The Jackson-Strong Alliance was a creative partnership between Michael Joseph Jackson and Brett-Livingstone Strong. Their aim was to establish the world's most dynamic arts enterprise, promoting the power of imagination, not just for creativity sake, but for the sake of important world causes. Michael and Brett focused their creative expression in support of the arts, children everywhere and our planet. Wherein is a brief history of the Jackson-Strong Alliance as well as Michael Jackson's little known private life as a fine artist...
The JSA art page in the
'Dangerous' tour book, 1993
In 1979 Brett-Livingstone Strong, a prolific sculptor, was introduced to Michael Joseph Jackson on two occasions by musician Lawrence Welk and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who recommended Brett's sculpting abilities to support projects for the City of Los Angeles. Thereafter Brett and Michael became friends and artist collaborators over three decades. Herein are a few details of their friendship and artistic partnership together.
Michael and Brett with the bronze
plaque that Brett created for
Michael's Burn Center in 1984
Through the 1980s Brett completed many awards, paintings, album covers, stage and set designs, sculptures, and architectural designs for Michael – including several projects for universities and hospitals. Following Michael's Pepsi commercial accident Brett created the bronze relief works for the MJ burn center and other institutions that Michael was contributing generously towards. Brett admired Michael's many drawings and early paintings, and he began encouraging Michael to create many more works of art at a much larger scale as they continued to support each other's creative efforts. By 1984 Michael had supported Brett's monumental works in Japan with Mayor Bradley for the sister city memorial sculpture in Nagoya, and Brett's official artwork for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
In 1985 Michael called Brett, as he often did – except this time instead of discussing fine art projects, Michael asked Brett a question related to being Australian, as Brett was born in a country town and raised in Sydney, and holds a green card to reside in the U.S. sponsored by none other than John Wayne. Michael asked how he should greet an Australian on the phone for the first time. Brett directed Michael to first say "g'day mate" in an Australian accent. After going over this many times together in their usual light hearted spirit, Michael felt confident to make his important introduction to Mr. Robert Holmes à Court in Perth, Western Australia. Mr. Holmes à Court owned the valuable Beatles songbook titled Northern Songs and the music publishing company ATV. Michael made the call and the trip that initiated the successful purchase of the historic music catalogs, which
Michael and Brett in
their JSA studio in 1985
today has become a multi-billion dollar asset. Michael's attorney, Mr. John Branca, arranged the purchase so Michael then traveled to Australia to meet with Mr. Holmes à Court in Perth to conclude the sale on August 10th, 1985 which was Brett's son's 4th birthday. Michael and Brett both had a good laugh about Michael's Aussie accent and the success of his venture, and had a celebration when Michael returned to the states.
Awards designed by Brett for Michael
Brett also designed stages and other special projects with Michael. Some of these early designs were influenced by Brett's Us Festival concert poster, art exhibition and stage design in 1983. Along with Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, Michael was instrumental in Brett's awarded official government sculpture commissions for the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution and other U.S. Presidential projects in 1986, 1987 and 1989 in New York City, Washington DC and Philadelphia. Michael was inspired by Brett's patriotic monuments, and with the encouragement of Brett and Chief Justice Burger, Michael began creating several portraits of U.S. Presidents to celebrate the Bicentennial of the U.S. Presidency. At that time Chief Justice Burger was the Commissioner of the Bicentennial of the U.S. Presidency as well as an avid artist, and officially endorsed Michael's portraits of the Presidents and their First Ladies in 1988.
Initially Michael focused his attention on the early U.S. Presidents. Brett made the special paper for Michael and for the White House, with embossing of the Presidential Seal in gold foil on each large archival sheet. When Chief Justice Burger died, Michael's hope to have his presidential portraits exhibited in the White House for the bicentennial celebration also ended. Michael eventually completed twenty five Presidential works of art including eight masterworks of President Abraham Lincoln, four of President Washington, portraits of President Kennedy, President Reagan and many other historic Presidential compositions. Also in 1987, President Reagan honored celebrities Bob Hope, Jimmy Stewart, Muhammad Ali and Brett with the American Spirit of Freedom Award, along with California Governor George Deukmejian. Michael celebrated the event with them all and later drew a small portrait of the award recipients to honor them further.
