnny Cash/ NIN’s “Hurt.”)
Groah loves movies and has an acting background. Also, a rare breed, he still rents from an actual movie rental store. His vid rental store of choice: Video Central on Bethel Road. That kind of dedication creates a vast knowledge of movies, so I asked him to pick five movies that are not necessarily his favorites but ones he thinks you should pop into your DVD player soon. Pot Popcorn optional.
“Yeah it’s funny, but there’s a lot more going on here in the second offering from the Coen brothers. It brings a quirky action, drama, coming-of-age and delves into the mental subjective a bit, allowing viewers to use their imagination.”
I’m writing this after having spent 20 minutes falling down the Google-Image-Search-Rabbit-Hole of one of W. Ralph Walters’ favorite artists, fantasy painter and technique all-star Todd Schorr. Then I went down the Glen Barr rabbit hole… Sexual cartoon rabbit holes!
However, Walters’ art is deserving of its own rabbit hole and you can find it at 400 West Rich. I first met Walters a month or so ago to interview him about the first show he curated, a robot-themed art show at Gallery 831. Walters’ work, which he makes at the Franklinton space’s studio 228 alongside fellow Art Party group members, struck me in its realistic detail. And also its naked aliens.
Walters is a skeptic fascinated with myth. A Skully to the world’s Mulder. It’s not so much that Walters wants to believe, but he is fascinated with what people DO believe and why. The act of believing is so intimate an experience, yet it is something we all share, just like needing food and water. You believe water is over this way. You believe a god that rides a striped, fire-eating pegasus around the sun put it there. Etc. Belief can say so much about us even when it says nothing at all. You believe in God. Yet, I don’t know if that is just because you were raised that way or because you have looked inside yourself and chosen to believe in God.
Learning one’s basic beliefs is like taking the first step down an individual’s rabbit hole.
I love Walters’ work for how surreal and escapist the scenes are in their content; however, they are meticulously researched and are often loaded with hidden visual messages. Religion, extra terrestrials, mole people–anything human beings believe or have believed is fair game for inspiration. The paintings themselves are like ancient relics beckoning with a graceful undead finger to figure out the puzzle. (If you see Walters around while looking at his work, ask him for the secrets. He’s a super nice sage and listening to him tell the story of his work is almost better than looking at it… almost.)
As far as big projects go, Walters is working on a series of goddess of war paintings that he hopes to have slayed by the end of the year. I can not wait to see it and hear more from this talented Columbus voice. I believe!
What kind of art do you make and why?
I really lacked direction as an artist for a very long time until I got a job doing illustration for Paranoia Magazine, a conspiracy theory magazine previously based in Rhode Island, now San Diego. Being a skeptic, I may not have believed some of the content of the articles I illustrated, but the idea that no matter how farfetched an idea may have seemed, that there were dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people who believed it intrigued me. What people choose to believe fascinates me. I’m also a fan of Byzantine and Renaissance iconography, so the idea that I could relate a belief I found utterly fascinating through my art intrigued me. That’s really the focus of the majority of my work now — illustrating belief.
What medium and tools do you prefer and why?
I use acrylics because I’m a clumsy bastard. I will invariably stick my forearm in a painting, so if it doesn’t dry quickly, I’m going to muck it up. I do a lot of album art for doom metal bands as well, so I’ve got deadlines that oils wouldn’t suit. I started painting on Masonite because I found out Glenn Barr used it, and I love it so much I rarely paint on anything else.
When do you make art and why?
I’m doing this for a living at present, so if I’m awake, there’s a good chance I’m making art. Between commissions and trying to create art for my own satisfaction, I’m always busy.
Where do you make art?
Mostly at the Art Party Columbus Studio at 400 West Rich. Getting a studio there has been the best thing ever for my output, not just because I have a specific place to go that encourages me to work, but it’s also being around so many creative people. I feed off that energy.
What are your thoughts on the art scene in Columbus, both positive and negative? What needs improvement? What are you looking forward to? Anything in particular about Columbus made it difficult to be an artist here?
It’s weird living in a city that has an art school that doesn’t seem to do anything for the local art scene. It’s tragic, really. This has been a town that caters to “art” that one can match with their furniture, despite there being several astounding artists living in the city, like Alan Reeve, Charles Shipley Wince, Chris Tennant, Cyndi Bellerose, Tona Pearson, Roger Kent Grossweiler Jr., just to name a very, very few. I’ve found that the influx of art groups have started building a proper art scene here, because they’re creating their own opportunities. When you have more than 100 art groups doing this, suddenly, as a fan of art, you have multiple opportunities to see work you might not have otherwise. This is a good time to be an artist in Columbus because the old guard no longer has a stranglehold on what art reaches the public.
