space: eight gallery prepares for the visual onslaught of Art Dorks RiseNortheast Florida art lovers, brace thineselves! The 30 person-strong group known as the Art Dorks are invading St. Augustine’s space: eight gallery with their upcoming show, Art Dorks Rise.
The line-up for this exhibit of original work is an impressive regime of visual artists that includes Aeron Alfrey, Dan Barry, John Casey, David Chung, Brendan Danielsson, Justin DeGarmo, Mark Elliott, Jad Fair, Joseph Daniel Fiedler, Charles Glaubitz, Robert Hardgrave, Gregory Hergert, Gregory Jacobsen, Jonnie Jacquet, Colin Johnson, Jason Limon, Jon MacNair, Dan May, Christian Rex van Minnen, Chris Mostyn, Heiko Müller, Jason Murphy, Katie Ridley Murphy, Kristian Olson, Matthew Pasquarello, Anthony Pontius, Meagan Ridley, Kim Scott, Scot Sothern and Scott D. Wilson.
Individually and collectively, the Art Dorks work in a variety of media ranging from illustration and painting to photography and mixed-media. Some are highly trained with extensive academic backgrounds; others are purely self-taught. And their work is just as diverse, with imagery and concepts that exist on the outer terrain of contemporary art. Bizarre, humorous, poignant, brilliant and even baffling, the Art Dorks strength lies not only in the numbers of their ranks but also in their respective array of vision and approach to present-day art. A link featuring bios and images of their work can also be found here.
As an experiment in hypomanic blogographic arts inquiry™, I am attempted to briefly interview all of the Art Dorks and post their responses and work episodically as they come in. Whether this attempt was a successful feature boasting the views and pieces of dozens of artists or a withering flap of slap happy hubris remains to be seen.
Ultimately, the following post currently features interviews with 20 of the Art Dorks. So since that is two-thirds of pure Art Dorkage, I will deem this experiment a success.
I kicked off the series below with interviews of space: eight owner Rob DePiazza and Art Dorks founder Brendan Danielsson.
Art Dorks Rise is on display through Nov. 30. at space: eight gallery, 228 W. King St. in St, Augustine. The contact number for the gallery is 904 829-2838.
Starehouse: Why did you choose to bring the Art Dorks Rise show to space: eight gallery?
Rob DePiazza: It all started when I saw Brendan Danielsson’s work in Hi-Fructose Magazine. I immediately was drawn to it. Brilliant! In the interview it was revealed that Brendan resided in Atlanta and having an interest in showing as much art from the region as possible, I got in touch with Attaboy (Daniel Seifert), Hi-Fructose co-owner along with Annie Owens, both of whom I had done shows with in the past, to get Brendan’s contact info. So started the process of talking about doing at show at then named ‘The Gallery at Screen Arts’. Shortly after the talks we closed the gallery due to construction but Brendan remained at the top of the list knowing someday I’d reopen the gallery. Once I made the commitment to do so in November 2011, I reestablished communication with him and set a tentative date. So what began as a solo exhibition evolved after several months to a small group show with three other artists and a few months later Brendan pitched the idea of making it an Art Dorks reunion show – Art Dorks Rise – a collective Brendan started in 2004 – that features 30 artists from around the country and outside as well.
S: What are some of the qualities of the work about this particular do you find compelling?
R.D.: The most compelling aspect of this show is the diversity of styles and of course the amazing work and stature of each artist. The collective is a veritable who’s who in new contemporary art.
S: This show seems like a culmination of several shows you have had over the years, yet this is undoubtedly the largest, with 30 artists showing original work. What have been some of the logistical or curatorial issues in getting this off the ground?
R.D.: Brendan has been working behind the scenes to wrangle everyone into action. I’m handling the usual pre-show planning and production. We’ve printed 5000 Art Dorks sticker invites for distribution and are printing show posters shortly. We’re doing everything we can to bring out the Northeast Florida art community and folks who appreciate art in general. With everything happening in the Jax art scene these days, getting people to the shows has been a task in itself.
S: What can local art lovers expect from the Art Dorks Rise opening reception experience?
R.D.: We’re working on some ideas to make it a really special evening but since a few things aren’t nailed down mum’s the word for now.
Starehouse: The first Art Dorks gallery show was seemingly in 2004 at the Art Farm in Atlanta; Art Dorks Rise at space: eight gallery will be the seventh show for the Art Dorks. Has there been a theme to each of these shows or is it really about showing each chosen artist’s current work?
Brendan Danielsson: That first show here in Atlanta, at the Art Farm, was actually more of a local artists thing and less of what eventually grew out of the Art Dorks website. But it was sort of the beginning of some of us local Art Dorks wanting to exhibit art and attaching the Art Dorks name it. There’s no theme for this show. As far as the rest of the shows, though, only a couple of them had any sort of theme. Those were shows that required the art to be in a square format and one of the shows the piece had to be 5 x 5 inches. In general, I’m in favor of an open theme show. I think giving the artist complete freedom allows them to do what they do best without guidelines. Themed shows offers up a different kind of challenge that I sometimes enjoy, but for the Art Dorks shows, I just like to keep it open.
S: What was your original impetus in gathering a collective of artists?
B.D.: It wasn’t really my impetus. It just sort of happened on its own. But I did create the original website that resulted in the gathering of artists. Several of us on the old forums started talking about how to get into shows. Some of us hadn’t really been in many shows while others had shown quite a bit. A couple of the more established artists started getting some things lined up for us as a group. I think Travis Louie got us our first real show at a gallery in New Haven, Connecticut.
S: What is your criterion in inviting certain artists? What qualifications are needed to be considered a bona fide Art Dork?
B.D.: No real criteria other than they’ve created interesting work. Most of the artists in our group, including newer members, have already exhibited together in other group shows. And most of us are somewhat connected together online. What happened on the old Art Dorks website continues to happen on all the other various sites like Facebook, Flickr, and Tumblr, whatever… where likeminded artists attract each other. It’s a natural gathering that happens in any group online. So it was just a matter of asking a few of our favorite artists to participate in this new show.
S: In your own work, you seem to celebrate the grotesque. While some of this appears to be based on humor, do you feel a kind of a kinship or even sense of compassion for these people that you portray?
B.D.: I like things that are different. Maybe I get bored easily so I add in all the grotesque elements as details and attention getting devices. And they are things that are amusing to me. It’s like when you’re doodling something in school to show your friend to see if you can make him laugh.
As far as the characters themselves, I see them as existing in a world where they are considered normal, not ugly or grotesque. I like to think of them as being happy even if their expression doesn’t reflect so. They may appear (to us) to have gone through a struggle or may be living with an abnormality, but they are all that way. That’s life in their world and they are none the wiser. And I guess I feel a certain kinship for them because I’m their creator. But then again, they’re not real. But you know, people always want to know what the characters are thinking or feeling. But to be honest, I just draw and let them become what they want to be. I don’t put a lot of thought into what they are thinking or feeling. I can make up a story and tell it to you or the viewer can make up their own. Either way, it makes no difference really.
S: You use oil on linen for your recent paintings and it seems as if you also use Old Masters painting techniques like underpainting and layering as well. Do you use that media and methods to counter balance the imagery in the composition?
B.D.: I only wish I knew the techniques that the Old Masters used – then maybe I’d know what the hell it is that I’m doing. Painting has always been a struggle for me. When I’m painting, I feel as though I’m running down a hill, completely out of control, trying not to eat shit too hard and hoping to make it to the bottom in one piece. My technique is the I’m-learning-how-to-paint-all-over-again-technique…. every single painting. So I try and keep my subject matter and compositions simple for now. But I hope one day, as I get more paintings under my belt, the pieces will grow in complexity.
S: It also seems as if your work touches more on something like Goya’s “Yard with Lunatics” than it does comic books or other typical influences of our generation. Can you recall seeing certain pieces of art from your childhood or youth that kind of helped later “flip the switch” in your direction and approach?
B.D.: Not any specific pieces that I recall… The largest influence for me in my drawing technique comes from one of my first drawing instructors, Zhi Lin, at Missouri State University. He was a great instructor and an amazing artist. His drawing technique was awesome and I just remember being blown away at how well the figures were rendered in his work. He also didn’t beat around the bush when critiquing the work. He once said to a student in class, “Your drawing is so bad it makes me want to kill myself!” Here’s an interview I found with him.
S: Where do you think are some of the best places to “ugly people watch”? Grocery Stores? Any number of banks? Beauty Salons and Barbershops? Zealot-driven Religious Institutions? City Council Meetings? Agricultural Fairs?
B.D.: Wal-Mart, the dog track, and C-SPAN.
S: The world of the 21st century seems to grow smaller every day. In your travels and day-to-day affairs, have you ever encountered any real-life doppelgangers that resemble any of the people from your paintings?
B.D.: Yeah, I have seen people with strange growths and what not. I feel bad for them… especially when it looks like something that could easily be removed, but maybe they just don’t have the money…. or maybe they simply don’t care.
S: Do you have any special message to the art lovers of Northeast Florida from the Art Dorks?
B.D.: Yes. Come join us for the opening! October 4th. It’s going to be a great show.
Check out more of Brendan Danielsson’s work here: http://bdanielsson.com/
Joseph Daniel Fiedler aka ScaryjoeyStarehouse: How long have you been an Art Dork? How did you become an Art Dork? Was it by invitation or was there some arcane, unspeakable, initiation ceremony?
Joseph Daniel Fiedler: Since 2004-5 or so. It happened through former member Chris Ryniak inviting David Chung who was my student at the time at The College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, who in turn invited me. I think.
S: What is the title of this piece for “Art Dorks Rise” and what are the media used and what are the dimensions?
J.D.F.: Ballet Militaires, acrylic and pencil on Stonehenge paper, 27 X 35.5 inches.
S: You have had a decades-long career as both a commercial illustrator and visual artist. I am curious if you approach each of these with two separate approaches or even mindsets?
J.D.F.: Yes and no. I would hope that one’s signature artistic style would hold its own in any case but the rigors of assignment work often involve a somewhat different process since there are other people involved such as Art Directors and Editors, etc… so it becomes more of a collaboration in many cases. That can result in taking directions that I might not have if I were working alone. Additionally, I rarely use a continuously painted single piece of art in my illustration work these days preferring to scan handmade sketches/images and manipulating them in Photoshop. It’s a lot more conducive to my sanity that way and I thoroughly enjoy that process. Prior, I made oil paintings for illustration and a steady diet of those for weekly and monthly publications can drive one quite insane.
S: Some of your work seems to use layers of imagery almost in the way that a print-maker, particularly a screen-print artist, will “build up” a piece. Do you think that you do this to deliver a narrative and storyline or are they more akin to something that seems appealing to you on the basic level of composition and design?
J.D.F.: Yes. I think that working with convoluted narratives via commissioned assignments has contributed to that look and the more recent use of Photoshop has enhanced it as well. I had never studied printmaking so this is my way of coming to terms with it I suppose.
S: In some of your work, particularly with paintings, you also utilize text in the composition. I guess this could tie in with my previous question, but are these sayings and quotes also used to reinforce a kind of narrative? What do you use as a source for these? Are they personal thoughts and observations or have some of them been pulled directly from things that you have read?
J.D.F.: Yes again. It works both ways. It could be something that I have heard or recontextualized and as synthesized in my mind, it becomes a kind of “poetry” that both pushes/reinforces the narrative as well as the composition. I think that working as an illustrator has contributed here since illustration is the marriage of pictures and words essentially.
S: I also notice recurring motifs of birds, snakes and other animals, plant-tree imagery, even food. Why do you like to use these particular objects in some of your work? Are they based on something like archetypes or do you just find them visually appealing?
