Finding God, DMX, Fire, and Fries On First Fridays


I was tasked with covering the First Friday in April. It was a big day. Not only was it the 18th birthday of Gallery 5, it was also Good Friday.

I languished at home for a while, deliberating whether I wanted to go out on a cold and rainy night when the weather had been so nice recently. My dog rearranged himself on the couch, circling my will to leave until he found the spot closest to me that was comfortable for both of us. I began to wonder if I needed to share my thoughts. After all, the Bible says, “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise.”

Easter’s a shitty time for me. My adopted family was very Christian, and I know one of their motivations for adopting me was saving my soul from hell. My adopted brother used to threaten my life ad nauseam for the pain I caused his parents. He’s a preacher now.

And I’m going to hell. At least in his line of thinking. Or maybe the prayer I said when I was at church camp has me covered for life and the hereafter.

I reluctantly left the house. The chilly night rain and my indecisiveness brought to mind the water of my baptism. I was 12 or 13 at the time, and soon after discovered the porn some holy saint was discarding in the ditches on the roads I grew up on. There were texts amongst the images that said the girls were wet. I wondered if they had been baptized too.

Though First Friday was sure to thrill, I had a sneaking suspicion that whatever I saw would pale in comparison to those rain-washed DVD covers.

April 2023 First Fridays Richmond, VA
Photo by George Wethington

I joined a crowd of people watching someone hula hoop fire. I thought about New Years of 2012. I was 21 years old and lived at 420 West Marshall in J Ward. My roommate was an art student at VCU and selling molly at the time. Given the current festivities, it was free for me, and he gave me a lot of it.

I went to a party a half block away. Navi was playing a house show of about 200 people at Pandia Studios. I reached a point of sensory overload and walked the short way back home. I went to my room and started playing guitar and grinding my teeth to nubs. My roommate brought a throng of customers back to the house, and he told me that I needed to stop playing and look outside my window.

A beautiful woman in the prime of allure was hula hooping fire in the middle of the street, and a crowd of people had joined to watch. I joined them and talked to her afterwards. It was her last night in town before she went to Morocco to dance with fire full time.

I wondered how she was as the music from the DJ accompanying the fire dancers clashed with the band from Gallery 5. I joined the queue for Gallery 5, the dissonance adding to the chill in the night air until I went up to The Loft above G5 to get out of the elements and the battle of harmonies. I ended up buying a sly print of a fox from a jovial artist named Blake Bottoms who did great work with natural subjects amongst the other hawkers of artisan wares.

Bag in hand, I went back down to join the queue for Gallery 5. I ran into Ryan Kent and lamented the indifferent God that made him age so much better than me. I forgave the maker of natural order as I found my way in and got a wristband with my free entry.

April 2023 First Fridays Richmond, VA
DMX by Chris Visions, photo by George Wethington

The art at Gallery 5 was some of the best I saw that night. My favorite piece had DMX as the main subject by Chris Visions. I loved drawing in elementary school and got into a ton of trouble with my teacher and parents when I drew a picture of DMX that said, “If I gots to bring it to you cowards then it’s gonna be quick. All you cats that been to jail before can suck my dick!”

Unlike my family and my fifth-grade teacher, I appreciate all DMX related content. There were other artists represented that had interesting pieces, but none of them were also about DMX, so the content was less visceral and commanding. Not to say that it wasn’t good.

I listened to Sweet Potatoes play the meat and potatoes of jazz for a bit and then realized that I had not eaten in a while. I went outside to the 1115 Mobile Kitchen and got the Texas Beach chicken sandwich. It was a fried chicken sandwich with chipotle mayo and pickled red onions. It was very tangy. I decided to eat while I walked my way to Black Iris to their exhibit. I was glad I had paid the extra two dollars for them to “cheese ‘em up” my fries. It helped to cut the overall acidity.

But cheese is messy. I could feel the melted cheese falling into my beard and tried to dab it out with a napkin. I got some on my jacket and did what I could to scrub that out while I made the realization that tonight was not the night for interviews.

April 2023 First Fridays Richmond, VA
Art by Aziz Kibari, photo by George Wethington

I made my way into Black Iris and tried to give people their space while I took photos of the serene contemporary Moroccan art by Aziz Kibari in the exhibit for the article. There was a kindly older woman observing me taking pictures of the art, and she wanted a picture of me taking a photo of a painting with a subject that had the same color hat as me. I took it as a sign there was no cheese in my beard.

April 2023 First Fridays Richmond, VA
Leif Low-Beer’s work “Defense Mechanism, Avoid the Discomfort of Contradiction,” clay tile and wood, 6 x 11 x 8 inches, 2021

I went to ADA Gallery and found a lot of underwhelming art and some whelming art. There was a piece that kind of looked like an ashtray and also like a penis. Somebody made it. I remember thinking that I didn’t know what the artist was trying to say but they needed to get their dick out of my face. I have decided not to include the photo of this piece because I don’t agree that simply achieving a reaction legitimizes a piece of art. I also didn’t take a photo of it because it sucked. ed. note: We added it for context.

April 2023 First Fridays Richmond, VA
Asha’s Kiss at Bar Solita, photo by George Wethington

From there, I decided that it was still Good Friday, and if Jesus died for my sins, it was time for a drink. I went down to Bar Solita and got a drink called Asha’s Kiss, made with local Trial and Error gin, guava, lemon, and vanilla. It was fruity, floral, and refreshing. The bartenders were kind enough to let me have a sample of the gin itself, which made it clear that the lightly savory and oily gin was doing a lot of work as the backbone to this delicate libation.

After Bar Solita, I went to GWARbar, a morbid hotbed of sin, and the last local exit on the highway to hell. They were at capacity. I looked past the ghoulish masks in the window as I hailed an Uber and saw a crowd of people almost entirely over 40. They were smiling and happily engaged in conversation with their friends. They had all just found out that hemorrhoid cream was not just for tattoos. The good news spread cheer and comfort to all.

As I rode the Uber home, I realized that I had in fact enjoyed the evening, though my exhilaration was unmatched by that giving foraged art of yore — it was a good Friday.

Happy Birthday, Gallery 5!

George Wethington

George Wethington

George Wethington is a master of the interviewing process and a connoisseur of collegiate admissions. He likes to spend time in nature. It is his nature.

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