What the hell is this?  What does “Flex Your Love Muscles” even mean?  Is it something dirty?

This website attempts to serve as a gathering of all of the art and music projects that I am involved in.  The term “flex your love muscles” is both a “brand” (gag) and a “directive” of sorts (flex!).  The term first came to me while making odd little doodles obsessively in the early 21st century.  You can see the original FYLM pamphlet (circa 2004) here.  It covers the question of dirtiness, and probably raises more questions than it answers.

What’s the name of that weird instrument I saw you playing?

That instrument is called the MBIRA.  Also known as kalimba, sanza, likembe, or, if you must, “thumb piano”.  It originates in Africa, with the strongest traditions rooted in Zimbabwe.   I also have a particularly large model, known as the Array Mbira.  I am forever honored and humbled to have been given the opportunity to play this deeply spiritual instrument.  If you are here because you liked the sound of it, I urge you to visit the MBIRA.ORG website and learn more about it.  There you can purchase mbira music from Zimbabwe, and your money goes a very long way in supporting musicians there.

How did you get into playing that instrument?

For years, I had a small kalimba that my mom bought me, and began playing it obsessively around 1999.  I’d played guitar and written songs and made 4 track recordings for years, but the kalimba sparked something.  In 2000, I was able to spend some time in the Pacific Northwest, and took an introductory workshop with Erica Azim, who runs the mbira.org website.  I’ve also attended a few workshops with Zimbabwe greats at Zimfest, the 2 times that I have been to that event.  In addition to slowly learning a very modest repertoire of traditional mbira, I have spent equal time trying to write my own songs for the kalimba/mbira.

Do you still play guitar?

Hell yes.  Since moving to Chicago, my solo guitar performances have become less frequent, and that’s a shame, because I still rip it in my own way.  You wanna hear me play, get in touch.

How do you make your lightboxes?  How long does it take to make one of those? 

The lightboxes are all made by hand, and every hole is poked or drilled into paper or wood.  There is an old video here that details the basic process pretty well.  The length of time spent on each box can vary, and it’s a tough question to answer.  At one point I tried to keep a log of how long each box took, but I dunno…it was discouraging and interfered with my concentration.  And besides, TIME IS AN ILLUSION, especially when you’re working on (or looking at) these things.

Are your lightboxes for sale?  How much?

They are indeed!  I am working on getting a thorough inventory/sale list up here.  Prices range pretty widely, but are anywhere from $150 to $2,000, depending on size, materials, pattern, etc.

Are you also the person who paints those “Women & Kitties” pictures?  Why do you sign them “Wilsey”?

Women and Kitties is another body of work I have done, yes.  I began signing them “Wilsey” (my middle name) at a time when I was showing them and my lightboxes simultaneously.  I’ve always liked my middle name, and thought it was a good fit as a (not exactly) pseudonym.  At this point, I have made a little over 100 of them.  I started them in 2003, after not making art for a long and difficult 3 year period after graduating from art school.  When I did finally sit down to try to make art, I decided the best thing I could do would be to paint something that makes me happy, so I chose women and kitties.  It was very freeing after the pseudo-academic deconstruct-everything approach that art school inevitably led to.  The full story is coming soon to this website, stay tuned.

Do you create works on commission?  What do you charge?

I have done commissions in the past, and would welcome any inquiries.  Video work, custom lightboxes, women & kitties, crazy digital photo edits…..I’m game for anything, and have had a great time working with clients in the past.  Cost will, of course, depend on the nature of the project, but I am happy to work with any budget, and am open to bartering if you have some product or service that may further the work I’m doing.

You make videos too?! 

Yes, I began making videos in earnest at the end of 2015.  I’m still new to it, with much to learn, but do feel like the medium, and what I’m doing with it, is a natural extension of the drawings and lightboxes and music that I have worked on for the past 20+ years. 

My band needs a video, can you help?

Sure, get in touch with your ideas, music, budget, vision, etc., I’d love to discuss it.

Will you play mbira on my recording?  Would you sing with that deep voice on one of my recordings?

I’d be happy to hear from you; let me hear what you’re working on and what you have in mind.  I have odd taste in music, and do not always have the time to devote to music, so I do have to be selective.  I am also a bit slow to learn parts, admittedly.  BUT I welcome a challenge and any inquiries.  I am also reasonably well set up to record myself and can work long distance.  As for my voice: sure, anytime, that part’s pretty easy.

What bands have you played in?

Not that many, considering, for better or worse:

Goner (1994-99)

Me or the Moon (2001-present)

Baoku & the Image Afrobeat Band (2005-9)

Matthew Shelton & the Cat Lovers (2007-8)

MShelton’s Picnic (2008-?)

Down Comforters (2010)

Jellies (2015-16)

ExtraOcular (2015-present)

Are you interested in collaborating with me on a project?

Yes!!!, what are you thinking? What do you do?

Will you play music at my event?  Is it true you’re also an ordained minister?  Will you officiate my wedding?

I’ll probably play your event, I mean maybe, what kind of shindig are you throwing?  I am indeed an ordained minister.  I enjoy leading services, and have sometimes even combined my mbira playing with officiating to great effect, and would love the opportunity to do it again.

Do you make a living off your work?

Yes; I am making a life.