J.D.F.: Well, I’ve always been interested in nature and the natural world as I assume all little boys are to some extent. I was educated by the Sisters of Saint Francis [Franciscan nuns] and Saint Francis of Assisi had an affinity with nature, rejecting society and living a hermit’s life preaching to the birds and fishes. Bellini’s Saint Francis in Ecstasy in the Frick Collection had been used on the cover of my Catechism and had a profound effect on me as a child. Additionally, I have been a vegetarian for 40 years so just as much of my imagery deals with subjugation; the subjugation of animals enters into that conversation as well. It seems to me that a deliberate use of an array of “archetypal” imagery is a key factor in building continuity and style as well. On occasion, the juxtaposition of random images evokes content that, although not initially intended, becomes profound and magical in its own right. This is, I believe, the gift.
S: On your site, you feature a piece that was commissioned by the Los Angeles Times and you directly show how the work evolved through your process. The piece starts out as one idea but once finished, that same idea has been completely discarded and transformed into something altogether different and new. Do you feel like this is how you generally create most of your work, through combining an original idea, or commissioned idea, and then filtering that through a form of free-association or trial-and-error?
J.D.F.: Regarding that particular piece, I believe it is there to show some process in order for Art Directors to see what happens with a sketch when finished, which by the way, in that case is a totally analog painting. Often multiple directions are presented for directorial approval. However, the latter is also true. Commissions demand a sort of “finish” before you actually begin so that aspect is one of the most difficult to work with since it tends to inhibit spontaneity in the final painting or art. Working with Photoshop makes that whole situation much more tolerable.
S: What are you currently working on?
J.D.F.: I just finished a nice piece for Flaunt Magazine about irresponsible pet owners and the backlash that occurs when those pets turn on their owners maiming, mauling and even killing them. I also try to work on independent, personal paintings such as Ballet Militaires as much as possible as well as keeping sketchbooks for practice. Recently, I’ve been enjoying working on my blogs and social media. It allows me to feel like I’m on my own Pirate Radio station. At my level of playing, I have an awful lot to look back on and lately I’ve been doing a lot of rumination and reflection.
Check out more of Joseph Daniel Fielder’s work here: http://www.scaryjoey.com/
Scott D. WilsonStarehouse: How did you formally get involved with the Art Dorks? Did you jump or were you pushed into this visual arts-based cabal?
Scott D. Wilson: I was invited by Brendan to join the group. Being familiar with the group roster, both old and new, it was great to be included. So, I’d say I jumped in willingly.
S: Could you describe the impetus and inspiration behind your Art Dorks Rise submission: No. 31. Lepra tuberosa? Are you concerned with delivering a narrative or more interested in creating a kind of singular, even visceral image, which is more about the direct impact on the audience?
S.D.W.: I’ve been drawn to these particular medical illustrations for a very long time. There is a scientifically precise narrative to them that I like. They themselves already explain and communicate something very well. I think it’s their medical narrative that I’m leaving intact. For instance, I’ve purposely never named any of the pieces in this series. Instead, I let them name themselves, be it a catalog number or the medical term for the infliction or disease; so concerning this particular collage for Art Dorks Rise – No. 31. Lepra tuberosa – is an accumulation of this entire body of works progression. It has a definite visceral feeling of intensity, and intent behind it, for sure. I wanted a kind of “see everything at once” effect.
S: On your site, you explain that you became obsessed with “Dermochromes,” which you describe as medical images that were “published at the turn of the century and graphically illustrated diseases of the derma.” When did this fascination with skin conditions begin and why do you think these particular conditions are so interesting; or at least worthy of inspiring your work? Why do you focus on solely on these conditions?
S.D.W.: I’ve been interested in medical and scientific subject matter since I was a kid. My grandfather had medical and crime journals next to his chair. I’m sure looking at these left marks in my mind. That’s the earliest memory and recall as to why things of this nature became influential to me. As a young adult, I did medical illustration which further cemented my interest in medicine and science.
S: Do you think your pieces are based on revulsion or compassion – or possibly both? Looking at your work, the colors and tonality are quite beautiful, yet the subject matter, while universal in many ways, is also rather grotesque and saddening. Is this a deliberate juxtaposition or toggling of beauty/ugliness? In a piece like No. 137. Syphilis maculosa (Roseola), I see almost a visual corollary with someone like Francis Bacon, who also turned the elements of the body back on themselves and distorted those very same things (skin, teeth, blood, muscle, etc…) to create a new kind of beauty? Do you agree? Do you feel that someone like Francis Bacon – or perhaps another artist of note you think is worth mentioning – in particular helped redefine what you saw as beauty; or at least opened your mind to composition and what could be visually engaging?
S.D.W.: It’s funny that you mention No. 137. Syphilis maculosa (Roseola) – that collage in particular is one of my favorite pieces. It’s also the last one I did before the two larger mosaic pieces. There was something about the distribution of negative space, color, and balance that was almost perfect for me. It’s the last one I did utilizing the medical text book format, i.e. keeping the page intact and working the collage within the illustration space only. I’ve been asked or have addressed the grotesque vs. beauty question a lot. I used to say in the past that I was trying to make ugly or grotesque things beautiful, or bring out their inherent beauty. To be honest, I don’t think that was ever true. It certainly isn’t now. I simply think I make things beautiful because I’m intensely obsessive and passionate about everything I do. I don’t think I could have said that years ago; I can now. I’m also very prone to be melancholic and sad. I think those feelings also permeate my work a lot, and definitely not in a negative way. I’m a sensitive person and there’s humanness to this subject matter that resonates within me. I love Bacon’s work and his life story; it’s a compliment that you draw a comparison. Bacon’s work is beautiful to me, and probably millions. Anyone who knows me knows my biggest influence is Miodrag Djuric aka Dado. He has been absolutely crucial in my development as a mature artist. Without a full dissertation, he was/is a modern master and under-appreciated by the art world as a whole. He was discovered by Jean Dubuffet in the 50’s. His work deals primarily with the fantastic and disfigured, while simultaneously evoking Natural History.
S: Have you personally, or has someone in your own life, dealt with one or more of these conditions? Can you recall when you first became aware of these conditions existing? Was it in personally witnessing or seeing someone with a certain skin condition?
S.D.W.: I have not, nor has anyone I know been afflicted with disfiguration or been affected by esoteric diseases or abnormalities.
S: You describe your work as collage, yet the colors and skin samples seem almost-painterly and highly vibrant. Are you strictly a collage artist, in the sense that you don’t use paint, or in any other way modify your source materials? On your site, you admit that “It took me years to begin to cut, tear, and destroy them.” How do you think your process has changed since your initial experimentations and beginning days of making your collages? Between finding source images and rearranging them to your own satisfaction, how long do you think it takes for you to finish a piece?
S.D.W: I collected the various editions of ‘Dermochromes’ for about five years before starting to use them in my work. There are only three editions, however, each updated edition and reprint would include new illustrations and diseases; so copies of the same edition might have different diseases, so I amassed quite a few books. I began this body of work with the primary purpose to force myself to work fast and invite spontaneity. I have enjoyed making this work very much. Forcing myself out of my comfort zone is something I don’t do often, and this work feels very mature due to that reason. Concerning the source material, no, I never altered the original illustrations in any way really. I began to use vintage scotch tape on them for effect. I used vintage due to its yellowed and aged appearance. Some of the pieces took minutes. Some took days, being pushed to the side and then addressed at a later date. No. 31. Lepra tuberosa., however, took almost two months of daily work. I believe there are 321 tiny cut pieces precisely cut and fit together. I also ever so slightly beveled each pieces edge as well. It was a slow, fun, tedious process!
S: Where do you find the source material for these works? Specifically, what are some of your particular favorite books or pathology/medical manuals that have been beneficial to the creation of your works?
S.D.W: There are a few books definitely worth mentioning, since there are so many out there. There is a publication by Edition Hausner on the Fools Tower Medical Museum in Vienna. This book is a literal treasure trove of photographs of their gross specimen collection. Their collection goes back to the late 1600’s, so there is every combination of abnormalities known to man. Although never published, there are the Pathological Illustrations that are part of St. Bartholomew’s online collection. These are literally works of art, each one uniquely created by resident artists, primarily Thomas Godart. Godart was an amazing artist and researcher, and acted as the collections librarian for years. I really admire the medical professional/researcher, who is also an artist. That combination fascinates me. Mark Dion, he fits that bill quite nicely as well.
S: On your site, you credit German physician Professor Albert Neisser (1855-1916), who, among other things, was a pioneering researcher on sexually transmitted diseases, leprosy and even an early advocate for what we now know as public health awareness and safe sex practices. How did you first become aware of Neisser, and while he was obviously a brilliant innovator in both research and medicine, what do you find so interesting about him?
S.D.W.: Neisser was hugely responsible for the “Dermochromes” longevity, consistency, and accuracy. He also had creative influence over the entire process and was committed to seeing these books be the best of their day. It’s a personal fascination and appreciation for the look and feel of these “Dermochromes” really.
S: What are you currently working on?
S.D.W.: I’m working on a piece for a very secret group show coming up next February. It’s a themed show, and the list of participating artists is exciting. The exhibit will travel and be a published catalogue. I’m honored to be included. I’m also drawing a lot with my lens and pens, making tiny minuscule stipple specks.
Check out more of Scott D. Wilson’s work here:
Starehouse: How were you pulled into the Art Dorks collective? Mind control? A laudanum-drenched invitation penned on an alarmingly-lime-colored piece of stationary?
Kim Scott: It was 2005. I was working on a construction crew made up entirely of artists. We were building 11 single family houses and 11 detached studios (Surrealestates). I was also teaching art at an arts centered day program for adults with developmental disabilities (Short Center North). I was frazzled, and my social life was zip. I looked like hell and didn’t have any time to go out and hob nob in a civilized manner. My friend and artist co-worker John Stuart Berger told me about a web site he had seen that he thought I might like too. Art Dorks. I checked it out, and just fell in love. This was still before the collective had formed. Robert Hardgrave welcomed me into the fold, “One of Us!” Going on any time of night or day, when I had a minute or an hour, I could always find someone there to have an interesting chat with, see some great art, wax poetic, make funny Photoshop collages rife with triple entendres, and just generally shoot the shit with artists whose work and wit I really liked. It was like a tree club house for nutty professors and …. well… Art Dorks. I fit right in. When we started talking about showing, we also started talking about forming a collective to help the cohesiveness of the Art Dork “Brand”. We always invited members of the Art Dorks Forum to show with us, so many great artists, many are in this upcoming show.
S: You have described how all of your works are essentially self-portraits related to your own experiences that “focus on impermanence, vanity and the confusions and beauty of everyday life.” What compelled you to concentrate on those concepts and translate them into your work?
K.S.: I had a University Painting Professor give our class a self-portrait assignment… I never stopped doing that assignment. J I had another teacher tell a story: “There was a man who went to a cocktail party. He stood in the corner. After an hour or three of standing in the corner, others at the party noticed. After standing in the corner for a week, neighbors noticed… after standing in the corner for months, the town noticed… after standing in the corner his whole life, he became famous for it.” Now, there are lots of flaws with this story, but I liked the simple message, do what you do, and continue to do it, there is power in consistency. I also came to believe that all fine art is already self-portraiture to some degree. In 1991 I went and studied with the Dalai Lama during my second trip to India. Meditating on Impermanence, Emptiness and Dependent Origination is a big part of the method… and vanity… attachment to “self” is a long explored topic in art, and fits self-portraiture like a glove. I feel like I can really only talk with any authenticity on what my personal experience is. I don’t “sell” my art as Buddhist art, but that’s what it is: Quirky Lowbrow Buddhist Art.
