My favorite painter in the whole world is named Jim Houser. He is a skateboarder and he has red hair. When we were teenagers he was really nice, and then a really big fat dick, and now he's nice again and has stayed like that for quite some time.

Jim paints poems. Not "Jim writes poems and illustrates them" or "Jim paints a poem on a canvas and passes it off as a painting" or "Jim's paintings are like poems" but "Jim has found a new way to execute both painting and poetry and each of them as separate units are instantly and widely captivating, but together as a unit, they burn down buildings, melt hearts, and cause general mayhem and mirth."

For one thing, we don't (or I don't) normally think of poetry as a writing form that is squished into any paradigm... i mean if you're going to point to you know, rhyme or iambic pentameter, fine, but not all poems rhyme, not all poems follow any sort of meter, poetry as an institution is expressly meant to avoid the structures and rules of prose in order to boil words down to meanings and impressions. When you sit down to write a poem, unless you're performing some sort of exercise for a class, you're not restricted to any sort of form.

But really, you are. People tend to write either on word processors or paper, which means poems have lines, and one word can only appear on one line. Words link to each other by proximity. Writing, executed through these tools, consists of letters, the occassional number, puncutation, and spacing or creative formatting. A bold here, an underline there, maybe a few extra indents, a skipped line, a void where a word should be.

When Jim writes a poem (and I haven't talked to him about this so I don't even know that he considers them poems at all), he puts the words where he wants them. He re-uses words; he'll place a word in a box and link two separate thoughts to that word. He can attach a word to a visual image, he can isolate a word or thought visually. A "stanza" can be one phrase out in the middle of a nowhere filled with marching mummies or guitar-strumming wide-eyed elephants. "Lines" of poetry don't exist in a painting; there's no grid, no word processing.

This is not to belittle his painting style... first and foremost, I think Jim considers himself a visual artist. Text is just something for which he happens to have mad talent. His colors are so expressive they're an emotional dissertation in and of themselves. His cartoonish pop-style characters are funny when they need to be and poignant when they have to be, and the way they interact and lay out on a flat surface is complex and beautiful. Almost everyone who sees his paintings is drawn to them, they can't just walk by and glance, they've got to read and look and digest. I once woke up to find a desperate note penned on cocktail napkin and left on my coffee table, offering sexual favors in return for a painting. Jim can express emotion with an oval and some teeth drawn in, no shading. And of course, through text.

Think about this: poets publish their work; that's how they make their money and survive off their art. In fact, the publishability of a poem is what makes poems have to stick to a one-word/one-line format. That's how text information is handled. So a poem is considered information, not an artwork. You can email a poem to someone. You can write it in the margins of your notebook when you're bored in class. But a painting is a one-off. By turning poems into a one-off commodity, Jim has placed even further value in them, both literal and figurative. To own one of Jim's paintings is to own a poem that cannot be replicated. The words can't be separated from the wood, because they have no formal text format. These poems can't be emailed.

Anyway, I thought you should know about Jim. I think you should buy one of his paintings, if you can. He lives in the philadelphia area and is one of the founding artists at Space 1026. He's also done some work for Toy Machine skateboards that you can buy, but his originals are richer and deeper and more holy. If you think you might want a painting, you should call Shelley at Spector Gallery. She is exceedingly nice.

Come look at some of Jim's stuff. These are weird jpegs of just one painting and of course don't do justice to the work, but you'll get the general idea. Jim paints lots on old skateboards too. This is one of his huge huge wood paintings.

Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, most of the painting.
Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, detail: "Can't Live Easy: Guilt Gets Felt."
Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, detail: "It's Time to Take to the Sky"
Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, detail: "People Get to Watch You Fall In Love"

Here are good pictures of his Revenger show at Space 1026 a few years ago.