Monday, June 1, 2015

Truck June 2015: Interview with Lewis Mark Grimes by Tony "Longshanks" LeTigre

Truck June 2015: Interview with Lewis Mark Grimes - "Bouncing Forward" by Tony "Longshanks" LeTigre

When Lewis Mark Grimes was a kid living in Alaska, he was playing bridge with his family, holding the best hand he had ever seen at the ripe age of 12, when the earth began to shake. The earthquake that ensued lasted five minutes, rated Mw 9.2, caused a tsunami that killed people in Oregon and California, and is now recognized as the third largest ever recorded in the world. Grimes recalls the disaster more than 50 years later:

It was an eternity. Terrifying, like riding a bucking horse in all four directions at once. When we emerged from under a heavy table to go outside, more than a half mile of our neighborhood had fallen into the Cook Inlet. Then we fled the oncoming tidal waves that never hit Anchorage but which wiped out several other communities....
Grimes recalls riding the Alaskan Railroad as a boy, scavenging the bodies of seagulls who had met their end by diving onto the tracks. This seems to have been the earliest onset of a lifelong fascination.

"Bird of Paradise" © 2011-2015 Lewis Mark Grimes

I would stop to rescue the feathers from the roadkill and put them together in little shadow boxes. I later called them “Feather Paintings.” I got the idea for feather rishi years later by combining what I knew of feather painting with macro-photography and Photoshop, fulfilling a lifelong urge.

Fashion, as an industry, does not conjure thoughts of ethical probity or an expansive social consciousness. We all know what PETA thinks of celebrities who wear fur, but historically feathers aren’t very different. On his blog (, Grimes calls out Julianne Moore for wearing a feathered gown to the Golden Globes, and discusses the history of feathers:

Fashion usually kills the bird and carves it up to get a pelt like they do in the furrier trade. Trade in fashionable feathers peaked in the early 20th century, bought by the pelt, more costly than gold. Many of the most beautifully plumed species almost went extinct. Luckily nations put protections into place. My goal in creating my all-feather designs is to show the art and fashion industries it's unnecessary to obtain feather images through violence.

When humans come to see the unique appeal of other species, it humanizes us. Our often shortsighted, self-serving and exclusionary species can show its angelic side, becoming advocates for our furry, and feathered, and four-legged friends. Lewis Grimes has bonded in this way with birds. It began, more than ten years ago, with a canary. Later, he added Lady Gouldian finches and then chickens.

I joined avian societies and clubs. Their range of interests and information was fabulous. Trading with breeders, I became one myself. My first try with a flock you might call a mistake. I got forty baby chicks and ended up with thirty-nine hens and one fine rooster, named Ichabod. I was soon drowning in eggs, so all my friends and bird clubs were gifted with many hens.

That bond has led to his eco-friendly trademark, “feather rishi."

"Lost in Autumn" © 2011-2015 Lewis Mark Grimes

Feather rishi is my proprietary technique inspired by the ancient Egyptian art of rishi, which was the practice of laying feather patterns in paint or precious stones. It was used to decorate sarcophagi, mummies, and tombs. It resembled rows and rows of feathers. My feather rishi is digitally composed with macro photography, using feathers acquired from the molts of companion birds. When I say Feather Rishi starts with a single feather, I mean that literally. Many of my artworks are comprised of one or two feathers used in repeats. It takes time and hard work to repair molted feathers photographically, but people who see my designs never notice their flaws because when I'm done with them, the damage is hidden. The birds are safe. When you see the design you only see a fraction of the work. I reconstruct painstakingly. When a friend suggested I try something figurative, it woke me up to fact that abstract is not the only choice and led my efforts to become more liberated and expressive. I did an Om symbol - created 3 different versions out of golden pheasant, jungle fowl, and peacock feathers. I put them on dozens of products, like t-shirts and hoodies. The store’s identity is “The Feathered Om”.

When he returned to college in 2008, he first began using feathers in art and graphic design projects. His collection includes the plumes of macaws,  yellow golden pheasant, Argus pheasant, Impeyan pheasant (Himalayan monal), Lady Amherst pheasant, Lady Gouldian finches, canary, Ameraucana chickens, Laced Wyandotte chickens, and conure parrots.

I graduate in June 2015 with certificates in graphic design and photography. I'm investigating an online BA program at Arizona State University that starts this July. My hope is to get an MFA with emphasis on surface design and eventually I'd like to actually make 3D renderings that can be printed with the new 3D technology. I'm looking for an angel investor or capital to explore those methods.

We would like to spend a long day listening to Lew tell stories. About attending “the college of life” back in the ‘60s, then having an awakening, feeling that “the drugs are fine, but there’s got to be something more,” and studying transcendental meditation under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. About his years as assistant to Lynn Nesbit, senior vice president and head of the literary department of ICM (International Creative Management), handling authors like Tom Wolfe, Robert A. Caro and Anne Rice. About the fact his resume includes several US presidents and things like that. About palling around with gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson in the second half of the ‘80s through ‘91. Clearly, this man has a past.

"Nekhbet November" © 2011-2015 Lewis Mark Grimes

Transcendental meditation centered me. That was cosmic in its effect. At certain times in my life I've drifted and lost the anchor, but when I meditate, it always brings me back into a focus I've been unable to find any other way. It not only changed my consciousness, but awakened my curiosity. I first studied with Maharishi in California, at Humboldt State College in a month-long course, “The Science of Creative Intelligence.” This all led me to move to San Francisco, where I found info about getting advanced training in Spain at Maharishi International University 1971-72.  I worked as head chef on a work scholarship. My first interest in fashion was to do the simplest garment I could think of - scarves. My pictures on high quality silk. Luckily I’ve been a high achiever in school and this got me grants and scholarships, which have allowed me to have some prototypes of my work printed on different weights of silk with different methods of printing.

He is a sensitive man with compassion for the downtrodden, both animal and human. His 2015 Figurative Feathers calendar features a cover image, selected by Truck, titled “Strong Sister,” which Lew intended as a comment on feminism.

"Strong Sister" does try to salute feminism, but I hope she goes deeper. She is conceived as an "amazon" woman figure and a pugilist. She is a proud symbol of feminine beauty but much more, she is about the successful fight that has gained traction for women in the battle for equality among the sexes. But the irony is, this figure is nothing but a pile of feathers meant to represent an idea. She is the idea of a strong sexual identity, and invites speculation about how the plumed finery of birds puts up a strong front, yet underneath, these are vulnerable creatures requiring attention and compassion.


Check my Rosette Construction video to see an animation treatment of my process.
Zazzle - Housewares, apparel and wall art are available.
Vulturine - apparel because Vultures are part of the great recycling mandala of nature.

"Strong Sister" © 2014-2015 Lewis Mark Grimes

Lewis Mark Grimes has a passion for feathers. Naturally molted feathers. He makes art with their images. He collects molts, cleans them, processes and photographs them, and digitally manipulates them in Photoshop. The resulting designs feature the colors and unique patterns found among avian species, but used in ways not known in nature. Currently majoring in graphic design with a minor in photography, Lewis lives in San Diego. His art combines his aesthetic sensibility with a lifelong dream of finding ways for mankind to cooperate with other species.

Tony Longshanks LeTigre is not in any way associated with Frosted Flakes. You can follow him at or email him at

No comments:

Post a Comment