Justin was one of my closest friends and this is the not so quick story of the last 10 years of my love for him and his wife Holly. I met Justin in 2003, he’d been doing work for Shep (who made a nice post about his passing) and was going to be making a move from LA to ATL with his future wife, Holly. We hung out and ate, talked about design, screen printed posters.. art stuff. They moved out east, we talked everyday on iChat and when he moved back to LA a year later things were awesome. Then Justin got sick. Leukemia. Fuck. And he beat it! Then a year+ goes by. We’re chatting on iChat like always and he has a routine follow up visit, be back in an hour. 3 days go by and no Justin. Won’t answer the phone, not online.. nothing. Holly won’t answer her phone either. Cancer’s back. FUCK. The spring wedding in South Carolina we had all been waiting for is happening in their house in LA in 48 hours. Far from their dream scenario, but so much love was in their house. But Justin needs a marrow donor and fast. Homie Roger Gastman hosts an event at his office for people to get tested. And people do the same in Seattle, New York etc. They found him a donor and get him into chemo & radiation. The next 6 months Will & I take turns spending days with him and feeding him, helping him go to the bathroom, basically everything. He could barely move or speak. The radiation fucked him up beyond anything I had ever seen. We had to scrub up to get in the house because his immune system was nonexistent. He was in agony. Holly was amazing. The absolute perfect relationship I have ever seen. I have never seen a couple more in love. After months of a very slow recovery and several hospital emergency runs and scares.. he pulled through. Not before whipping his dick out in front of me at the hospital and even though he was in agony said “fuck it, you’re getting an eyeful ‘cause when you gotta go you gotta go.” Through all of it he was still ridiculously awesome. Now after 6 months he’s walking and talking, finally. Will and I put together a benefit called “Fuck Cancer We <3 Justin” for him and I ask my friends at Poketo if they could host the silent auction in their space. They never even met Justin and were so overly willing to help out it was amazing. In the one night we raised like $12k to help out with medical bills. Justin was so hyped. He couldn’t believe it. So many people contributed artwork and time, it was unreal. I can’t thank everyone enough for that night and what we were able to raise for him and Holly. And then 3+ years of relatively smooth sailing. Some minor hospitalizations here and there, massive nerve damage in his legs.. but Justin was Justin again. He beat Cancer again. My homie was back. We talked and hung out almost everyday. Literally. I was at the house with our squad every holiday getting in Holly’s way, ganging up on her as she was always the lone girl. It was our little LA family. I’m an only child and hate most people.. Justin was my brother. When I started having health problems he was all over it. Supporting, helping out, looking shit up, checking in non stop. He was an amazing person. Everyone that met him, loved him. His death comes as a surprise and shock to all of us.
We spoke 14 hours before his death for almost 2 hours about some projects in January and had planned for him to come crash at my place in SF in January. We talked about getting a house in Palm Springs for a mellow New Year’s. I’ll never hear that slight southern drawl again. He hooked me up with RVCA for my installation, put me in his book along with all of our friends, I had shows at his gallery. I log into my computer and our last iChat conversation from the day before is the first thing that pops up. His phone number is the 2nd one listed on my phone right under my mom. This is so fucked. I can’t delete any of it. I won’t delete any of it. I can’t imagine what Holly is feeling.
Now, this isn’t just a sad story of me losing one of my closest friends, this is a story of all of you losing an amazing artist & designer. You may not know it but you’ve seen his work. He worked for Shepard Fairey, Mark the Cobrasnake, he curated things for RVCA, he was the Art Director of Swindle Magazine, he designed books for Juxtapoz, he designed Jim Houser’s books, he worked with Roger Gastman on a bunch of books including the History of American Graffiti, a book about the Crips, Saber’s book, he rebranded our favorite burger spot The Oinkster, he opened an amazing gallery in Highland Park called This with homies Jeremy/Claire Weiss and Aaron Farley, he curated the art installations in the restrooms at Gagosian Gallery, made a guest appearance with Roger in Exit Through The Gift Shop, and recently published a book (that you should buy) with Ammo Books called Milk & Honey Contemporary Art in California. All this and more in 32 short years.
Justin I love you and I already miss you so much.. I can’t believe we haven’t spoken yet today.