“Sociologist, psychiatrist, and anthropologist – probably in that order – DONT FRET is more invested than you may appreciate at first, and the underside of American division and inequality bubbles quickly to the surface when he is asked if the country is beyond class.
“Whoever is saying that clearly has the luxury to do so. Look at our cities,” he says.
~ Steven P. Harrington in the introduction to DONT FRET’s monograph, “Life Thus Far”
His Brooklyn residency has been a blur full of old buds from college, new bars in Bedstuy, and of course, sausage makers. He stands in the middle of an artist’s hazard zone of crumpled paper, opened pots of paint, and discarded laundry with brush poised in hand describing his recent quandary about finding a meat mecca in Bushwick and realizing that he couldn’t buy everything he saw once he spoke to the owner.
“She just started her own sausage company and we definitely want to do collaborations,” he says. “There were so many sausages at her place that I wanted to buy.” So you know he’s feeling comfortable here, surrounded by fine meats.
His characters are all here, wondering aloud about physical insecurities and decoding social navigation; cryptically critiquing the absurdities of our class system and the underlying savagery of corporate capital and the perverting power of cloying advertising across the culture. In so many words.
Some hand-painted posters are still wet, some boards for future magazine covers (Thrasher, Sportsball Weekly, The New Yorker) have backgrounds prepared for him to paint featured personalities, a scattered pile of painted lottery players are grinning gamely from shiny Lotto cards, and larger new canvasses are built up with dense color and swarming symbols that dance around the heads of his imagined sitters.
“In this kind of stuff I wouldn’t say it’s autobiographical but they are definitely my generation of people navigating the city, looking at life and nightlife,” he says as you look into the rolling eyes of figures that have transformed into slot machines, perhaps hoping to win the jackpot. He points to his enthrallment with “The Simpsons” as he grew up and sees the bewildered savviness of the players in himself and in most of his peers as they navigate “adulting”. It’s chaos, but an entertaining one.
“There are clips of the Simpsons that go around in my head again and again,” he says. “There is one with Bart and Millhouse find twenty dollars and they get a Super Squishy, which is basically a crack squishy, and they go on this bender,” which makes him laugh. He turns to the blottoed bloke on his new canvas and describes the scene.
“It’s like a song and dance. They’re singing (and he breaks into singing) Springfield! Springfield! It’s a helluva town! – and there is this scene of them wandering Springfield,” he says.
You can see this is a stand-in for this month in the BK in this case and DONT FRET’s active imagination about the lore of this dirty metropolis. “You see this neon popping up, and the animation just swirls. And then it just wakes up to Bart, hungover in bed.”
“I don’t know, I always just like those images. For me, these are like Brooklyn and Manhattan,” he says with glassy star-struck dizziness in his eyes.
Catch DONT FRET tonight at his opening at the Bedstuy Artists Residency, and you can swirl around colorfully with other symbols of this time, and this electrified city full of promise. BSA co-founder will be there to sign his introduction essay inside fresh copies of “Life Thus Far”, DONT FRET’s giant new monograph.
A hummus plate is promised.
Thank you to Kathy, Erwin, and Marshall at the BedStuy Art Residency for your love and support to the arts. Always.