Joey Deweese lives on behind Mother Tucker’s on Spring Garden Street in the form of a photorealistic mural by Greensboro artist Brian Lewis, thrown up on the cinderblock wall on a creative jag fueled by sorrow and spray paint.
It’s out back by the dumpsters, surrounded by candles, cans of cheap beer and empty Cook Out cups — he was a fan of the milkshakes. There’s a box of Kleenex, a vase of flowers with the words “Rest in Power” on it, a well-ground skateboard deck, a bottle of Maker’s Mark in a paper bag, a photo of a chihuahua tucked under a Steel Reserve tallboy’s un-popped tab.
Lewis’ mural captures Deweese’s clean haircut, the loose loops of his earlobes, the smattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose, the resting smirk and the game gleam in his eye.
Deweese had a face that begged to be drawn — all sharp lines and smooth surfaces.
The first tribute piece, by another local artist of note, Gina Franco, sold quickly during a Facebook burst in the days after he was killed by a drunk driver during the long Fourth of July week. It will hang in one of Greensboro’s Crafted restaurants owned by Chef Kris Fuller, with whom Deweese shared a sense of sartorial style. The proceeds will go to his family.
He wasn’t anybody special, I suppose — a kid from High Point who stuck around, believed in his family and his friends, up for a good time or a long talk or a night of high adventure. But his passing at just 28 years old in such a sudden manner resonated in that nocturnal sphere where art and music come together, a scene with its own setting, themes and characters propelled by creativity and the fine art of hanging out.
That’s what he symbolized.
On Sunday night at the Westerwood Tavern, Greensboro digital artist Jordan Morris held vigil on the deck, monitoring the sales of Deweese-inspired artwork and collecting more images via email, coming in from around the world after an unspoken call to artists bore more fruit than Morris could have imagined.
“He was very much an ass man,” Morris said, pulling on his vape. “So a lot of the artists are doing butt-related material.”
Morris is still working on his own Deweese — a vector that captures the angles of his face, with playful, cartoonish flourishes of color and texture. He’s got plans for stickers and T-shirts, a line of merch with proceeds going to his survivors.
“He was fun, man,” Morris said, and his laughter trails off.
It’s still so sad, still so fresh. They just held the service yesterday, and it’s starting to become real.
And in times of grief the creative underclass does what it always does: It does what it can; it does what it must.