Brett and Michael being honored
by President Ronald Reagan
Brett and Michael also worked together in Sydney for the 1988 Australian Bicentennial which was sponsored by the Australian government and commemorated by Prince Charles. Both Brett and Michael were honored on separate occasions by the U.S. Presidency and British Royalty. Brett was honored with his Presidential commission from President Ronald Reagan for the U.S. Presidency Monument in 1989, and the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution Monument in 1987, which President Reagan unveiled and dedicated with Brett at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on September 17, 1987. Michael was also honored for his achievements following "Thriller" with a special Presidential White House tribute by President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan on May 14, 1984. Michael stayed over night at the White House in President Lincoln's bedroom, which inspired him to create his Lincoln portraits and his work of art titled "White House Doors". In "White House Doors" Michael included his version of the quote below by President Adams, to which Michael added two of his own words, and spoke about having this statement placed above the front doors of the White House and dedicated on Presidents Day.
"I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house, and all that shall hereafter inhabit it may none but honest and wise men [or women] ever rule under this roof."
- President John Adams, November 1800
- Amendment by Michael Joseph Jackson, January 20, 1990
Brett and Michael at Independence Hall
and the White House with
President Ronald Reagan
President John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail these great words upon their moving into the White House in 1800. Then in 1944 President Franklin Roosevelt ordered their engraving into the stone fireplace mantle in the State Dining Room. Michael learned of the history behind this quote when he stayed in the White House and was immediately inspired. He altered the quote by adding the words "or women" after "wise men", in a clear advocacy of a woman president in the future. Michael had this quote carved in marble and planned to personally present it to the President on a future Presidents Day, to be placed above the front entrance to the White House, as depicted in his master work of art, "White House Doors".
'The White House Doors'
created by Michael
Jackson in 1988
Brett's commission of the official Royal opening invitation for the Sydney Opera House by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in 1973 had influenced Michael's respect for Brett, as Michael had met the Queen just the previous year in 1972. Michael also admired Brett's portrait for Princess Diana in 1986 and his portrait for Prince Charles unveiled in 1988. Additionally in 1987 Brett's portrait of Dr. Armand Hammer was unveiled by Mayor Bradley in Los Angeles, giving Brett additional public acclaim, and lead to Michael wanting Brett to paint his official portrait. At the same time Brett also encouraged Michael to create several of his own self-portraits for his fans which Michael went on to do so a short while later. In late 1989 Brett received the album cover of the decade award for Fleetwood Mac's "Tango in the Night", which he and Michael celebrated at their art studio property in Pacific Palisades that the two purchased together earlier that year. During this period Brett's creation of the sculpture for his "World Friendship Monument" for Moscow and various artworks for Michael's "We are the World" projects were completed; and Michael began creating several of his abstract sculptures. One of his early sculptures, which has survived for many years, is titled "2B or not 2B".
Michael's marble carving
for the White House
During 1987 and 1988 Michael created his original tribute works of art titled "The White House Doors", commemorating his visit to the White House, and a work titled 'We the People' in commemoration of the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution and the upcoming Bicentennial of the U.S. Presidency. This early patriotic work of art was created by Michael in 1987 on paper made by Brett in their culver city studio in front of the near complete 27 ton United States Presidency Monument while several of Michael's employees and friends observed and recorded his creation process with photographers and video. The artwork was initially displayed in the official White House Bicentennial of the Presidency commemorative book, and following the Bicentennial it was removed and sat in storage for over 20 years. Other masterworks of art by Michael include all of his U.S. Presidential portraits with subjects such as Presidents Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Kennedy and other portraits of historic icons including General Custer, Sitting Bull, Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; several of which are considered Michael's greatest masterpieces. Michael was also inspired by British Royalty, using cues from garments, architecture and royal seals in everything from his stage designs to his personal clothing. Michael met with Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace in 1973, and later commemorated the event with his work titled "Buckingham Palace Gates".
