Friday, November 17, 2017

The Origin & History of Johnny Detroit

The Origin of Johnny Detroit*.
Summer in Santa Fe, New Mexico (1979), I invented a fictional character, Johnny Detroit. He was the result of an idea to spoof the renowned Judy Chicago Dinner Party and was intended to be the masculine personification and antithetical expression of that artist’s provocative idea.
My original idea was to be titled “Johnny Detroit’s Brunch” and I envisioned a phallic shaped table, set with places for famous men (both real, imaginary and legendary) - and presented in much the same format as Ms. Chicago’s offering. It must be stressed that the entire idea of parodying Judy Chicago's concept was (and remains) a tribute, never intended to be mean-spirited. I am respectful of feminism and the intent of the Johnny Detroit work(s) was meant to be seen and experienced in the light of "play" and humor.
I teamed up with Michael J. Husband, known then for bringing avant-garde and art-house cinema to town, and we constructed and presented the first “Johnny Detroit’s Brunch & Georgia O’Keeffe Look-Alike Contest” - an event at the City Lights Theater in Santa Fe...sponsored by Michael's local underground newspaper,  “The Great Southwestern Fear Of Rejection Society”  - September 14, 1979. This event was well attended and in addition "The Beast" a film by Walerian Borowczyk was also shown that evening. The so-called “Johnny Detroit’s Brunch" was, at that time, not more than a series of notebooks, drawings and photo-assemblages of potential ideas for an actual event which we were not ever to fully realize. But the character of Johnny Detroit had become part of my ongoing predilection to use alter-egos as spokespersons for aspects of my artistic projects.

Johnny Detroit was, however, adapted to a wonderful presentation event, shown at Seven Stages Theater (1989) and organized by King Thackston and  the “Taboo” group of Atlanta, Georgia, of which I was a member. I was not a contributing artist to the actual event (although, I did attend) but was with King Thackston during the initial brainstorming. At that time, I shared with him my whole concept of the Johnny Detroit mythos and my former material concerning presentation. He was inspired by this meeting and thanked me for allowing him to develop it still further. Eventually, an entire traveling exhibit was assembled, sustained and offered. This exhibition was eventually taken on tour to New Orleans. Please visit Moca Ga Brunch to learn more about that particular exhibition.

Later Johnny Detroit became the subject of several of my projects, including my “Johnny Detroit’s Zen Fest” – an Art-Installation/exhibition I produced in several locations.
He also appears as a subject in two collaborative fictional works (click links to visit), “Breadcrusts” and “The Jazz Abduction” by Ron Underwood,George Nikas, Zoe Viles and George Nikas.
There is also an account of the friendship between Johnny Detroit and Anchor Méjans in my short work - "The Folie à deux of Anchor Méjans & Johnny Detroit" -
found in Speculum Persona - Or - Lost Lives & Brief Biographettes.

His persona has been revived in the “Secret Life Scrapbooks” (2001-5).


The Atlanta Invitation (inscribed to me from King Thackston)

original sketch from my notebook of possible guests

Original insert from the invitation to the City Lights event, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sept. 1979


Three pages from the Secret Life Scrapbooks” (2001-5)





Two Pieces from Johnny Detroit's Zen-Fest (a.k.a. Johnny Detroit’s Zen Renaissance) Installations 1983-88







Click individual images for larger view

* Johnny Detroit was conceived as a totally fictitious entity. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.