Detroit artist Thelonius Bone explores levity in latest collection debuting at the Eat Da Rich Showroom

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click to enlarge 'Dagger of the Mind' by Thelonius Bone. - Courtesy of artist
Courtesy of artist
'Dagger of the Mind' by Thelonius Bone.

What do Peter Falk as Lieutenant Columbo, Ancient Aliens, Freemason symbolism, and actor/rapper Ice T have in common?

Honestly? Nothing, unless you are Detroit artist Thelonious Bone, whose self-described “goofy” work speaks beyond artistic intellectualism and labored interpretation — it speaks to our collective funny bone.

Though T-Bone, as he is affectionally called, has no formal training (he drew as a kid, got involved with music, and started working at a tattoo shop in Ann Arbor where his passion for art was reignited), he's been churning out impressionistic drawings and paintings for more than a decade. But he predicts it might take another ten years to fully achieve the skills he claims to not have and to expand and explore his use of mediums.

“I only feel in the last three years that I've gotten to the point where I really like the work I'm doing,” T-Bone says. “I'm like getting good enough to start to be able to kind of convey the way I want to really paint and not cringe at. It's like, punk rock, I guess,” he adds. “When people started these bands they were like, 'well, I don't really know how to play' and they just got up and were like, 'I know three chords. So let's do the best we can with that.'”

Forged from a hodgepodge of inside jokes, pop culture imagery, and parodies, T-Bone's latest collection, which debuts at the Eat Da Rich Showroom (5631 Michigan Ave.) on Saturday, May, 1, is an amalgamation of interests.

Further (which T-Bone promoted by repurposing an old Ice T album press release as if it were Mad Libs, adding his name and the word “art” wherever the word “rap” appears,) has been two years in the making. Colorful and, at times, chaotic, the pieces featured in Further, actually sort of aligns with how Ice T described his 1991 record O.G. Original Gangster in the press release T-Bone so artfully scribbled over: “It’s about me. What goes through my mind these days.”
click to enlarge 'Timeless Land.' - Courtesy of artist
Courtesy of artist
'Timeless Land.'

So, what goes through T-Bone's head? It's hard to keep track, which is why he writes down what he calls “visual jokes” and takes phone photos of humourous freeze frames from shows like Columbo, and obscure curiosity.

“I always say my work is very comedic,” T-Bone says. “I'm trying to convey kind of jokes in a way like it's standup or my version of that because I couldn't do that in real life. I always have these funny images or thoughts in my head or I always mishear things and then the thing that I heard is always so much funnier to me and I get to figure out how to convey that on canvas,” he says. “Things look grander in your head and I have trouble getting them to come out the way I'd really liked them to look, but I know that I can't so I got to do it anyway.”

To call T-Bone self-deprecating would invalidate the playful self-awareness that is on full display throughout Further. He's not intimidated nor discouraged by the work he knows he must put in so that he can access the entirety of his talent. While he says he doesn't have it in him to “shmoose” in the art world, he is willing to go as far as the art will take him, and, hopefully, it will pay some bills along the way.

“I don't think you get famous off this kind of stuff, at least not anymore. And if you do, you have to have a different drive,” he says. “Not that I don't want to take it as far as I can, because I think it would be great to not necessarily have a career but if I could make some sort of living off or work one job.”

As for Further, he's ready to share it with the “weirdos” who might actually “get” his work and hopes people laugh or smile when looking at his paintings. Regardless of how it's received, he feels a great sense of accomplishment and pride that anyone approaches him to do shows, as Eat Da Rich's Simone Else had for Saturdays' exhibition.

“I won't believe it until it actually happens,” he says. “When we were doing the installs I was like, this is pretty good. You know, I'm still in a little bit of disbelief. But once I saw everything up, it was like, this is me.” (For the record, that's not an Ice T quote.)

Further opens at the Eat Da Rich Showroom at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 1; 5631 Michigan Ave;; Event is free and open to the public. Capacity will be limited and masks will be required.

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