THE INTERVIEW: Joey Mars
Artist Joey Mars was raised in the suburbs of Western Massachusetts but now calls Cape Cod his home with his wife, Judy, and daughter, Hanna. His work began appearing first in the late nineteen eighties Boston underground as an alternative poster artist which became the stepping stone to a whirlwind career that has had international implications. Today, thousands of tourists snap pictures of his two-story mural that adorns the facade of Shop Therapy in the heart of Provincetown's Commercial Street. His gallery work has become highly collectible and he is a daily contributor to Motherlode.TV. Enjoy his tale of trials and tribulations in all its naked glory and the amazing visual retrospect of his work below.
MLTV: Was there music and art in your house growing up?
JM: I don't remember there being much. I was not aware of the art world through most of high school. I would draw. I was a professional desk doodler. I remember drawing battle scenes from Vietnam and helicopters, indy race cars and faces as a kid... a lot of lettering, bubble style, flower power, love and peace; my early days as a monk. But not a lot of music from the parental side. Lots of sports and yard work.
MLTV: How did art school come about?
JM: I was constantly arguing with my father about my future but he had a plan for me as I'm sure your father did. My father was working for Friendly's as the Director of Personnel and he was working with an outside advertising agency and these graphic designers. One of these artists had graduated from Vesper George School of Art and my father came home one day and said "I think you would like doing what these guys are doing at XYZ agency." He was business oriented and wanted me to get somewhere and that did not include hanging out in the pool halls of Springfield, Mass.
He brought me into Boston for an interview at Vesper George and I was accepted.
MLTV: So this was your formal introduction to Boston?
JM: Outside of the occasional Red Sox game, yes, Vesper was my introduction to Boston.
Growing up outside of Springfield, in Western Mass, and being the oldest, I kind of had to find things for myself. It today would be your Classic Rock...Doors, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, J. Geils, Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd. Lots of Southern Rock... Blackfoot. It was all in a very rural setting. Drinking beer in the woods and listening to Molly Hatchet.
Vesper, being so small, didn't have its own dorms so I had to stay in the dorms for New England Junior College. They rented dorms to any student.... Northeastern, Butera, Mass Art, cooking schools and music students. I was immediately exposed to so much music like Iggy Pop, The Velvet Underground, The Clash and the New York Dolls. I mean, I had never heard of Iggy Pop. I was 18. That's also where I got my first taste of the alternative comic world. I had never seen a whole edition of Zap Comics before. I had seen Mr Natural and Keep on Trucking but not full on CRUMB! That cast of artists blew my mind wide open. Robert Crumb, Robert Williams, Rick Griffin, Victor Moscosso and Spain Rodriguez opened up a whole new world.
We lived at 202 Commonwealth Avenue at Exeter and Commonwealth. That was my corner. I would see the lines every Saturday night at the Exeter Theatre for the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
MLTV: How many times did you see The Rocky Horror Picture Show?
JM: I never went in.
MLTV: That's what stunted your growth.
JM: Probably. That was too wild for me. You're talking about some kid from cow country.
After two years, Vesper George closed and I transferred to the Art Institute of Boston. That put me right in the middle of Kenmore Square. I ended up working at Captain Nemo's Pizza right next to The Rat.
MLTV: Did you see any good shows?
JM: I used to see bands like The Dogmatics. A friend of mine did video work for them until one of the brothers was killed in a motorcycle accident. And bands like Ball & Pivot. That was right around the time I met you. That is when I met Gary Ramsay at the Art Institute of Boston. He was a film student doing all this abstract film work. He told me that he had these friends who had bands and that they were always looking for artists to do work.
MLTV: Can you describe Gary Ramsay?
JM: As I said, he was an abstract filmmaker working in super 8 and making his own slides for projections with inks and watercolors and would distress them by bending and blow drying them to make them bubble and crack. He would mix that together with slides of astronauts from the 60s and other world events. His abstract slides and photographs would capture what goes on inside your eyelids during an acid trip. When he did a light show he would use 5-7 different projectors to create these incredible effects.
That's what led us to Allison D... Green Street Station. And around that time I did the Abbie Hoffman piece.
