Dear Mr Brain Sander
December 1, 2012 7:33 AM   Subscribe

I was born in Washington DC. I was potty trained at one and a half. Was reading at age two. Saw my first porn at a drive-in when I was six, in the back seat. Started getting in trouble with the law when I was about ten. And then kept getting in trouble until twenty one I went to prison and then when I got out came to Tennessee and went to college here in Johnson City and then I’ve just being doing art ever since. Art has saved my life, it’s like the best therapy in the world. Jon Ronson meets Bryan Saunders, who has created 8,700 self-portraits including, including most notably, 50 whilst under the influence of various different drugs (previously)
posted by fearfulsymmetry (23 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Is talking about the age at which you were potty trained the new "putting your SAT scores on your resume when you are 45" or something?
posted by elizardbits at 7:52 AM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Where is that quote from? I don't see it in the linked article. I am, ahem, curious about this drive-in.
posted by Flunkie at 7:53 AM on December 1, 2012

This made me chuckle:

And this is when Bryan tells me the other way he acquires many of his drugs. He sometimes visits psychiatrists, tells them about the art project, and asks them for "samples of some pain pill or sedative I've never tried. I say, 'Can you write me a prescription for just one so I can do my drawing?' And I take my book with me and show them my art project. And they always give me some crazy, crazy anti-psychotic pill instead."

They never give you what you ask for?"

"Never. Always something way worse."

"Even though they know you aren't psychotic," I say, confused.

"They think I am," he says.

"And are you?" I say.

"I don't think I am," he says.

posted by Pendragon at 8:03 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

@Flunkie it's mentioned in the video at the top of the article.
posted by slater at 8:07 AM on December 1, 2012

I got a laugh out of this story:

The cafe was once owned by a group of transvestites, Bryan says. "They sold coupons to everyone in the John Sevier. They said for $60 you could eat every day for free. As soon as they got everyone's money they loaded up all the mayonnaise and took off in their skirts and high heels. Ha ha ha!"

Interesting if likely unhinged person. He has a point about the weird obsession other people have with his drug-based self-portraits.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:07 AM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks Slater. My browser isn't even showing that there's a video there - I'll have to poke around with ad blocking configuration, I guess.
posted by Flunkie at 8:10 AM on December 1, 2012

I've known Bryan for about 7 years, he's one of the only people I've ever met whom I will unequivocally describe as a genius. He's probably Johnson City's most famous artist, though he was banned from poetry night at the local coffeehouse and you don't see ETSU bragging that he studied there.
posted by Xandar at 8:51 AM on December 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

The drug series of self-portraits is here (from the previously link).

His other self-portraits are fascinating too. There is a LOT to go through on his site. Check out this exhibition proposal.
posted by flex at 9:17 AM on December 1, 2012

Are the ones as childlike as this one actually from his childhood? Because if not, not only is this guy a genius, he's a buddha.
posted by cmoj at 10:09 AM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

porn at a drive-in

Was this a thing, then? I mean, porn in theatres, sure, but porn on giant, outdoor, visible-to-passers-by screens?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:13 AM on December 1, 2012

I know that the first time I ever saw porn it was while driving past a drive-in late at night while coming back from vacation with my family. This would've been sometime around 1980 or '81, and I have no idea if it was softcore or what, just that my older sister pointed it out and my mom yelled at us not to look.
posted by item at 10:18 AM on December 1, 2012

Looking at the portraits without the context of the article, I noticed a lot were prescription drugs -- and in particular, antipsychotics. Nice to know why. Thanks for the link.
posted by sock puppet du jour at 10:22 AM on December 1, 2012

porn at a drive-in

Was this a thing, then? I mean, porn in theatres, sure, but porn on giant, outdoor, visible-to-passers-by screens?

I grew up in Bristol TN, the town neighboring Johnson City where Bryan lines. In the late 70's to mid 80's there was a drive-in next to my elementary school that only showed porn (and not the softcore tater type). The screen didn't face the road. But if you went to the very back of the school yard at night, you could see the screen at an extreme angle. So on fall festival nights, there would be kids sneaking off to catch a glimpse of the dirty movies. I don't know if that could be the place that Bryan talks about, but it was definitely a thing. I'm still mystified that this was allowed in my bible belt town.
posted by kimdog at 10:32 AM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Outside of Olympia, WA, in the late 1970s, early 1980s there was a drive-in that showed porn, the Skyline, out on 104, I think.
posted by maxwelton at 11:32 AM on December 1, 2012

I found this fascinating:
Nobody wants to know about, say, the 28 days during which he blocked up his ears and attached a copper funnel to his mouth "in an attempt to hear the world through the inside of my mouth".

What does the world sound like through your mouth? Now I'm tempted to try this.
posted by eye of newt at 12:08 PM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's something in both his style, his subject matter, and his particular blend of crazy genius that reminds me a lot of Egon Schiele.
posted by Sara C. at 2:38 PM on December 1, 2012

porn at a drive-in

By the late 70s, New London, CT, had two in neighboring towns, about 10 minutes driving time from each other. Each was surrounded by a high storm fence wrapped with tarps to reduce visibility. Local high school kids would bring icebags of beer, poke peepholes in the tarps, and discreetly party outside the perimeter until the security guy ran them off into the woods.

Meanwhile, back on the topic, this guy seems brilliant.
posted by Kinbote at 3:17 PM on December 1, 2012

seems like a really smart guy who has carved himself out a comfortable little niche, almost literally.
posted by facetious at 4:00 PM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whoa, reading about that Third Ear Experiment was sort of hypnotically horrifying and mystical. I'm not sure how I feel about it, but it was definitely more intense than the drug portraits.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:55 PM on December 1, 2012

I would really like someone to do an FPP on the drive-in porn theatres of suburban America in the 70s and 80s, please.
posted by elizardbits at 5:48 PM on December 1, 2012

It took me a little while to find the Third Ear Experiment, so here's a link for anyone else looking for it.

I guess the drug portraits are an easier sell because you can have the one-sentence summary and everyone gets it. Sensory experiments can also heavily alter your mental state, but I think a lot of people underestimate it.
posted by RobotHero at 6:05 PM on December 1, 2012

I saw my first porn ever at a drive-in in Charlotte, NC. It was sometime in the early 1980s. Maybe drive-in porn was a Bible belt thing because it was more discreet than actually going into a XXX theatre?
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 8:11 PM on December 1, 2012

Needs an "outsiderart" tag.
posted by acb at 5:28 AM on December 2, 2012

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