Saturday, August 29, 2015

Carl Ellison: Erected Narrative or Long-Held Secret?

Ask a layperson to name one black Canadian artist, and possibly he or she won't be able to do it.  This may be in part because many laypeople don't realize that there are, in fact, black people in Canada, and the viral infamy of Chuggo probably hasn't helped to clear that up.  Yet ironically, at least the name of one black artist in Canada resonates within the same culture of viral videos, and that's Carl Ellison.  In late 2006, Black Art TV profiled Mr. Ellison's painting profession, and the next year, when Chuck Jones TV shared the video, it went viral--but for all of the wrong reasons.

Chuck Jones knowingly misnamed the video "MAN WITH THE WORLDS LARGEST PENIS" (You should never expect trolls to use punctuation), and just to nail it home, printed the same phrase fifteen more times in the description.  The result is that now over seven million people now associate the name Carl Ellison with a soft but very long running penis joke, which has even been lengthened now and again by video editors who liked their jokes a little bit more on the...nose.  Even so, most of the people gawking at the charade have assumed they were just being trolled.  The video they got conned into seeing, after all, had nothing whatsoever to do with penises (world's largest or otherwise); the juxtaposition between completely wholesome content and provocative title was the whole joke, right?

Sadly, if you're actually Carl Ellison, you'd understand that the joke is much, much crueler.  Recently, Ellison has risen again to public display and started coming into the conversation as to the unseen backstory.  Spilling it all as hard and fast as he could, he explained, "I don't know if I have the world's largest penis; I probably don't, but yeah; it's big, I don't particularly like it leaking out, and it's really hard to go through life still not knowing who did it."

If you've watched the infamous video (and who hasn't?) you know something of Ellison's backstory.  Born in Buff Bay, Jamaica, Carl's family raised him and moved around that country until he was twelve, when they got themselves up to Canada and settled in Aurora, a suburb of Toronto.  It was there that Carl came of age, and his peers wouldn't let him forget it.  "I was developing a sizable penis even by Jamaican standards," he explains, "and as I was the only black student in Aurora High School, this meant that by Canadian standards, my penis was truly remarkable."

Carl's school in Aurora.
It's not something he's proud of. "Picture this", he recounts with a teary frown, "a pretty white girl is talking to you, and all of a sudden, you're bulging out and she's visibly spooked like she thinks you forgot to wear underwear."  That's not too far off the mark, because as Carl reveals on a lighter note, "Canadian clothes stores turned out to be really bad at estimating the sizes of immigrants' penises.  Thankfully they've improved by now!"  For many long, hard years, though, Carl Ellison remained the target of teasing.  "'Big Nig' became the running nickname for me, and it got to the point even my friends called me that, once I actually made some.  It was one of those things you just went with after a while."  By this time, the school had reigned in a lot of the worst offenders who were making things hard for him, but Ellison still graduated with the strongest desire to move on, and out of his penis's long, dark shadow.

"Chuck Jones basically ruined that," sighs Ellison. "I don't know exactly who found my video and gave it that name, but it basically ensured that even the artistic niche I wanted to carve out for myself would always be occupied by that."  Frustrated by the wave of infamy he was sure he'd receive, Carl withdrew once again. "I kept on painting and stuff; kept selling prints to a clientele who cared about them, I even do commissions, but that was it for me promoting myself on videos."

Until now.  A new day has come, and Carl Ellison is rising to it, though he admits he was unsure at first.  "My representative got a call from somebody--they've made me promise not to tell who--related to the porno biz, who was looking around for films and pics about, you can pro'ly guess," he says with a whiff of embarrassment. "They found the old demo video I did, and thought, you know; I actually really like that guy's painting!"  The porno person was also willing to pay a pretty penny for a print, and after some reservations, Carl agreed to sell it.  "The fallout from that was truly magical", he giggles. "I got more clients. Turns out, somebody knew somebody knew somebody there, and demand for my work shot up!"

It all happened so suddenly, that Ellison still isn't quite sure what to think, but he offers a possible explanation. "I think more and more, we're in the Age of the Meme.  It used to be that there were famous things, that people felt good when they recalled, and then there were the infamous things, they wish they'd forget.  But the Internet has blurred that.  I don't know why, but it seems like head-shaking embarrassment is the new admiration.  I'm a guy who paints on canvas and I'm suddenly making money off of being known on new media you think might make that extinct, it's like I was in the wrong place at the right time.  It's weird, but I'll take it."

So Carl Ellison has lightened up and is closer to letting it all hang out.  He's not yet into talking too much to the press, but he's got plans to capitalize on his new success with an exhibition "whose name I'll tell you once I can think of something clever to name it."  His carpe diem attitude shows through in his speech, and he assures fans it will show through in his art show. "God works in mysterious ways.  Sometimes, maybe he works by playing pranks, but once you learn to laugh at them yourself, it's all good again, and you'll be learn that too!"  When asked what this meant in terms of his upcoming art, Ellison put his finger to his mouth but promised, "I've got big plans, big plans that were getting bigger all along.  For some of that time I beat myself up over things, but now I'm embracing myself, I'm pumping myself up, and soon I'll thrust myself right into the mainstream!"

As if to symbolize further that life was moving forward for Carl from that time he gained viral fame, he then received a text from Colette, and excused himself.  Described in his most famous video appearance as his girlfriend, she has since become his wife and is expecting.  "Those jokers got one thing right," Carl winks on his way out the door.  "She does take my penis seriously."

Source: The Bluffton Bugle.

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