S: Do you feel as if you are creating a greater sort of memoir by repeatedly chronicling these ideas into variations of your own image?
K.S.: Why yes I do! I slowly have selected a bag of symbols, which I arrange and rearrange, and occasionally I add something new to the bag. Every 20 paintings or less, I try to introduce something I don’t know how to do, so I am still learning, such as a color, a technique, an image, a topic…..
S: How do these principles or perceptions translate into your Art Dorks Rise submission, The Nuthatch (the King, the Nuthatch and Happiness)? Why did you choose to make this piece a kind of collapsible triptych?
K.S.: I used to make a lot of masks, and this form refers to that… and the changing nature of persona and phenomena… also it has a great religious art tradition.
S: What inspired you to combine the breed of bird known as the nuthatch with a lotus and jewel-wearing skull in this piece? Does this refer to a specific experience in your recent life?
K.S.: I started being a bird watcher earlier this year. These bird images are from photos I have taken. I love the high contrast colors of the Nuthatch… and the name…. sounds to me a little bit like a crazy person/nut, who thinks up/hatches, crazy ideas. That’s me. The flower is based on a photo from my cactus garden…I changed the color to blue…. It relates to the lotus form you refer too, a Buddhist reference…The lotus grows from mud… the cactus flower grows from thorns…. and I like to stick eyes on everything…as a form of meta-witness to the activities of conventional life. The “King Bird”… I just like the idea of some kind of a Ruler (Western Kingbird on the left), and the “Happiness” Is a Western Bluebird…of happiness. I was walking in an urban environment about eight years ago when time stopped for a second… a bluebird flew in front of me, it was magic! I could see the wonderful colors vividly… then it was gone. This was the one seed planted that led to me eventually taking up bird watching, and this painting.
S: In these self-portraits, you have used ideas as disparate as painting your face as a steak or piece of meat, being rendered as what appear like plant-like or aquatic beings, and featured recurring motifs of birds, insects, flowers, skulls and eyeballs. Is there a kind of thread or corollary that ties all of these signifiers together? Does the use of meat and skulls directly touch on something like decay while, conversely, the birds and more pastoral imagery acknowledge life or even rebirth?
K.S.: You will notice I don’t really show the meat rotting… and the skulls and meat faces are very animated and packing some attitude (they often wear jewelry and other attributes of the living…. Vanity?). So yes, they do relate to the changing nature of phenomena, which includes decay, but even something more broad…A writhing interdependent mass of rising and falling… sparkling with mindfulness. Populated by fairy goddesses and melancholy demons… hallucinogenic potions and heroic adventure. I am also a vegetarian, and don’t want to de-animate the meat that was once alive. Joseph Campbell said in his “Hero with a Thousand Faces,” that the hardest thing for a hero to do is to bring something of value back to his people when he returns from his adventure (or something like that!) That’s what I’m trying to do here. Bring something home from my adventure.
S: In your bio, you explain how your work is seemingly centered on your spiritual beliefs, acknowledging that a kind of “vortex” has made your return to your hometown of Sacramento “until all of your spiritual work is done.” You go on to offer that “I must need to do more spiritual work.” What does that work entail? How do you find guidance to create, and possibly even finish, that work?
K.S.: Ah! You refer to the “Curse of the Two Rivers”. I try to maintain Consciousness. I try to practice Generosity. I try to practice Compassion and Kindness.
S: You specifically used the word “Impermanence” (anicca) which along with Unsatisfactoriness (dhukka) and non-Self (anatta) are considered the three marks of existence in Buddhism. Do you feel that being aware of these specific beliefs is part of that “work”? I’m not trying to label you as a Buddhist, but am admittedly intrigued that you chose to use a word that touches on the core teachings of the Buddha.
K.S.: You can call me a Buddhist if you like… I’m a poor example, but I gain a lot of insight from the generous Buddhists I have studied with. I have spent around two years in India, most of it in Mcleod Ganj, a Tibetan resettlement camp where many Buddhist Monasteries have been built. I had/made the possibility to attend classes given by some of them. Suffering, Impermanence, and the Emptiness of Inherent Existence were all core topics taught…. As well as a tempting smattering of Bliss. The Tibetans are funny as hell, and don’t mind using skulls and guts to illustrate their lessons, alongside the jewels and flowers. I like that.
S: In your life, you have traveled to 22 countries and even lived in India for two years, where you set up a working studio. Was much of this traveling fueled as much by that spiritual seeking as it was artistic endeavors, tourism or sightseeing?
K.S.: Yep. And shopping. I’m not much of a do nothing tourist… I prefer to call it “Answering the call to Adventure.”
S: What are the disciplines, faiths and practices that you have explored? What is the focus of your present day spirituality?
K.S.: Lots of them. My dad was a Methodist pastor when I was a kid. We built a couple of churches. He left the church when I was around 9-10, and so did I. I took a World religion class in college, and every Sunday went to a different “church” for a while. I was practicing Transcendental Meditation and Shaivite practices when I came across Tibetan Buddhism… that was it. I had found what I was looking for. I refer to Buddhist tenets at this time (the last 23 years). I make art. I work at an arts day program serving adults with developmental disabilities. I try to maintain Consciousness. I try to practice Generosity. I try to practice Compassion and Kindness. Humor helps too!
S.: What are some upcoming projects that you are currently working on?
K.S.: I am currently learning how to use my Canon SX50. I go out into Nature (mostly along the “Two Rivers”, the Sacramento, and the American) and work on seeing birds and other wildlife, and then capturing something about them on my camera. It shows up in my work, and on my Facebook profile. I have been asked to be a judge and on air “talent” art expert at our local PBS stations art auction this year. I am featuring art by adults with disabilities and local Masters.
Check out more of Kim Scott’s work here: http://feedyoureye.com/
Dan Barry: Ultimately through invitation but perhaps with a bit of volition. I have shown my work alongside several of the very talented Art Dorks over the past few years. I have also invited some of them to participate in shows that I have curated. But it was this past spring that I received an email from Brendan Danielsson inviting me to participate in the Art Dorks Rise exhibition at Space:Eight Gallery. I am very much looking forward to exhibiting with this collective of diverse artists, whose artworks are full of so much idiosyncratic beauty.
S: Your Art Dorks Rise submission, What Do You Want? uses two recurring elements I see in some of your other work: the use of found materials and also imagery of children, photos that seem to originate from late 19th century/early 20th century sources. Why do you prefer using items like found paper and frames and specifically inhabit them with these “modified” children?
D.B.: I feel as though my personal aesthetic – and now my affinity for using found materials in the creation of my art objects – in many ways comes from my childhood experiences and upbringing in a rural Wisconsin farm community. I started collecting things at a very young age. I did frequently visit antiques stores and farm auctions with my parents – as they enjoyed hunting and collecting together – always on the search for just the right thing to bring home and introduce into our 100+ year old farmhouse. I started my collecting with postage stamps and then bottles and then objects filled with the history of the community in which I was growing up. At age 15, I came to the decision that I wanted to be an antique dealer. I started to sell off items that I had accumulated with my weekly allowance, along with things that I had dug out of old farm garbage dumps. This led to a much more strategic and accelerated exploration of Northeastern Wisconsin in search of objects for my new entrepreneurial venture. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sort through countless multi-generational farmhouses, barns and outbuildings – extracting objects of beauty and value. The money that I made from buying and selling antiques, and eventually art, allowed for me to attend a private high school and then Lawrence University, a small Midwestern liberal arts college – where I studied cultural anthropology and fine art. As far as use of childhood imagery – Childhood imagery has a great potential to connect with others and help them to derive emotive feeling and meaning in my work, even if seemingly ambiguous. I see children as a symbol of innocence, full of endless potential to do amazing things based on the choices that they make along the way. I believe that in life, you get what you get, and then you make something of it…
S: Much of your work seems to use a fixed set of materials (the aforementioned found paper and frames, as well as mechanical pencil and Elmer’s glue). There is also a savvy use of negative space, backgrounds that seem to really help the figures in the visual arrangement “pop out” towards the viewer. How did you come to realize this approach which seems like a very deliberate yet effective use of restraint in both media used and also in the placement of ideas in the actual composition?
D.B.: As far as the “restraint” you point out in my artworks – in approach, materials, visual elements – these have been purposeful decisions made with the goal of creating a more consistent, cohesive, and recognizable style. I have stylistically evolved over the years, and along the way some things have become a consistent part of the approach I currently employ to make my art objects. My works often start with the soulful beauty of the found frame and complimentary background paper(s). From there the process is a combination of these steps – collecting, combining, cutting, gluing, drawing, scraping, writing, erasing – adding and subtracting, a history of marks, until each piece is complete. My obsessive use of a .3 mechanical pencil has remained an important piece of the equation and process. The small repeated drawing and writing – in addition to being time consuming, is a very meditative and soothing part of my art making process. Upon completion, I consider each framed artwork to be a three dimensional object, rather than a framed 2D drawing. I strive to utilize frames that reinforce or enhance the image aesthetically and emotively. Additionally, all of my artworks come with a second image on the back of the frame – a surprise “hidden layer” for those who take the time to engage even further with the work.
S: Your Flowerbird / fiore di uccelli series, begun 2011, use the same materials as What Do You Want? yet seemed to focus primarily on a motif of various colored flowers, all with birds’ feet. Could you describe the impetus behind this series? Why did you concentrate on those particular ideas as a series? Do you enjoy issuing works as a series or do you find that it can become tiring in trying to sustain that momentum?
D.B.: I do enjoy creating the individual pieces within my Flowerbird / fiore di uccelli series. They have become in many ways, a series of self-portraits. They encapsulate memories of my mother’s and grandmother’s artfully composed flowerbeds, my grandfather’s poultry hatchery and showing chickens and waterfowl at the county fair, amongst other experiences. Recent pieces have strayed away from exclusively utilizing flower imagery – and have explored cowboys, Victorian ladies, desert nomads, landscapes of places I have been or still want to see, New York Harbor, etc. – All of which become additional ambiguous signifiers of meaning. Perhaps the ever evolving pieces in my Flowerbird / fiore di uccelli series also fulfill some personal need – some sort of self-revelatory urge.S: Along with being a visual artist, you are also both an avid art collector and curator. I am also curious how one pursuit influences the other i.e. the collecting of art and the creation of art and curating of art shows. I am always intrigued by the curatorial arts, quite possibly because I am so ignorant of how one goes about creating a show. Is this something you had studied in college or rather learned through your own personal experience with different group shows, gallery owners and other curators? When curating a show, do you have an absolute sense of what you are looking for in artists, styles, imagery, etc… or do you allow some flexibility depending on things like the theme of the show or even the expectations of the gallery/venue?
D.B.: So far I have been fortunate that the galleries I have partnered with have given me a great amount of creative freedom while curating an exhibition for their customer and space. When curating a show, I have always followed my instincts and applied what I have learned from personal experience as an artist and a student of life. When I start to envision a new exhibition, I begin to fantasize and daydream about different artist’s works that I would like to see inhabit the same space. Since the arrival of the internet and social media, it has become easier and easier to seek out new artists from around the world and to look at artwork every day. In my shows, I have tried to include a diverse mix – young and old, “famous” and obscure, expensive and inexpensive, in media and aesthetic, from the Americas, Europe and Asia… In general, I do not favor shows that insist on artists following a strict theme; rather I prefer shows with an ambiguous theme or no theme at all. Once they have agreed to participate, I just ask the artists to “do what they do” and to make a piece that “they are proud of” for inclusion in the exhibition. This approach and “the mix” have seemed to result in successful shows.
