“You have to show love to everybody and bow to the God in everybody.”
These words from Visto’s song “Namaste” have taken on a new and personal meaning after a chance encounter with a D.C street artist. Visto, a rapper and member of the Hippie Life Krew clique, struck up a casual conversation with a man he saw painting outside in the cold near Dupont Circle. The man was Carlton Joyner and he explained to Visto how a troubled childhood led to a dysfunctional marriage, divorce, drugs, and eventually homelessness.
Visto listened intently to Joyner’s story and watched him create a remarkable piece of art using just a sponge. The origin of the sponge technique is as ingenious as it is utilitarian: According to Joyner, a good Samaritan bought him a couple of bottles of paint but no brushes. So he went into an alley and ripped the cushion out of an abandoned sofa and taught himself to paint with the sponge-like material.
Joyner said that painting kept him sane during his many years of homelessness and was the only thing that really made him feel happy. Day after day, he polished his skills painting outside in public parks and on street corners—even when the weather turned bad. People who walked by began telling him how wonderful his art was and would sometimes offer him money for his paintings. Joyner would take whatever money he earned and buy food. A true “starving artist,” for better and worse.
Touched by Joyner’s story and amazed at his sunny disposition in spite of his less than ideal living conditions, Visto told him he would try to help.
So he reached out to his music industry connections and used social media to let his followers know about the creative genius of “Painter Man”—the name Joyner is known by in the neighborhood. Visto’s contacts answered the call immediately: He quickly found a venue, Touche DC on H Street, and set up an art exhibition where Joyner can show and sell his paintings. Art Owls, a local arts organization, stepped in to donate the canvases, paints, and other supplies.
Visto met with Joyner again to tell him about the art show and the painter was overcome with joy. But Visto quietly noticed that Joyner was wearing the same clothes he was at their previous meeting. There was more work to do.
So Visto once again tapped into his network, and this time Shoe City—a regional sportswear company—offered to outfit Joyner with brand new clothing and shoes for his exhibition. And printing company Coterie Label made custom t-shirts for the event. Visto also created a GoFundMe page for people to donate money directly to Joyner. At the time of writing, the fund has accumulated more than $2,000.
Visto doesn’t consider himself religious, but does attribute his benevolence to a higher power. “God showed me my full purpose when I met Painter Man and I am so thankful,” he says, “I listened to what He told me to do without a thought. Without a selfish bone in my body.”
Joyner is equally as spiritual and selfless when it comes to his artwork. “I love painting, God gave me a talent that people love and it makes me happy to make others happy,” he says. “I just want to make people happy.”
These two creative, kindred spirits came together by happenstance and have formed a unique and genuine friendship. Thanks to Visto, Joyner has renewed hope for the future and a fresh outlook on life—and I think it’s safe to say the Painter Man’s best artwork is yet to come.
Joyner’s exhibition takes place on Thursday, March 23rd at 7 p.m. at Touche DC. 1123 H St. NE. $10.