Saturday, November 18, 2023

Ed Mell And I Celebrate A Fifty Year Friendship

 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.

The Dusty Ramblers Jamming Into An

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:

Minnie Mouse Topless!

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

"Arroyo 4"
By Raymond Jonson, 1922

   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.

Edmundo and BBB

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.

Edmundo Mocking My Hat
(photo by Ralph Rippe)

Carson Carries On The Western Tradition

"In 2020 Ed was blessed with the arrival of his first grandchild. Ed often spoke of naming his sons Carson and Taylor because he wanted 'western sounding names' and Carson followed suit, suggesting the name 'Dusty' for his daughter. His wife, Kelly, was just weird enough to love the name so Carson managed to keep the western name tradition alive and then some. Dusty Jean Mell lives in LA where she enjoys drawing monsters and riding a horse named Peanut Butter."
—Carson Mell

Dusty Jean drawing monsters

"One loyal friend is worth 10,000 relatives."

   So let's give it up for one loyal friend and an Arizona treasure, Edmundo Segundo!

Old Man Zinger
   During the reception on the patio a retired Federal Judge walked up to me and said, "I am so old I know who you are."
   We laughed, then I pushed him over a drink cart and went inside to get ready for my talk.

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