Preview: Big Hair: The Life and Times of Tomatâ du Plenty

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Friday  and Saturday Night, may 2 and 3, ArtShareLA transforms into a punk rock paradise for  Big Hair: The Life and Times of Tomatâ du Plenty, an celebration of one the most important figures in Los Angeles punk rock. We emailed some questions to Carlos Iglesias who is organizing the art and music event, and producing and directing a documentary about Tomatâ (full disclosure, he interviewed me for the film and  Tomatâ painting is in the show ). And here are his answers:

What drew me to Tomatâ?

Well, I was introduced to who Tomatâ was by Helen Clarke, a curatorand close friend of his . She put me on this adventure of co-curating an art show and ultimately producing a documentary on the life of Tomatâ du Plenty.

Helen simply asked me for a favor. She curated a show of Tomatâ’s work titled “Big Hair” for Art Basel in 2011 and has been wanting to do a show of Tomatâ’s art on the West Coast since. We ran a nightclub together a lifetime ago and lost touch after about 2003, but she found me via Facebook and I can’t say no to a friend who asks a favor.

She was friends with Tomatâ during his time in Miami and, just like everyone who knew him, loved him immensely. It was the passion in her voice about him that led me in my path of discovery about his accomplishments. I recruited my good friend John Maquera to help and the more we researched and listened to his work with the Screamers, saw their videos on the interweb, read about his life in San Francisco with the Cockettes, in Seattle with Ze Whiz Kidz and Tupperwares, in New York City with the Palm Casino Review and the whole CBGB’s scene with Kristian Hoffman, Deborah Harry and the Ramones our interest wasn’t only piqued, our minds were blown.

We had no idea this man existed and seemed to propagate so many scenes all over the country. Who was this man? Who were these people that he teamed up with? We just dove in head first at that point!!

And that’s before learning of the Theoretical shows and the movies he acted in, directed and produced plus the performance art and the writing!!!

Was I familiar with the music before starting the project?

I wish I was familiar with the music before starting the project!

Imagine my surprise when I clicked a link and saw this helicopter taking off and a dual hypnotic synth line comes on and introduces the song while the rattle off the bottom of the snare drum shakes and announces the energy about to emanate from a current unknown prior to that moment as Tomatâ comes into focus. It was like a Heavyweight knockout punch.

What power! To hear Tomatâ roar through 122 Hours of Fear while K.K., Paul and Tommy tear through such a tightly wound and constructed score is timeless. Plus what Geza X did to make the sound thicker and heavier was sheer brilliance. My hair actually stands on end just thinking about it. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be at one of their shows when they ruled the roost.

How did I go about curating the show? How many pieces and from how many people?

Pure serendipity. John Maquera and I came in blind. We started a production company called the remainder Is productions solely for the shows, but had to find a place. Originally we were looking to do it at another space where Tomatâ had his first shows, but it wasn’t meant to be.

We stumbled upon Art Share Los Angeles and fell in love with the space. As a non profit it’s an incubator for talent in the Downtown area and just oozes art out of its brick, cinder, wood and steel. It has a gallery, a theater, classrooms and work spaces and it was immediately clear that it was the space for us to bring a show back to Los Angeles of Tomatâ’s art.

Currently we have over a dozen contributors to the art shows with over 100 pieces going in that represent various aspects of Tomatâ’s artistic endeavors. We hope to capture the range of styles and mediums that he used throughout his career. Coupled with some film, music and writings we will be able to show just how immensely prolific Tomatâ was in such a short span.

What’s on the schedule for each night of the shows?

First let me say how excited I am about who will be performing at the shows. Each musical act was influenced by The Screamers and Tomatâ and will be paying homage to his spirit and memory.

It’s quite humbling for me to be able to say that on Friday night we will have the don juan remainder (a band out of San Diego where we are based) opening followed by Paul Roessler of The Screamers, Rikk Agnew and Gitane Demone then onto The Groovy Rednecks closing out the first night.

Saturday night brings us The Knitts opening followed by the don juan remainder, Kristian Hoffman and Ravens Moreland closing out the festivities.

5. Is there a cover charge?

There is no cover charge, but Tomatâ had a lot of friends and many of them will be there so there may be a little wait to get in. I’m sorry for that! I hate lines as well…

Will there be art for sale?

I prefer that Tomatâ’s art not be for sale at the shows. I really want as many people as possible to view Tomatâ’s work for free!!! This is a way to reintroduce his work to people who have never viewed it. It’s all quite inspiring what one determined individual can craft and create to share their energy with others.

Tomatâ loved to teach art, mentor others and be an influence to as many people as he could. That made him happiest and there’s much joy he saw in the world and beauty he saw in those people he came into contact with in all facets of society.

That’s something you can’t pay for, it’s just something to be experienced. I’ll leave it to the collectors of his art to negotiate any potential sales. My job is to bring his life and work back to the forefront where it belongs.

How far along is the film? How many people have we interviewed? Who?

So far we have interviewed Paul Roessler, Kristian Hoffman, Terry Ellsworth, Taquila Mockingbird, Nancy Taylor, Douglas Cavanaugh, Tex Troester, John Fleck, John Roecker, Nicole Panter and you Lisa Derrick!!!! All fantastic interviews with stories for days.

It’s really quite impressive the characters that Tomatâ surrounded himself with. They are all scarily intelligent, funny and creative people!!! I have a list of over 150 people to speak with and interview. I have touched base with many of them and there’s still quite a ways to go!!

I also receive messages, texts, emails and calls from people that knew Tomatâ who now live in Germany, Japan, Australia, Spain, and on and on and on…I really am not quite sure how our editor is gonna handle all this info and how we are gonna be able to cut it down to two hours!

Other thoughts?

We would love to see as many people as possible to the shows. People and artists like Tomatâ don’t come around very often. I wish I could have met him and shared some time with him. I have been lucky enough to meet his friends and those that were close to him and I feel his spirit is very much alive through them.

That energy has found its way into our work on documenting Tomatâ’s life and art and we would be extremely honored to share it with everyone who wants to experience how a life well lived can still resonate with such brightness and intensity though the light in their eyes no longer casts its gaze upon this world.

Top image: Gary Panter

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Photo, courtesy, Bobby Grossman

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1 Comment

  1. sergio zenteno
    May 2, 2014

    i am glad hes being written up, i knew him during a certain heyday of the los angeles art scene and exhibited in some shows together, dont know much about him but am curious where he is and what hes been up to


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