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"Saint Francis on Ecstasy"

Joe Ballooni

Joe shared a dorm room with Adrian Venable, who is represented elsewhere in our collection, and they later painted houses together while waiting to break into big time art. Unlike Venable, Ballooni painted rather straightforward religious pictures, hoping for a career in church murals. One of these serious works, "Ex-Virgin Without Child" is in the reception area of the Greater Cincinnati Planned Parenthood Association.

His career took a drastic turn with this picture, which he admitted was done under the influence of some "righteous" blotter acid plus the eponymous rave drug of the title. Although as a consequence he lost the commission to do the refectory of Saint Gertrude's Roman Catholic Girls' High School, he did win the Surrealist-of-the-Month prize from Reader's Digest Condensed Art. Publicity surrounding the award led to him being hired to do the interior of Uncle Tom's Cabaña, a Jamaican disco on the outskirts of Kingston. 

Jamaica agreed with Ballooni, and Rastafarianism provided both spiritual direction and the bomber joints that inspired him to produce works like "Dude! Where's My God?" and "Ganja Be De Rasta Livication."

Shortly after completing the latter he asphyxiated on a beach at Point Royal while watching the sunrise, having apparently forgotten to exhale.


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