Art From the Edge
Punk counterculture graffiti art marries hair salon in Monterey’s Outer Edge Studio.
Thursday, May 20, 2004
When the trio of Chris Delaney, Eve Connell and Andrew Jackson stopped in at City Hall a few months ago to get a business license for a combination art gallery and hair salon at 146 Bonifacio Place in Monterey, the clerk recognized the address right away. Hey, she wanted to know, isn’t that the place that always had the bright blue 1950s washing machine out front?
It still does. After operating for ten years as a funky hair salon known as The Outer Edge Salon, the business closed in January when owner and hairdresser Michael Keenan passed away.
The washer outside the salon was representative of the general décor that graced the Outer Edge. Keenan, who studied set design in San Francisco, originally designed the walls and the ceiling of the business to look like a movie set. Later, he stocked the tiny space with treasures and kitsch—mostly from the ‘50s—so that teal kitchen appliances and fringe lamps filled all available window space. Most recently, he had added pieces from Thailand, where he spent three weeks of every month.
After Keenan’s death, his friends Connell, Delaney and Jackson hatched a plan to keep the space open while remaining true to its kitschy roots.
“We wanted to keep it out of the hands of the corporate chains,” says Delaney, co-owner of Hula’s restaurant in Monterey.
Connell, a business-writing teacher at CSU Monterey Bay, states their goal this way: “To retain the integrity of the atmosphere of creativity and wackiness with style and flair, because Michael had style and flair.”
The revamped salon and concept gallery, set to open its doors May 21, will be rechristened The Outer Edge Studio. A blue washing machine will provide the business logo, and the real thing will still grace the curb during business hours.
Jackson says that the space is “important psychologically for lots of people.”
Jackson, a local artist whose series of blurry night scenes in Monterey bars currently hangs at the American Art Gallery in Carmel, had a dream—or by his account a nightmare—about what could happen to Keenan’s store. In the dream, he walks by and sees “a cheesy dress shop going in.”
But according to Jackson, with the new space, edgy art will prevail over cheesiness, and even over more traditional art.
The gallery will feature four- to six-week installations of “very affordable, original art,” says Connell. The plan is to hang big name artists next to local unknowns.
One of the rebel artists to grace Outer Edge walls this month will be Los Angeles graffiti artist Shepard Fairey, whose giant images of a black-and-white face accompanied by the word “obey” have been safety-pinned to punk kids’ backpacks and also hung at fine art galleries.
Another young LA artist on display for the inaugural show will be David Choe. Choe says he got fired from his first job doing children’s book illustrations because his work was “too scary.” Besides counterculture canvases, the opening show includes light-hearted “Munktiki” ceramics put out by Pacific Grove residents Miles and Paul Nielsen.
Numerous Outer Edge artists, including Fairey and Choe, come courtesy of Red Ink Studios in San Jose. Red Ink Studios is a nonprofit art movement, a kind of “squatter” studio that creates and displays work in unleased space until it is rented by a long-term tenant. With the Outer Edge’s plans to exhibit aspiring artists from Monterey’s Youth Arts Collective and faculty and students from the area colleges, the potential exists for young Peninsula talent to find an audience in other cities.
It would seem all this art talk might please Keenan. According to Joanne Kelly, a friend of Keenan’s for more than 20 years, “Michael had the eye of an artist. The view was his—always original, not always soothing, always provocative.”
Kelly says her family went to the Outer Edge for haircuts, but got much more.
“[It was] also a place to discuss the world, the arts, politics, our personal sorrows and triumphs,” she says.
As the three new owners prepare the space for their opening, some of Keenan’s friends are just hearing about his death. On occasion, paint brush in hand, the new business owners have to inform people just back in town for the season or who somehow haven’t gotten word.
Delaney concedes that they “expect mixed reactions at the start” due to Keenan’s popularity in the community, but he wants people to know they are working hard to keep his spirit in mind while forging an identity for the Outer Edge Studio.
“I think Michael would have loved it,” Jackson says.
Opening Reception for the Outer Edge Studio is Friday, May 21, from 6-9pm. 146 Bonifacio Pl, Monterey. 655-2788 or www.outeredgestudio.com.