The monthly celebration of arts and culture that is First Friday in South Bethlehem will take on a bit of a different tone tonight as no doubt many will take much of the evening to reflect on the life of Mr. Imagination, a world renowned intuitive artist who lived in Bethlehem for seven of his too short 64 years on earth.
Gregory Warmack, who was better known to his friends and fans in the Lehigh Valley as Mr. I, died in an Atlanta hospital in May.
Tonight, Mr. I’s Lehigh Valley family will pay tribute to the artist in what is being called a “Procession of Remembrance” through the streets of South Bethlehem where the artist’s presence is still felt in fanciful creations that dot the neighborhood.
The procession will gather in front of the Banana Factory at the Mr. I bus shelter on W. Third Street.
From there, according to a news release announcing the event, the group will make pilgrimage to “several key places associated with Mr. I – his original house on Fourth Street, his great bottle cap masterwork mule sculpture on display at Lehigh’s Zoellner Art Center, and finally ending around 8 pm at Home & Planet on Third Street which houses another of his special artistic constructions” – a bathroom decorated in Mr. Imagination’s own distinctive style.
A reception will then be held at Home & Planet, where there will be a temporary “angel altar” installation of some of Mr. I’s artworks on loan from his Lehigh Valley friends along with a slide show of images of Mr. I’s life in Bethlehem.
Mr. Imagination was known as an “intuitive” or “outsider” artist because he was self-taught and had no formal art training.
But as the news release on tonight’s event notes:
“To spark our memories, we may reflect on the fact that Mr. I always insisted that he was just an artist, not a ‘bottle cap artist’ or ‘outsider artist.’ For him the vocation of artist meant someone who lives their dreams and uses their imagination to transform the mundane into something wondrous. And he did that every day of his life. And now we have lost an angel of imagination who unfortunately spent too little time with us on this planet.
“It is our task to honor and cherish his sojourn with us – to remember his legacy, his knowing and often mischievous smile, his gentle demeanor, his fondness for burgers from McDonalds, his passion for work, his profound love of animals, his joyful appreciation of children and community, his magical ability to transform the lowliest things into jewels, his twisted apostrophe of a beard, and his boundless friendship for everyone.”