S: As a personal aside and for possible empathy-based, therapeutic reasons I must address this: I am bombarded with “Dan Brown” jokes, comments, more jokes, etc…which usually focus on the best-selling author but have also touched on the most watery, flaccid attempts at humor that alludes to legendary duck decoy carver Dan Brown. Yet while researching you – the only Dan Barry that matters on this fucking blog! – I discovered other notable Dan Barrys, including Dan Barry the 1940s comic illustrator, Dan Barry the astronaut, singer-songwriter Dan Barry and New York Times columnist Dan Barry. Were you aware of this army of other Dan Barrys stomping around? Have you encountered the same kind of mirthful smart-assery from others that I have? If so, how have you dealt with this? Zen-like Acceptance? Immediate Verbal Retaliation? Covert Revenge?
D.B.: I am aware of several notable “Dan Barrys” – the comic book artist, the astronaut, the race car driver, the singer/songwriter; just to mention a few – some great namesakes for certain. But this has rarely come up in mixed company, nor has it caused me the tireless mockery and distress that you seem to have endured. However, for some reason, I have heard the occasional humorist “Dave Barry” comment. In these situations, I simply remind them that my name is Dan, not Dave. This has seemed to diffuse these situations.
S: Due to the sheer logistics of getting 30 artists to this one opening, you are quite possibly one of the only, if not the only Art Dork (that I am aware of), who will be at the opening reception for Art Dorks Rise. Have you already issued space:eight gallery owner Rob DePiazza a “Van Halen”-like rider of items that must be on hand for you to make this personal appearance? If so, what might some of those things be?
D.B.: I am looking forward to my journey from Austin, Texas to St. Augustine, Florida to attend the Art Dorks Rise opening. I will be traveling with my partner, painter Edward Robin Coronel. We look forward to seeing new original artworks by each of the participating Art Dorks, meeting Rob, other artists (Art Dork or otherwise), art collectors and appreciators. And, no – we are both pretty easy going and do not have any special requests or demands.
Check out more of Dan Barry’s art here:
“Cutter”, Pencil on panel, 14″ x 11″, 2013
Starehouse: How did you become involved with the Art Dorks collective? Hypnotic Induction by way of a soft, distant chanting? A glitter-infected invitation carried to you by a magical tern?
John Casey: It was a bufflehead actually, and a fat tasty one at that. In reality I received an invite from Denver-based art pal Jeremy Pruitt. He was kind enough to invite me to participate in a collective show at Thinkspace in 2007 in Los Angeles. I drove my work down from Oakland and met all the dorks that attended the opening. I was a big fan of everyone’s work and I was quite flattered to be included. One of the most fun art trips EVER! I can still taste that chicken and waffle dinner.
S: Your artist statement explains that your work explores the concept of “Emotional Biomorphology,” which you describe as “a phenomenon that takes place in my alternate universe where people’s physical bodies transform with their emotional and psychological states of mind.” When did you begin concentrating your focus on this particular idea?
J.C.: I think I have always been a bit of a subconscious surrealist. My characters are imaginary and certainly exist in some sort of fantasyland in my mind but they all have a purpose. A few years ago, when I attended a residency at The Headlands Center for the Arts, I wanted to define my concept in a more literal way. So I dubbed my process “emotional biomorphology.” It’s not necessarily a completely original term, or way of working, but it is the first time I actually tried to nail down the idea.
S: You also describe that this theme allows you to “utilize one of my favorite creative approaches: a spontaneous, open-ended narrative,” then offering that only later do these images reveal their meaning, sometimes “weeks” after the piece has been finished. How would you articulate the actual approach and process of creating this “spontaneous” narrative? Is it born from a kind of free-association as you work on a drawing? When these meanings are later revealed to you, do you feel as if they are giving you a sense of your own psychological terrain; or do you feel as if you are really learning more about these imaginary beings?
J.C.: There is certainly a free-association factor involved in my process. I try not to look directly at the idea or motivation behind the character development when I work on these portraits. I observe the source, the mental shadows, with my mind’s peripheral vision, sort of askance. The result is often a kind of psychological self-portrait. But these beings quickly take on their own life. They contain secrets, which they reveal to me sporadically, usually after the fact. I learn more about them, and more about myself through them.
S: Looking at many of the drawings on your site, it seems as if these beings are troubled during this transformation; their expressions seem to range from solemnity, numbness, bafflement, and even horror; yet none seem pleased by what is transpiring. Are their emotional states as much dictated by the atmosphere of this “alternate universe” that you create?
J.C.: These beings are part of the atmosphere itself, woven tightly into it. They change and morph constantly. I think they are resigned to their evolving bodies much like people in this world are resigned to their circumstances. You can attempt to guide your life and make choices but so many uncontrollable elements insert themselves, everything from illness and disease, the weather, the laws of physics, and other people. But the struggle to control one’s fate in this world continues, always.
S: Carl Jung believed that “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Firstly, do you agree with Jung’s theory? I find this idea fascinating since it touches on ideas like catharsis, empowerment, providence, and even hope. In many regards, this type of awakening or realization can be almost universally painful. Do you feel as if you might be capturing these people in those specific types of moments? Do you believe that they are finding any sort of peace or resolution after these transformations?
J.C.: I can agree with Jung’s theory. And yes, I can see these moments of acceptance and peace reflected in the work. I like this idea and it fits well with what I am trying to conjure. I need to think on this more and do some reading. Oddly, I tap my subconscious (does that count as unconscious?) to direct my creative process. Thank you for the reference.
S: While you admit that you don’t always understand your own work until some time has passed, why do you think that recurring symbols – such as hands, flowers, houses and a sort of distortion that takes place particularly to the eyes of these people – keep returning in your drawings?
J.C.: These symbols are part of my personal lexicon. If you asked me what they specifically mean at any given time, I’d probably give you slightly different interpretations each time. But each symbol and each distortion has power, and it’s own essence. Assembled in a particular way, multiple symbols amplify the power and meaning, at least to me.
S: If you feel comfortable sharing this, have you personally undergone any kind of psychological therapy or made specific attempts at any forms of deliberate self-inquiry such as hypnosis or meditation?
J.C.: Yes. From the age of ten through my early twenties I saw a variety of psychologists and psychiatrists. I had a lot of issues as a child but no specific diagnosis. If therapy taught me anything, it was the ability to dig very deep into myself, use my psyche as a creative resource, without hesitation. Art has become my therapy and my meditation.
S: Along with illustration, you also create sculpture and larger-scale, installation-styled pieces that touch on these same transformations. Since those particular types of media invariably call for some type of preparation and development before they are finished, I am wondering if in any way they have made you alter or adjust your creative approach.
J.C.: Absolutely. For me, sculpture and installation involves some level of planning before executing. I usually reference some sketchbook drawing beforehand. The imagery is just as exploratory in the sketching stage as in a finished drawing. The process is a little different with sculpture but the sources are the same. I can, and do, make changes during the building process. It’s good to vary the way I work. It helps keep my practice interesting and challenging.
S: What are you currently working on? Do you have any immediate upcoming projects post-Art Dorks Rise?
J.C.: I will be having a solo show at Breeze Block Gallery in Portland titled “Little Exorcisms,” which opens the day before the Art Dorks Rise show. I am framing the work for that show now and trying to finish a large sculpture. It’s coming down to the wire but I prefer deadlines. Keeps me sharp and focused.
Check out more of John Casey’s work here: http://bunnywax.com/
Chris MostynStarehouse: How were you pulled into the Art Dorks collective? Tracked by way of Remote Viewing? Mesmerism?
Chris Mostyn: Dave Chung, who was a student of mine at the University of Buffalo, told me about the forum.
S: How would you describe the story or narrative of your Art Dorks Rise submission, Some Things Should Not Be Opened?
C.M.: I’d rather describe the process because I think it answers that question. When I begin a new piece, I have absolutely no plan. I may have a setting (a cave, a mountain, the ocean) but I always start with one character. Sometimes it is new and on the spot and sometimes, I use ones from old sketchbooks. Once I draw the character, a dialog begins. “What are you doing, and to whom?” “What are you looking at? (such as the piece for this show)” I then slowly begin filling space. I have learned to trust the process and not ask too many questions. I have so many things floating around in my head that I need to get out. This is how it works. As far as a story, I am like the audience. I didn’t get to see the story until I saw the drawing completed in pencil. Then I started figuring things out. I would hate to rob anyone of that experience.
S: On your site, you explain that you “teach 6th-8th graders how to draw monsters, visual mayhem and the occasional pretty pony.” I am imagining that is a colorful way of saying that you an arts educator. True? I am also curious if you have noticed any current inspirations or themes in the artwork of 21st century middle school students? In the way that many Generation X artists were commonly inspired by things like “Star Wars,” album covers, and an array of comic books, what kind of pop cultural ideas or visual art influences seem to be fueling the imaginations of your students?
C.M.: Sure. Not in the same way however. I wonder if there will ever be something like Star Wars. It changed the entire world for those of my generation. Kids seem to shift quickly now from Adventure Time to Spongebob to Minecraft. The kids are the real geniuses though. So often they invent things that completely blow me away. This is why my class has a policy that says, if I make something you can steal it and draw it. If they make it I can steal it. Hee hee.
S: Some of your work seems to place these playful, humorous beings and creatures in treacherous, dangerous scenarios? Why do you blend these two contrasting ideas into these pieces?
C.M.: That is pretty insightful I think. My work is really about life. It is a pretty complicated thing. Good, bad, whatever, the world we are living in is a pretty messed up place. People are just trying to survive and have a life, work a job, raise a family, live. I like the images of creatures (read: people) struggling. Gives me hope and perspective. You know?
S: Recurring motifs of things including weaponry like battle axes and swords, woodland and seaside settings, winged-monsters and unicorns, etc…gives me a strong sense of classic fairy tales or early fables when I look at some of your drawings. These types of almost-archetypal stories are universal in that they were usually based on an adventure or journey that invariably culminated in some form of “moral ending” or hard-earned wisdom. Do you feel like you are touching on those kinds of plots in your creative endeavors?
C.M.: Man! I should have YOU write my artist statement. That sounded cool. I have no interest in preaching with my work. The tales however, as you called them certainly come from my love of classic stories and contemporary life. I think we still need heroes, heroines, quests and danger. We need MacGuffins to find, villains to vanquish. I actually think we all struggle with these things but perhaps we do not realize that that is what we are doing or (if we don’t read) that authors and artists have been telling us stories about our collective experiences as human beings for centuries. Sorry, as a teacher, I am always plugging reading. I can’t help myself. I feel like I am telling absurdist fairy tales and sure, there are some of those classic archetypes in there, I just cover them in layers and layers of ridiculousness.
S: You are also the also the co-creator and designer of the “Plug and the Paddywhacks” app available for the iPhone and iPad. How did you become involved with that project? As this app is a kind of an ongoing story, how involved is it to update and continue the tale? Do you have other ideas or thoughts about the possibilities and future of this kind merging of visual arts, storytelling, education, and technology?
C.M.: I had a friend in town who asked me to meet with a business partner who wanted to venture into the world of apps and liked my artwork.
S: As this app is seemingly a kind of an ongoing story, how involved is it to update and continue the tale?
C.M.: There are 10 episodes to download. It is really to get them now because the whole story is done. We actually won a Kirkus Star as a result which is kind of a big deal for books.
S: Do you have other ideas or thoughts about the possibilities and future of this kind merging of visual arts, storytelling, education, and technology?
C.M.: I think it is one more venue for creatives to get into. I couldn’t program to save my life so for me, I am an idea guy. I can design like a madman but don’t ask me to make it into the digital version.