An official JSA promotional photograph
of Michael and Brett at Michael's desk
where the two would often discuss
their art projects.
Early in 1989 Michael and Brett agreed to create a fine art partnership called the Jackson-Strong Alliance ("JSA"). This agreement was formed by Michael's trusted attorney, Mr. Branca, who was very helpful and supportive to both Michael and Brett throughout their partnership. To commemorate the partnership Michael sat for a portrait by Brett, and later that year they sold the original to a Japanese business man, Mr. Saike, for $2.1 million USD. A major press release and public media unveiling at the Beverly Hills Hilton covered this event, as well as Michael receiving the 'Entertainer of the Decade' Award, which Brett designed and made for this occasion. Photographers for MJJ productions recorded these events with photos and video as well as Michael's signing of his fine art JSA collector prints with Brett. This portrait became the official painting Michael sat for, and in turn, upon Brett's request Michael created a portrait of Brett.
Michael creating one of his first
JSA works of art, 1988
During 1988 and 1989 Michael created his first official JSA originals – starting with abstract landscape and sculpture designs – using wax pencils and oil pastels, of red and blue shades; several of which were created on the custom made Presidential paper that Brett had produced in France in the mid 80s for the White House commemorative Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution in 1987 and for Michael's official Bicentennial of the U.S. Presidency portraits to be exhibited following the Bicentennial celebration in 1989. Some of the first photos and videos of Michael creating on this special paper was taken with Brett and Mr. Bill Bray, who was the executive director of MJJ Productions and Michael's Office of Special Services and Security for many years, along with other MJJ employees seen in some of the photos. Also shown in the photos is Michael holding one of his special feather-capped wax pencils he often used for presentation photos and videos to create the art along with his cotton work gloves. In this 1987 photo he is shown creating and signing his original art on the custom made Presidential archival paper which included the special JSA security mark. Soon thereafter Michael started creating his first large paper and sculpture works in their Culver City studio.
Young Michael showing one of
his works of art
Michael loved to draw while listening to music – everything from classical to jazz and rock – he would relax with his focus on creation and talk to Brett about many historic artists he admired such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Van Gough, Monet, Pollack and Michael's friend Andy Warhol. Brett felt all of Michael's worries were pushed aside during these passionate times of drawing, painting and sculpting, as he needed an outlet to relax; disconnected from other parts of his life.
After the JSA partnership agreement in 1989, Michael started creating a series of original works of art in their JSA studio in several hangars at the Santa Monica airport, as well as in their Pacific Palisades studio house, where Michael completed many of his fine art portraits in the early 1990s on the custom made JSA embossed archival paper, which included Michael's embossed signature and dancing shoes logo. Many VIPs visited the JSA hangar studio. For example, Michael arranged for he and Mr. Steve Wynn to arrive in Steve's jet to visit and view Brett's completed 27 ton U.S. Presidency Monument and a few of Michael's special large works of art, as Michael was proud to show off his latest creations from time to time. Michael desired to exhibit his works of art together with Brett's sculpture works as well as sell limited editions to support various children's charities and fund Michael's Neverland sculptures designed by both of them. One of the charities was the Big Brothers of Los Angeles organization – supporting fatherless children, which was formed by Walt Disney in 1955. Michael admired Walt Disney and created his portrait of Walt which Michael panned to gift to Walt's wife Lillian, but was unable to before her passing. Both Michael and Brett were honored by Walt's charity and became honorary board members in 1992. They were also honored with an official photograph of them with Mrs. Lillian Disney (Walt Disney's wife) and Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney at the time. Michael and Brett agreed, at that time, to provide a share of their fine art limited editions already published by Brett as well as a few new works by Michael to this charity and others immediately following their proposed publishing. Big Brothers and Mr. Michael Eisner gave Brett and Michael the valuable gift of a historic rocking chair created for President J.F. Kennedy by Mr. Lawrence J. Arata, who worked for President Kennedy and previously made the exact chair for the President's use in the White House. This chair, engraved with a brass plaque, inspired Michael and sparked his interest in collecting unusual chairs and to create his 'Happy Chair' works of art series, which includes Michael's work depicting the historic chair used by President George Washington in Independence Hall. This also inspired Brett and Michael to have JSA publish a signed limited edition and special book to showcase Michael's unique and growing original art collection in addition to his childhood works of art, including his Charlie Chaplin series.