MLTV: Abbie died in 1989 so that had to have come a little bit later. Let's see. That had to be more around the time that you were out at Sir Morgan's Cove (historic Worcester nightclub) with Mickey O'Halloran (the late legendary club promoter) . That would be more around 1987.
JM: Well Allison D and Green Street anyways but yes onto Sir Morgan's. I had been cooking in the restaurant business and Mickey was taking over the fledgling Sir Morgan's Cove so it gave me a chance to get a little closer to Boston and come back to Worcester where I was born and my elderly grandmother was still living there. They had a small kitchen and they set me up as an independent business. They gave me six months free rent for the kitchen, six months free rent in the rooming house upstairs and six months of free gas and electricity. I set up shop with a charcoal grill, a fry-o-lator, a triple-bay sink and refrigerator and cooked everything from chicken to french fries to swordfish and cooked for patrons and the bands. Every time I see David Minehan (Neighborhoods, Replacements) I remind him that I was the one who cooked dinner for him at Sir Morgan's Cove and he gets a giant smile on his face. I cooked for The Outlaws...that was a trip. I cooked nice dinners for them. Mickey would say, "Make them what ever they want, Joey."
That got me the job at Worcester Polytech Institute for Phi Kappa Theta. I would cook for 40-60 frat guys... wrestlers. A couple of them had been the doormen at Sir Morgan's Cove and kept asking me to come and replace their house cook. They had become addicted to my Buffalo chicken wings. That was the best job I ever had.
MLTV: What made that the best job you ever had?
JM: Eight fuckin' weeks of paid vacation; that's what. When school was out I was off so I bought a Harley and was living at the Worcester Artists Group by then. I was also back bouncing and bartending at Sir Morgan's Cove.
MLTV: So this all has to be lining up time-wise with your introduction to Provincetown.
JM: The comic book store on Standish Street is where I first landed. It was a typical foggy Cape Cod morning and I got there early so no one was up yet. I was waiting for one of you to wake and open the door to Daddy Rabbit's from the inside so I fed the meter and went for a walk and saw Shop Therapy for the first time. I didn't go in as that was the old days when they did not open to 11am. I just sat outside for about an hour staring at the Bob Gasoi murals. They were pretty freshly painted back then. I was in awe. I just sat there vibrating staring at those murals telling myself someday I want to have my art in that store.
I spent the summer hanging out with a cast of characters; Craig Spalter (The Eels), The Mayor (Hoota), Mike Koehler (photographer), Molly & Megan. I still can see Molly riding around on her bicycle with the spinning sunflower in the front of her basket.
MLTV: I believe Freddy K bought her that sunflower.
JM: That makes sense. I started bringing down my comic books to sell in the store and was sleeping in the store on the cot taking care of the place when you and Craig were back up in Boston during the weekdays. The late night parties in the dunes and all the stars in that magical Provincetown sky. Seeing the stars like that was unbelievable. It was the end of June (1990) when I first got down there.
MLTV: I remember that you also had airbrushed t-shirts in one of the store windows on Commercial Street that summer.
JM: Yes. That's when the first t-shirts probably appeared. I also made all of those reflective linoleum cut skull stickers. What was the girl-with-the-deadlock's name? She was really sweet.... Thrasher! She stuck one of the skull stickers on her bike seat and rode up and said, “Chucky, I'm sitting on Death's face!”
That fall I was cooking at the frat while you'd be giving me band names over the phone for the next weeks ad. I would cook breakfast and set up a lunch buffet and then drive my truck into Boston to deliver artwork and then drive back to prepare their next meal. We had like a straight twelve-week series running the ads for Green Street and Bunrattys in the Boston Phoenix. We were also doing those full color posters for shows like Wargasm and The Bags.
All of that artwork... seeing those shows. Billy O'Malley's band, Seka. All of those shows with Morphine, Buffalo Tom and The Heretix were incredible and to be part of that. That was a fun, fun run.
Bunratty's was the first time I ever painted with a spray can. Maze came in and painted all of the poles and I did the 25-foot alligator on the brick wall. I said, “Holy Shit! No wonder graffitti took off the way it did. These two things (spray paint and brick) are made for each other.”
MLTV: Next up would have been the Priviet Series. I'm gonna grab the old piece that was on the original joeymars.com site from the Wayback Machine. If I recall correctly, it was pretty funny.
