The Capital of Annapolis
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - For most people, 7,000 pennies equals $70.
For Jimi Davies and Jeff Huntington, 7,000 pennies equals art.
The Annapolis duo spent four months gluing the copper coins to a board and grouped the various patinas to create a 4-by-6-foot portrait of Lincoln.
"What kind of mind does it takes to make that thing out of pennies?" said Annapolis photographer David Hartcorn. "It's genius. I love what these guys do. They're so clever."
The artists got Hartcorn's permission to use one of his pictures as the basis for another work, a portrait of Carlester Smith, who is known as "Walking Lester."
They painted over Masonite covered with a walking map of Annapolis and plastic bags, a nod to Smith's travels and habits.
"I've seen him since the early 80s," said Davies, also known as Jimi HaHa, of the bands Jimmie's Chicken Shack and Jaflys. "For some reason, he strikes a chord with everybody. We don't have bike lanes, but we have this unsaid Carlester lane."
Davies and Huntington teamed up nine months ago. They work out of Huntington's T-shirt shop Jahru Custom Screen Printing. Their partnership is called JaH-HaHa Collaborative Art.
Many of their pieces hang at the Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge in Annapolis. They include portrait collages of Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Shirley Temple. The latter mixes an image of the child actress with scenery reminiscent of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." It's called "Shirley Temple of Doom."
"For us, we love it," said Jody Danek, one of the Metropolitan's owners. "The quality of their art is phenomenal."
The duo also has work at a New York City gallery, Porter Contemporary. Owner Jessica Porter has worked with Huntington for six years, and said the influence of Davies adds an edge.
"Jeff has a classic feel," she said. "Jimi, in a lot of ways, is more contemporary. It lightens up his work a little."
Katherine Burke, owner of the Annapolis Collection Gallery, knows this well. She exhibited Davies' works called Barnyard Masters, featuring animal versions of famous artists and composers. Among these were: "Vincent Van Goat," "Moozart and "Baathoven."
"It makes people laugh," she said. "And it's really beautiful work."
Huntington, 41, grew up in Prince George's County not too far from Davies in Bowie.
They have mutual friends, but didn't meet until last year when Huntington bumped into Davies at an Annapolis wine bar. Huntington was already a fan of Jimmie's Chicken Shack and used to listen to the band's CDs while he painted. He was also familiar with Davies' art.
"He just kind of brought this humorous take to portrait painting that tickled me," Huntington said.
They friended each other on Facebook and discussed perhaps collaborating. Then, Davies stopped by the T-shirt shop. The rest is art history.
"I've never worked in any kind of group dynamic before," said Huntington. "It's always just been me. It was a nothing-to-lose idea."
Davies, for his part, immediately said: "We need to do less T-shirts and more art."
For their first collaboration, Huntington painted a picture of a saw blade and handed it off to Davies, who then added his touches. It went back and forth until it became a Guy Fawkes mask, with the sharp edges as the hair. "The first one was like a Scrabble game," Huntington said.
The method changes depending on the project. Both now handle T-shirt duties.
Davies, 43, has no formal training as either an artist or musician, but has always done both. When Jimmie's Chicken Shack was on tour, he'd bring along colored pencils and paints to use as he sat on the bus and passed time.
He decided to give art a try as a career after his daughter was born and he got close to 40. He didn't want to tour, and the music industry was in was turmoil. Davies still plays with both bands, just not as frequently.
"It's been a wonderful Plan B," he said. "It's not like I have much of a resume."
Davies had been painting in his basement until he met Huntington, who went to art school and has exhibited around the world. The same sense of humor Davies' is famous for permeates much of what they do.
Their artist statement for JaH-HaHa reads, in part: "Jeff Alan Huntington "JaH" and Jimi "HaHa" Davies realized that each of them were only using half of a brain, so decided to fuse forces to create the illusion of a whole brain."
They keep busy in the shop, but sometimes Davies will just sit back and watch Huntington work. "His abilities are unmatched," Davies said. "He has this freedom when he works with paint."
Other times, Davies will jump right in and suggest projects.
"I have no shortage of silly ideas," he said. "It's fun to have someone right there to facilitate them."
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://capitalgazette.com
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