S: On your Facebook profile, I also noticed that among your degrees, including an MFA from SUNY in Buffalo, NY and a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) from Missouri State University, you also received a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies (MABS) from Baptist Bible College. The smaller drawing Jesus Loves Dirtbags features a typical stoner wearing an Ozzy t-shirt while the piece Direct your Steps features scriptural passages in the composition. I am wondering how your own spiritual and religious beliefs translate and appear in your visual art work. Do you think this sensibility underscores all of your work, or do you selectively use it in certain drawings?
C.M.: The work I do now is less direct. I am really allowing the culture to filter through the way I see things; if you are Buddhist, you can’t NOT see things that way. My religious background certainly informs my views on suffering, poverty, war and so on and that comes out. I enjoy works that make fun of the stupidity of greed and violence but in the end, I am hoping against hope for something better. The arts have always been, as Picasso famously said, a weapon against the enemy. I tried to make simple pop culture work and it didn’t work. I need conflict, a tension to keep my interest. I just don’t want it to be too dark or depressing. That is what the news is for.
S: What are you currently working on? Any upcoming projects that you are excited about?
C.M: I am continuing a series of drawings that are in the same vein and size as the piece for the Dorks show. It feels like I have a lot more to draw and time permitting, I just need to get them on paper.
Check out more of Chris Mostyn’s work here: http://chrismostyn.com/
Robert HardgraveStarehouse: How did you get pulled into the Art Dorks collective? A chance encounter at a hobo camp? Morphic Resonance?
Robert Hardgrave: I found Brendan Danielson on the Fecal Face forums. He was posting drawings from his sketchbooks and I was intrigued. They were beautiful weird drawings. His website address was the Art Dork’s website, so I set up camp there. I asked him to collaborate with me and we’ve been friends ever since. Everyone gelled together and a collective was born out of the forums. There were many connections made there. Fecal Face was also a great way to connect with folks. The Internet as a whole was better back then. Nothing was standardized. Websites were still how you learned of new artists. It seemed easier to stand out.
S: In your artist statement, you describe how you believe that “improvisation” is your strength. Do you mean that in a sense where you literally apply a type of spontaneous composition akin to a free jazz musician?
R.H.: You could say that. My modus operandi is to set up things in the studio so that anything is possible. As you probably noticed, I work in several different media and sometimes they cross over each other. Works develop in an organic way, at times needing to wait while I learn something new to complete them. I bounce around the studio making sure to start new things everyday for exploration later.
S: Are you mindful of a direct shift in your consciousness when you begin working on a piece? Would it be possible to articulate that process? Are there any types of methods, legal or otherwise, that you use to prepare yourself for creating your work?
R.H.: Being able to concentrate for hours at a time comes easy for me. This has been true for as long as I remember. When I was a teenager, skateboarding was my muse. Skating for 12-14 hours a day was a regular practice. The next day there would be the same fervor to repeat those activities. Making things is a similarly exciting process. There is a golden point when you reach certain bliss from creating something. All the times where this isn’t happening you are trying to achieve it again. The only devices I indulge in are coffee and metal. Both work hand in hand to enhance adrenaline flow in the center of my chest.
S: In an online video interview, you describe yourself as an abstract figurative painter, explaining that prior to surrendering to that approach you had worked on things like comics, ‘zines, graphic design projects including skateboards and snowboards, shoes and clothing apparel. In hindsight, I’m wondering if you can somehow see an accumulative pattern, logic or momentum that led you through those various forms towards your current style. Do you foresee that, by your own exploratory path as an artist that you might grow restless with working in this current style and seek out an altogether different direction?
R.H.: Abstract figurative is probably the only term I could come up with at the time to describe how I was painting. For several years in my twenties I studied the figure through life drawing sessions. I wanted to learn the general proportions so I could call them up without having a model in front of me. I was never a great draught person, but was successful in reaching my goal. It is something that still comes up in my work although in a completely wacky way. Sometimes I fight it, but in the end the work tells me where it needs to progress. Currently I am learning new techniques to add to my arsenal. Textiles and different fabrics has been my interest of late, in some ways more exciting than painting to me.
S: Looking at your work on your site, and even within your Art Dorks Rise submission, Hairpin, it seems like you have found a signature way that balances complexity with a kind of primitivism. I could almost see your work as undiscovered cave drawings hidden on some alien planet (which I mean as my highest accolade!) There are faint glimmers of Japanese wood block prints, traditional Native American and Inuit art, African carvings, etc…Yet these are all subtleties that seem to culminate as a whole in your paintings. I guess my question is this: how do you touch on those elements, yet somehow have the restraint to avoid directly emulating that type of imagery, while still creating a kind of universal connection with the past with certain shapes and even brush strokes?
R.H.: Good question. I am not sure how I avoid totally ripping cultural art off. With everything I look at I’m searching for certain aspects to draw from, albeit techniques, presentations, materials, colors, patterns, anything to hi-jack and appropriate. However it gets processed in my mind is a mystery to me. I like it that way.
S: Your paintings seem to be almost writhing in motion. What do you think is principal in your technique to creating that effect?
R.H.: I would say it’s my focus on lines to build forms and negative spaces. Open-ended lines are also a useful technique in developing movement. If I used more solid shapes to pull the viewer around the work it would probably feel much more static.
S: Your artist statement describes how your paintings are “meditations on the unpredictability of life.” You then offer the following: “Despite all the information we are given, I believe much is unknown to us in the moment, with clarity only achieved upon later reflection.” If you don’t feel comfortable talking about this, I understand but I would to ask about this experience if possible. Following a kidney transplant, you were diagnosed with Lymphoma and underwent treatment; and, thankfully, have been in remission since 2003. Things like illness, loss, and death are universal certainties yet can seemingly come to us as these “unpredictabilities of life.” Filtered through your above statements, I’m really as much interested in how that experience altered your worldview as it might have influenced your creative endeavors.
R.H.: Illness was certainly a factor in adjusting my priorities in life. Previous to that I was making work, but not with the same urgency. I realized that time is limited here and that it could be gone at anytime. In addition to the medications I was taking to fight the Lymphoma I retained this hope to make more work, work that would be more honest. This “hope” was essential in pulling me out of what could have produced the wrong mindset. Depression could have turned that situation into something undesirable.
S: This might be my most important question: you are an admitted fan of metal. I want to ask you about your three favorite metal shows, in order of experience. Mine would be Iron Maiden’s 1983 “Piece of Mind” tour, Voivod’s 1990 “Nothingface” tour and collectively every Melvins gig I witnessed from 1989-92. What would you say have been your three greatest metal concerts?
R.H.: I don’t think I have been to many metal concerts. I did see the Melvins in 1988, but I wasn’t impressed. I wanted to see Dr. Know that evening and they didn’t show up. I was just a dumb kid then and didn’t get what the Melvins were doing. That same year I went to see a DRI show and Holy Terror, the opening band, was more interesting to me. I still listen to their records these days. I went to see Metallica around 1990 for the “And Justice for All’ tour which was an epic event. The 25th anniversary tour for Mayhem a few years ago was great. It was a treat to hear them play “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” along with “Ordo Ad Chao.” Atilla has a great stage presence.
S: What are you working on post-Art Dorks Rise? Are there any notable current or upcoming projects you would like to mention?
R.H.: Next month I will be speaking at the Microsoft Campus about my work. That has been a challenge, a lot of practicing alone in my studio. No major shows are on the horizon, but I continue to experiment and practice new techniques. Life is good.
Check out more of Robert Hardgrave’s work here: http://www.roberthardgrave.com/
Jon MacNairStarehouse: How did you become involved with the Art Dorks collective? In a clandestine, moonlight ceremony involving some unmentionable practices? A Ponzi scheme?
Jon MacNair: Nah. Nothing so sinister or ominous sounding. I was invited by Brendan Danielsson back in the spring via Facebook. I had known of his work and was kinda of surprised he knew of mine (the internet is funny that way, you never know who is looking at what), but am totally honored to be asked to participate in the exhibition.
S: Scrolling through your blog and Flickr site, it seems as if the earlier work you posted is more playful, while your Art Dorks Rise submission, Weeping Demon, seems directly menacing; or at least darker. Has there been a kind of deliberate evolution in your art from lighter ideas and imagery to these kinds of drawings?
J.M.: Overall, I would say that change has been unconscious and very gradual over the years. The exception to that would be the 15 new pieces I completed this spring/summer for a solo show. Those works all revolved around themes of isolation and sadness. This year has been personally challenging for me, so I think those feelings manifested in the work. I do seem to draw a lot more beasts, demons and what many people would call “scary” creatures now. In the beginning it was more birds, cats and rabbits (which I still continue to draw).
S: Some of your work reminds of things like 15th century grotesqueries or even alchemical woodcuts in the way that it toggles these cartoonish figures and anthropomorphic, mutated beings with facial expressions that run the gamut from the disturbed and even tortured to a weird kind of contentment or serenity. Do you agree? If so, is this an arbitrary outcome of your drawing process or is it something you are mindful of when beginning a piece?
J.M.: I would agree with that. I’m usually mindful of what facial expression the main character(s) in the piece will have. This is usually because if the piece is a scene of some kind where a scenario is playing out, I want to convey something specific in that story (in my own mind). Often times background characters such as flying birds or hills have expressions that I did not plan out ahead. They are born on the paper. It’s good to have some spontaneity in the work. When I do deliberately give my characters facial expressions, I like having them remain slightly enigmatic, as if they could appear several different ways (e.g. worried, thoughtful, and surprised – all in one).
S: While certain pieces focus on one being or image, others are more involved and have a fable-like quality to them (albeit a sometimes gloomy one). Are these more involved, “populated” pieces intended as allegories or even cautionary tales?
J.M.: While I love fables, allegories and cautionary tales, I don’t know if I would say my works are intended as such. I consider them fragments of stories, none of which are necessary imbued with “lessons”. It’s usually unclear what point in the story I’m depicting with these “fragments”, and a lot is left up for the view to fill in. It’s sort of like if you picked up a book you had never read, flipped to a random page, and just started to read. You wouldn’t know what had come before that page, and at the moment you wouldn’t know how it would all end. You would have to fill in the blanks yourself to make sense of the present scene unfolding.
S: You also do freelance work, providing artwork for everything from Corpse Corps skateboards to metal/HC band When Tigers Fight. Do these types of more “underground” clients request specific themes or just trust that you will utilize your innate weirdness? How specific are these clients about what they want you to create? Have you ever been hired on by more mainstream or “straight” companies? If so, you have you sent something in a finished job and had a client balk or ask that you drastically alter the commission because it was too strange for them?
J.M.: I really enjoy working on these types of projects because I often find that bands and companies such as Corpse Corps have sought me out because they appreciate my personal work and trust me to just do my thing. Hence, there is usually more freedom with what I want to draw, and usually something being “too dark” is not an issue. I seem to attract a lot of hardcore or metal bands (some even hardcore Christian bands), types of music I don’t really have a great knowledge of or listen to personally. It’s just a funny thing to think about. I would say usually there is some kind of concept when working with bands, and if anything, I help them simplify and flesh out their original idea. Oftentimes people want to make album covers super conceptual with far too many elements and metaphors thrown in. I think a simple but striking image is far more effective in these scenarios. Sometimes clients are very specific about what they want, and sometimes they are more open to your own thoughts. It varies. As a guidepost, sometimes they will reference something I have already done and say “do something kinda along those lines”. Or in other cases, they will provide me with a rough sketch they themselves drew, and I will use it as a starting point. I’ve only worked with a few more mainstream companies, and have been fairly successful with those interactions. There have only ever been minor changes with those projects really (granted, sometimes a lot of them).
S: You keep your blog pretty up to date so I am imagining that you are fairly prolific. Do you feel a sense of obligation to keep the blog updated to keep people updated on your work, as well as a way to possibly force yourself to keep honing, creating, developing and evolving your ideas or style?
