Joe Hedges riding a bicycle between two Florida Keys

Joe Hedges riding a bicycle watching big fish jump | photo by Jiemei Lin

Joe Hedges is the accidental but fortuitous product of a night between a hippie speech-pathologist and a small town attorney/law professor/lifelong class clown.  The love of these unlikely companions was so big that only the heart of an artist or a priest could grow inside.  The untimely death of the attorney combined with years of Catholic education drove Hedges to rock music and an obsessive desire to draw human skulls.  This peculiarly introspective angst resulted in childhood BFF’s becoming bandmates and an in an eventual recording contract with a company in sunny Santa Monica.

As quickly as Hedges had developed a proficiency in writing melodic rock music, melodic rock music itself went out of fashion while the entire music industry collapsed. Finding himself without a record label and reduced to a reluctant participant in a shadowy network of long-haired stereotypes, vultures and adulterers laundering dirty hip-hop cash on mixing consoles in the East Village, Hedges retreated to a winery nestled in the rolling hills of central Kentucky.  The vineyards provided (wine and) the perfect backdrop for several years of writing atmospheric songs about downheartedness poverty and isolation.

After a bleak, cold winter stuck in a cabin deep in the snowy woods of northern Michigan with a man whose very name was NSFW, Hedges discovered eastern religions, found new energy in the creation of physical works of art and returned to college to study painting while living in an illegal warehouse with one of his three sisters and several anonymous arial acrobats.  Under the helpful mentorship of socially liberal but fiscally conservative professors Hedges honed his drawing and painting abilities and was accepted to a master of fine arts program in the Queen City of Cincinnati, OH.  Empowered by an expensive piece of parchment reading Master of Fine Arts Plural, Hedges began teaching all the known dimensions of the universe 2D 3D 4D while working on a unified theory of color.  The unseen realms beyond hue, saturation and value proved empirically elusive.  But for this effort and other intellectual and actual stunts, in early 2015 Hedges was rewarded a coveted preliminary interview with representatives from a major academic research institution.

In a prefatory test of wherewithal for geographically dispersed and financially limited adjunct instructor applicants, the job interview was held on the most expensive corner of the United States: fifty fifth street in the core of the Big Apple. Instructions were to “arrive five minutes early.  text this number”.  In the lobby of a vaguely European boutique hotel the return text came: “proceed to the sixth floor,” and the message immediately self-destructed into a poof of anxious dust.  A tiny elevator scuttled the aspiring professor up to the woody chamber where a quartet of suspicious individuals—among them an “Indian“, a real Indian, and a connoisseur of funky calf-length stockings—began the interrogation. 

Months passed with no word from the four horseman, as pop-up gentrification pop-up exhibitions and secret art society rituals flew past in Over-the-Rhine Cincinnati like opening credits in fast forward. Recognizing that only one woman had ever truly understood his bizarre dreams, could navigate his tangled inner world, and supported his most passionate creative fantasies, Hedges proposed to the woman of his reality.  Jiemei “Mei” (pronounced “may”) Lin was born and raised in Hangzhou, China, an ancient epicenter of culture and contemporary locus of technological innovation (the inhabitants of which possess no knowledge of or interest in popular pastimes of Southwestern Ohio such as “cow-tipping” and “mail box baseball”).  Extending four middle fingers to millennia of prejudices that had forbidden interracial marriage and continue to convolute familial relations between citizens of different nations, Hedges and Lin were wed in his mother’s backyard after planning for only six days and sending a mass e-mail that included the letters B,Y,O, and B in that exact order. The sky the color of a Tom Petty song, the smell of fried chicken and the neighborhood excitement of the weekend-long Annual Trenton Garage Sale Extravaganza hung in the cool early summer air.  The ceremony was planned by an expert team of three sisters, officiated by the Mayor of Trenton (it’s a part time job), enhanced by a reading of a passage from The Fellowship of the Ring, and attended by former professors, family members and close friends including frequent collaborator, social justice warrior, the strong and vibrant Corrina Mehiel (1982-2017).  

Hedges was indeed appointed Assistant Professor of Painting/Intermedia at Washington State University, which as of this writing is the only position in the world explicitly described thusly.  Hedges now enjoys teaching young adults to smear colored pigment onto flat surfaces using sticks with hairs attached to them, and finds time to do the same in his own studio.Thanks to his forward-thinking proleptic colleagues he likewise has liberty to enthusiastically explore the possibilities embedded in the ink of that humble forward slash (between Painting/Intermedia)—punctuation used often to divide but which also can and has in this case enabled a measure of wholeness.

Mei caught her own rainbow laser narwhal, independently securing a design position within another college at Hedges’ three-fourths-of-the-year-employer Washington State University, which is not in D.C., not in St. Louis and is definitely not in Seattle you midwest bastard, go cougs! The Pullman campus of WSU is a brick spaceship that carried almost exactly 30,000 diverse humanoids to a rural starry area that few other sentient beings have considered, let alone traveled to: the dunes of the Inland Northwest, the Palouse. Just a plastiglomerate’s throw from the unfortunately-named Channeled Scablands, the Palouse is neither a vacation destination nor a hardened sore in the earth’s knee. Rather, warm dry summers find low clouds adrift over an endless undulating agrarian monoculture, a magnificently alien reminder of technological creativity and ecological destruction in the name of Wheat Thins, Wonder Bread, and white settlers like Hedges’ great-grandfather, who incidentally once lived just across the border in Idaho.

While juggling the responsibilities of making art, music and keeping the needle on the tenure groove Hedges now has time for a few extramural masochistic pursuits including learning one of the oldest continually used written languages in the world, painting the oak kitchen cabinets white and gardening, or not, but probably not.

To be continued…