“With the success of the Bunratty's and Green St. Station shows, my friend, Chucky White was asked to put together a spectacle that would showcase the areas up and coming bands. Pepsi Cola Corporation was continuing their plan of importing sugar water into Russia and taking out high octane potato juice in trade. This resulted in the birth of their second brand of vodka to hit the states. It would come to be known as Priviet Vodka. To help launch the birth or the new brand, Pepsi was throwing money at the Boston Phoenix for promotional help. The Phoenix in turn threw the ball over to Lansdowne St. and the Lyons Group. With a recommendation from David Bieber, of WBCN and WFNX fame, Chuck was given the call to set up the Whammy. Being the punk that he is, Chucky grappled with the idea of going commercial with the sacred underground music scene. Knowing the rent was due, Chuck decided to take on the project. He was determined to have fun doing it. With a spark of irreverence he decided on six nights of music, with six bands each night, and all for six bucks. Ya see o'l Chucky said if he was going to sleep with the devil he might as well call it what it was. So the 666 alliance was born, and I got the call to do the poster work. Some pretty funny stories occurred when the original sketches were submitted for approval at the Phoenix. They didn't know what to make of me and Chuck. I think all they could see was their Pepsi promo money going up in smoke if they tried to do it our way. On one occasion a conservative female employee replied all flustered as she gawked at the sketches, "Do they all have to have fangs?" We ended up getting our way and the series was a huge success. The rest is history.”
JM: The highlight of the Priviet Series was the VIP treatment. The drink tickets from management and the hash from Nepal that was around that summer. Gary Ramsay was having a blast with all of that lighting equipment. The music was great. Bullet Lavolta, The Bentmen, the 360's, Seven League Boots, Come, Ant Farm, The Lemonheads, and Pearl Jam to just name a few. Energy was just building and building in the music scene that summer. Every Wednesday night I came into Boston and it was just incredible.
MLTV: What's up with all the alligators?
JM: To me that was the alligators coming out the sewers... the metaphor for our crew.... the stinky kids.... that's why that kid walking in from the left on Priviet #1 has torn up pants, no shoes...pure grunge baby...coming in to take over the town... there goes the neighborhood!... Oh, to be young and brash... we didn't lack confidence...that's for sure!
MLTV: I remember after the Priviet Series you were pretty busy with the Worcester Artist Group (which Joey would eventually become the president of).
JM: You have to mention Richard Goulis.
MLTV: What about Richard Goulis?
JM: He was the main force behind WAG. He was coming out of the Providence scene with AS220 and also Grove Street which was another artist collective occupying factory space in Worcester. Richard went to RISD, so AS200 was the blueprint for the Worcester Artist Group at 38 Harlow Street. 10,000 total square foot factory space with 30 foot ceilings surrounded in glass with ten artist studios surrounding a 5000 square foot performance space. It was our church. Goulis created the Joey Mars name. We were doing a performance art night and for the poster he did not know how to spell my last name (Marchesseault) so he wrote Joey Mars and I adopted it on the spot.
I came over to WAG one night to smoke a doobie. Willie Pie was this amazing blues drummer who worked with me at Sir Morgan's and we came over to visit this artist friend of his, Frank, who had a studio there. I walked into this place and was just in awe. Frank and J-me Johnston were hanging these hand painted acetate rolls everywhere and there was an intense art exhibit in the main gallery. Within two days I returned and knocked on Richard's door to ask if I could get into one of the studios.
At WAG there was Fugazi, The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones, Dinosaur Jr, avant-garde jazz and performance artists from all over the world. The alt-rock stuff was fueled through college radio at Holy Cross College. Michael Boudreau and Bob Jordan would bring in people like Eugene Chadbourne, Boiled in Lead, Bird Songs of the Messazoic, Glenn Phillips and Michael Hurley. Goulis was the connection for the performance artists coming through.
MLTV: Lots of those bands played Green Street.
