i had a friend named john when i was 16.

we met at a KLYT radio skate night, i believe, at roller king, back when my favorite band was the choir and all i wanted was a friend who liked them, too. he was one of those friends that i could just talk with for hours. we’d go to applebee’s after church on wednesday nights and stand outside our cars with the doors open after everyone else had left, feigning like we were going to get in, ready to leave, but still talking until it was well past time for sane high schoolers to be in bed sleeping.

i (am not sure how i feel about) clohn art

i (am not sure how i feel about) clohn art

john was an artist. he was a great artist. he painted, he sculpted, he made videos, he made music. he was always working on something. we painted tee shirts at his house, or tried to make rubber-bottomed flip flops (unfortunately, the tire we got was steel radial, and even the ginsu knife couldn’t cut through that). we went to concerts. we wrote poems.

he graduated from high school when i was 16, and he went to india to be a missionary. he came back with a pair of sandals for me (we had the same size feet) that i wore until they were so far gone they were unsavable. he also wrote letters to all his friends, that were decorated with commentary on the stamps. i barely got mine — it came stapled shut, as if someone had gone through it and resealed it after they’d made sure there wasn’t any contraband inside.

we hung out for the summer and drove around garage sales looking for the ugliest polyester shirts we could find. he talked with awe and some reverence about trash eaters, the people who lived off dumpster diving. we went to each other’s churches. when i think of the word “innocence”, i think of the time i spent hanging out with john when i was 16.

eventually, he went to texas. i got a few more letters. but i lost track of john. i graduated from high school and went to college. i took one of his sculptures with me, and a print he’d made that hung on the wall of our swingin’ ladies’ apartment sophomore year.

now, more than a decade later, i’ve found john again, thanks to the magic of facebook.

he’s still an artist. he’s also married and has a beautiful daughter who can walk. he just moved back to the states from china.

and he has a website where he sells his art.

which is what i wanted to write about, really — look at my friend john’s art.

three rows by john robert lee

three rows by john robert lee

he still draws strange reworked bodies with funny fingers. he still has a cubist knack, and a bit of abstract expressionism. he’s also try to give away 300 pieces of trash art, which you can be a part of!

it’s funny to look at an old friend’s new Website, and see things about him that i remember. he and his best friend clay from ohio (or cley, depending on who was spelling it) were always mashing up words to make new titles for things, like their band mary hall (an acronym of mary had a little lamb), or his old aol screen name, twitlist (twinkle twinkle little star). i know “clohn” art is “cley” and “john”.

i recognize symbolic elements in his paintings. and i notice that he still can’t spell worth a damn.

but it’s refreshing to see that he’s still painting. he’s still making art. he’s still doing things that made up our worlds ten years ago.

anyway, check out his stuff and tell him to blog more. you can find him at clohnart.com.


2 Responses to “i had a friend named john when i was 16.”

  1. 1 Chris
    October 26, 2009 at 5:16 am

    I remember the “swingin’ ladies’ apartment sophomore year,” but I don’t remember the print!

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