As if Lee 'Scratch' Perry wasn't already threatening the delicate definition of reality as we know it–yesterday famed funk bassist Bootsy Collins (J. Brown, P. Funkadelic and his own solo work) announced the imminent unveiling of “three hundred epic canvases” on December 1st. What will they look like? Ideally three hundred of this, but larger and possibly glowing.
As Bootsy communicates via PR, each of the 300 unique works is “the result of a lengthy process involving photography, greenscreen, found images and archived elements, undertaken with the aim of isolating and visually replicating what's going on in his imagination.” The hook now is early signees to Bootsy's mailing list get a sneak peak and maybe a sneak chance to purchase before the rest of us? Each piece also comes equipped with “a unique funk mantra created and applied to the canvas by Bootsy himself” and “a number of hidden elements for its owner to discover.”
Of course this makes a nice moment to think of Pedro Bell, the original Funkadelic cover artist–sorry, TEXTOGRAPHIC AVATAR OF FUNK–who made sure every album cover came with plenty of funk mantras and hidden elements embedded within. And this time last year, he wasn't in great shape.
Bell, 59, designed the cover art for more than two dozen George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic albums. Under the name Sir Lleb (Bell backward), he wrote the albums' liner notes, peppering them with cartoonish drawings, clever puns and names like “Thumpasaurus” and “Funkapus” that remain synonymous with Clinton's music.
“George Clinton gets a lot of credit for the conceptual dimension of P-Funk, but actually Pedro Bell was a big part of that with his texts and imagery,” said Pan Wendt, co-curator of a gallery exhibition in Toronto called “Funkaesthetics” which featured Bell's work.
Now, as Bell's art receives increased recognition in the art world, the artist struggles to survive.
Almost totally blind, Bell can't see the dim hallways of the Hyde Park Arms, the shabby SRO he calls home. His ankle is swollen from a wound that won't heal. He receives dialysis three times a week because severe hypertension damaged his kidneys. He recently beat an eviction order on a court technicality.
And despite the commercial success of Clinton's music, Bell said he didn't profit from it.
Interview here and heartfelt essay here if you'd like to dig deeper into the man's greatness–or you can just stare deep into the cover of Cosmic Slop. But how is he doing now? A year and a benefit concert later, it's unfortunately a little obscure. But the last message Bell left on his Myspace is a hopeful one: “I am excited to rise again!”