J.M.: I’ve had people use that word before to describe me in regards to my work. I don’t know if I feel that way, but then, artists usually imagine other artists are working much harder than they are. It’s in your head. I have a few blogs I keep up. One is used to talk about what projects I am working on at the moment, be it client or personal. The other is a daily drawing blog where I post one drawing a day (usually a small sketch or doodle). I have gotten behind on the former, being very busy these last few months. I would probably feel more obligated to update it; except that I update a number of other sites I use (Tumblr, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Society6, Behance, etc…) It’s quite a chore at times. However, all those other sites are great for keeping people up to date with whatever I have going on. Luckily I don’t have much trouble staying motivated to create. I have a backlog of ideas I keep in a notebook for future pieces. Deadlines are always a good kick in the pants too.
S: Your artist statement also makes mention of you doing editorial work. Do you also write fiction? If so, does it correlate with, or have the same subject matter, as your visual art work?
J.M.: I have not written any fiction, although people always mention I should do a graphic novel or children’s book. I can’t really say for sure what the tone of my writing would be, if I were to take that up.
S: While you have created some pieces that are colorful, it seems that you primarily work with pen and ink, with some pieces also featuring washes. Using that medium, you really are limiting yourself to three colors: black, white, and gray. Why did you narrow down your approach to using these colors and materials? What are both the benefits and obstacles to working in that kind of fixed or defined set of materials? I imagine it must be more challenging to some degree.
J.M.: While I may be limited in terms of the colors (black, white, gray) I have a multitude of tones I can utilize within that gray spectrum. When I first began to experiment with the types of characters and environments I am most known for nowadays, I was using pens. I don’t exactly remember why, but I went from using micron pens to dip pens with nibs (most likely I wanted to experiment with line variation and also save some money by not buying micron pens). So in using the dip pens, I had to get some ink (India ink in this case). I found that I enjoyed the difference types of lines I could create with the pen and ink, and also the different ways the ink could be used in washes. I had previous experience using watercolor, so I was pretty comfortable with applying the ink in brush form. I would say it’s easier working in black and white in that I don’t make decisions about color schemes or what hue will compliment another hue. However, because I don’t have colors to help define one element of the composition from another, I have to be particularly careful about having a variety of tones in the works (ranging from very dark to very light). In retrospect, I feel like the black and white color scheme has worked out pretty well. Many people have told me they feel it compliments my imagery, and although I would agree with that, it was never my reason for going that route. At the time, I was just experimenting with ink and did not foresee what was to come.
S: What are your post-Art Dorks Rise plans? Do you have any upcoming shows or projects that you are currently working on?
J.M.: I have a steady stream of shows to create work for, now through February. In November I am taking part in “Don’t Wake Daddy VIII” at Feinkunst Krüger in Hamburg, Germany (I was invited by fellow art dork Heiko Müller). Then in December I will be showing at Rotofugi in Chicago in a two-person show with Travis Lampe.
Check out more of Jon MacNair’s work here:
Scot SothernStarehouse: How did you get pulled into the Art Dorks vortex? Through a dulcet version of Duke Ellington’s “Creole Love Call” delivered via bullhorn? The offer of free Seroquel™?
Scot Sothern: Seroquel? Is that something you can shoot up? I know my work doesn’t scream out Dork. I’m a baby boomer with a beatnik alleyway aesthetic but I also grew up with Mad Magazine and Big Daddy Roth. I love dat shit. I came to the Art Dorks by way of Brendan Danielsson, who I’m proud to say is my nephew. There are a handful of artistic eccentrics in the family and I’m the elder. Brendan sent me an email to ask if I’d like to be an Art Dork and I said yes, absolutely.
S: At surface level, your photographs could be seen as exploitative or even misogynistic, since it is a decades-long body of work that has focused primarily on portraits of carny workers, prostitutes, the homeless and other people living on the fringes that some in society would rather ignore. Yet as I have dug deeper into your body of work and checked out both video and print interviews, it seems as if you are really approaching these people, particularly the street prostitutes, with a sense of both compassion towards their humanity and a kind of outrage towards their predicament. After so many years of chronicling their lives, what do you think compels you to still devote yourself to this subject matter, these particular people?
S.S.: I’m comfortable in the company of whores and I’ve retained the anger I acquired back in the sixties when Fuck-That-Shit became my anthem. When I started photographing prostitutes, in the eighties, it just seemed like a cool project and I could get laid at the same time. I always cared about the people I photographed, I respected them and I paid them for their time. People everywhere are living shit lives and I’m happy to rub America’s nose in it. I try to be altruistic but I don’t know if I’m making anything better for anyone other than myself. I don’t know if my compulsion to right the wrongs is as strong as my desire to gain notice for the work I’ve done. I guess each feeds the other.
S: What can you tell me about “Little Miss”? She is featured in your Art Dorks Rise submission, Little Miss Works Hard for Her Money, and you have a series of photographs of her entitled The Misadventures of Little Miss. She is presented in various environments and settings that are decidedly adult-like, endangering and abusive; in each image she is somehow victimized. She almost seems like a crystallization of your works that focus on prostitutes, but she is at the beginning of becoming damaged. What was the impetus and story behind this series? Is this an ongoing series or is it finished?
S.S.: Little Miss came about as a way to move away from the toil of photographing people who don’t necessarily want to be photographed. I’m sixty-four and I have physical issues and I don’t get the same kick out of dark encounters anymore. I want to do something fun but I still want to say the same things I’ve been saying all along. Little Miss is a happy little girl in squirmy situations. She’s inanimate, you know, but the situation is real, and sometimes it’s scary and sometimes it’s kind of funny. Little Miss has been hibernating for the last year but I’m not finished with her; she still has plenty to say.
S: You candidly admit on your blog, in interviews, your ongoing Nocturnal Submissions column for Vice, and now in your new memoir “Curb Service,” that you haven’t spent much of your life at choir practice or volunteering to whitewash the orphanage. How do you find a way to detach from the people you photograph to get some sense of discernment or objectivity? Can you separate yourself from your relationships with them, however momentary or even prolonged, to refrain from falling into the frenzy of that wilderness? Or do you even care to draw a defined boundary and line between your art and the source?
S.S.: I don’t necessarily live full time in the world I photograph and write about. I live in a little condo in a quiet neighborhood with my wife of twenty-two years. I enjoy watching television and going out browsing art, I read a lot of fiction. I try to see my son a couple of times a month and I play with the cat. Every so often I get my camera, usually in the dark A.M., and I go out taking pictures and when I’m done I come home. There are no boundaries, I don’t live two separate lives, it’s just me all the time. I don’t think that’s unusual, I’ve met writers, Russell Banks and Irvine Welsh come to mind, who write extremely dark fiction but in person seem like sweet happy go lucky guys. We just respond according to the situation.
S: Have you received any flak from certain groups protesting your work as obscene/pornographic or anti-woman? If so, how have you responded to that? Since you take many of these photos on the streets of Los Angeles, are you routinely stopped or questioned by cops; or have you become a familiar presence to some of them?
S.S.: I’ve thought myself a feminist for as long as I’ve known the meaning of the word. I’ve had instances where people have found the pictures a bit too nasty, but generally that attitude goes away after they read the text and take the time to understand what it is I do. I’d love to spark a protest. It’s okay with me if you don’t like my work, you know, spread the word. I’m not a presence to the LAPD. I’ve had encounters with the police going back as far as I go back. Mostly I ignore them and so far I haven’t been stunned, gassed or beaten and I’ve only been handcuffed once.
S: After four decades of working as a freelance photographer and creating your own vast body of work, in the last few years you have been featured in a variety of praised solo and group exhibits and had a series of books published to equal acclaim. It seems as if you are now being heavily embraced and lauded by the fine arts world. Had you given up hope in receiving this kind of greater validation by the art world: or were you even seeking it?
S.S.: I have a box of rejection slips going back to the seventies, at least a thousand. Museums, galleries, magazines, book publishers, agents, editors, and I’m sure I’m leaving some out. I never completely gave up hope; I always knew how good my work was. I was absolutely looking for validation in both the art and literary worlds. Now that I have a bit of validation I’m hoping for monetary reward. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
S: Judging by your work, I imagine that you are not allergic to polyvinyl chloride or latex; true?
S.S.: Polyvinyl chloride? Is that something you can shoot up?
S: What are some upcoming projects you are focusing on post-Art Dorks Rise?
S.S.: Right now I’m promoting “Curb Service” and doing readings and book fairs. I’m writing and occasionally making photographs. I have a tall stack of things to do, books and shows, but right now I’d kind of like to take some time off to read and watch television.
Check out more of Scot Sothern’s work here: http://www.scotsothern.com/
Here is an interesting video clip that documents Sothern in explaining his work while taking photographs in downtown Los Angeles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=df-YXrgdOuM
Justin DeGarmoStarehouse: How did you get pulled into the Art Dorks collective? A Hypnowheel? A smoothie laced with farm-to-table Belladonna?
Justin DeGarmo: I can’t remember exactly when or how I stumbled upon the original Art Dorks website. I do remember noticing that not only did I like the work I was seeing on there, but I actually had gone to the same school with a good handful of the dorks. I was won over not just by their work, but also the links they were posting in the news feed. I started visiting the site every day for inspiration. There was a column on there where anyone could share their art-related links. I had a ton of web bookmarks that I’d stored up over the years, and so I just began sharing them. Brendan seemed to like what I was posting and asked me to be a contributor to the main news/blog/feed on the site. He had even posted some of my work on there. That was mostly what the site was about for me in the beginning…sharing cool stuff.
I didn’t spend a lot of time on the early forums, so I knew very little about how the actual collective was originally formed, but eventually I was invited to be an official part of the group, and was given access to the secure section on the forums. I missed out on joining any gangs in high school, so this was my chance. It was great to be able to talk with these people who were into the same weird things I was into. I liken it to finally finding the right lunch table to sit at in the cafeteria. We had some great conversations, some great shows, and I got the chance to meet a few of them in person. I feel very proud to be an Art Dork.
S: It seems as if your earlier work was based on more recognizable portraiture but over the years slowly morphed into these more grotesque and surreal characters. Why do you think your subject matter and even approach seemed to move in that direction?
J.D.: The early stuff most likely comes from the influences I had at art school. There was a lot of representational, figure drawing/painting going on at the time. Some friends of mine were doing pretty well in the editorial world, producing pop-culture portraits and that sort of thing. I tried it for a while – thinking it was the only way I could land freelance magazine work. It was kinda fun at first, but eventually I felt bored and frustrated. The stuff that was going on in my sketchbooks at the time seemed more interesting to me. It was more playful and personal. It seemed to be free of the academic hang-ups that I had acquired in art school, and it tapped into my childhood influences of toys, cartoons, and monsters. Instead of drawing people as I might see them on the surface… maybe there would be greater impact if I could turn them inside out, to see what they truly look like. These exaggerations could really help drive the narrative; that’s one of the things that is so great about cartoons.
It was actually around the time that this visual shift began to take place that I connected with the Art Dorks. It seems quite a few of us are partial to the grotesque and surreal.
S: Among the works featured on your older site (which features “Conceptual Illustrations”) and Flickr page, there are also these kinds of more formal pieces that feature landscapes of buildings, a school bus and even a set of traffic barricades. Do you do these types of pieces merely as exercises or do you think they help generate other ideas that show up in your finished, current pieces?
J.D.: This formal work dips back into what I was doing in school. I really loved how meditative it was to just sit and paint what you see in front of you. Time flies by faster than I realize when I’m in that state… but I actually end up with something to show for it. I don’t seem to do as many of those types of pieces these days – aside from some field sketches. It is mainly just an exercise, but I’d like to think it has constructive influence on some of the more finished, from-the-imagination work that I’ve done.
