I am in a bit of a shock after just finding out about artist Mike Kelley’s death/suicide. I don’t have the time right now to give a review of his work, but in a nutshell he was really a punk-rock-star in the elite art world. He is what Damien Hirst strives for but will never be. Mike Kelley was a big reason I went to art school in LA. The LA art scene of the 80s & 90s was so much about non-art-art and really brought new life to the art world. He had been part of the big LA 90′s influential “Helter Skelter” show as well as had just exhibited his “Catholic Tastes” show right before I moved from El Paso to LA. I remember reading every thing I could possibly find on these shows, and I was thrilled to be a part of this growing scene. I can’t remember specifics of my art readings or art theories, but Mike Kelley’s work resonated with me. I never got a chance to meet him as he taught at Art Center and I was at UCLA. I did have friends who worked with him and coincidentally I, sort of in a weird non-way, came up in a Mike Kelley conversation. Back in the day when I was working with Christina Aguilera and we were in New York City doing something Dirrty or Beautiful- I read in the gallery guide that there happened to be a Mike Kelley art opening that evening (at Metro Pictures?). I had to go. The thing is that when you’re with Christina, you are always part of the entourage group and I wanted to go by myself. I went to Christina’s room at the Mercer and told the gang I was going to an art opening I’ll be back for later festivities. I was trying to make my announcement quickly so as to avoid what inevitably happened. Christina tells me that she wants to go. Oh gosh. I love her, but its a production to do anything with the hair and makeup and outfits, etc. I tell her the opening is at __pm and we need to leave by __pm. I hoped the deadline would hinder her interest because she takes forever to get ready. “Ok Christina?”, “Ok” she says. Eventually the glam squad got her ready and the whole entourage (maybe only about 7, including the 2 massive bodyguards) jump in Christina’s limo and head over the the opening. We pull up to a packed gallery and it was like a bad movie where everyone stares at the fancy limo as it slowly drives up. I was a bit embarrassed already. Then, since it was my idea to go, I had to take a quick walk in with one of the body guards to make sure it was safe. Ok, Christina will be safe amongst the scraggly art students and uber intellectuals. Then I go back to the limo, tell everyone it’s cool, and we all walk in together. We were an odd pop-star scene in an environment of art-stars. Christina can sure sing but it’s Mr. Kelley art that I respect so much more (sorry Xtina – its a whole different level). So I was very excited to be there but the work he had on display I was unfamiliar with. It was little, dark scenes from his high school memories, something like that. By default I became the gallery tour guide and it was awkward because although from an art schooled POV, I understood them, but trying to explain them to a pop princess in a crowed gallery that was glaring at us during a very short gallery visit was a bit difficult. Needless to say we were in and out. Years later I had become good friends with a guy who went to Art Center, Jeffrey Rugh. During a conversation, probably one of those art fan, “how was it like to work with Mike Kelley” ones, Jeffrey said to me “Did you know he told me Christina Aguilera went to one of his openings and he didn’t know why”. Jeffrey knew I had worked with her and I told him the story. What I loved was that I was the cause of a anecdote that Mike Kelley told, unbeknownst to him. Mike Kelley was a great artist and I wish him peace. He is a true Art Star.