The next day, while setting up his one-man show at the Steven Cohen Gallery in Hollywood, Garlington starts tearing up $1,200 prints, rubbing them with sand- paper, and hanging them with a hammer and carpet tacks, all the while throwing red paint over the pristine walls to create an entranceway collage experience. Is Cohen horrified? Not in the least. In fact, he accepts Garlington's invitation to carve his initials into a print with an exacto knife. Is this how people of power and

wealth respond to his audacious bravado? Natalie believes personality is a big part of his allure: "His art is good. But it's him in person that seals the deal. He's the hook, line, and sinker." Garlington appears to be a two-headed, Jekyll-and-Hyde type. At times he's the drunken, boho, fuck-the- establishment artist, but then—almost strategically—he can change into the pragmatic businessman. Is this madman persona a gimmick? Is he selling his personality, his unrestrained lifestyle for,

Garlington and his posse on the way to his one-man show in L.A.

say, an all-expenses-paid trip to China?

"Listen, I admit I turn on that wild personality to brighten a moment. [My patron] bought all my photos because he liked them. And he's taking me to China because he likes my vision. And yes, he wants something from me. We have an equal banter. Life is about exchanging knowledge. I'm teaching him photo- graphy, he's showing me the joy and wealth he's accumulated. Let's be bohemians together and experience art."

[PART II, in which there's hootin' & hollerin' and a head in a jar.]

A few weeks before the L.A. trip, Garlington is on an inspiration jag. It's goddamn early.

"It's all about planning each day. I wake up and visualize myself doing the actual tasks to accomplish my dream for the day, and then I go and fucking do it, no excuses."

These are the day's options:
1. Go into the woods to retrieve the robot.
2. Bury some guy up to his neck out in a park.
3. Come up with the perfect title for Garlington's first book of photography.

Garlington is assembling the most import- ant show of his career at the prestigious
Steven Cohen Gallery in Los Angeles on the walls of his gritty photo studio in San Francisco. I poke around, digging through piles of photos. He doesn't seem to care if I handle the expensive prints; in fact, he encourages it. He's going to staple them to the gallery walls anyway.

Garlington grabs a blue magic marker (of the fruity-smelly variety) and absent- mindedly colors in the hair of a woman who resembles the Virgin Mary. I discover an old wooden medicine cabinet leaning against the wall in the corner. Glued inside, over torn pieces of an American flag, are portraits of two black guys in Ku Klux Klan hooded robes. Garlington looks up, "Funny story about that..."

It's hard to determine what is more evocative as art: the gothic, David Lynch- meets-Brothers Grimm photos of "average" Americans heaped everywhere; the stories behind them; or Mike Garlington himself.

Garlington grew up in Petaluma in the late 1970s, then moved to Marin, got into drugs, and flunked out of high school, all before he turned 15. To support his habits, he got a job as a janitor at Petaluma's grungy rock club, The Phoenix Theater, and it was the accompanying visuals of this dark underbelly—of kids vomiting and bands doing blow—that gave form to his darker sensibilities. A decade ago, Garling-
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