S: In some of your works, it seems like these people are always in state of neurotically clinging to something or grabbing at things, almost to the point of it seeming like a fetish or obsession. Do you agree? If so, why are these characters captured in such a creepy, covetous moment?
J.D.: It’s funny you mention that. A few years ago, a friend of mine pointed that out to me. I believe he actually said, “What’s with all the holdin’?” Honestly, I’m not sure. A lot of those pieces are pretty small, and no planning or preliminary work was done before moving onto the final painting stage. I would just start scribbling with paint until something emerged. Usually there would be a single character… who – based on how I saw them – would end up with some object or creature in their hands in order to create a sort of compliment, or conflict, or secondary point of interest. There wasn’t room for much else.
So after my friend pointed it out, I began thinking about whether or not there was some kind of subconscious theme. I almost wonder if it somehow reflects the way I tend to cling to things, somewhat obsessively… like the past, for example. Everything becomes so precious and so important – too important. I actually did a piece a long while back called Stubborn Hold, where a mysterious figure wearing a mask is clinging to a big black diamond. There is a glowing red, third eye on the mask with its gaze locked onto the diamond. Maybe that sums it up.
S: In your Art Dorks Rise submission, No More Excuses, a dour-looking man is seen either applying or removing his skin. This piece seems like a culmination of your skills at both rendering a common environment, in this case a bedroom with various mundane items scattered around, with another completely bizarre, if not, cryptic character. This individual also seems less exaggerated in the sense that he is more recognizable as an actual human (albeit one with no skin). Do you see your work moving more in this direction, in the sense of combining more overtly “normal” environments with your signature weirdoes populating those very places? Also, what in the hell is actually happening in this image?
J.D.: Heh heh! This image had actually been in my head for a few months. I wasn’t sure what it meant at the time. With the Art Dorks show coming up, I decided I should bring it to life and figure out what it was about. I don’t know why I was so stuck on this thing. I think I just liked the vulnerability of the character, and the idea of applying an artificial skin.
As I sketched it out, I thought about why he might be covering himself up. Was it for vanity, or protection? Does he do this every day, or is this the first time? I wanted to understand the guy… or else it would be hard to invest all those hours painting him. I thought about what things he might be afraid of, and that helped me draw the proper parallels to my own life. That’s when the title popped into my head, and I started to care more about the piece.
Without demystifying it too much, I see him as someone who is tired of living in a box, and is finally willing to do what he must to bust out and face the abrasive world outside.
I like recreating the sort of everyday life habitat, because it makes the characters’ worlds seem more relatable to me. I’m not sure if the “normal” environments will continue, but I think it’s a safe bet there will be more weirdoes in my future work.
S: On that aforementioned site, there is a selection of small-scale sketches that include people as disparate as Conan O’Brien, James Lipton, David Lynch, John Turturro as “Barton Fink,” Stephen Colbert, Jane Fonda as “Barbarella,” and, perhaps most importantly, Jenny Agutter as “Jessica” from the film “Logan’s Run.” Are these people somehow, for lack of a better word, “heroes” of yours or do you just find their faces visually appealing or interesting?
J.D.: I’d say it definitely starts with visual appeal, but I also tend to lean toward people that I find interesting, or mysterious as characters. It helps me care enough to put the time into an hour-long sketch study. I just pause the Youtube and do my best to capture a likeness. I haven’t done one of those in a while. Maybe I should. I can think of a few people I’d like to draw. Bryan Cranston might be a good subject – all those great lines in his face.
S: As a professional illustrator/gun-for-hire, you have worked for clients ranging from Billboard Magazine and Nickelodeon to EA Mobile and Random House. How open-minded are you when being hired on for these gigs? I guess I am wondering if there are times when you need to separate “Justin DeGarmo the fine artist” from “Justin DeGarmo the hired illustrator.” I imagine each of these clients is contacting you on the strength of your previous work. Have there been times when you just flatly refused an offer? If so, why? But has there ever been an issue of conflict when you deliver the finished work? If so, how have you dealt with that situation and smoothed out any wrinkles or resolved any possible misunderstandings?
J.D.: That’s a good question. It’s one I’m sure a lot of commercial artists think about, while trying to make a living. Selling out vs. keeping it real. It’s a tricky balance.
I’ve never flat-out turned anything down… yet, anyway. I’m sure if there was something that went completely against my ideals or my values, then I’d have to say “no”. I’ve definitely found myself wondering “How did I get myself into this, and how am I going to make this thing happen?”
Not all commercial pieces are winners. I’ve produced my fair share of personal disappointments. I’m grateful for the work and the fact that someone has chosen me to do the job. I often get pretty nervous about delivering the goods, but it’s an opportunity to push through and prove to myself that I can do it. Once I accept the project, I have to set my “fine art” ego aside. As a hired gun, I know I’m not always going to be into the subject matter, or the sentiment behind an article, but I try to inject something into the piece that I can be proud of (the line work, the textures, the palette, character design, etc.). The more I like an assignment, the more I’m willing to let my more personal, fine art sensibilities show through.
Some art directors/editors are easier to communicate with than others. Most of my experiences have been pretty good – even if the deadlines and expectations can create some real stress. Sometimes an editor will change their mind late in the process (even after approving preliminaries). There have been only two or three times that I’ve had to accept a kill fee and start over from scratch on an illustration. It’s frustrating and beyond my control for the most part, but it encourages me to develop clearer sketches in the beginning.
The fine art stuff is a liberating break from the creativity-on-demand commercial work. I’ve still got deadlines and expectations, and the uncertainty of a piece actually selling, but it’s a chance to really be myself, and do whatever I want. The concepts can come from my own journals and sketchbooks, rather than someone else’s. It’s just a lot harder to make a living this way.
S.: What are your post-Art Dorks Rise plans? Are there any notable projects or exhibits that you would like to mention?
J.D.: I’ve got some ambitious projects burning a hole in the back of my brain. But for now, I’m just going to concentrate on building a fresh collection of new work…and finish building my new site. Yeah. That should keep me busy.
Check out more of Justin DeGarmo’s work here:
Starehouse: How did you get pulled into the Art Dorks collective? A sudden epiphany after reading the aggravatingly-popular New Age book, “The Four Agreements”? Complete nervous breakdown?
Colin Johnson: I always considered myself to be an outsider/weirdo so this seemed like a good group to join when I received the invitation from Brendan. Plus, Art Dorks is very talented group of weirdoes so I was honored to be considered a part of the tribe.
S: You submitted three works for Art Dorks Rise: Folly, Mystic Flora and Vernal Bloom. Are these being presented as a triptych? Is there a collective theme or correlation that made you decide to submit these three works?
C.J.: They’re definitely NOT a triptych. Each piece is intended to be considered individually on its own. Actually, I don’t think they even really go well together as a group but they work well as individual pieces. However, that being said, “nature” is a recurring theme in all three pieces and in most of my work in general.
S: Do you consider yourself creating narratives within your work or is the intention more along the lines of issuing a singular, visceral image to the audience?
C.J.: A singular visceral image with each new piece for sure. However, certain pieces, like “Folly”, do have a definite narrative. In the case of that particular piece it’s a statement/meditation on the interaction between man and nature for better or worse.
S: Much of your work, including your Art Dorks Rise submissions to some degree, seems to utilize these forms that seem to resemble amoebas, paramecia, and other microscopic or biomorphic beings. They also seem to resemble the earliest covers of pulp sci-fi novels and magazines. Are these figures directly inspired by these kinds of micro-organisms or is that just my take on them?
C.J.: The work in general is definitely inspired by nature and sometimes by micro-organisms but not necessarily by early pulp sci-fi books, although I do like that stuff. More of the work is directly taken/abstracted from books that I have on nature, trees, plants, flowers, or stuff that I bring home from going on long walks. Or even stuff that I just make up out of my imagination or from playing with different types of patterns.
S: Some of the pieces, particularly the ones that are more overtly-collage-like, feature phrases of text, letters from the alphabet, and numbers in the composition. These pieces usually seem denser with activity and the action seems more concentrated. Why do you sometimes use these effects in your work? Oddly enough, these pieces remind me more of some Symbolist-era artists like Gustav Klimt rather than Pop Art, mid-20th century artists/movements or other contemporary art.
C.J.: I guess that’s just the nature of my collage work to dense with information. It’s the essence of what makes that work what it is. In the case of that particular type of collage work I’ve found that more is more. The more I can pack into any given piece the more interesting it becomes. Most of the letters, numbers, symbols that are found collage bits come from old books, text, manuscripts, etc… so that plus the dense complexity may be what gives it the feel of work that refers to something older. I like old things and I also enjoy history and symbology all of which I try to convey in these works. Plus, I make a conscious effort to always do the opposite of “Minimalism” – an art movement which I’ve always found to be boring for the most part.
S: You have been hired as an illustrator for 40+ companies. When commissioned for these companies, it seems like you retain your own style rather than adapt it to the job. Have these clients explained what drew them to your work in the first place?
C.J.: I don’t usually get feedback from art directors telling me what exactly drew them to the work in the first place but I assume they like my work in the first place and that’s why I was contacted. You would never try to adapt your work for any reason to suit an illustration job but always retain your own style. It’s that “style” that makes you unique from anyone else as an illustrator because you offer a product that no one else has. It’s that uniqueness that gets you the job in the first place. Without it, your phone wouldn’t ring.
S: Your work is primarily mixed-media and some of seems fairly complex and meticulous in the actual construction of the piece. Regarding your personal, fine arts pieces, do you sketch out and plan each work prior to adding materials or do you lean towards a kind of spontaneous style of composition?
C.J.: For the actual painted work that I do I do sketches in advance. However, for the collage work which I actually consider to be half collage and half painting, because it’s an equal combination of both, I start with a grid structure and begin by adding in the largest collage pieces first. I do build that work without a sketch. Since that work is very meticulous it’s hard to call it spontaneous but there are certain interesting connections that I usually make and work out in the process of creation that leaves room for spontaneity.
S: On one level, your work could be seen as playful, yet I also see an undercurrent of menace, particularly in something like Mystic Flora or The Great Divide. Do you deliberately interject this kind of tone in some of your works?
C.J.: Yeah, there’s definitely a dark side and light side to all of my work. I think every great piece of art, film, literature, etc.. needs that contrast and complexity to make it complete and interesting. There’s also a lot of “grey” area in terms of things that I don’t try to define or explain to the viewer. I don’t like giving answers to those types of questions. If you have all the answers there’s no sense of mystery, intrigue, or magic to the work(s).
S: What are you post-Art Dorks Rise plans? Are there some notable upcoming personal projects or commissioned pieces in the works?
C.J.: I have a number of private commissions that I’m currently working on. I just finished a full page illustration for a magazine client. And next month I will be featured on Minnesota Public Televison on a show called Minnesota Original. A camera crew from that show came into my studio and filmed me working and also interviewed me. So I’m excited (and a bit scared) to see how it came out!
Check out more of Colin Johnson’s work here:
Katie Ridley Murphy
Starehouse: How did you get pulled into the Art Dork collective? A game of Mumbly Peg gone horribly wrong? A dispute over the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins wherein “court was held in the street” to settle said argument?
Katie Ridley Murphy: Brendan invited me to the Art Dorks group back when it began.
S: Out of all of the Art Dorks that I have thus far interviewed/bothered/annoyed, you might be one of the most cryptic in the sense that, while you have an impressive résumé of both exhibits and print history, I can find nothing about you online that is helping me pick your brain for answers. Is this a lack of investigative abilities on my part (which could be highly feasible) or rather a Thomas Pynchon-like ability on your part to cloak yourself in a form of complete online reclusion and mystery? If the latter is true – well played.
