Monday, January 1, 2007

Talking to Strangers - Meet "Freakyart"

Vol. 1, No.2
January 1.
Don’t listen to your Mom. Talk to strangers. Looking back on 2006 I appreciate that a few chance encounters made for some truly memorable and rewarding experiences. A case in point was my new friend Aaron Filion, artist and skateboarding enthusiast. You won’t find examples of Aaron’s work on the Internet yet. To date he’s only appeared in THRASHER, the popular magazine for the Tony Hawk crowd. That was a start but disappointing, because Aaron has talent and also a great mind. He deserves an audience.

It is germane that for most of 2006 my free time was spoken for, as I was wholly absorbed in writing a biography of a Canadian Soldier of Fortune. My diary tells me that on March 22nd I was bogged down in the details of the Battle of Agua Prieta, a bloody outbreak in Sonora, back in 1915. I needed a break. An hour later my wife and I landed in Bellingham, WA., just south of Vancouver. I have my favorite haunts, where for the past twenty years I have enjoyed pawing through tons of books and mounds of ephemera, the sweepings of attics and garages. I parked the car in front of ALLADIN'S Antiques and stepped back into time. My wife read in the car while I got my fingers dirty.

I like to be methodical in my search tactics and it wasn’t long before I noted that the fellow at my left elbow was being equally efficient. Intrigued, I struck up a conversation. Aaron was sorting through a box of thousands of photographs – professional and amateur, B&W and colour, interesting and meaningless. (I was waiting my turn. He probably knew that.) The box had been churned by dozens of pairs of curious hands, but Aaron had detected patterns and had separated out a few dozen photos that meant something to him. He described for me what he had assembled – sequencing them, and telling a story of their lives as he imagined it. I was enjoying a kindred spirit and contributed an idea or two. I had mistaken Aaron for an amateur historian or a young genealogist, and was startled to learn that he was an artist and that he was planning a new series of work based on old snapshots. He described himself as a surrealist, explaining that it was faces he was searching for. He planned to salvage faces from the past and work them into his canvases. Rapid-fire we shared interests. I enjoy Surrealism, Futurism, Photomontage, Weimar cinema, etc. Aaron was always one step ahead of me. A fun, zap zap zap conversation.

The cover of BLAST No.2, 1915, by Wyndham Lewis, who later served as a Canadian war artist. His expressionist work was a valuable contribution.

Aaron gave me his business card and I do like his painting (top of page). He calls his business Freakyart and I soon learned why. His fellow board riders in Seattle had given him the name “Freaky A,” a moniker he is proud of. In the THRASHER October 2004 edition he described himself as “A lowly private in the northwest chapter of the beer-drinking, bowl-riding hesh army.” His favorite hangout is the trendy Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro, in Bellingham, where I hope to catch up with him again soon. He hung a few canvases in Boundary Bay once, heretofore his only “show”. He has written in THRASHER magazine, “As for my art, I just keep pushing it out. It's like skating in so many ways. I don't get paid for it; I'm not that great at it, yet I'm compelled to keep doing it. I've learned that the energy I put into things comes back in the form of being able to do more of whatever I'm doing. That's good enough for me." That fairly well sums up my own philosophy about staying productive.

We’ve kept in touch by email and I know that he returned to that antique store at least once, to buy a few more images. “My girl friend couldn’t believe I had actually paid for the photos…” In an update last June he wrote, “I haven’t done much to the photos to make them surreal, but have hand rendered them to make them more interesting. They are transferred to boards waiting to be painted, but I’m currently too busy with other things.” I have encouraged him to research that collection he assembled, guessing that the family which had carelessly discarded the fragile record of their past might be thrilled to know that the photographs had inspired a talented local artist. Aaron’s got a big heart which nurtures that creativity of his. If he does contact the family, I’m sure he will charm them as much as he did me.

For those few who may be curious about my own purchases that day, nothing came from Aaron's box. One useful item I did buy is an 8x10 group photo of the 11th Photo Section USAAF, Wheeler Field, Hawaii in 1938. It's an historic image I can relate to the Amelia Earhart mystery... but that's definitely another story. As you will surmise, my interests in found objects (and in Blog topics) are a tad eclectic. So it goes.

Update: October 31, 2008 - Here's a nice Halloween surprise. Aaron just sent the URL for his new new webpage. Check it out!

THE REAPER, an Aaron Filion painting which is new to me.

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