Jamie Wineman’s artistic journey to sobriety.
He hadn’t quite hit rock bottom. But it was imminent.
On March 11, 2022, it all came to a head. Following an all-nighter in Chicago that included a concert, followed by eight-plus hours at a colleague’s music studio, whiskey, drugs and many fleeting memories, Jamie Wineman staggered out of his Uber and into his Winnetka, Illinois, home at 10 a.m. Once again, he saw his wife’s disappointment.
“I looked at myself in the mirror — literally and figuratively — and decided I was done with this B.S.,” said Wineman, 38, who grew up in Bloomfield Hills. “I hit a breaking point for myself where I knew I had to change.”
After months of post-2 a.m. texts to friends that might have doubled as calls for help, and at the behest of his therapist, Doug Tesnow, Wineman finally took action. He signed up at Brightside Recovery, an intensive, online outpatient group therapy treatment center for substance abusers.
“I had to figure out why my relationship with alcohol, chased with cocaine, had turned so sour and how I could escape these patterns. In group, we discussed deep-rooted issues along with coping skills based on the idea that substance use had made my life uncontrollable,” said Wineman, a music producer for more than 20 years and a songwriter and touring keyboardist with his electro-funk band, Ghosthouse.
Known in the music industry as “Jimmy Con,” Wineman’s songs can be heard in the Jersey Shore TV show, Magic Mike movie and commercials for Playboy, Chubbies, the University of Notre Dame and MTV programs among many other notches in the belt of a successful career.
“During COVID, the music business became absolutely decimated. I was already one foot out simply due to the fact that I was experiencing a metamorphosis into a family man,” said Wineman, whose wife of six years, Gillian, was pregnant with their son, Wolfgang, who turns 2 on Feb. 18. “My music industry lifestyle was not conducive to this new life, and I was having a rough time trying to find balance.”
LIFE IN LOCKDOWN
Until the pandemic lockdown lifted, Wineman struggled with anxiety, ADHD, depression and increased alcohol and drug use.
“I was out of control. Every day seemed like Groundhog Day. I’m a social person. I crave interaction with others. I was stuck in a vicious cycle of substances. I was taking everything to excess. Life became monotonous and I realized that, at some point, I couldn’t stop without some guidance. Everything was stagnant and there was nothing creatively to do. The world to me became a dark place and I became jaded and took a nihilist approach to the world. Simply put, I was burned out,” he said.
THE ROAD TO SOBRIETY
Two days after that fateful drug-and-alcohol bender, Wineman started his online group therapy, three times a week, for three-hour sessions coupled with homework and coping exercises.
“I dove right in and hyper-concentrated on my sobriety. Since music wasn’t doing much for me anymore — besides memories of blackouts and former successes — I wasn’t going to risk my sobriety by trying to repeat the same old stuff,” says Wineman, who switched from cocaine to two-to-three venti cold brews a day.
Three days after starting rehab, Wineman walked into a Michaels craft store in Glenview, Illinois, on a whim, looking for a new hobby. He walked out with hundreds of dollars of new oil and acrylic paints, brushes and large canvases.
“I immediately got to work. Perhaps my all-or-nothing attitude finally worked for me,” said Wineman who painted at least two large-scale, neon abstracts a day.
Having always idolized the musician Prince, it was natural for Wineman’s first painting to be an oil-based rendition of Prince’s love symbol which he sold just three weeks later to his friend and former band mate, Ian Miles, a Prince-obsessed successful guitar master.
Wineman cherishes the memories of his paternal Grandmother Connie Wineman, affectionately known to her seven grandkids as “Darzie.” She passed away in 2008 at age 90. Over Dinty Moores at Ember’s or Stage Deli, the two would regularly discuss music and the arts while Wineman tried to find his footing in the industry.
“I played the soundtrack to Prince’s Purple Rain for this funky, hip 88-year-old when I was 19,” Wineman said of his grandmother, who was a DIA docent well into her 80s. “She always appreciated me creatively and supported and cared so much about me. She was my biggest fan, and I was hers.”
Wineman knows she’s kvelling down on his next chapter as contemporary painter whose pieces are rooted in social issues, addiction, mental health and the inner child. Under his artist pseudonym “WolfGangGang,” a tribute to his then-1 year old son, Wineman has painted more than 200 works and sold 85 of them to collectors from L.A. to New York in just 10 months. In October 2022, Wineman had his first solo exhibition at the Laughlin Gallery in Highland Park, Illinois, called the Neuroplasticity Collection.