JM: Yeah but this was right in my living room. I had Fugazi play right in my living room. There were performance art shows with people chained to television sets and eating jars full of sugar. Trapeze artists swinging from the ceilings. 500 kids bouncing to The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Dinosaur Jr. Goulis had a mad cast of characters he would portray on stage. We brought the Well Babys there a couple of times. Two rotating galleries, open stage every wednesday night. All Ages shows on Saturdays. Art openings on Sunday afternoons. I was exposed to so much art. I lived there for three years. It was like the Art Peace Corp for me.
MLTV: So was there a connection between Sir Morgan's Cove and WAG?
JM: I would see the posters for the All-Ages show at WAG on telephone poles around Sir Morgan's but it was a separate world over there.
That was during the same time that I first met Ronny Hazel from Shop Therapy. We were at Bill's Bar on Landsdowne Street and you introduced me to him.
MLTV: I just remember Karyn (ex-wife and former Shop Therapy employee) was pregnant with Peyton and you, her and Ronny went down to a trade show in NYC to try to meet up with industry people that Ronny and Karyn knew.
JM: Well the first time I ever met Ronny, he asked me if I was interested in doing some work with the Grateful Dead. I said, “Sure.” which eventually actually happened. Then Ronny, Karyn and I went to New York to the Boutique Show where I met Marty from Not Fade Away (Tye Dye T-Shirt manufacturer) Tom Stacks from Club Dead, the artist Mikio, and Rick from Net Sales who had the license for the Grateful Dead Stickers. We took the Priviet posters and made a portfolio out of them which makes me realize that we missed one important period and that was the Springfield era with Maniax.
MLTV: Maniax appeared on one of the Priviet bills.
JM: Yup. You hooked me up with that one. Prior to the Green Street days I moved back to Springfield for a while and started working the restaurant scene. I used to go out to shows all the time after getting out of work at night. There was a girl singer, connected to the restaurant who had this three piece back up band. Johnny April was the bass player and they went on to form Maniax with Denny Balicki, Michael Sollars and Michael Chappel. They were doing shows at Infinity which was a legendary Springfield metal club during the 80s metal era. I was doing artwork for them and we all ended up living together in a house in Springfield. Maniax became Mostly Holy who got signed and then disbanded. Johnny ended up cooking in restaurants. Around '95, I started getting messages that Johnny and his new band were doing very well. They were called Staind.
After the New York trip came Liquid Blue. Liquid Blue was the best screen printer in the market. Award winning work with state of the art technology. We sent them a portfolio as we did not get a chance to meet them in NY. They loved the images I had sent...loved that I had my own style and loved the fact I was part of this new emerging music scene. We met several times and started to create sketches for a Liquid Blue line of T-shirts to be catalogued beside their rock roster of Grateful Dead, Guns & Roses, The Who and others as well as the nature and fantasy stuff. They were looking to brand the Liquid Blue name and planned on using the name prevalent along side some killer graphics. They hired me to create some images for the Liquid Blue line. We were developing some fun stuff featuring skeletons on a beach. One morning during an art meeting Paul Roidulis (the owner) looked at me and said, "Why don't we just put your name real big on the bottom instead of Liquid Blue. We can create a Joey Mars line of shirts."
Well, I was all in for that and we started to craft my first licensing deal for Joey Mars merchandise. Over the next several years we would release five amazing T-shirts, four full-color-dye-cut stickers and a line of Mars Beanie Baby toys. The first three T-shirts were eleven-colors-per-side on multi-colored-dyes that created the sky, earth and water. The next two used the newly developed water based soft inks with the final also using the new all-over printing techniques. Zidzoii was most likely the first t-shirt released in the world using all over printing with water-based soft inks.
When the Liquid Blue line came out, it went into shops and boutiques all across America. In my own hometown at the mall, Joey Mars was hanging there next to The Who and Led Zeppelin. The shit was in tons of mall and beach shops. In Venice Beach it was exploding in multiple shops up and down the boardwalk. Mars Beach, Paleon and Zidzoii were hits all over the world. I would get pictures from places like Indonesia and the Caribbean where someone spotted a Joey Mars shirt in a shop window. It landed in that catalogue where you buy 20 records for a dollar from Columbia House as well as merch booths at the various summer concert circuits. Liquid Blue had launched the Joey Mars brand worldwide. With their outstanding printing and prepress techniques and my images, we had really made an impact.
