Vulnerable, loving and lawless, Jonathan Lyndon Chase’s book, ‘Wild Wild Wild West / Haunting of the Seahorse’

Welcome Corey Qureshi, new Artblog contributor! As their first post, they pen a poetic review of Philly favorite Jonathan Lyndon Chase's new book, "Wild Wild Wild West / Haunting of the Seahorse." Their precise yet delicate language is a perfect match for Jonathan's vulnerable, time-traveling, genre-bending book.

Cover, "Wild Wild Wild West / The Haunting of The Seahorse" by Jonathan Lyndon Chase.
Jonathan Lyndon Chase, “Wild Wild Wild West / Haunting of The Seahorse” Capricious Publishing, 2020. $40. Courtesy the artist and Capricious Publishing.

Grief and desire are two, time-traveling emotions. One reflects on what’s lost, while the other hopes for positive future moments. In Jonathan Lyndon Chase‘s new book Wild Wild Wild West / Haunting of The Seahorse, two poetic and visually layered narratives are dominated by these temporal feelings.

Flip through this book and you’ll see things like unicorns, plant filled space stations, crosses, computers and technology, UFOs, Missy Elliot, ten gallon hats and lassos. There’s a lot of sex, love and sadness. This coupled with a generally contemplative emotional perspective on the nature of relationships can take the reader’s mind through their own pasts and futures.

Wild Wild Wild West is overtly an homage to Chase’s late grandmother. Handwritten poems by the artist comment on and exist within dozens of scanned images of Jonathan’s life and art. Designer Jermone Harris’s curation of the materials helps Chase’s interdisciplinary skills shine as they reflect on their relationship with their grandmother. Grief is filtered through a shared love of Westerns, with queer Black cowboys and unicorns riding through pages and stages of sadness.

Motif-heavy visuals show up in different mediums: beautiful watercolors, many pieces of paper cropped (sometimes literally cut) to show drawings and writings done in marker and ink, scanned polaroids, more modern photos, collages made of screenshots and various cutout bits. The effect is exciting in a way that invites you to spend time flipping through again and again, your impression of the book always slightly changing.

Drawing of a male bodied person riding a unicorn in front of a purple field.
Artwork from “Wild Wild Wild West / Haunting of The Seahorse” by Jonathon Lyndon Chase. Courtesy Jonathon Lyndon Chase and Capricious Publishing.

Less autobiographical, Haunting of The Seahorse takes you to outer space. Love is still a dominating presence, but the focus of it shifts more towards romance and family-building instead of mourning. A married and expecting couple takes up an artistic residency in a terrarium / aquarium out in the cosmos. The mixed media collage of experience leads the story and reader through Issac and Ha’keem’s pregnancy (and haunting by mysterious spirits) in space. Wild Wild Wild West definitely had its intimate moments, but Seahorse basks in them. The sexuality is thick and nearly tangible. The lovers are isolated together, vulnerable and forging into unknown parts of their lives.

There are no hard rules in Chase’s universe. Spellings and speakers often shift, and as mentioned earlier mediums change in a moment’s notice. Though the presentation is similar, Wild West and Seahorse’s storytelling styles are different. The former, with its threads of overt poetry leads you more by the mood, while the latter is driven by its story. In both cases, Jonathan warps two time-traveling genres (Sci Fi and Westerns) with their wonderful visions.

On top of all the ideas going on, the book itself is a beautiful art object. The clear plastic dust jacket gives the book a rubbery feel to the touch. There are two front covers — one per story, each printed on their own type of paper. You could argue most of the pages are standalone pieces. With that in mind, you could flip through without commitment and still have some type of a moment with this book. Find a copy and check it out for yourself!

Wild Wild Wild West / Haunting of The Seahorse” by Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Capricious Publishing, 2020. Buy it now for $40.

You can see Jonathan Lyndon Chase’s solo show, “Wind Rider” on display at Company Gallery, 73 Allen Street, 3rd Floor, New York, New York 10002. On view September 9– November 21, 2020.

You can learn more about Capricious Publishing here.
Find more out about Jonathan Lyndon Chase here.
Listen to Roberta’s 2017 podcast interview with Jonathan.


Corey Qureshi (they/them) is a writer, musician, and parent based in Philadelphia. They work at an LGBTQ+ center and freelance as a journalist. They’re the creator of the poetry mag / chapbook series PHOSPHENES. You can find other reviews, poems, and fictions by them here.