"William Gaynor: Walking Down the Road Feeling Really Fucking Bad"

Artist William Gaynor illuminates a curious spiritualism in an unlikely location

Eye of Godstar

One day this week after work, drive over to Chicon and Fifth. Ignore the temporary dead-end signs, rain damage, and mud, and go west on the alleyway just north of the railroad tracks. Admire the graffiti-ridden industrial ruins to your right and the ubiquitous mushrooming apartment construction site on the left. Past these, find Yellow Jacket Social Club tucked into a hidden alcove, somehow still bustling at near max capacity inside and out despite what's working against it. Order the beet, arugula, and chevre sandwich with a pint of Real Ale's White, then park yourself in view of the north wall under a set of seven framed artworks. It's not your usual gallery experience, but by following this careful ritual you'll be in the optimal state to view Will Gaynor's neo-mystical works on paper.

They seem as though they were torn from an illuminated manuscript of the hipster religion: some contradictory mash-up of rock and folk music, Western therapy and self-help, and the remnants of Seventies New Age mysticism, all tempered by a healthy dose of Austin irreverence, rural Texas shitkicker conservatism, and postmodern cynicism. It's a lot to pack into these modest works in this modest setting, but Gaynor does it well – not by some grand design, but through a simple expression of his being and the observation of his environment.

In Don't Go, Not Yet (Roky Erickson as a Godstar), a portrait of the troubled celebrity and local psych-rock legend occupies a few inches in the top left corner, opposite a grungy skull and crossbones. Separating the two at the top of the page is an Eye of Providence, a motif used by Gaynor throughout his visual art and by Erickson in his lyrics. The eye sheds 13 orderly tears into an amorphous circle of night sky which takes up the bulk of the yellowing paper. Below this is a smaller circle of peaceful blue sky. Within the larger night sky, a shooting star can be found among the others, a double reference to Erickson's cyclical burn-in, burn-out status and his claims of his diagnosed schizophrenia being the product of his extraterrestrial psychic sensitivity.

The tone of yearning and loss, the Eye of Providence, and the use of multiple frames within a frame can be found in each work at Yellow Jacket. June 2014 (Walking Down the Road Feeling Really Fucking Bad) reads like several very different displays all at once: a tarot spread, a game show pick-a-door, and a book of hours. June 2014 is made of four internally titled smaller paintings. The first is The Garden, a frame packed with loaded symbols: a Christian cross, the American flag, a rainbow between clouds, the Eye, a woman's exposed genitals, a puppy, a baby. The second is Nowhere, an image of barren scrubland. The third, High Water, displays again the bizarre amorphous night sky next to a sun face hovering over two disembodied retro-cartoon eyes weeping on the top of a flooded house. Finally, Hell, an image of a rough-skinned, blue-eyed Satan next to the portrait of a man with a bloom rising out of his third eye.

Aside from the balance of sincerity and skepticism present in the psychedelic images and the esoteric atmosphere of fate and chance, I leave the viewer to untangle the symbolism of June 2014 and the rest of the show for themselves. Not knowing whether the artist has some spiritual connection to these symbols or whether he's just making fun of them is still up for debate (I'd guess half and half), but regardless, Yellow Jacket is the best place to be to ponder these and other contradictions in the rain-soaked, drought-ridden landscape of Central Texas. Enjoy your happy hour.


"William Gaynor: Walking Down the Road Feeling Really Fucking Bad"

Yellow Jacket Social Club, 1704 E. Fifth
www.yellowjacketsocialclub.com
Through June 7
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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

William Gaynor, Roky Erickson

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