In 1990 Michael and Brett started creating two fine art collections. One Michael titled his "Magical Works" – comprising of landscapes, seascapes, sculpture designs and his MJJ logo. Many of these were created in their Pacific Palisades studio where Michael was always enthusiastic to create. He often worked late into the night and the early mornings masterfully perfecting each of his cherished works of art, and when finished, stayed in his own bedroom there. Brett's collection was titled "The Artist's Formula" based on the portraits of some of the world's most prolific artists. For "The Artist's Formula" collection, Michael purchased antique books that were published when those historic artists were alive. One portrait was of Michelangelo for which Michael purchased a book published in the 1500s in Florence where Michelangelo lived at that time. From this book Brett had taken an unprinted 500 year old page upon which he created his portrait of Michelangelo. Michael then shaded the portrait in purple. Over the three following years Brett completed many portraits which Bill Bray framed for Michael and had displayed in Michael's home. This collection was to be published as fine art prints signed by both Michael and Brett. Brett also worked to publish a book titled "The Artist's Formula" with the significant endorsement of many major international museums that he acquired in the early 80s. This book, though near completion in the 90s, still awaits a time to be finally published to showcase both Michael and Brett's respective and collaborated JSA art along with a selection of works by the historic artists that inspired them. Michael and Brett decided to initially complete twenty two original contemporary works of their art on the JSA embossed archival paper. Eventually, over the years, approximately 170 separate custom paper sheets were created on by Michael. He used both sides of about two dozen of the works because the custom made blank sheets were limited. A few works were also left by Michael unfinished and unsigned. 100 of these sheets, representing 120 original works, have survived over the years in different locations and in different hands and are now in the JSA studio along with a few other personal JSA works of art. The rest have either been given away as gifts by Michael, misplaced, stored in Michael's homes, or destroyed by Michael when he was not pleased with them. Michael's original JSA fine art collections include the 'Historic Works', which consists of his compositions of the Statue of David, the Getty Bronze and several others such as his tribute to the historic first flights of the Wright Brothers, which he hoped would be popular amongst the aviation industry in the area of their airport studio. Michael often left voice messages for Brett about his interest in the art projects, particularly the Michelangelo inspired works. Michael also wrote and left recorded quotes about Michelangelo and others for Brett to help inspire them both as they created, which are still in the studio to this day.
Other collections include 'The Electric Past and Future Happy Chairs, Doors and Gates'. The sketches of these artworks were conceived by Michael as he documented them in his book of creations and lyrics where he wrote and sketched in the 80s and 90s, and from which Brett helped transcribe Michael's designs to assist Michael in creating his original works of art. This book of Michael's ideas was called "The Book" by Michael and Brett, and was later portrayed in the official Michael Jackson portrait titled "The Book". This title was also embossed on the custom made paper especially for Michael's original art. In this painting the actual book is depicted at Neverland Ranch on Michael's lap. The leather bound book has one of Michael's magic keys on it's cover. The key also become a subject of Michael's original works in 1991. During this year Brett was working with Michael on his Dangerous Album cover design and organizing the exhibition of the JSA originals at their Santa Monica airport hangar studios. On the various MJJ concert tours Brett encouraged Michael to create many other original works of art, including watercolor paintings while on the Dangerous Tour. Brett set up Michael's London painting studio in which Michael completed several works in 1992 and gave them to his Royal and VIP guests who visited with Michael before his concert performances.
During 1990 and 1991 Brett again toured the world and represented Michael in Japan for a major tribute event honoring Michael. Brett also visited Israel to view historic sites, and later traveled to Moscow to view a site for the world Friendship Monument celebrating the nuclear disarmament treaty, which led to Brett and Michael designing several stage and performance outfits influenced by Imperial Russian history. During 1992 and 1993 Michael and Brett collaborated on several designs for the "Heal the World" logo and album cover. On one occasion Michael visited the JSA studio, where at the time they were storing President Roosevelt's official touring convertible limousine depicting the Presidential seal on it's doors, Michael's photographer documented this car in the studio and took several photos of Brett and Michael with their original works of art as well as with the historic vehicle.