What has been inspiring your work lately?
I’m a huge research nerd, and I had the opportunity recently to visit a buddy of mine who’s getting his graduate work done in Toronto. He, his friends (all of whom are Medieval studies students), and I went out drinking one night, and we had the best discussion about syncretic religion, ancient texts, historical fallacies, etc. I’m a very armchair level research nerd, so it’s always inspiring and invigorating to talk to folks who specialize in studying such specific subjects and know far more than I do about all of it. Nothing beats drinking with Medieval studies majors.
What advice that you’ve found invaluable would you give a new artist?
Keep working. Someone will always hate your work (and more often than not, that person will be you). Someone will always be better than you. Instead of taking it personally, consider it all constructive criticism, no matter the level of civility that criticism is delivered. If you want to do this for a living, or if you want to put your work out there for all to see, promote yourself. I’m astonished at the number of folks in this town that’ll have a gallery show they don’t promote. What’s the point in having the show in the first place if no one shows up?
What do you do while you work?
I sing. Apparently, much louder than I thought.
Do you ever experience artist’s block?
Good Zeus, yes. Drives me nuts, because I tend to beat myself up if I’m not constantly working. I bury myself in research, go for walks, watch documentaries, anything to jar that productivity loose. Naps work occasionally as well.
Three artists, living or dead that you would invite to a dinner party:
Let’s see… Todd Schorr, because his technique is unparalleled; Frida Kahlo, because she was the first artist whose work astounded and haunted me enough that I decided I needed to be an artist myself (and because I have a mad crush on her); and Joseph Campbell. Research and the collection of knowledge is no less an art to me, and I could have talked to him for days on end.
My favorite story about myself is, of course, one that I do not remember. Self-romanticized myths lead every great autobiography. I have had 26 years to inject my own bloated (pun! you’ll see…) self-congratulatory expectations into this story: The story of my being trained to produce poo in a potty.
It was a hot July day (not verified) in 1988 and my mom was totally pregnant (verified) when I learned that my older sister did not wear diapers.
WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME I DID NOT HAVE TO SIT IN MY OWN WET WASTE?
Sounds like every parent’s dream, right? No sticker chart or Tootsie Roll-lookalikes to clean out of a tiny plastic “toilet” necessary. BUT, this July day, whilst my poor mother was sick from the beautiful and miraculous pile of goo gurgling in her belly, we were all in Detroit visiting family. My mom was alone with us girls in a hotel room. It was hot. We were far away from home. She was dealing with 24-hour morning sickness.
“Please, Jackie, just wear the diaper now and I’ll buy you big girl panties when we go home,” she said as she clung to the trunk of the hotel toilet regurgitating lunchtime’s Chi-Chi’s treat.
Does man willingly submit to serfdom when he learns means of attainable self-reliance?! Does man willingly eat salsa when free queso is available?! Does man willingly watch “Nashville” when he knows anything else is on TV?!
Mom shoved us girls in the car and off we went to buy me some stupid cotton underpants. She threatened severe corporeal punishment on my little white bootay if said cotton underpants got any sort of excrement upon them. They did not. And that was it. I was potty trained.
I love that story because it is indicative how stubborn I am, which has mostly been a blessing when applied to things like school, work and cyber stalking people I find attractive. I’m a pretty determined person.
Or perhaps I just don’t like sitting in my own pee. I guess we will never know.
So… that’s a little bit about me. Welcome to my blog. I plan to reference poop a lot less in future posts… my apologies if that’s what brought you here in the first place.
If what brought you here was the headline, here are my favorite songs with my name in them. Jackie proves to be a go-to stubborn character in songwriting as well. Or an adventurous drug-consuming character, also fans of cotton undies.
Come back soon!
“Jackie Blue,” by Ozark Mountain Daredevils
This song was recorded on a farm. I, too, was “recorded” on a farm. Dairy.
“Judy is a Punk,” by the Ramones
To be clear, Jackie is a punk and Judy is a runt. It’s Judy’s turn to cry.
“Walk on the Wild Side,” by Lou Reed
Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side and name your kid Jackie.