Cleaning the Funhouse Panels

John Mosbaugh
3 min readOct 11, 2022


Back from the playa for sure now. We dusted off our playa gear as best we could and now we’re ready for the frozen wet San Francisco Sunset winter. We cleaned and organized everything in the house, the house that is bursting at the seams with the Bird and mine creative insanity.

Friday night I really wanted those Funhouse panels out of the basement because I wanted people to be able to see them at the party, but mostly I wanted them dealt with because of the rank polyethylene, almost fresh diaper smell of their plastic wrapping. I decided to clean them so Jenny could hang upstairs and relax and listen to Flamenco on the RCA Victor and chill.

I started off with a production mindset. Just get it done. Cut off the hated stinking plastic wrap using scissors that slid through the dusty stuff, then I’d flip the painting on its face and first use compressed air to blow out playa from the frame. Then I used tacky cloth on the back since that hadn’t been treated and water would warp it.

Then I flipped the 4x8 panel over and with a moist towel barely wetted with 2% vinegar and water, I’d wipe the playa dust off the front. I was covered with playa dust within minutes.

I did “Miss Direction” first and her colors jumped out at me with every long rotational swipe of that vinegar cloth. Then I did “Separated at Birth”. There were some nicks on the panels, but nothing too bad. The bottoms were pretty grungy.

As I wiped the thin yellowish gray dust off, I felt like I was bringing them to life again. The colors turned lucid. I became transfixed on them, watching eyes and limbs glowing. It hit me that 35,000 people had walked through these things. These paintings I’d lived with for four months before the playa, the paintings that I was ready to be done with, the paintings that seem to have taken on the vibrations of all those people and that Funhouse beneath the man, lay out before me like mad Tarot cards, whispering, “If you’d only seen what we saw that week…”

It was then that time fell away and my production drive became a loving process of watching each panel reveal itself. There were goosebumps. There was wonder, as if these paintings had somehow been baptized out there on the playa.

“No Escape Artist” freaked me out a little when I cleaned the dust off the maniacal bits. “Raving Mad” spoke to me when I cleaned its face.

For those who say, “Why didn’t they BURN everything beneath the MAN???? I MISS THE OLD DAYS when they burned everything” I say, we’ve never burned this kind of art. There is definitely something that happens to the art in there, something living that happens to it, some possession that enters those pieces.

At the risk of sounding like a damn hippie, now we can bring that back and continue with the vibrational thing.

Yes, the hay bales were cool. Maybe one day we’ll have a retro man and only 10,000 people will show up and no one will get there early for seats and we’ll all go out to the man in processions and the city will come alive that night and we’ll all scream when he goes up and then we’ll run hugging and jumping and falling down and fucking with mad abandon when the man goes up in flames.


But until then, this weird gallery that is evolving inside the ManBase seems to be working just fine.