Brett went on to present several of the designs for the original album cover concept for "Dangerous", centering around Brett's concept and portrait of Michael's eyes, with the final art produced by the record company. The 1992 and 1993 Dangerous Tour Book depicted a full page promoting the Jackson-Strong Alliance artistic partnership to inform the fans and general public worldwide that museum art exhibits and the subsequent publishing of Michael's original fine art and Brett's sculptural works was forthcoming. One of the tour book page designs also displayed one of Michael's favorite original works of art, titled "Electric Key".
By late 1992 Brett and Michael toured many European monuments that inspired Michael to want Brett to create three major public monuments of royal stature to celebrate Michael's interest in the arts and incorporate Michael's requested 20 foot tall statue in a cathedral that his fans could get married in; as well as generate additional funding for charities and for JSA to also create a series of ten large scale sculptures for Michael's Neverland Ranch. The large scale sculpture and its cathedral is now planned as Michael official memorial monument. These sculptures were based on Disney characters originally drawn by Brett with Michael's collaboration in 1992 and 1993 and authorized by the Disney Company through CEO Mr. Michael Eisner and The Big Brothers of Los Angeles Foundation, who were to benefit from the proposed bronze sculpture limited editions. Michael, enthusiastic to commence the Disney projects, also sketched and created several of these Disney drawings in the JSA studio, which he had framed and presented as gifts, two of which, in the collection, are titled "Peter Pan's Neverland Gate" and "Baseball Mickey".
During the London Dangerous shows, Michael created his ideas and sketches for his Electronic Door and Chair Series of fine art compositions influenced by designs from the 18th and 19th centuries. Through 1993 Brett further assisted Michael in completing over fifty originals that were finally ready for publication by 1996. After the JSA contract term ended many of the originals were kept by Michael and friends, several of which were put aside for framing by Michael in 2008, with the balance of the collection mutually agreed to be left for Brett to exhibit, publish and promote Michael's fine art following his London concerts into the future.
Following Brett's personal introduction of Lisa-Marie Presley to Michael in their Pacific Palisades studio in 1992 in regards to a recording contract, Michael and Lisa wed in a private ceremony in the Bahamas. The very first photograph of Michael and Lisa was taken by Brett's wife, Margot Strong, in the Pacific Palisades property which recorded their first meeting. Priscilla Presley, Lisa-Marie's mother, who had been friends with Brett since 1978, came to Brett's home to discuss the news of their marriage. Shortly after Michael and Lisa's wedding, Michael's name was publicly damaged worldwide by certain false charges, which halted the planned exhibition and publishing on Michael's art. After early 1994 and the following years, the negative publicity completely deterred galleries, fine art publishers and JSA investors (such as Moross Fine Art Publishing, Big Brothers of Los Angeles and Disney) from funding the publishing of both their JSA originals and Michael's originals. Many of the charities who had expressed interest in exhibiting and selling the art declined to do so. Now that over 75 great original sheets of art were finally completed by Michael and ready for exhibition, and the limited editions were ready for printing and marketing in 1994 and 1995, there was little interest and no available funding for the art collection in connection with Michael.