“They’re all based on the transition from substance-drenched brain to sobriety,” said Wineman. “My style is controlled chaos. It’s colorful, intuitive, messy, big, intense, loud. There’s a lot of hidden messages and knowledge that I gained over the years. There’s lots of history in my painting of things in my life that keep me going. It’s my brand of insanity.”
After the Highland Park July 4th parade mass shooting happened six months ago, just 10 minutes from where Wineman and his wife and son live, his painting style started to take on a different tone.
“It became darker and mysterious, yet playful and honest. It was important for me to be an ally to my community in which I work, play and foster these great relationships with other Jewish people. With public antisemitism running rampant in our country at a rate that we haven’t seen in decades, I strive to continue to learn about my Jewish heritage and find out what it means to live life as a Jew,” Wineman says.
DETROIT SOLO EXHIBITION HOMECOMING
Following Wineman’s great success at his solo Illinois exhibition, Metropolitan Museum of Design Detroit Founder (MM-O-DD) Leslie Ann Pilling contacted Wineman to come back to his hometown roots for a solo exhibition he calls Neuroplasticty+.
The month-long exhibition will open Saturday, Feb. 4 with an artist reception with Wineman from 6-9 p.m. The last week of the exhibition, which runs through March 4, will have an artist-in-the-round session with Wineman and live painting.
Wineman has partnered up with lifelong friends and former Cranbrook football cronies, Born and Raised Detroit Executive Director Parker Lynch and Vice President George Bibbs, to give back proceeds from the exhibition to BRAINWORXX, a pillar program of MM-O-DD that reveals the effects that art, nature and design have on mental health.
Born and Raised Detroit Foundation is an all-volunteer nonprofit that supports initiatives that contribute to building a stronger community and positive way of life for Detroit youth.
“I paint for my mental health and others. There is no point to do any of this without paying it forward,” Wineman adds. “I think I’m finally happy — at least a little more balanced and much more productive in society to where I feel like I am complete. My wife and almost-2-year-old little man are both proud of me. I changed everything by simply wanting to be better for myself and everyone around me. Life is good.”
WOLFGANGGANG (AKA JAMIE WINEMAN) EXHIBITION DETAILS
Wolfganggang (aka Jamie Wineman)
Opening Reception: 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4
Solo Exhibition runs through March 4 at Collected Detroit
905 Henry Street, 3rd Floor, Detroit, Michigan
Curated in collaboration with Metropolitan Museum of Design Detroit.
FINDING HIS JEWISH ROOTS
In 2018, after a trip to Germany with his wife, Gillian, and his father-in-law, Michael Wiescher, Wineman began to understand and embrace his Jewish heritage and ancestry.
“I felt like that was a piece missing from my life,” says Wineman, whose great- grandfather Henry Wineman, Sr. was the Jewish Welfare Federation’s first president in 1926. Henry’s father, Leopold, was one of Temple Beth El’s 12 original congregation members.
“It’s important to me to have something greater than myself, and the acceptance and love I’ve felt from my Jewish community has been incredible. I am recognizing that I am constantly trying to be a better man and live up to their values and achievements as a way to work, love and be kinder to everyone.”
Wiescher, The Frank M. Freimann Professor of Physics at the University of Notre Dame and a published historian, will release his latest book Immigrant Connections – The History of the Wineman-Flynn Families in mid-February on Amazon. The book explores more than seven generations of Jamie’s parents — John Wineman and Duffy (Jennifer) Flynn — dating back to the 16th century during the Jewish Pogroms in Dresden, Germany.
“My Jewish faith has started to take on larger part of my identity. Now the real work begins to find out what it means to be Jewish in America. I am working every day to figure that out rather than just paying lip service to those who will listen. It’s not necessarily for religious purposes, but more as a general roadmap to do better. It goes deeper than an identity for me. I need to know the why and how of everything. That’s a journey I’m proud to go on,” Wineman says.
Featured on the back cover of the book is their Charlevoix home that is now co-owned by Wineman and his two older brothers, Ben and Andy, who all attended Cranbrook, along with their aunt Connie Jacob of Franklin.
“It’s probably the most special place in the world to me and my family. It was my dad’s haven and, in turn, has become mine. My dad was my superhero, and this was his fortress of solitude,” said Wineman, whose father-in-law has visited there many times. “My father-in-law knows how special it is to us and that’s why he included it in the book. He truly is a renaissance man and the most interesting man in the world.”