R.I.P. - Rest In Pieces: a portrait of Joe Coleman review by The Grim Ringler

A lot of people say they are weird, or seem moderately eccentric, but few truly are. And sadly, when we do find people that are far from the path of the supposed norm we don’t celebrate those people, we run from them, hands in the air, shrieking like banshees. Well, consider this documentary nothing less than a love letter to the oddball, and to one in particular – artist Joe Coleman.

The documentary focuses mainly on the many artistic endeavors of Mr. Coleman. Known in his early years as a provocative performance artist, Coleman was not a stranger to controversy. Drawn to the world of sideshows, Coleman took the idea of becoming a ‘geek’ to new levels – biting the heads off of live mice, wiring his body for explosives, and basically pushing people into a place where they had no choice but to confront his art. Since those early days Coleman has found other artistic pursuits to take up his time, and a better forum to let people see his demons. In moving from a performance artist to a painter, Coleman has found the perfect outlet for his view of the world. Creating paintings that are like the works of a madman, Coleman has taken his darker thoughts and view of the world and has created a nightmarish world of serial killers and the world that needs them. Each painting is done with obsessive attention to detail, the viewer having to get almost inside the painting just to catch all of the messages and imagery hidden within. Coleman’s paintings are certainly not for everyone, as they deal with, as I stated before, the darker nature of humanity. Many feature killers or killed, his paintings as much tribute as damnation. His view that humans have created serial killers to thin the human herd playing a very strong role in much of his art. Joe Coleman is also a great appreciator of the world of the human oddity and lover of the macabre as well and there is a lot of time spent showcasing his many ‘treasures’, his prize being his ‘adopted son’, who is a dead baby now residing in a jar of formaldehyde. Yikes! We are also given a glimpse into Mr. Coleman’s past, his childhood, and are shown some of his friends – as well as an ex.

What you can’t get from a simple review of this wonderful portrait of a mad genius though is that Joe Coleman, for all his darkness and his grim yet beautiful artwork, he is a very funny guy. He has a sense of the absurdity of life and it shows in his interactions with his friends and his talk of his early performance art days. Seeing the footage from his wedding, I wasn’t shocked or appalled by how odd it all was – it was a masquerade ball in which his ‘son’ was on hand and the bride and groom were wheeled in in coffins – but at how fun it all looked. This is a man who lives by his standards and is happy to do it. He has seen a lot, done a lot, and knows who he is. He is a very strange man, to be sure, and this doc won’t change that in the least, but this film allows us a peek into the life of a very talented artist with very strong views on the world around him. And it’s a tribute to Mr. Coleman and director Robert-Adrian Pejo that you get to see past his artwork and into the man himself. And I tell you what, if Mr. Coleman is anything like the persona he portrays in this documentary, he’d make for a hell of a fun friend.


9 out of 10 Jackasses
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