I also picked up a deal with Net Sales that launched the Joey Mars sticker and patch line from which Merlin the Magic Mushroom came from. I also nailed a black light poster deal from Orion Distributing and a collector tin line with Raven out of San Francisco. That whole wave lasted for about four years.
MLTV: When did you actually start working with Ronny at Shop Therapy?
I created the first Shop Therapy calendar in 1996 and then went on to create the Cannabis Kid for Ronny. It was the logo for his work with the hemp clothing and the hempseng drink - The Freak Street Hempwear line, so I was beginning to spend time in Provincetown. I would be three days in Worcester and three days on the Cape. At one point it just seemed like a good idea to reconsolidate on the Cape.
Judy and I were going to get married and my parents and hers were meeting for the first time over dinner in our Worcester apartment. Judy's parents lived on the Cape. They were older, straight, religious and conservative but they were very, very cool. They showed up with an article from The Cape Cod Times folded up and slipped it to Judy. Thank god she waited until after the dinner to show me. They knew that we spent time in Provincetown with Ronny. I'm not sure if it was the front page or not but Ronny had been arrested with what they said was 500,000 hits of liquid LSD in Rhode Island.
Going to all of those bail hearings were surreal but one of the greatest lines ever came from the proceedings. They weren't going to let him out on bail. They were all in tizzy over this bottle of liquid Ronny had. They had concluded with some fucked up math that it was 500,000 hits. No way no how but even the high end mob lawyer from Providence was having no success at springing Ronny. It took his local Cape Cod lawyer to pull the ultimate deal. You see it's all who you know. Attorney Bill Riley from Chatham went into the judge's chambers with the other lawyers and came out with a smile on his face. Riley had convinced the judge that Ronny was no threat to society. You see the judge took Riley's word as it turns out both the judge and Riley were Providence college allumni. When the judge stated he intended to let Ronny out on bail the procecutor wasn't giving in. The prosecutor was going on and on the dangers a man like Ronny could have out on the streets. He was railing and reeling about the turmoil of the 1960s and water supplies and the children. The judge at one point turned to the prosecutor and said, “The 60s aren't on trial here, Sir!” and the gavel came down and they let him out on bail. The case was later dismissed. There was not enough evidence to prosecute.
MLTV: We were walking on Route 6 in the summer of 1990 and I met Judy for the first time. She picked us up. Were we hitchhiking?
JM: We were looking for Freddy K's keys out in the dunes - it ties back to Sean's article – and Judy was coming into town and she picked us up. I don't think we were hitchhiking. She saw us walking toward the dunes at the end of Snail Road. She helped us look for Freddy K's keys. We were definitely looking for Freddy K's keys.
MLTV: The Liquid Blue line also featured an all over print that you did named Zidzoii. It ended up being your connection to Aerosmith.
JM: David Bieber was giving away Joey Mars shirts when he was the promotions director at WBCN. Mark Parenteau was wearing one and when Steven Tyler saw it, he wanted to do an Aerosmith take on the Zidzoii design. I was told it was the biggest selling item of that tour.
We went to Great Woods as VIPs and hung by the merch booth watching hundreds of people wearing these things. People in the audience were pointing and laughing at all the characters. It was a dream come true in the rock & roll world.
That's what began the Pamela Burton era which ran for a couple of years. She put together that deal with Giant for the Aerosmith shirt then a Polygram/Giant deal for my images. They weren't sure exactly what to do with me but she was able to secure a great advance for the times. I was being marketed next to White Zombie and the MTV show, The Head. They were simultaneously marketing 10,000 other items. I got lost in the mix when all the department heads got moved around. It was supposed to develop into a book or tv show but it just faded and sizzled out.
MLTV: You and Judy ended up setting up on the second floor at Shop Therapy and helped launch Shop Therapy Imports.
JM: Ronny was just starting his wholesale business and I got involved with doing graphics. He had just returned from his first trip to Asia. He took all the girls and dragged them through the back streets of Delhi, India and Kathmandu, Nepal. After that no one wanted to do it again. He ended up manufacturing in Nepal but Nepal couldn't do business with China. Ronny told me that the girls “don't want to do it anymore...Do you want to go to China with me...I need a hand.” That ended up being my first overseas trip. We ended up taking Rachel Harrington with us as our model/photograher (B-XCLUSIVE). I ended up being the right hand man on the trip (The Chinese thought Joey was Ronny's bodyguard.) I was looking for a change and Judy and I moved to Provincetown full time.
