CMK - When you were a kid, were you into any particular cartoons or any comic books?
JJJ - Oh definitely, I was a latch key kid by 8 years-old (meaning that I had my own keys to our apartment and went to and from school by myself as a child). It was the crazy violent and heroin filled Lower East Side of New York City of the late 1970s. It looks nothing like it does today. Just search for Lower East Side 1970s on Google and you'll see what I mean. It was nuts, but a lot of us kids then traveled from school to home by ourselves. This wouldn't happen today but then it was just different.
I was raised by a single mother and had no siblings to make the picture a little clearer. So alone I would watch tons of old cartoons and read comics. I loved the old Batman TV show with Adam West as well as the vintage Spider Man cartoon. The Little Rascals and all the old Hannah Barbera cartoons too. I would also collect Spider Man, Daredevil, and X-Men comics from the very early 80s. Being by myself constantly, my imagination was limitless as a survival tool to conquer loneliness and being bored, I drew for hours trying to master drawing Spider Man and later on all the Star Wars stuff. A few years later, like most of the kids from that neighborhood, I was running wild in the streets causing trouble and shoplifting.
CMK - What is the name of the first painting that you sold?
JJJ - If I can remember it was at CBGB's art gallery and was a painting of a bloody Sid Vicious from the Sex Pistols. Gratefully a few years later I was selling out solo art shows across the United States.
CMK - In your opinion, who at the moment is the most underrated artist in NYC?
JJJ - I think most of the artists I know from NYC have achieved the accolades they deserve. My favorite is Keegan Dakkar; who is my son. His work is super unique.
CMK - Where are you from?
JJJ - Like a said, I am from the Lower East Side in NYC. My mom still resides in the apartment I grew up in. She's like a relic walking through the streets of yuppies, hipsters, and the rich who now moved into the very gentrified LES.
About 13 years ago I left NY and now live in Buck's County Pennsylvania. It's clean, safe, quiet and friendly here. A super departure from what I have always been used to in Manhattan and Brooklyn. It took awhile for me to adjust to not being so high strung, tough and chaotic as most native New Yorkers are.
CMK - Have you ever had any bad experiences dealing with art galleries?
JJJ - Well as any seasoned artist, of course. Not tons of problems but I am not going to mention anyone and bad mouth them. Just not my style.
CMK- I always ask, do you eat pizza? If you do, where's your favorite slice from?
JJJ - Of course, I grew up in NYC, the best pizza. I always loved Stromboli Pizza on 1st Ave and St. Mark’s Place (there's a great real old photo of the Beastie Boys in front of that pizzeria from the mid 1980s). I always used to also like Ray's Pizza that was next to the Continental venue on Third Ave. and St. Mark’s; Mostly when I wanted a slice with a lot of cheese.
CMK- If you were given the opportunity to decide what the New York City Public School's art curriculum would consist of, how would you break it down?
JJJ - Well as a high school dropout at the age of 15, school wasn't for me. I dropped out of school and formed the political punk band Nausea and moved into a squat. I have no art training that's considered formal. I may be considered "Outsider Art" but I don't think about labels and just do what I do because I love doing it. So I really don't have any opinion on what the public school system offers or doesn't offer. If someone has that "gift" or passion they can explore that in classes or in college.
Thanks for the interview Christopher and Fernando.
If anyone wants they can follow me on Instagram: @johnjohnjesse
or if they like Nausea: @nausea_nyc
For prints and original work type "punkpigpen" on the eBay search bar.
John John Jesse
I Need Lunch
Lower East Side RIP
I Give You My heart
R is for Real Rock-N-Roll
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Carpazine Art Magazine Issue Number 37 Featuring John John Jesse! More: Floyd Bingo, Reggie Thomas, Joe Tucholski, Vincent McLoughlin, Amsterdam Graffiti Part II, Little 5 Points (Atlanta), Skinny Puppy, Sonorous Rising, Nick Vasallo, Elise Fontano, GBH and many more!