During 1994 to early 1996 Brett completed three original master oil-on-board paintings featuring Michael. Two of these works honored Michael's marriage to Lisa-Marie Presley in 1994, which followed Brett's introduction of the two. One of these paintings, titled 'Friends', portraying a magical setting of both Michael and Lisa-Marie, was unfortunately stolen and reported to the police but still hasn't been recovered to this day. One of the other two paintings, titled 'The Stream, An Unfinished Life', is still in Brett's possession. Michael created a poem to go with 'The Stream, An Unfinished Life', a story about a young woman he loved. This was inspired by Michael's interest in two works of art created by the great 19th century painter, Waterhouse, who Michael admired and asked Brett to recreate in Brett's painting, portraying Michael's life envisioned in the 17th century. The other large painting requested by Michael, also influenced by Waterhouse, includes a portrait of Lisa Marie Presley Jackson. In 1996 a Japanese company offered $6 million to purchase this work, to be unveiled by Michael and Lisa Marie. Michael agreed to unveil this painting at the home of Brett's friend, Mr. John Paul De Joria, owner of Paul Mitchell Systems and Patron Tequila, in Malibu to celebrate Michael and this major art sale. Unfortunately the week prior to the unveiling Lisa-Marie announced her plans to divorce Michael, which halted the sale and it's unveiling. Several years later Michael and Brett planned to exhibit these paintings and Michael's art collection in Beverly Hills, Las Vegas and New York. From 2002 Michael completed additional works of art including a few large watercolor works which he thought could be exhibited in a Las Vegas casino. Unfortunately none of these exhibits ever came to fruition, due to Michael's legal problems at the time.
By 2007, after many years of unfortunate issues surrounding Michael, Brett proudly exhibited some of Michael's beautiful originals to celebrate his acquittal of all charges at their private Santa Monica studio. Brett had discussed with Michael, following his return from the middle east, their long awaited opportunity to finally exhibit the art in galleries and hopefully a museum, as well as publish the two books of their respective JSA creations, including a bronze sculpture series of Michael's 'Magical Works'. During that time Brett requested and received a document with specific written approval from Michael and his manager for Brett to show to galleries, acknowledging Michael's agreement and approval for Brett to arrange the exhibitions of Michael's art with permission for Brett to allow galleries to exhibit Michael's name, photos and signature in association with his art to promote the exhibitions. Also in 2008 Michael requested Brett to prepare the production of limited edition prints from many of his favorite originals. Following the period of Michael's 'This Is It' London concerts agreement, arranged by Michael's manager, Dr. Tohme, Brett began working on scheduling Michael's art exhibits.
During Michael's last visits with Brett, Michael completed some of his watercolors, his 'Seven' series as well as other unfinished works. 'Seven' has always been significant to Michael and appears in many of his artistic works. Michael is the seventh child, his first and last names each contain 7 letters, and he and his mother felt the number seven was a special positive sign and a symbol of a blessing. The number 7 also appears on the entrance to the studio where Michael created many of his works. Michael enthusiastically agreed to support the promotion of his art and be present at a proposed Las Vegas and Los Angeles exhibition openings of his 'MJ Creations' exhibit with Brett in 2009 and 2010. These exhibits did not eventuate due to Michael's tragic and untimely death. Michael's mother, Katherine is currently working together with Brett regarding future exhibition dates and the creation of Michael's memorial monument, wedding chapel and art center to finally honor Michael's artistic legacy and creative genius.
Over the years several official JSA portrait photos of Michael and Brett together were taken. Michael's mother, his children and other family members are enthusiastic to promote Michael's artistic legacy with Brett and support his creation of Michael's monument. Michael's family and trustees of his estate have all visited the JSA studio to view Michael's art in the past and recently viewed the proposed plans and model for Michael's official memorial monument, which incorporates a monumental 20 foot tall statue of Michael that he asked Brett in writing to create years ago. The memorial monument is proposed to be funded by the publishing of Michael's fine art collection. Following Michael's private funeral on September 3rd, which Brett attended, Mrs. Jackson approved and encouraged Brett to commence the creation of the official Michael Joseph Jackson Memorial monument, as Michael had originally designed with Brett, which was inspired by the Prince Albert Monument in London that Michael and Brett visited together with Bill Bray in the early 1990s. Brett has committed to exhibiting the majority of Michael's art intact as a museum collection which Michael envisioned and desired, promoting his great artistic ability for the enjoyment of his many fans. He is also dedicated to completing Michael's monument at no expense to the Jackson family or Michael's estate, and hopes the monument will support various children's charities and properly honor his dear friend Michael, his lasting memory, extraordinary life and wonderful creative talents that have touched millions of his fans around the globe and will continue to inspire millions more into the future.