Mike Maxwell shares his home in East County with his girlfriend, Crystal Barnes, and with his Boston terrier, Pete. And he lives with art: a lot of it.

Art covers nearly every inch of wall — in the living room, in the hallway between the living room and the kitchen, in the kitchen, in the bedroom.

None of this one-painting-per-wall business.

“Not when you have such small wall availability,” says Maxwell, who grew up in East County. “If it’s not on the wall, I don’t know where else it would go.”

As soon as I walked into Maxwell’s house at the beginning of January to meet him and appear on his Live Free Podcast, I knew I’d have to come back with Sam Hodgson to feature the artistic contents of his home in our What’s On Your Wall? series. We’ve already checked out artist Kim MacConnel‘s Encinitas home, and art gallery director Ben Strauss-Malcolm‘s home in Golden Hill.

Most of the art in Maxwell’s house he procured by trading his own work. He’s collaborated with some of the artists, worked for others, curated shows for still others. “I would pay top dollar, if I had top dollar,” he says.

Here’s a chunk of Maxwell’s living room wall. The photographs to the left of his arm are by Ye Rin Mok. Ryan Jacob Smith made the print Maxwell’s pointing to. And Isaac Randozzi made the photograph of his dentist.

One of Maxwell’s own paintings hangs below them.

San Francisco artist Mike Giant is one of Maxwell’s major influences. Here’s a framed drawing and a hand-painted skateboard deck. Maxwell and Giant will be featured in an upcoming documentary loosely based on themes from the modern relevance of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.” Here’s the trailer.

In Maxwell’s bedroom, another Mike Giant screen print hangs to the left of a painting by Randy Janson. Janson’s a familiar name; I spent a day with him last spring for an installment of my series spending a day at work with San Diegans.

(Maxwell and his girlfriend, Barnes, have attended or been involved in several of the local iterations of Keep a Breast events where artists paint body casts and sell them to benefit breast cancer research. Here’s a cast Maxwell painted a couple of years ago. And Janson painted a cast of the infamous Tila Tequila for the same year’s auction.)

Pete sprawls in front of a portrait of Maxwell as a 5-year-old, painted by a friend of Maxwell’s grandfather.

When Maxwell’s stepfather passed away last year, Maxwell searched high and low in his belongings for a ceramic Boston terrier to keep as a memento. Maxwell and his mom finally found the dog in the last box in a storage unit marked “Boston terrier sculpture — don’t throw away.” (Spot the living dog!)

A can of tuna marked “TWIST” was made for an art show by San Francisco street artist Barry McGee.

Maxwell’s girlfriend, Barnes, turned stickers into fridge magnets.

This artist’s proof of a Shepard Fairey screen print on wood is actually Maxwell, dressed as a zapatista. About a decade ago, Maxwell and his friend were putting art up on the streets in San Diego, and Fairey noticed his work. Maxwell started to stop by Fairey’s design firm, Black Market, and eventually got a job assisting Fairey for two years.

“Working with him was like my art school,” he says.

For this print, Maxwell wore a “militant shirt” and a bandana and stood near 12th Avenue and G Street to pose for the image.

Near the hallway, a Barry McGee painting, gouache on paper, hangs above one of the “winged paintings” Maxwell paints for his girlfriend every year.

Maxwell’s grandfather, Gene Allen, painted this landscape.

Allen also taught young Maxwell how to paint, stroke by stroke. Here are the first paintings he ever did.

Maxwell’s tattoos are a timeline of sorts, reminding him who he’s been at different stages of his life. His arms feature images from Fairey; Giant; another major influence, Dave Kinsey. His knuckles proclaim one of his mottos: Live Free.

Text by Kelly Bennett, photographs by Sam Hodgson. Please contact them directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org and sam.hodgson@voiceofsandiego.org. Follow them on Twitter: @kellyrbennett and @samuelhodgson.

Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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