Of Death and Detournements

By Amy Kepferle · Wednesday, March 16, 2011

“The words that I have collected around these images are like vultures following the living presence into the desert. The language has no hope of feeding upon this flesh.”

—Charles “Bonesy” Jones 

“God is dreaming” declares a rectangular image with three focal points—a Buddha, an airplane and a distant volcano. Another, with a stern-looking Hitler in profile, declares “God is absent.” 

Others—“God is burning bones,” “God is difficult,” “God is an ox,” and “God is building language inside my skull”—draw attention first to the vocabulary, then to the image itself. 

When Charles “Bonesy” Jones (1945-2005) created these pieces of art, it wasn’t with fame, fortune and wall space in a big-name gallery on his mind. In fact, six years after his death, the 23 visions comprising Jones’ “Digital Detournements” are being displayed for the first time ever at the Black Drop Coffeehouse. 

According to the artist’s longtime friend, Scot Casey, Jones was never one to play by any particular set of societal rules. Before settling in Texas in the early 1980s, Jones had, among other things, lived in an intentional art colony, conducted anthropological research, worked as a poet and abstract painter and traveled to Mt. Athos in Greece to study the teachings of Theophan the Recluse.  

In the two years prior to his death, Casey says “Bonesy” had taken to creating stamp-sized “detournements,” which were described by the artist as “appropriations of established images and symbols of authenticity re-purposed for play—especially philosophical play.” 

In the hundreds of cards and letters he sent to various friends and acquaintances, Casey explains, Jones would place the miniature masterpieces next to the “real” stamp. Because they were so small, many of the recipients didn’t initially realize treasures were arriving in the daily mail.  

“After a while, most people caught on,” says Casey, who worked with Jones at an Austin bookstore. “A bunch of us used to drink at the Hole in the Wall and whenever anyone got a new piece in the mail, they would bring it up to show us what it looked like—so we would know what to look for.” 

The much-enlarged images on display at the Black Drop, Casey says, are ones that Jones never sent out. In 2005, on a nighttime bike ride home, he was struck by a car and suffered severe head injuries. Although he survived the accident, Casey says Jones was never the same, and knew the end was near. (It’s a story on its own, but Casey was there when his mentor died under a full moon in the New Mexico desert.)

While going through Jones’ digital archives, Casey came across the images now on display. He says they’re different from the ones that came before—the references are more cryptic and certain obsessions, he notes, are more apparent. 

“The art before the accident has more mischief, more philosophical playfulness,” Casey says. “There was also more of an artistic mask. You don’t see him working out personal spiritual problems in the art. After the accident, it all seems intensely personal, as of he were in a one-sided dialogue with some inner hidden aspect of his self that would no longer answer.” 

Even when Jones was healthy, though, Casey says he never created art to make money or gain influence with power players. Instead, his art was a form of prayer. 

“He was adamant about living your life as a well-constructed work,” Casey says, “A sort of poem, to live according to your own internal sense of excellence and not let the trends and obsessions of the crowd—what he called ‘the vulgar’— affect you. I think he tried hard to live his life as a work of art in some sort of twisted samurai manner.”

FEBRUARY 2012 - Cascadia Weekly: Bodies of Work: Pores, Prose and Big Ideas
Exquisite Corpse on a Living Body

MAY 2012 - 12 Questions from What's Up Magazine

Photo by Cate Reed

What three words do you think best describes your personality? Why?

I am often accused of being humorous, funny in my tastes like cannibals eating a clown, so I imagine that might be apt. 


NOVEMBER 2014 - Black Cat Show - Re-imagined Soundtrack

JANUARY 2015 - The Greatest Story Never Told

FEBRUARY 2015 - Osteology Photographic Series
Bureau of Historical Investigation

JULY 2017
11 Questions for What’s Up Magazine
Photo by Jessica Garr

Interview by Brent Cole

In all the years we've been doing an 11 questions piece, I think we're at over a decade now, we've never doubled up on an interviewee. Until now. Many moons ago we covered Scot Casey, he'd probably only lived in town a couple of years but I already thought the world of the guy. Creative, funny and incredibly kind and sincere, I first met Scot through the Black Drop, which he was part owner of at the time and he soon began writing for the magazine. Scot always covered music that others weren't talking about, but that desperately deserved the attention... and he covered it with the honesty and love that made Scot SO incredibly well liked in town.

Welp, after seven years, Scot is leaving our fair city and I am crushed. He has been one of those people in town that MAKE Bellingham what it is - he'd become part of the fabric of this town’s music, art and culture scene and someone who I enjoyed talking to every chance I got. In all the years I've lived in town, Scot Casey is truly one of the most special people. He will be very much missed.

And with that, Scot was kind enough to answer 11 questions on why he's leaving, if he'll come back and his thoughts on the town he loves.