100 Creatives: Jason Handelsman, Miami's Weird-Art Messiah

In honor of our "People" issue, which will hit newsstands November 17, New Times proudly presents "100 Creatives," where we feature Miami's cultural superheroes. Have suggestions for future profiles? Let us know in the comments.

#89: Jason Handelsman

Each of us ascribes to a certain narrative about ourselves that helps us face the mirror each morning. Conceptual artist and writer Jason Handelsman is a man committed to experimenting with those narratives for art’s sake. The former Miami New Times clubs editor, current proud father of 2-year-old Timothy, and member of the Huffer Collective weaves interesting tales and truths to explore who he is, what he has done, and life’s most profound, intense, and psychedelic experiences.

His personas have included the President (when he was straight out of jail and living in a “white house” in Kendall), Ghost of Dirty (when he was a rapping crust punk channeling Ol’ Dirty Bastard), and now as simply HANDELSMAN. He recently joined forces with visual artist Ahol Sniffs Glue and filmmaker and writer Swampdog (also a former and highly valued New Times staffer) to create Huffer Collective, which is planning a memorable exhibition, “Save Your Selves,” to appear at Locust Projects during Art Basel Miami Beach 2016. “This is the collabo the world has been waiting for,” the artist says.

A fan of the spotlight, Handelsman recently appeared on Court TV with Judge Mathis as part of a performance. He will be writing an exposé in the classic Scam zine for its 25th-anniversary edition, and is working on art with his son. “I'm raising... no, designing/engineering the perfect autonomous human,” he says. “Timothy and I have been working on a new performance piece called Fruit of Handelsman. It is a live performance featuring Timothy and me… [It] includes improvisation based on Timothy's mood at the time.”

Over the years, Handelsman as a writer has interviewed plenty of celebs, including members of Wu-Tang. But a few years ago, a chance talk with David Lynch for New Times Broward-Palm Beach brought him into the fold of the director’s pet project and to the next level with his work. Lynch sent Handelsman a $960 check from his foundation to study transcendental meditation (TM). This opened new worlds of inspiration and supernatural experiences for the artist and allowed him to craft the HANDELSMANTRA. There is nothing quite as refreshing as the childlike fascination and inspired creations of a man such as Handelsman, who is eternally evolving and will never stop telling, retelling, and reimagining his story.
List five things that inspire you.
1. Trying to figure out why Hitler's birthday and 420 weed smokers' day are both celebrated simultaneously on April 20.
2. Number one, while eating Wendy's double cheeseburger with large chocolate Frosty, fries, and Coke.
3. Spreading the HANDELSMANTRA 24/7
4. Getting taxed: constant rejection, haters, shit-talkers. They inspire me.
5. Members of Huffer Collective (especially Timothy).

What was your last big project?
Personally, snipping Timothy's umbilical cord... as a conceptual artist. Judge Mathis Ceremony using HANDELSMANTRA at International Noise Conference 2016.

What's your next big project?
"Huffer Collective: Save Your Selves."

What do you want Miami to know about you?
Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.

What don't you want Miami to know about you?
That I'm the True Jewish Rock and Roll Messiah.

What's one thing you want people to know about Miami?
The HANDELSMANTRA fills the beautiful 305 sky, which makes it rain blessings upon thee.
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Liz Tracy has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, Refinery29, W, Glamour, and, of course, Miami New Times. She was New Times Broward-Palm Beach's music editor for three years. Now she plays one mean monster with her 2-year-old son and obsessively watches British mysteries.
Contact: Liz Tracy