Judy and I shipped the first wholesale item ever out of Shop Therapy Imports. Ronny had done several wholesale trade shows but they never shipped anything. Always too busy with retail or the goods never arrived from overseas. I helped negotiate all the deals and worked the shipping logistics and importing and helped catalogue and display it in NY and we came home and shipped orders. We wheeled the packages down to the Mail Spot from the second floor of the old Shop Therapy. Ronny had an old apartment up there but the roof had caved in so it was an empty large room after the rebuild, perfect for a small wholesale operation. Soon we set up the UPS account. It eventually expanded to the warehouse space on Shank Painter.
In October of 1999, Joey and Judy became the proud parents of daughter Hanna. They settled down just outside of Provincetown in the town of Wellfleet.
MLTV: This is when you began dabbling in the art gallery world.
JM: I had a small shop in the basement across the street from Shop Therapy where I mostly sold merch but I did a few originals. I was getting a feel for it. I knew I wanted to do more and began to paint on larger canvases. When we moved to Wellfleet, I closed up the basement shop and went online with a store. My friend Simon (Don Simon) was working with Break Point Gallery which had just located in the East End in Provincetown for their second season. Simon aggressively encouraged me to get the work down on canvas and wood and present it in a fine art gallery. That was the end of the 2002 season. The owner Michael LaBelle gave me a show near the end of October. We sold 7 or 8 pieces on opening night and few more during the run of the show into November. The season was over and I was still selling work so that was very encouraging. I really enjoyed building a body of work for the exhibit and wanted to do more. The following season Break Point had to move as their spot was being converted into a juice bar by the owners of the property. So I helped secure my old basement space and we moved Break Point over to 347 Commercial St. During this timeframe I did an exhibit in Cambridge and one out in North Adams, MA.
In the summer of 2004, I opened a little closet of a space next to Exuma Gallery in the middle of town. It was fifty square feet but with high ceilings so I could stack a lot of art. My painting style was beginning to get a lot looser. Much more flow of consciousness than preplanned, sketched out works. I rented a garage off of Bradford Street and turned it into a studio and really began painting. Terry and Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith bought one of my first major pieces that summer. That was the first time my work was purchased by a collector of that status that I was aware of. I mixed some merchandise into the gallery as well. 2004 also saw the re-emergence of my artistic endevours with David Bieber, the long time promotions guru with WBCN in Boston. With the end of WBCN David had moved down the street to the offices of The Boston Phoenix and WFNX 101.7. David hired me to create the poster ad graphics for the 2004 Best Music Poll and concert that the Phoenix and WFNX sponsored. A fantastic block party on Lansdowne street showcasing some of the area and national acts in a great night of music. It was a great gig with great benefits and exposure. Full page color posters in the Boston Phoenix in the weeks leading up to the gig. I worked with David and the Phoenix for four consecutive years on the project. This work in the Boston music business led to more work with Tea Party Concerts and Live Nation doing seasonal line up posters for all their venues.
MLTV: I only visited Provincetown on occasion during those years but it was exciting to see you beginning to pop up in different galleries around town.
JM: For the 2005 season in Provincetown, I accepted an offer from Sarah Jessica Fine Arts to represent my paintings. I got to know the owner, Hal Gold, when I was working the little shop across from Shop Therapy and we would talk during slow times during the days. Hal and his family had been working galleries in Provincetown for years and he had a good handle on contemporary art with master skills as a framer. I was definitely on the far edge of their contemporary line and they were conservative in how they approached displaying my work but we worked together for four seasons through 2009 and sold some impressive works as I was developing some of my collage techniques. I was itching for something with a little more freedom and comraderie when Helltown Workshop came calling in the fall of 2009 culminating in the American Zombie exhibit opening over Halloween weekend. The opening was a smash success. I never had seen that many people come out for my works in one night. It was a younger crowd, people in their late 20s to mid 30s who were embracing the new contemporary art movement of the country and the world. The night also brought out lots of the older hipper artists, authors, musicians and collectors in town and the mix was incredible and the energy inspiring.
