Wow, that situation was a hot mess.
I have generally only experimented with codependancy for short periods. Other people’s problems tend to get in the way of my own addictive nature, and the ego strength and ambition I’ve been pulled along by my whole life.
Still, I took a pass at a bad boy now and then, back in the day.
If they were hot enough. And Max was VERY hot.
He was the manager at the St. Paul coffee shop I worked at in 1990, Dunn Bros. (now a big Minnesota chain!)
This crude painting of the two of us behind the counter at the store (as we called it) is still one of my favorite paintings from MCAD, the art school where I was in my second year at that Fall.
Max had white hair, and six-pack abs. He was 6’2″.
He was local, and a hard drinker, and a musician, and divorced, and like six or seven years older than me. Perfect.
He was a darksider, which is what the older generation of Twin Cities Goths were called in 1990.
When he moved in with me all he brought were weights, leathers and a white Gibson electric guitar.
And some Flexidiscs of his band’s demo song.They were kinda glam and kinda metal.
I still love this painting on cardboard of the night he moved in.
I was laughing because he packed a half-full bottle of bourbon, and because alcoholism has a dark humor between alcoholics. My coffee cup, cigarette and boxes of comics are a commentary on the way addiction is structural in us, even after you put the plug in the jug.
He just seemed like good material.
I was still willing to risk a fair bit for good material, then.
He moved into my St. Paul apartment with me when we’d worked together for a couple months, and stayed a couple months.
He moved in after he got beaten up somewhere, by somebody, and it looked like he needed to get out of Minneapolis for a while. He paid half the rent without my asking, which was cool. He was mostly decent to me most of the time, despite being pretty much a jerk.
He was a binge drinker, so he’d be off with his local friends when he went out, and he didn’t wreck the house and I almost never saw him drunk.
I was pretty scared for him the first few times he didn’t come home, but then I kind of got used to it.
This painting on masonite was part of a series of experiments in midtone values – the light and dark kind, not the moral kind.
It was damaged by being stored face-to-face with another acrylic painting; I lightly digitally edited it to make it more viewable.
This was for an assignment for Illustration class, about nightmares.
I did several versions, but this one was clearly about me and Max, two people who woke up screaming all the time. When we slept spoons, as we usually did, the razor scars on our left wrists lined up.
He was very into his damage, and I was interested in visualizing the material of my own trauma in a way I mostly ceased to be after art school.
These studies and painting roughs are about consent and power exchange, but not violence; Max never harmed me physically in any way.
The situation was some bullshit, but oddly enough, both of us were kind of playing it like we were doing a bit.
My dear friend Erin once said, “It’s no fun when there’s two sharks in the tank!”, and few statements have ever summed up my dating life like that.
I knew I wasn’t gonna fall in love with a fellow shark, and he knew I could handle his nonsense.
I used the drama of it for material for Illustration class assignments and he posed for my painting class homework, and we made each other laugh.
After two months or so he decided to get sober, and took off to Montana or somewhere.
The painting below was an experiment with Dr. Martin’s dyes.
It shows me cleaning up after he left, literally throwing his guitar pick in the trash!
Hey, whatever it takes!
For years all I heard he was sober, and also being pretty weird. But the relationship served a purpose for both of us. I saw him buying milk in the supermarket years later and he thanked me for saving his life, which I did not feel I deserved credit for.
The art that I made about him formed the first student show I hung at MCAD, and I met one of my most influential art friends through it.
I came upon Georgia Johnson Mrazkova and a friend standing in front of the paintings, discussing whether a man had done them and if so, did he know what a dick it made him look like.
“No, they’re mine.” I said.
And Georgia yelped with delight, and she said “I knew it! I knew it was a woman, and she knows EXACTLY what she’s doing!”
And we became art school friends, and I learned a lot from her, both about art and feminism.
I find it comforting that I did make a few images of Max that expressed his unique humanity, not just his role in a drama.
I drew him all the time when we were both home. The white hair just killed me.
This painting of the two of us in the kitchen of my St. Paul apartment is another favorite of my art school works.
It was funny sometimes, how we were fucked up addicts in this crazy dynamic, and also, humans!!!
These paintings and drawings had never been photographed; until now, no record of them existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.
I am incredibly grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.