Cenizo Journal Fall 2021 - Page 25

“ Please don ’ t sing songs about death and dying ” by George Zupp . Currently on display at The Spirit House tasting room in Marathon .
Redford to have their last meal as a group with Enrique and Ruby . The students ’ experience in Big Bend came full circle as they shared in the perspectives of one of the border region ’ s greatest historians .
Zupp quickly settled into the Redford community and life , mostly painting , drinking and enjoying long conversations with Enrique . Zupp ’ s friend Sergio made a deal with a property owner to move in and fix up an old building in town that used to be a bar , gas station and convenient store . Another painter friend , Joey , came from the Northwest to try his hand at the desert bohemian life in Redford .
Kelly Pruitt , an established painter , cowboy , self-proclaimed gypsy and Toltec Sorcerer came to live in Redford in 2000 . He built and lived in a traditional jacal , parts of which still stand . A jacal is a partially subterranean structure built with sticks woven together in an arch formation , covered and sealed with adobe mud . In later years Zupp adorned Pruitt ’ s abandoned jacal with sculptures and artwork . Kelly Pruitt was born in Presidio and lived to be over 90 . He dug his grave the day before his death at a place known as La Junta , where the Rio Concho enters the Rio Grande . Zupp made a painting about Kelly ’ s passing , titled “ Man digs his own grave .”
But what of the name “ Chicken George ?” It began with Zupp ’ s friend Sergio , who originally gave him the nickname . While still living in San
Marcos , George was broke and needed to pay some bills . In thinking of a subject he enjoyed painting , the plan was to knock out and sell a bunch of artwork . The subject was chickens . It worked , and he ’ s been a master painter of chickens ever since . While Sergio intended the name to poke fun at Zupp , George embraced it and it stuck . Being called “ chicken ,” especially in Redford where he was known as “ Gallina ,” may be considered insulting , but not to Zupp .
Zupp proposes his art comes from a “ Jerry Springer ” mentality , bringing humor to depravity and conflict . “ I like to make something you would find in a junk or antique store . There ’ s a mystery to it ,” says Zupp . Chicken George ’ s style could be compared to a Charles Bukowski-like expression : raw , blatantly honest , unashamed . “ I don ’ t identify as the sensitive artist type , just don ’ t have it in me ,” he proclaims . “ As a contrarian and smart-ass , I can sense what the unchecked absolutism is in the room .” His style is to stir things up with an irreverence aimed at radicalism in America , without taking sides nor identifying as for or against liberal or conservative .
In 2006 in Marathon , Chicken George temporarily set up studio in a barn owned by the photographer James Evans . South of the railroad tracks on Avenue D some of Zupp ’ s handiwork remains on a small outbuilding next to Evan ’ s studio , adorned with sculptures and other artistic embellishments . A sign on the building posted by Zupp currently reads “ installation in progress , the Evan ’ s foundation .”
Eventually Zupp bought land in Marathon across from the Loma Del Chivo Hostel and built a permanent studio and living space , where he currently lives and works . But before finally building and settling in Marathon , Zupp returned to Redford for another couple years , drawn once again by the people , landscape and history of this unique border community .
With some of the same and some new characters around him , Chicken George once again dedicated himself to painting , drinking , and long conversations with Enrique Madrid . One new character settling in Redford at the same time was the artist and sculptress Rachel Manera . Having befriended Zupp when working as a bartender at the Famous Burro in Marathon , she found a place and set up a studio in Redford . Zupp featured Manera in a series of YouTube videos where she took on the persona of “ Ruby Lonestart Vixon ” to Zupp ’ s longtime YouTube personality “ Chicken George 1236 .”
George recently joined in creative collaboration with the newly-formed business Marfa Meats . Specializing in locally sourced meat from West Texas , customers can purchase meat from a meat vending machine adorned with Zupps artwork , located at Cactus Liquors in Marfa . He produces short videos featuring Chicken George 1236 preparing and barbecuing choice selections of meat from the company .
Zupp ’ s artwork shows regularly in San Antonio , San Marcos , Marfa and Marathon . Currently his work is on display at Ranch Candy in Marfa and The Spirit House tasting room in downtown Marathon . The first Friday of every month tastings are free and open to the public . To view more of his work and links to his YouTube videos visit www . GeorgeZupp . com .
Cenizo Fall 2021