A shoe was used in an attempted stabbing at Cervantes', and Will Howze turned it into art
Eric Gruneisen The Ph.D of Ratchetology, by Will Howze
The shoe is black and has a four-inch heel. It entered Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom on Friday for the SnowBall After Party as a piece of clothing. Late in the night, it became a weapon. And soon, it will return to Cervantes' covered in paint, thanks to Nerf gun artist and passionate music fan Will Howze.
He's working on the shoe right now, Sunday night at SnowBall Music Festival itself, while Pretty Lights provides a bombing of bass in the background. Howze wouldn't start by describing what he is doing to the shoe as art. It's not a sufficiently populist description for him. He has named it, however. Holding the thing aloft, he proclaims it, "The Ph.D of Ratchetology."
The P.hD of Ratchetology entered Cervantes' on Friday with benign intent. But the way Howze tells it, the shoe's original owner took it off at some point with designs on burying its business end in some dude, "Tina Turner style," he says. He doesn't know what the argument was about.
Howze heard this story from a friend who is a security guard at the venue. The security guard ran into Howze late in the night, exasperated and holding a shoe, and he was bemused at the sight. "I don't know how you're pissed off if you have a shoe in your hand," he said, and the guard told the painter about the woman who was midway through a vicious backswing when he stepped in and grabbed the weaponized apparel.
Howze knew immediately he needed to paint the shoe. "You gotta have documents of certain shit," he says. And there may be no one better equipped to turn a high heel into a lowbrow artifact than Will Howze.
He grew up in Compton, where his first exposure to any kind of creative expression was gangsta rap. "I wouldn't know art without music," he says. And now he refuses to separate his painting from notes and rhythms. That's why he's working on the shoe at SnowBall, despite the fact that the medium available to him is spray paint. It's not what he prefers, so he delivers it in wet globs onto a scrap of cardboard. He then dips a brush into his puddles and goes to work.
Eric Gruneisen Howze at work.
"There always has to be music," he says as he add another coat to the "H" of the word "RATCHET," which he has painted along the inward-facing side of the shoe.
If you know Howze from his professional artwork, it isn't in the usual way: galleries and web sites and Facebook pages and the rest. Instead, you would know him as the man standing on Denver's streets with elaborately painted Nerf guns connected to speaker systems. He calls his guns his Smile Makers, because that describes their sole purpose.
He once dressed in costume and brought his guns to Water World. I ask him if that was an effort to expose new audiences to his art. "No," he says. "It was because kids would love it."
And they did.