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Okay Mountain - Recent Adventures

Written by Michael Sieben   
Thursday, 11 February 2010 02:33
Our buddy Michael Sieben blogs up Okay Mountains trip to Miami to install their corner store which won the 2009 Pulse Prize. Well hello there, Fecal Face.

This blog is about some recent Okay Mountain adventures. If you don't know what Okay Mountain is, please visit our website and then return to this blog. Or if you don't feel like doing that don't worry about it. You're on an art website so you can probably get the gist.

Earlier last year Okay Mountain was commissioned by Arthouse (an Austin based Non-Profit Contemporary Arts Organization) to create a comprehensive site specific installation for the PULSE Art Fair in Miami. We discussed many different ideas for the installation and ultimately decided to construct a convenience store similar to the stores we frequent around Okay Mountain. The project was inspired, influenced, and informed by previous store projects such as Claes Oldenburg's The Store, Barry McGee, Todd James, and Steven Powers' Street Market, Justin Lowe's Helter Swelter, and Xu Zhen's Shanghart Supermarket (to name a few.)

Our plan was to transform our art fair booth into a working convenience store. We wanted it to be a completely immersive experience for the viewer. Floor to ceiling, wall to wall, head to toe. The installation included sculpture, painting, digital works, video, sound, performance, and incense. Everything in the store was handmade or had been altered in some manner. We tried not to put too many restrictions on how items were made for the store. Rather, we wanted everybody to go about working on the project any way they felt comfortable. Our hopes were that by having many hands working in many different ways, we could achieve the hodgepodge aesthetic that we all love about non-corporate convenience stores.

*Words: Michael Sieben
*Photos: Sterling Allen, Tim Brown, Justin Goldwater, Michael Sieben, and Carlos Rosales-Silva

So that's the background information for the following photos. If you have any questions feel free to raise your hand at anytime.

We started our Miami voyage by renting a 24 foot truck.

Big enough to hold an entire convenience store. And a case of beer (more on that later.)

Day 1 of loading.

Day 2 of loading.

Road food. It said on the package that you can "eat 'em shell-n-all." Which was true. If you like eating fibrous peanut shells.

We made it to New Orleans on the 1st day of driving.

And stayed with Emily Morrison at the Trouser House Gallery. She had two brand new kittens named Flora and Fauna.

Needless to say they were a big hit with the grown men.

We woke up the next day and noticed that one of the corners on the truck roof had apparently gotten a little smashy.

The first of many duct tape fixes.

Looks pretty good... they probably won't even notice...

After fixing the roof (sort of) we realized that somebody had left a light on in the back of the truck and as a result the battery was totally dead. Do you think you can jump a 24' moving truck with a CR-V? Answer: Nope.

After getting the truck battery replaced (thanks Penske) we hit the road and made the push for Florida. As soon as we crossed the Florida border our truck was immediately pulled over by a Florida State Trooper. I guess somebody should have told us that we were required to stop at all weigh stations... and that it was illegal to transport beer across state lines if you're a commercial trucker... commercial trucker?

Somehow we ended up being categorized as commercial truck drivers. We thought we were just artists going to an art fair. So what exactly does that mean?

Well, that means that all of you guys are going to have to come sit in this little room until we figure out exactly how much we're going to ticket you for.

The ticket turned out to be $700. We were also instructed that we'd be required to drive back into Alabama to the nearest truck stop, buy and fill out a driver's log and bill of lading, without which we wouldn't be allowed to enter Florida. This is a photo of Rod. He helped us fill out our paperwork and explained to us that in his opinion our situation was "total bullshit." Thanks for the help, Rod. We'd probably still be sitting in that truck stop without your help.

We never had to show anybody the paperwork that we filled out and from there on it was smooth driving. We got to Miami the next night, went to bed, and woke up early to start installing our store.

Putting down the floor and putting up the drop ceiling.

We had built everything in Texas in pieces and the first time the whole thing was put together was here in Miami. Sort of a leap of faith that we'd measured everything correctly.

Coming together.


Peat made a sign out of an old box fan. Dude is smart.

And here's what it looked like after two days of installing. The following 13 photos are installation photos of the Corner Store. Oh yeah, that's what we called the project: Okay Mountain Corner Store.

We (Sterling and Carlos) photographed all of the products so that when the Okay Mountain book comes out they can be included. Does anybody know any book publishers?

Corner Store won the PULSE Prize as well as the People's Choice Award. So in true art star form we hired a crew to take down the installation and we all flew First Class back to Austin. Or maybe we spent the next two days de-installing and packing up the work and then rolled 5 deep in the CR-V (2 in the Penske) and drove for three days. Hard to remember.

So... we got back to Texas, took showers, and then remembered that we had committed to doing another installation that was opening in just a few short weeks in San Marcos, TX. No rest for the weary.

