I met Jon Allen at the now defunct Germ Bookstore in Fishtown, Philadelphia. Germ at the time had cutting edge shows in a small gallery in the back. Jon is primarily known for his video work and he shot me explaining the Elder Futhark (the Runes) on a Hex, I had contributed to a show dedicated to a Nikola Tesla group benefit. Later I met him along with David Stanley Aponte in connection to a musical event there. Jon played in David's band, MFM. Both were graduates of the Masters program at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia.
Mr Allen seemed to be possessed by demons. I attempted to 'fix' that problem with massive doses of entheogens and beer without success, so David suggested we show his earlier work, paintings as a sort of excorcism. It was my understanding that these paintings had been rescued from the garbage by Jon's friend, Pete Maenner. Another was from a private collection. Mr David Stanley Aponte curated the show and the resulting display was astonishing. Immediately artists such as Pieter Bruegel and Hieronymous Bosch come to mind in an updated 'dystopic' landscape. Dystopia was a word that was in vogue at PAFA. Despite this dystopic cliche Jon's work had an intensity that I had missed in his multimedia and musical projects. I suggested to Mr Aponte that we might lock Jon up in the basement of the Hex Factory and feed him more entheogens and art supplies if the show did well. To promote the show I suggested using our connections with the Church of Satan, notwithstanding my aversion to Roman numerals.
My own show in 2009 at Germ had prospered from an inclusion of a press release in their monthly bulletin. At any rate, for what ever reasons there might have been, in spite of my repeated efforts to make that happen it seemed that Jon resisted exploiting this possibility. This complexity of character in Jon is evident in the tortured nature of the paintings. He has never been able to give himself fully to the darkside he depicts. This tension/anxiety is the engine that pulls his cart so to speak. It is my hope that Jon once again picks up the brush and paints again. The quality of this show is begging for an encore.
Hunter Yoder, Hexologist in Residence
Derided and chastised on a daily basis. Taught guilt and fear. Imbued with images of blood atonement and an all powerful God king in a celestial cloud city. An infallible authority, the great mastermind/omniscient other whose contradictions and mistakes could not be questioned. My prayers in the 80’s sometimes went something like this: “Dear Lord God, and Jesus please don’t let the Russians destroy life as we know it. I want me and my brother and my Mommy and Daddy to live.” Other prayers begged the lord God to intervene whenever the nuns punched me in the face or beat my hands with a wooden ruler.
Outside the classroom window a few stories down on the street was the AL-AN club, a place where people went to try and overcome their addictions. Often they’d go there hammered on some distilled muck or another, stumbling, sometimes sitting on the sidewalk vomiting on themselves, a fruit and carpet cleaner scented bottle bag in hand. One nun gave us some good advice: “Don’t end up like that guy.” But the nuns were something worse as violent, repressed, mean-spirited pie-in-the-sky authoritarians. They took their sick issues out on the kids. “You’ll never get away with anything. Jesus is watching your every move.” What could be more dystopian than a nun filling a young child’s mind with such a ridiculous lie. The celestial surveillance was on. But somehow I could not stop my compulsion to draw and write sexually tinged and violent imagery. I would pray for forgiveness to the point of absurdity, yet my recidivism seemed uncontrollable. The pedagogues of despair chose the course of confiscating my works. No nurturing critique in the spirit of aesthetic guidance, instead they enlisted my classmates in a type of vindictive romper room pogrom. The little bastards raided my desk for what they saw as scandalous, Anti-Christian art atrocities.
At one point a Drawing contest presented itself. We were all to try our hands at adoration of the Monsignor in portraiture. I really wanted to do the guy justice, and beset my imperfect skills on the quest for obsessive detail. I didn’t really think about the color choices, just the line. The teachers were mortified. They thought the devil had really got into me that time. The ring leader/provocateur of the bunch yelled her pedestrian head off, “did you see what little Jonathan Allen has done? He’s blasphemed the Monsignor! Made him look like Freddy Krueger! Look at this garbage! First it’s the naked women and pentagrams, now this! Oh, you really have a lot to answer for in the confessional booth!” At the time, I didn’t know what Freddy Kreuger looked like. I was just trying to render the old Monsignor’s wrinkles and worn pink/reddish flesh (he had high blood pressure and anger problems). Too much red precipitated disastrous consequences. Or was it really that bad? Now I look back and think the piece certainly shared visual kinship with the grotesque paintings of Dubuffet, Kokoschka, even some of the more primitive drafts of Otto Dix. It was expressionism. I was sent to meet with the Monsignor who was not upset at all by the portrait. He knew something of art history. What peeved him was a stack of drawings and text I had worked on which described various ways in which my fellow classmates could be murdered and mutilated. Alienation had led me down avenues of mordant catharsis. However, I was taking it out on pen and paper. It was therapy.
Iconoclasm and corruption of flesh continued as artistic themes for me throughout the years, perhaps a side effect of pain, abuse, and Catholicism. But a greater worldview was coming into focus. The same religion and authoritarian mindsets that sabotaged and disturbed me in my early years is eroding America from the inside side out. Freedom is deferred and slighted by Machiavellian, dictatorial theocrats of one-sided morality. While Presidents quote Isaiah or enlist deranged preachers to speak at their inauguration, (pushing the lie like heroin) ruthless government subsidized, would-be feudal lords of the oil and gas industry work 24-7 toward making this great land of ours into a polluted, uninhabitable wasteland. Like cattle the serfs lap up Big Pharma mind control drugs, and repeat drive the serenity prayer to avoid thinking about deeper issues. Polluted land, polluted people. Out the door. In the car. Off to the job. Hope one of them doesn’t snap from bad drug side-effects and spray his co-workers full of lead. The powerful dig that. They loop it in the mass media stream. Push the fear, and take your guns away. Threat disarmed. Big Brother looks somewhere else to kick you.
I love America . It is with great love that I produce harrowing, and critical images from the insanity of Catholicism to my Father’s death due to a spontaneous cancer causing drug prescription that was pitched as a remedy. The Hex Factory, a rebel and untamed spirit in the Kensington section of Philadelphia was a great venue to show off my paintings and drawings. Proprietor Hunter Yoder understands that often art can be an unleashed hellhound upon the viewer, maybe more necessary than baseball games and apple pie.
"The Beastly Pedagogue"
Jon Allen at the Hex Factory, 08/01/2011-09/30/2011
Jon Allen at the Hex Factory, 08/01/2011-09/30/2011