Early Tucson Years
…and Then Some
First, a nod to Juneteenth, marking the anniversary of the announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army general Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, proclaiming freedom for enslaved people in Texas. It wasn’t until June 17, 2021 that it was declared an official federal holiday. Fuck white supremacy.
So yes, I owned and operated a retail ‘art’ store in downtown Tucson in the early 90s for a couple minutes. A friend of mine who owned a screen printing shop at the corner of 5th and Broadway had some extra space to lease and I thought it would be an opportunity to showcase some of my work along with some other artist friends’ works.
I called it Art That Barks and even designed and painted a logo/sign on the front window along with other promo material. How could it fail?
Besides most people thinking it was a store featuring doggie pictures, there just wasn’t the traffic to support it. Also toward the end of the run there, I had hooked up with a band called the Mollys that was soon to begin touring across the country.
But I give you this background just to reminisce about my longtime friend Greg Volpert, another guy who at one time also lived in Riley, Kansas, the very small town where I was raised. Like me, he also made his way to Manhattan, Kansas, a bit of time in Topeka, then on to Lawrence. Unfortunately, he lost the cancer battle in 2010.
He was one of the most talented draftsmen I’ve known, somewhat in the R. Crumb variety of artists who are able to capture the essence of his statements with just a few strokes using simple tools.
During my time at Art That Barks, I contacted a few people about producing a line of T-shirts using their art. In digging out from under my years of belongings, another ongoing project of mine, I came across a couple of pieces from the original material he sent me those many years ago which were Christmas themed.
I wish I had more of his artwork to share with you, and I’m hoping his offspring maintained some sort of collection in his memory. I never knew them as I lost touch with him sometime after the turn of the century. One early memory was that I used to read the cartoon magazines Drag, Hot Rod, and CarToons. Yes, the first two sound pornographic now that I’ve typed them out. Sheesh. Anyway, Drag magazine often featured a character called Wonder Wart-Hog, a creation of Gilbert Shelton who did the work on the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.. I recall there was one issue, when I was in high school, that featured drawings submitted from kids across the country depicting Wonder Wart-Hog’s girlfriend, a drawing contest of some sort. The winner was, of course, Greg Volpert, Manhattan, Kansas. I searched high and low for an image on the web but no luck. Here’s a page from Drag.
I will share one more, pretty low quality image I found that he drew for a band I was in for a few minutes right out of high school. Rathbone was founded by Dawayne Bailey, another soul who lived in the small town of Riley, Kansas for a bit in the early 60s. We were reunited when I finished my high school years at Manhattan High School. Later in life, Bailey went on to be Bob Seger’s guitarist, and then was the guitarist in Chicago for almost a decade. During the time of this band Volpert was still living in Manhattan and hung around with us quite a bit…carefree days.