And so begins the second chapter of this blog. Texas State University and Okay Mountain Presents: Big Strange Mystery. Here's how the Okay Mountain website explains this show: Big Strange Mystery is an immersive installation that borrows, mimics and transforms various elements associated with such phenomena and institutions as Crypto-Zoology, U.F.O. and Natural History museums. The installation, based on the accumulation and staging of various periphery objects, acts as evidence and documentation of the existence and serarch for an elusive water creature, while also functioning as entertainment, likening the woven characterisitcs of information and its presentation to a narrative, rather than a set of objective, knowable facts.

I'm glad it's somebody else's job to write show descriptions. I probably would have just written that we wanted to make a cool show about the river.

The gallery that we were exhibiting in was set up pre-wifi and had ethernet ports every four feet along each wall. So part of our installation included coming up with a solution for covering the plugs. We decided to try to mimic the bottom of the river by building up a sediment layer of cardboard and plywood.

We also wanted to create a mural that would envelop the entire space giving the viewer the feeling of being underwater.

Ryan underwater.

Early on we decided that the focal point of the show would be a huge skeleton that would be suspended from the ceiling. We contacted some local elementary school teachers and had them assign a project to their students to draw a mythical water creature based on a very vague set of descriptors we provided.

We took the kid's drawings and tried to pick out recurring elements that we could use to base our skeleton on. Things like, a long tail, wings, six legs, etc. Then we drew a rough diagram of our skeleton based on the kid's drawings. Sort of like making a sketch based on eye witness descriptions. But using sketches to make a sketch. Something like that.

We had no real plan for how we were going to physically construct the skeleton so it was very much a "let's see what happens" type of vibe.

Piece by piece.

Bone by bone.

Till it started to look like something.

We also worked on a variety of other sculptural elements. This piece was inspired by collections of debris in rivers that get built up around fence posts or other obstructions.

We shot a video one afternoon. River Bigfoot style.

And worked on a bunch of smaller river culture themed sculptures to place on these pedestals. We wanted them to appear as artifacts within the exhibit. Vary confusing artifacts.

The following seven photos are the installation shots of the show. This exhibit runs through February 26th so if you live near San Marcos you still have time to drop by.

There's a sound component to the installation that comes out of the ice-chest boom-box. It's a cloudy murky soundtrack to further instill the feeling of being underwater.

That concludes this Okay Mountain adventure blog. I'd like to conclude by thanking Sue Graze and Elizabeth Dunbar at Arthouse for all of their support (as well as Jennifer Gardner and Ben Slade for all of their help.) I'd also like to thank Mary Mikel Stump at Texas State University for all of her help (as well as the help from the gallery staff. ) Oh, this photo here is a picture of Travis Millard on a rope swing. It has absolutely nothing to do with this blog but I thought it would probably make him laugh to see it here. Bye.

Relevant Links:

Alison Blickle @NYC's Kravets Wehby Gallery

Los Angeles based Alison Blickle who showed here in San Francisco at Eleanor Harwood last year (PHOTOS) recently showed new paintings in New York at Kravets Wehby Gallery. Lovely works.

Interview w/ Kevin Earl Taylor

We haven't been featuring many interviews as of late. Let's change that up as we check in with a few local San Francisco artists like Kevin Earl Taylor here whom we studio visited back in 2009 (PHOTOS & VIDEO). It's been awhile, Kevin...

Peter Gronquist @The Shooting Gallery

If you like guns and boobs, head on over to the Shooting Gallery; just don't expect the work to be all cheap ploys and hot chicks. With Make Stuff by Peter Gronquist (Portland) in the main space and Morgan Slade's Snake in the Eagle's Shadow in the project space, there is plenty spectacle to be had, but if you look just beyond it, you might actually get something out of the shows.

Jay Bo at Hamburg's Circle Culture

Berlin based Jay Bo recently held a solo show at Hamburg's Circle Culture featuring some of his most recent paintings. We lvoe his work.


Fifty24SF opened Street Anatomy, a new solo show by Austrian artist Nychos a week ago last Friday night. He's been steadily filling our city with murals over the last year, with one downtown on Geary St. last summer, and new ones both in the Haight and in Oakland within the last few weeks, but it was really great to see his work up close and in such detail.

Gator Skater +video

Nate Milton emailed over this great short Gator Skater which is a follow-up to his Dog Skateboard he emailed to us back in 2011... Any relation to this Gator Skater?

Ferris Plock Online Show Now Online as of April 25th

5 new wonderful large-scale paintings on wood panel are available. visit: www.ffdg.net

ClipODay II: Needles & Pens 11 Years!!

Congrats on our buddies at Needles and Pens on being open and rad for 11 years now. Mission Local did this little short video featuring Breezy giving a little heads up on what Needles and Pens is all about.


In a filmmaker's thinking, we wish more videos were done in this style. Too much editing and music with a lacking in actual content. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

AJ Fosik in Tokyo at The Hellion Gallery

Matt Wagner recently emailed over some photos from The Hellion Gallery in Tokyo, who recently put together a show with AJ Fosik (Portland) called Beast From a Foreign Land. The gallery gave twelve of Fosik's sculptures to twelve Japanese artists (including Hiro Kurata who is currently showing in our group show Salt the Skies) to paint, burn, or build upon.