MLTV: By the way, Helltown. Great name.
JM: Helltown Workshop was a group of artists who had been exhibiting in pop up shows in Provincetown for several years mainly in restaurants or hotel rooms with a gritty new style forged in the tattoo and DIY worlds. The six artists making up Helltown Workshop all lived on the outercape for a while and had deep ties into the community. They had stopped trying to infiltrate the main stream gallery scene in Provincetown and instead were just blazing their own path. I was very impressed with their art gang mentality as it reminded me of years earlier with my time at Worcester Artist Group. The show ended after a 3 week run and I pondered over the winter what my next move might be. I was very interested in Helltown Workshop but that seemed like a one off show as they would be doing other things with their gang in the years to come. In the spring I ran into one of the member/partners and asked how they were doing. He informed me they were going to close up shop as two of the six were moving on and the costs of doing business in Provincetown were tough and they all were going to go back to the pop up world or their careers. I told them I was interested in helping them and how much I had enjoyed their energy and would like to join if they were interested. A fellow tattoo artist said he would be in as well and with that Helltown was back on track with two new members. We quickly made tentative plans for the 2010 season. We would all have solo shows and mix in some group themed shows and kick it all off with an early spring group show of local yahoos. I had a three-year-run with those guys. They've got such great energy.
MLTV: Wasn't that also around the time you painted the first Shop Therapy murals? Did we miss that?
JM: Yeah. It took a whole lot to get that project in motion. Ronny had been pushing me for a couple of years to get something going but I was in such awe of Bob Casoi's work that I felt it was almost sacrilegious to think about replacing it. You would understand if you saw how vibrant the work was when it first went up but the weather and the sun really did a lot of damage to it. It was really beyond repair. Ronny's carpenter Pasha climbed up there and measured the original murals, cut the wood, reassembled it on the side of the Shank Painter warehouse and set up some small scaffolding. At that point, there was no going back.
MLTV: What year was that?
JM: That was the spring of 2010. Then Ronny bought the new building at 286 Commercial Street and I spent the winter of 2011-2012 up at a storage facility in Truro painting.
MLTV: So you had to create an entirely new piece for that building?
JM: Correct. That was epic.
MLTV: I remember watching them hang that piece. It was quite the engineering feat.
JM: I had to paint it in separate pieces so the most amazing part of it for me was that it all actually fit back together when they hung it.
MLTV: What is it like for you to see it up there?
JM: I'm so excited that it is standing up to the weather. But there's a lot going on there. It touches on a lot of themes and makes people pretty happy. It is 33 feet wide and 14 feet tall. That's just the second-story part of it.
MLTV:We've always tried to spread the love when it comes to helping each other get a foot up. Whose work are you admiring today in Provincetown?
JM: The work of an artist I met fifteen years ago and she has developed into quite a powerhouse and that would be Cassandra. Her work has such amazing stopping power and it's a sight to see. She used to come into Break Point Gallery as a young artist with a couple of paintings under her arms and we would just talk. She remembered how I was kind to her and she returned the favor by inviting me to show with her this past season. We also began working on some collaborations.
MLTV: So what are the plans for 2015?
JM: Cassandra Complex Gallery has merged together with Woodman Shimko Galleries at 398 Commercial Street. I will be showing work there all season along with Andrew Jacob, Silas Finch and Adam O'Day. I will also be featured in a solo exhibit in August 2015. I invite everyone to please stop by.
I've also be working on more animations with my partner Mike Whalen.
Their first collaboration was featured here on Christmas week. Please check it out here.
MLTV: What is the story behind the Cape Cod Beer graphic at the beginning of this interview?
JM: Cape Cod Beer sponsored Helltown Workshop. The owners Todd and Beth Marcus had always wanted to work on a collaboartion with me. In 2013, they acquired a new brewmaster for the Hyannis brewery and he suggested a Belgium Farm House Ale as the specialty for the season. He named the concoction Bier de Mars which translated means an early beer of the season or more literally Beer of March. As soon as the words came out of his mouth, Todd said, "I have the perfect person to do the artwork."
MLTV:Enjoy the front end daily and the gallery below.