Monday, January 14, 2013

"Get Dirty, Make a Mess, Create, Burn, Destroy, Start Over. Find It"

Jimmy jabbing me that his "new" buckle line is bigger!
Rarely do I walk by a booth at an art show and stop in my tracks, but that is exactly what happened in 2004 when I walked past Jimmy Descant’s booth at a recycled art show I was also exhibiting at in Santa Fe, NM.  My heart skipped a beat when I gazed  at his found object world.  I had to take it in one piece at a time, the whole was too overwhelming.  We were like twins separated at birth with their had an old trophy, the other an Electrolux vacuum in hand when split apart.  Who was this friendly alien making rocket ships out of coffee urns and vacuums blasting off from bowling ball planets?  I had to know!  Our friendship has endured many an art show together since then (and believe me, that's no easy task, especially in the heat and long hours of New Orleans, Jazz Fest!), and I have come to know not only the most one-of-a-kind unique art, but the person behind the art...

I am proud to introduce Jimmy "Rocketman" Descant, as  unique and one-of-a-kind as his artwork.  
Read on...

Jimmy in his shop, Salida, Colorado
On the morning I call Jimmy he is already at work in his shop behind his house which he shares with his  wonderful wife Penelope and their two cats.  He has no heat, but says his two space heaters are cranking things up to a whopping 45 balmy degrees and this Cajun is already firing up his creative juices. 

I asked him how "Rocketman" came about.  For fifteen years before he became a full time artist, Jimmy had been touring the country as a band manager when one day he found a vintage vacuum cleaner at a local flea market in his home town of New Orleans.   According to Jimmy,  “I found this vacuum and it totally flipped my switch".  "I took it back to my apartment and began deconstructing it into a rocket ship.  From there, I made five in a row, blowing out all the fuses in my apartment with power tools!"  This was the beginning in 1996, and I saw in the bulk of what I was finding at thrift stores and flea markets my own vision of what craftsmen before me knew. "Those details, many unseen, were the true key to vision and expression.  It’s lines, and the anonymous draftsman who created this vacuum were my inspiration".

Perseus' Peripheral Power Deluxe Rocketship

Jimmy is 100% self taught.   "I look at the pieces I would find like a jigsaw puzzle and how it could all fit together naturally.  Although I worked as a tack welder at a shipyard in New Orleans at one point, but there is no welding in my work. I find parts that have never seen each other that mesh and form my style in a clean professional fit. My work neither contains nor depicts any guns, bullets, or bombs. They are for the peaceful exploration of time, space, ideas, and cultures, but can still reflect the violent tendencies of life in America. Recycling is a major key, and the search for raw materials is a large share of the end result, of which I am a professional in acquiring the vintage and beautiful in out of the way places."  Believe me I know, I've been pickin' with him!
Jimmy, Penelope and I pickin' at the Denver Flea
Jimmy's earliest memory of being an artist began as a child.  "I always was surrounded by art.  Back then, we always had art class in the United States, from Kindergarten on, I was always painting, drawing or writing.  My mom saved all of my early art which I had packed carefully away in a suitcase.  My mom has a piece that I made.  It was a portrait of the front of a face.  I turned it over and found the back of the head of the portrait I drew.  Looking back on it now, I am mesmerized that I thought of drawing the back of the head."  Although Jimmy had many friends growing up, he always saw himself as a "teenage cyclops", unique among his peers, his dress and his creations just a little different. 

Unfortunately, while Jimmy and Penelope were on the road in in late August of 2005, hurricane Katrina hit and the suitcase along with everything else in their house was ruined and never recovered.  Their neighborhood was one of the worst hit.  So they headed west, looking for a simpler life and their dream, a new beginning.  A friend told them about Salida, Colorado.  They came, they looked and they were hooked. 

Finding treasure in the golden age of American manufacturing, Jimmy calls himself a severe “Reconstructivist”, seeking an inspirational message.  I tell young aspiring artists about what is most important in becoming an artist... "individuality".  Find it yourself.  Go step by step, making your art a metaphor for your life, learning, creating and recreating.  "Make a mess, create, burn, destroy, start over.  Find it".  "We are living in a "treat" world", each passing thought seems to last five minutes.  What is actual art and what is fleeting thought?  Take the time and effort to think it through."
"Lightning Wasp"
Jimmy laughs when I ask him what is the most puzzling question people ask him about his work when they see it for the first time.  They say, "What is it FOR"???  He knows they really want to know, "why do you do this"?  To that he says, "to make you think by taking raw materials, create something with a lasting impression and leave it".  "I am on a constant search to get out a message and I truly enjoy others critique and perception.  A lot of the art world is very "flat" with information, but they don't analyze it".  
His latest excitement and challenge has been doing what he calls, "Instant Art Events".  Surrounded by tools, Jimmy takes to a stage usually with a live band and makes a one-of-a-kind piece out of the parts and time frame they give him.  In addition, he has been commissioned by restaurants, bars and housing developments to make his vision a reality for them.  One of the more unusual, yet most meaningful projects for  Jimmy  is that he is sometimes commissioned to make urns for loved ones where he is given a personal box of possessions of that individual.

Jimmy with his creation "Sioux Chief"
As we begin to close our conversation, I ask my transplanted Cajun friend, "do you feel free?"  His answer is unequivocally YES.  "Free to create, free to live the way I love,  creating with my church surrounding me, the Rocky Mountains".

Jimmy Descant's work can be seen and purchased on planet earth at his website:  He always welcomes custom commissions for your business or home as well. 

1 comment:

  1. Great story Nancy! I love this guy and his "junk"! I don't know about the function of that belt buckle - but he sure has style. He truly 'stands alone'!! (tee hee) What I'm really 'hung up' on, is the "Sioux Chief". (I can't help myself) The core materials look really 'hot' together. Kudos to you for featuring this Wizard of Weirdness.

    Shairy, Phoenix AZ