Mate Mutley had become an old sea dog, a fine companion and street smart. One day, I decided to test his intelligence and bearings. We were cruising along on the Atlantic side of the island, not too far off shore. I pulled up to a breakwater, let Mutley out and said to him, "I'll meet you at Simington Street in a couple of hours." He turned and walked away, stopped at the street and looked back as I headed toward the open sea. For two hours, I wondered if Mutley understood he had to walk across the island to meet me at Simington Street. Taking my time, I cruised past Navy Beach, past Mallory Square, the Pier House and into Simington Street. There he sat, elegantly waiting for me with that funny smile he always had on his face. He casually stepped into the boat. We cruised over to the Treasure Salvor's Galleon, marinating in sun and water and peacefulness as we floated along. Who could ask for more?
He came to the studio with a catalogue of thumbnail images and asked me if I could paint the six images he chose, but not exactly... he wanted me to “jazz them up.” We didn't discuss the meaning of this request, but jazz was my game. I was also excited to be getting paid to make six paintings for the summer and then head to D.C. When I got close to completing the six canvases, I came up with a great idea. They had been “jazzed,” but I felt odd about signing my name to them, they weren't my images. In pure Duchampian delight, I signed them with a nom de plume, Ed Gillet. The name was a play on Gillette, the famous razor company, but I shortened it because it looked French when I signed the canvases. On the backs of the canvases I painted the statement, “From the Studio of ED GILLET, when you want that razor edge.” The paintings didn't have any razor edges. The nom de plume was a Dadaist spoof, and paid homage to Marcel Duchamp, maybe the most important artist of the 20th Century. Photo credit is to Marty Heiter
He proposed a pair of cowboy boots, in fact the world’s largest cowboy boots. They would be 40 feet tall, 30 feet from heel to toe, and there would be two of them. What a project! We threw up a chain-link fence on the small corner lot, and while Wade sat in my office at the W.P.A. and worked the phones, I built a small lean-to dubbed “Little Tijuana” in the rear of the lot. We would be in the eyes of the public while working on the boots, and my thinking was that we needed a location where we could drink tequila, out of sight during our breaks from the work. We needed a respite, a place to relax, thus Little Tijuana. After our breaks we could come running out from behind the wall of plywood like a bunch of wild Indians, circle the lot, wave to the people hanging on the fence, and finally start to work on the boots before heading back to Little Tijuana.
Our new home was Christmas Tree Island and we were living a tropical adventure. The flat bottom boat was just 13 feet long and we christened it the "Chipapools." During a dinner party in town one night, a drunken woman slurred the actual name of the boat, "The Ship of Fools,” into the "Chip-a-pools," and it stuck. Nothing needed to make sense. In fact, being in Key West didn't make sense. I had temporarily given up on moving to a big city and instead drove to the end of the road with my girlfriend, to escape. I assumed somewhere at the end of that road I was going to find myself. For the moment, having fun and learning about the sea became my only goal and the “Chip” was my new teacher.