Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#299 Matty Byloos: Absolutely Everything Right Now

Matty Byloos was born in Los Angeles and raised in various parts of the San Fernando Valley (a Valley Boy, if there were such a thing). Matty’s childhood was great and his family was pretty typical of Italian-American families. There was lots of extended family around and everybody played a ton of cards. They all loved baseball and large meals. Everybody had a sarcastic sense of humor, so teasing was prevalent. Then, when Matty was 11, his grandfather, the family patriarch, died and everything fell apart. His immediate family stayed close—Matty and his sister have always been friends and his parents stayed together—but everybody else drifted away. For some reason, as a kid, Matty loved the movie Wall Street. Also, he attended an all-boys, Jesuit high school near the city center of Los Angeles, just a few miles from the LA riots that happened in 1992. The school was shut down for a while and it was like entering a warzone when they went back—entire city blocks reduced to rubble and ash, blackened and charred. That has always stuck with Matty. The other standout thing from high school time was visiting Mabel King during his community service commitment, which he did at the Motion Picture Country Home, a rest home and hospice care facility for anybody involved in show business. She was blind and dying at the time, but also so full of life—a kind of magical grandmother. After high school, Matty attended a Jesuit college where he played rugby on and off and also played bass in a punk band called Vietnun. Once, he was held up at gunpoint and almost killed. Besides that, he studied literature and creative writing and it was great. For his Masters, he studied painting and critical theory. Matty’s girlfriend is also his best friend and she knows more about what is going on in his brain at any given time than anybody else but him. She's divine and a poet. They met through mutual friends and, after some difficult middle years, sorted things out. Matty loves that she'll fight like a hellion and forgive just as fast. They don’t have kids, but do have two cats—Patchen and Parsley (who thinks Matty is her mom—most nights he wakes up with her suckling on the two cherry blossom tattoos on his forearm). Matty always wanted to see Japan and he did in 2005 when the cherry blossoms were in bloom. During the trip, Matty ate apple pie and ice cream in a tiny house after seeing the Buddha statue in Kamakura. Another time, Matty was almost killed again when he was almost hit by a car going 100mph in the wrong direction during a high-speed chase. That combined with the Jesuit life principles of treating every day like it’s your last have made him a workaholic and somebody who tries to do absolutely everything right now. Now Matty does online marketing stuff. He owns and operates a network of websites. He still paints and has been working on a large-scale drawing installation that functions like a novel in pictures—with every single page on display at the same time. Matty is feeling pretty good about writing these days, even more so than painting, which is a big shift after mostly existing in the art world. He’s working on a novel that is built out of independent flash pieces. It's about a motorcycle gang and the apocalypse and Detroit and lots of birds that wear jackets and ponder their own evolution.

#260 Shawn Theron: SOGH

Shawn Theron was born in 1972 in Baltimore, MD. He grew up in one of those modular homes that are trucked to the lot in halves. There was a huge backyard and Shawn played in the woods with his sister and his best friends, Jenny and Erin. They had their own Twisted Pine Nature Trail that they built together. When Shawn did go inside, he had to deal with his mother, a severe alcoholic, which was not fantastic. Long nights dealing with his mother meant that Shawn didn’t quite have the bandwidth for school. He always felt exhausted and teachers’ advice just seemed like criticism. Once, Shawn brought home a report card with grades that spelled D-E-A-D (the A was in art). When Shawn was 16, his mother and father divorced. After that, Shawn moved in with his paternal grandmother, Red (he named her this when he was 10 because she lived in a red house, drove a red car, and wore her red hair in a beehive). With Red, life became more normal and Shawn could finally breathe. Shawn loved their impromptu road trips (like going crabbing in Annapolis, which, with all the Navy guys around, was amazing for a super young gay guy) and how much fun it was to get lost together. He loved their late night conversations at the dining table while the quiet of the world wrapped itself around them. Red became Shawn’s mother and his best friend and his own personal movie star. Shawn finished high school, but only managed a semester at the local community college. Shawn suspects he has learning issues, but the schools didn’t really test for that then. After that, Shawn started working in Baltimore restaurants—everything from bartending to waiting tables to managing, eventually winding up at Joy America Cafe, which used to be in the penthouse of the Visionary Art Museum. This brought Shawn close to art, but he hadn't started painting yet. In 2003, Red died, cancer. Before she passed, Red told Shawn to do big and great things with his life. She also gave him the word SOGH. Shawn didn’t know what the word meant, but, in the beginning, SOGH was Shawn’s computer and his camera, which recorded the most profound moments of his life. About 3 years later, Shawn moved back into Red’s house, which had these huge shelving units that he dismantled and started painting. Those shelving planks were the first SOGH paintings. Not long after that, Shawn went public with SOGH. Shawn’s friend Rebecca (the visionary behind the Visionary) was a huge source of encouragement and his friend Ted offered him wall space at the museum store at the Visionary Art Museum. 30 minutes after the paintings were hung on the wall, 2 paintings sold (61 the first month, 1357 the first year). Shawn feels spectacularly blessed. Painting is his whole life and, to help, Shawn’s father spent his nights and weekends (for almost 2 years) building a studio so that Shawn could make even more paintings (just one way his father has been there for him). Now Shawn’s mission is to get SOGH to every city around the world. So far, over 10,000 paintings are circulating the globe—including Afghanistan, the South Pole, and one at the Eiffel tower. SOGH has changed Shawn’s life. SOGH is something meaningful that everybody can be a part of. No matter where it hangs, SOGH comes from the past and places a message in the future.

[Note: See, get, spread the SOGH.]
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