“America’s greatest living ‘Art Garbage Movement’ painter,” Derek Erdman, has been the subject of a few posts here at Dangerous Minds. We’ve profiled his unique “outsider” paintings, as well as his hilariously bizarre phone pranks. Now Erdman’s back on our pages with a brand new piece he produced for the Soaring and Boring and Fawning and Yawning art show at Make.Shift Gallery in Bellingham, WA. This one is close to my heart because it represents a space I am very familiar with. Erdman has produced a dollhouse representation of an archetypal “punk house.”
Having spent a over a decade touring in bands, playing and crashing in dilapidated spaces like the one represented in Erdman’s creation, I can vouch for the authenticity—right down to the flyers, graffiti, empty food boxes, and fucked up kitchen linoleum. I wonder, though—does it come with dollhouse-sized scabies?
Erdman’s inspired “artist statement” on the piece:
Abandoned Punk House in Brunswick Ohio, 1988
Found materials, latex, acrylic, photocopies, fabric
Abandoned Punk House in Brunswick Ohio, 1988 is modeled after an actual house that I visited as a teenager. Brunswick was an interesting town at the time, small and mostly white trash, with a progressive record store that made it an oasis for punks, metal heads, and skateboarders. Ohio was usually behind on cultural trends, and in 1988 there were a lot of teenagers into ramp skating and the hardcore/metal crossover music scene that already happened elsewhere a few years earlier. As an agricultural region in the time before alternative rock, being a punk or skater meant being a misfit under the constant threat of beatings by the typical roving pack of jocks. Luckily, it also meant an instant camaraderie with anybody who looked remotely similar in an outcast fashion, or with the same taste in music.
The house was in a rural area, fifteen minutes by car from the town center and a quarter mile away from the nearest neighbor. In the early 1980s it was the stately family home of an executive of Ohio Bell, the region’s largest telephone company. The oldest son of the family was a seminal punker who was allowed to remain in the house to finish high school while the rest relocated two hundred miles south to Dayton. The unsupervised son started hosting parties and punk shows in the house, and eventually people started living there for various periods of time. It was a fantasy situation of a no rules free for all, where many local teenagers got their first taste of drinking, drugs, sex, and violence. Legend has it that it hosted shows by local bands 0DFX, Starvation Army, & the Pink Holes and was a tour stop for national groups like MDC, the Accused, Corrosion of Conformity, Life Sentence, and many others.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know the house in that era. By the time I first visited, it was free of inhabitants and way past its prime, the punker landlord far away at a private college out of state. I’m not sure if there was an understanding that allowed the house to continue for the sake of “the scene,” or if somebody had the unfortunate belief that it was locked up in fine condition waiting for an eventual sale. There was no need for a key because the lock on the front door was broken, as were several windows. For a time there wasn’t even a back door, though it was sometimes fixed with the intention of making it a rent free place to live (unfortunately without electricity, heat or running water). The house always quickly went back to its default state of residential apathy: broken bottles, indoor fires, shitty graffiti, and wasted teenagers downing cough syrup at the crossroad of getting their shit together & seeing the rest of the world or staying wasted and seeing the rest of Ohio.
Some of the detail of Abandoned Punk House in Brunswick Ohio, 1988 is exactly as it was at the original house. The graffiti of Crass lyrics on the outside, probably written during a short lived political phase. The mostly missing wood shingles and shutters, the kitchen without a sink or any appliances, only some empty food boxes. Sometimes the rooms were full of garbage, sometimes they’d be completely emptied, which is how I remembered it in late summer 1988, when my girlfriend Ericka lived there with two other people for a short period of time. They slept in sleeping bags in the only vaguely decent bedroom on the second floor, staying up late smoking Camel lights while listening to a tape of the Cure’s Standing on a Beach with a battery powered clock radio. It was in that room during a bonfire keg party in early October that I lost my virginity while “Charlotte Sometimes” warbled away, months before Ericka began her five year trek of following the Grateful Dead while I switched high schools and fell out of touch with everybody I’d known until then. I hope everybody has a place like this for some period of their adolescence, because as dumb as we were, those days fucking ruled.
The Soaring and Boring and Fawning and Yawning art show at Make.Shift Gallery in Bellingham WA runs April 1st to 30th.
All photos provided courtesy of Derek Erdman
Derek Erdman’s representation of this “punk house” brings to mind Screeching Weasel‘s song of the same name.
This will forever be the anthem of the fucked-up punk squat:
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Riot Grrill: Take a bite out of the patriarchy
Derek Erdman: America’s greatest living ‘Art Garbage Movement’ painter
DEVO meets the Jerky Boys: The prank call robo-porn genius of ‘Kathy McGinty’