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...and they lived happily ever after. Smith & Lady: poets, artists, photographers & adventurers.
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Field Marshal May Midwest’s Regional Art Terrorists


Banksy rat – foto Smith

WCPN public radio aired a ten minute piece on my special friend / artbook-papermaker / teacher / artist Melissa Jay Craig, and I was included with her as “one of the 70’s artistic renegades and anti-establishment types who proudly wore the banner of criminal and terrorist” (Dee Perry). They also said “Smith is something of an underground legend in the Cleveland art scene” (David C. Barnett). They even briefly mention my memoir.

The interview runs from the 8:55 minute mark through 18:30 and may be heard at ideastream.org/an/entry/48967.

Melissa Jay Craig was the leader of the Regional Art Terrorists back in the late 70s and early 80s; she’d lead RAT Attacks, which were illegal guerilla art actions in public spaces during the dead of the night, such as painting sunglasses on the news anchors advertised on billboards and inscribing *IGNORE ALIEN ORDERS* underneath them. Her gorgeous plant/book art biomorphs may be seen at melissajaycraig.com.

Here’s my first RAT attack with her (from my memoir *Stations of the Lost & Found* by Smith & Lady) in 1981.

It was while living in the warehouse I met most of the really good creative people who are still in my life today. Melissa Jay Craig, the organizing force behind the Regional Art Terrorists, lived across the river in an art warehouse called Riverbed. Melissa had become famous as “Field Marshal May Midwest” in the Cleveland Press because of her “RAT Attacks,” illegal guerrilla art actions such as stenciling “IGNORE ALIEN ORDERS” over billboard ads. My first RAT Attack took place high up underneath the Detroit Superior Bridge. Melissa painted a four foot wide pair of red grinning lips on plywood and cut them out with a coping saw. The teeth revealed by the grin were pure white with a large diffraction grating gleam radiating from one. She wanted to hang it on the outside side of the closed off second level of the bridge right where the train came over the river into Tower City.

The Attack wouldn’t occur until three in the morning when there’d be fewer cops around to arrest us, so Cat and I dropped some acid to pass time. The acid wasn’t working very fast because we’d been tripping a lot that month, so we dropped a second tab each, and then a third. Field Marshall May Midwest and her gang of regional artists showed up around the time all three tabs started kicking in.

We got to the bridge four blocks away and found the entry into the lower deck that was usually open barred by locked metal doors. The bridge had two levels, but the lower level with the old train tracks had been abandoned decades ago. The Regional Art Terrorists tried to climb up to the arched openings, but no one could make it, so somehow I climbed up the concrete abutment into the lower arched opening and walked back to the locked doors where they slipped the lips underneath to me. I put the lips on my back and walked through the dark a quarter mile to the river. The second level looked like the streets of Beirut on a bad day; huge holes gaped through the concrete floor. I saw the Flats below, and then the river.

I walked along, four foot red grinning lips on my back, equally large LSD grin on my face. It was one of those moments where all is right with the Universe. I chained the lips onto the outside of the bridge closest the transit bridge so morning commuters would be greeted with a grin and then went back to get a second, smaller pair of lips, the two footers. Those went on the Riverbed side of the bridge, where Melissa had her live-in art studio. The Regional Art Terrorists waited and waited, kept looking for me in the middle of the bridge in the middle of the night in the middle of the river, but I had found a forty foot steel girder going straight out from the bridge horizontally into the air all by itself, so I walked out onto it like it was a tightrope and I hung the lips forty feet away from the bridge over the river facing Melissa’s building. The accolades I got when I returned to Earth were icing on the skate.


Lip smackin – foto Smith

3 Responses to “Field Marshal May Midwest’s Regional Art Terrorists”

  1. MadM says:

    We did not do the sunglasses in Cleveland Heights; that was the late, great Fred Mertz.

  2. julie says:

    I have a photo of that big smile somewhere. My bro showed me how to use a darkroom, and it was one of the first photos I took and developed. I know it’s here somewhere…

  3. […] the stories for years (and have lived through some as well, though I learned some new things, like about the LSD). This is the best telling ever, no question, and I think I would have liked it if I didn’t […]

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