Ferris Plock - Online Show, April 25th

FFDG is pleased to announce an exclusive online show with San Francisco based Ferris Plock opening on Friday, April 25th (12pm Pacific Time) featuring 5 new medium sized acrylic paintings on wood.


Backwoods Gallery in Melbourne played host to a huge group exhibition a couple of weeks back, with "Gold Blood, Magic Weirdos" Curated by Melbourne artist Sean Morris. Gold Blood brought together 25 talented painters, illustrators and comic artists from Australia, the US, Singapore, England, France and Spain - and marked the end of the Magic Weirdos trilogy, following shows in Perth in 2012 and London in 2013.

Jeremy Fish at LA's Mark Moore Gallery

San Francisco based Fecal Pal Jeremy Fish opened his latest solo show Hunting Trophies at LA's Mark Moore Gallery last week to massive crowds and cabin walls lined with imagery pertaining to modern conquest and obsession.

John Felix Arnold III on the Road to NYC

Well, John Felix Arnold III is at it again. This time, he and Carolyn LeBourgios packed an entire show into the back of a Prius and drove across the country to install it at Superchief Gallery in NYC. I met with him last week as he told me about the trip over delicious burritos at Taqueria Cancun (which is right across the street from FFDG and serves what I think is the best burrito in the city) as the self proclaimed "Only overweight artist in the game" spilled all the details.

FRENCH in Melbourne

London based illustrator FRENCH recently held a show of new works at the Melbourne based Mild Manners

Henry Gunderson at Ever Gold, SF

Ever Gold opened a new solo show by NYC based Henry Gunderson a couple Saturday nights ago and it was literally packed. So packed I couldn't actually see most of the art - but a big crowd doesn't seem like a problem. I got a good laugh at what I would call the 'cock climbing wall' as it was one of the few pieces I could see over the crowd. I haven't gotten a chance to go back and check it all out again, but I'm definitely going to as the paintings that I could get a peek at were really high quality and intruiguing. You should do the same.

Mario Wagner @Hashimoto

Mario Wagner (Berkeley) opened his new solo show A Glow that Transfers Creativity last Saturday night at Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco.

Serge Gay Jr. @Spoke Art

The paintings in the show are each influenced by a musician, ranging from Freddy Mercury, to Madonna, to A Tribe Called Quest and they are so stylistically consistent with each musician's persona that they read as a cohesive body of work with incredible variation. If you told me they were each painted by a different person, I would not hesitate to believe you and it's really great to see a solo show with so much variety. The show is fun, poppy, very well done, and absolutely worth a look and maybe even a listen.

NYCHOS Mural on Ashbury and Haight

NYCHOS completed this great new mural on the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco on Tuesday. Looks Amazing.

Sun Milk in Vienna

With rising rent in SF and knowing mostly other young artists without capitol, I desired a way to live rent free, have a space to do my craft, and get to see more of the world. Inspired by the many historical artists who have longed similar longings I discovered the beauty of artist residencies. Lilo runs Adhoc Collective in Vienna which not only has a fully equipped artists creative studio, but an indoor halfpipe, and private artist quarters. It was like a modern day castle or skate cathedral. It exists in almost a utopic state, totally free to those that apply and come with a real passion for both art and skateboarding

"How To Lose Yourself Completely" by Bryan Schnelle

I just wanted to share with you a piece I recently finished which took me 4 years to complete. Titled "How To Lose Yourself Completely (The September Issue)", it consists of a copy of the September 2007 issue of Vogue magazine (the issue they made the documentary about) with all faces masked with a sharpie, and everything else entirely whited out. 840 pages of fun. -Bryan Schnelle

Tyler Bewley ~ Recent Works

Some great work from San Francisco based Tyler Bewley.

Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery

While walking our way across San Francisco on Saturday we swung through the opening receptions for Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery in the Mission.

Jeremy Fish Solo Show in Los Angeles

Jeremy Fish opens Hunting Trophies tonight, Saturday April 5th, at the Los Angeles based Mark Moore Gallery. The show features new work from Fish inside the "hunting lodge" where viewers climb inside the head of the hunter and explore the history of all the animals he's killed.

The Albatross and the Shipping Container

Beautiful piece entitled "The Albatross and the Shipping Container", Ink on Paper, Mounted to Panel, 47" Diameter, by San Francisco based Martin Machado now on display at FFDG. Stop in Saturday (1-6pm) to view the group show "Salt the Skies" now running through April 19th. 2277 Mission St. at 19th.

The Marsh Barge - Traveling the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to quit my job, move out of my house, leave everything and travel again. So on August 21, 2013 I pushed a canoe packed full of gear into the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, along with four of my best friends. Exactly 100 days later, I arrived at a marina near the Gulf of Mexico in a sailboat.