November 18, 2023
Last night I had the honor of giving a testimonial for my good friend Ed Mell. Or, as he is formally known, Edmund Mell II—the Second!—and, who I call with much affection: Edmundo Segundo.
A retrospective of his life and career was celebrated at the Shemer Art Center in Phoenix and a crowd of 179 of his most faithful fans and art patrons showed up to honor him.
The show opened with the Dusty Ramblers who set up on the patio and rocked out.
Ed Mell Sunset at the Shemer Art Center
Of course, Ed and I go way back to the wild and crazy seventies. When Dan The Man Harshberger and I started the Razz Revue (not a magazine, not a comic, it's a magazomic!) the Mell brothers were already famous in the burgeoning Phoenix counterculture. Ed was notorious for a cover he and Skip Andrews (another Valley artist) had produced during their time in New York City. They got the assignment from the humor magazine National Lampoon to do an art piece of Minnie Mouse topless. So Ed and Skip did the first cover with a reconfigured Ms. Mouse, so the magazine could perhaps dodge copyright issues, but the editors told the Arizona boys they wanted it to be dead on Minnie and so Ed and Skip went back to the studio and produced this, now classic cover:
By Sagebrush Studios
They were paid $150. Disney immediately sued (some say for $25 million, others $10 million) and Ed later learned that the owners of the magazine were going broke and they needed attention and the lawsuit certainly gave them that!
After a summer teaching silkscreen at the Hopi Mesa in northern Arizona, Ed came back to Phoenix in 1973 and landed at Third Street and Roanoke. This is when I met Ed, who was greeted by the local counter culture as a conquering hero, at least to anyone under 30 with hair over their ears, which we all had at that precious time.
From there, I joined Ed in his old grocery store at 10th and Oak and it was here that I got my real education.
A Prestigious Inspirational Background
Ed Mell is without question one of the premiere artists of the great Southwest, standing shoulder to shoulder with his heroes, Maynard Dixon and the New Mexico modernist painters Victor Higgins and Raymond Jonson.
"Taos In Winter"
by Victor Higgins, ca. 1920s
Ed told me yesterday, he loves the imaginative, loosely spiritual abstractions of the Taos Seven. That mental thinking is what drives him. This art, that he loves, also celebrates the land and the color.
in the 10th Street and Oak Art Studo,
circa 1986, photo by Ralph Rippe
A confession: I have known Ed for fifty years and I had never heard of Raymond Jonson until yesterday when he told me of the other artists beside Maynard Dixon who were his influences. This speaks to how deep his scholarship and dedication is, drilling down deeper than I even realized. And, it probably speaks to why I don't have a degree in Art History.