It was our last day in New Orleans. We were hung over, drinking white russians at noon and strolling the French Market like the starry eye’d 20 year olds we were. From Jackson Square to Decatur there were artists selling their wares, tarot readers, a carnival of chaos and commerce. I found a sketch I didn’t think I could live without. It was $20. I was super poor. Paid for it anyway and brought it with me when I moved to the french quarter 2 years later. You know how certain things just speak to you? Be it poetry, art, music, that song you’ll listen to in the car until the end? That drawing was one of those. It ended up getting left in a condemned apartment on Rampart Street, and I mourned it’s loss more than I’ve mourned some people.
Have you ever tried googling “weird fucked up art”? You discover some ..uh..interesting stuff. But needless to say, I had no success finding the artist who’d sold me the sketch; though I tried every few years. I assumed he’d “make it”; his stuff was brilliant and unique. But it took 17 years to find him again. I was in a ramshackle thrift store in downtown St Pete, somewhere I’d never have set foot in usually. A little hut full of junk jewelry and overpriced 70’s shoes. And then there it was. A drawing by the same artist. In a cheap black frame, hanging, slightly crooked, on the wall. I’m pretty sure passerby’s thought I was fucking nuts because tears were littering my cheeks. In all of those years the cost had gone from $20 to $35. Finding his work again was priceless to me.
The reason I’m writing this now is I just went to tell someone about Phil Kutno and his badass work. And read a new update on his webpage (https://www.philkutnostudios.com/). A message from his wife. Phil passed in 2018. Just a year after refinding his work. His art was an influence in my life, and the lives of countless others I’m sure. I doubt he ever got the recognition he deserved, though it certainly didn’t seem to be a motivating factor. It sounds like he lived an incredibly full life. So fucking sorry to see you go.