Inside Joe’s Brain

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Malibu resident and artist Joe DiVincenzo created ‘Joe’s Brain: The Book” more than a decade ago, when he got into a “rough patch” in his life. The sketches became a “sanity solution” for him.

By Stephen Dorman/Special to The Malibu Times

For those who have seen his work, there is no doubt that Malibuite Joe DiVincenzo has long established himself as a top-notch artist, both locally and abroad. Dale M. Lanzone, president of the International Public Art Marlborough Chelsea in New York, once referred to DiVincenzo’s picture boxes-a combination of poetry, paints and personal possessions-as “a paradoxical relationship of poetic construction, wisdom, wit, humor, tragedy, mystery and invention.”

What might not be that well known about him, however, is that DiVincenzo, 62, is also a highly skilled, although sometimes offbeat and downright savage, sketch comedy artist. Created and printed more than a decade ago, “Joe’s Brain: The Book,” has finally found a distributor in the form of Diesel, A Bookstore, locally owned and operated by John Evans.

“There were a couple reasons we decided to carry the book,” Evans said. “Joe’s a local guy and we like to support local authors. Plus, it seemed entertaining and was done very skillfully. It’s a good book with topics people are interested in.”

“Joe’s Brain” is rife with sketches and characters that poke fun at and parody popular culture. There’s “Postal Academy,” where potential post office employees are trained in the art of “time management.” In addition, “Terrorist Guide Dogs,” created in the early ’90s, served as an eerie indicator of the troubled times in today’s world. These examples only scratch the surface of a plethora of other kooky characters and true-to-life situations that come alive inside “Joe’s Brain.”

“The genesis of [the book] was that I’d always get teased by people going ‘Well, there goes Joe’s brain again’ when I’d say something,” said DiVincenzo, a New Yorker by birth who moved to Los Angeles at the age of 13. “Then I got into this rough patch in my life and would be looking at myself going ‘now who do I want to be?’ So the sketches became almost like a sanity solution to me. Humor has always been my escape hatch.”

DiVincenzo mentioned that he has had other opportunities to release the book throughout the years, but that those offers almost always required him to produce a weekly comedy strip as part of the deal. This would afford the chance to build an audience and, thus, make his book more marketable. However, that type of pressure would cause his “escape” to become a full time job-something he was uninterested in pursuing.

“I would love to do it if I could find a way to split my brain and say, ‘Now I’m just going to have fun and do [sketches],’ but I wouldn’t want some machine eating me alive,” DiVincenzo said. “I’d even like to do another book if there was somebody who would actually publish the thing without saying I had to do a weekly strip, but I don’t know if that’s an economic reality.”

He did allow a publication in Sonoma County, called the “Coastal Coast,” to run the cartoons several years ago at its own risk. “I actually had this following of … essentially, the working humans of the whole area,” DiVincenzo said, “but that was the extent of any publishing’s I had.”

So, until now, “Joe’s Brain” remained mostly out-of-sight and out-of-mind in order for the artist to explore other opportunities. And while working on his first and only book must have seemed like a lifetime ago, DiVincenzo said he realizes that an artist’s work is never complete and that by continuing to create, you continue to live.

“I think you live a lot of lives in one lifetime,” he said. “Hopefully, you get to live yours.”