K.R.M.: Yes, I like being private. I also try to keep mostly current work available online.
S: Your Art Dorks Rise submission, Lil Feather, is a pencil study of sticks and branches with the addition of one feather, a composition that is rendered so meticulously that it borders on taxonomy or an illustration from a field guide. What compels you to create this kind of concentrated study of these particular items?
K.R.M: I like to put the emphasis on the detail of each object excluding its surroundings.
S: The other pieces I have discovered online of your work run the gamut from a vintage radio, studies of natural subject matter like plants, moss, and hummingbirds, to an impressive drawing of a 1980s-era Commodore 64 computer. That is a fairly disparate array of both items and inspirations. What are you specifically looking for, or looking at, that dictates you to then turn that material or idea into art?
K.R.M: I have two different areas in art: my illustration and my personal work. I try to keep them separated as much as I can. Personally, I’m interested in collected junk whether found on walks or in junk piles.
S: On your blog site, you present “Sticks in progress,” which shows the development of some of your pieces, seemingly including Lil Feather. It appears that your compositional approach isn’t arbitrary; there is a definite sense of balance, experimentation and design at play. In one of the photos, you compare a pencil drawing of larger piece of wood next to its actual, “real” counterpart. The detail of your work borders on the obsessive; it is almost like a kind of hyper-naturalism. How long do these pieces take to complete and, even just as crucial, why do you seem to direct this laser-like and almost clinical focus on your subject matter?
K.R.M: It takes a couple of weeks for an individual object and months for arranging the sticks. It has always been instinctive to draw detail in that way. It’s almost therapeutic.
S: Do you consider a “lover of nature” or simply an artist who happens to utilize natural materials as subject matter? Do you think that using these types of images (hummingbirds, sticks, flora and fauna, etc…) is an almost defiant act in the current contemporary art scene which seems obsessed with conceptual ideas of repurposing and reappropriating items? Is this deliberate, or am I just completely off the mark?
K.R.M: I am not motivated by a concept but more interested in the detail within the textures of the objects.
S: You are one the Art Dorks scheduled to be at the opening reception for Art Dorks Rise. Have you e-mailed/faxed gallery owner Rob DePiazza a list of demands that is rivaled only by a Deep Purple backstage tour rider circa 1972? If so, what are the items that you require? If not, you really should. Rob lives for these kinds of artist-demands-turned-frantic-last-minute-searches.
K.R.M: Yes, Jason Murphy and I will be there at the opening.
S: What are your post-Art Dorks Rise plans? Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibits you would like to mention?
K.R.M.: I’m currently working on a series of prints for the Swan Coach House Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia.
Check out more of Katie Ridley Murphy’s work here:
Starehouse: How did you become an Art Dork? Pulled along by the undertow of fate? A curious encounter in the mist?
Charles Glaubitz: I wish it were as interesting as that. I think if I remember correctly I emailed and asked to be an Art Dork, and was accepted into the group.
S: Your artist statement explains that your artwork is influenced by “ancient cultures, history, myth, alchemy, hermetic knowledge, quantum physics, comic books, spirituality, mysticism and new age spiritualism,” which is an interesting blend of arcane knowledge and a healthy dose of pop culture. When did your fascination with things like mysticism and spirituality begin? Was this something that you were rooted in through the influence of a religious upbringing or family; or is the result of a kind of spiritual search?
C.G.: It started with Star Wars when I was a kid, the idea of an invisible force keeping the universe together, a binding energy that flows from and too everything was a revelation and kind a hard to grasp at age four. I think that generated a question about everything that was around me.
Also as a child I saw things from either my imagination or from another dimension, typical kid’s stuff like spirits and what not. Outer body experiences, lucid dreams, voices and stuff. I don’t know if I was a mentally nuts as a child or not or could definitely could see things.
My parents were not very religious and are not atheist either. But they did have a disdain for organized religion. I think my spiritual search is rooted in realizing that I can choose to make my own reality, my own gods, my own myth, and my own story. That can be a shared experience with others. Where the imagination is the fifth dimension, that when you imagine something it is automatically real as a thought, energy, intention, action that could or will take form and is in par with scientific discoveries and mystical experiences of asking the question of whom or what we are.
I always loved stories, always loved epic ones. As I grew older I stumbled upon Joseph Campbell and the idea of the monomyth. The idea that all of our society is constructed by myth’s stories, a large interdependent narrative of belief’s systems, symbols of the conscious and unconscious mind; and how these myths construct our reality.
S: If possible, how would you describe your belief system in a singular definition and how does this belief directly drive your creations? Do you engage in any specific spiritual or meditative practices prior to, or even during, the act of making your art for inspiration or guidance? Do you think the ultimate goal of your creative practice is mysticism in its purest form; the union with a higher power or greater being?
C.G.: God = imagination; we have imagination we are god. I don’t meditate or have a specific spiritual practice; I just sit down and draw, read or watch cartoons.
I don’t think I am trying to achieve a higher perception or greater being, but I do perceive that I am not the only person who feels the same way and creates art that to them is very meaningful and mystical to them. I see this now being an archetype that is present is pop culture and I think it is more about reaching a higher union collectively with everybody else. Maybe that will lead to a greater being collectively made up by interdependent systems, individuals…when we realize that our myth is that of living on a floating rock in space.
S: Your statement also offers that the combined effect of all of your work “merge and flow together” in the telling the story of the “Viejo Mundo” (translated as “The Old World”), “Los Nuevos Dioses”(trans. “The New Gods”) and the “Los Eternos” (trans. “The Eternals”). Can you briefly explain how you came to create this mythology? Was it something that developed over time or did you have an initial idea to explore this universe?
C.G.: It was something that developed over time; in the beginning I had recurring archetypes, characters that became a whole as a narrative. Each show or series became moments of their existence, lives and deaths. When the Old World was destroyed it informed the New Gods and the new world.
The old world concepts of political and social art rants became mystical and spiritual perspectives, from fighting the political system to trying to empower oneself by trying to see the reality of our world as a whole and maybe changing it by changing at least oneself at time for greater change.
S: These concepts of The Old World, The New Gods, and The Eternals seem to find a corollary in Gnosticism in the sense that these ideas touch on levels or hierarchies of rival beings that keep humans both imprisoned from, and also liberating towards, the True Self or God. Do these beings in your art toil in conflict or cooperation in your greater mythology?
C.G.: I think the path of the myth is the understanding that we create our own gods (cosmos) and the true path of liberation is to understand that we are god (cosmos). We are made of the same substances, particles and energy’s just having a different experience in time and space in order to add to the cosmos.
The myth is a drama; it has the hierarchies and rivalries between different factions, the illuminati and the star seed children in the present and the beautiful dreamers in the future. It is all just a metaphor to express the need to change from one point of view to a newer one; from hierarchal pyramidal control to collective cooperation.
I think our old ideas, myths and metaphors have imprisoned us. It is time for a new myth which is created by each individual telling their own story in order to find what is comparative in our experience in life.
S: Your statement also mentions the word “hypersigil,” seemingly alluding to the magical method of Sigils. The 20th century occultist-painter Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956) was known for using this same technique in a way that was essentially casting a spell by way of his drawings and canvases. Do you feel like you are also somehow directly imbuing your own works with a similar kind of spiritual potency or contained energy?
C.G.: Yes I do, or yes I try! Or yes that is my intent.
S: Each piece of your work, whether it is delivered in the form of mixed media drawings, acrylic paintings on canvas, collaged felt paintings, animated videos, graphic novels, collages and installations, is another chapter in this story. How does your Art Dorks Rise submission, Voyagers/Viajeros, tie into your self-described “meta-narrative”? Who are these particular beings? Are they renderings of these New Gods or Eternals, or simply other beings travelling through that realm?
C.G.: The piece Voyagers is from a series I did called “Apostasis” – it is when the beautiful dreamers meet for the first time, each arriving from their different paths. They arrive in the underworld crossing the river into the future.
This Beautiful Dreamers are future beings, maybe users who are using the star seed children as avatars in our present time. They dream our realities the Beautiful Dreamers are the most profound, archetypal, sincere, and divine aspect of our humanity that manifests itself in each individual. We all want a beautiful world, we all want to change our world and I think deep down inside we all want to fight for our dreams to become real.
The Star seed child is a warrior like child, a generation of the end result of the evolution of revolution within our system of genetics, philosophy, science, art, etc… They are endowed with direct access to our past history and have all the wisdom present and all the conflicts resolved from the past. The indigo, crystal, nahual and rainbow are star seed children and are from our present.
S: What is your post-Art Dorks Rise plans? Are there any upcoming projects that you are particularly excited about or would like to mention?
C.G.: I am currently working on the third chapter of the comic narrative “Secret Societer,” 112 pages that tell the story of one day and the life of a secret societer/illuminati. Which I am doing as a web comics http://secretsocieter.tumblr.com/ I have a upcoming solo show in Mexico City sometime next year that will be a newer chapter of the myth, paintings, drawings, animation and sculpture…and more comics.
Check out more of Charles Glaubitz work here:
Starehouse: How did you get pulled into the Art Dorks collective? A side effect of “Transparent Radiation”? The shared love of esoteric and banned sports?
David Chung: Man, it’s weird thinking back at when I first joined the collective. I was still in college when Chris Ryniak told me about the Art Dorks forum. It was pretty amazing and I owe a lot to the community as we were able to share what we were working on and get great feedback from other likeminded artists. I don’t quite remember how exactly I got pulled into the collective though…All I remember is that Brendan Danielsson wouldn’t stop emailing me pictures of his junk and promising me Skittles and beer if I came over to his place.
S: Your online bio explains that you use your “unique brand of off-beat humor to examine the inevitable misfortunes and disappointments that accompany all of our lives and finds a glimmering ray of light therein.” I read this as “David Chung is quite possibly morbidly depressed and is painting his way through the anguish.” Any truth in this; or am I just imprinting my own “chuckle machine” mentality onto your personal vision? The great philosopher and alleged-chronic masturbator Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) once wrote in “The Will to Power”: “I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain, torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage.” Onanism aside, do you agree with that Teutonic Tickle Factory’s belief as a way of finding hope?
D.C.: That’s a great quote. However, I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever been morbidly depressed. I’ve just learned that for the average human life, you’ll usually get shit on, but if you tough it out, it usually gets better. So by trying to survive, I just taught myself to laugh things off through my work. Shit happens and you don’t always get your way, but as long as you’re still alive and healthy, the only person who can ruin your happiness is yourself…or Brendan.
S: Along with being a fine arts maestro, you also work as a Background Designer for the television network Nickelodeon. How did you score that gig? What do your daily duties there entail? Are there any specific sets or projects that you are particularly proud of?
D.C.: My buddy Dave Pressler had gotten his show “Robot and Monster” picked up at Nickelodeon back in 2009-ish, and I called him one day asking his advice on sculpting (not knowing about his show) and after shooting the shit, he told me that they were looking for designers. So after taking all the necessary steps in submitting and applying to Nickelodeon and taking several design tests and interviews, they reluctantly hired me on as a prop designer, which I later got bumped up to being a Background Designer. Since then I’ve worked on various other projects in animation including background designer on “Futurama” and now I’m currently on “Sanjay and Craig” as a background designer. Working on “Sanjay and Craig” is pretty awesome. I’m allowed so much creative freedom it’s scary. I don’t know if there are any sets that I’m particularly proud of, but there is this one set that I had to create that involved coming up with a bunch of arcade game titles. I don’t think I should say what any of the titles were, but one of them was a spoof on the game “Centipede” and the movie “The Human Centipede.” The network executives weren’t too happy about that one.
S: Since your art is generally humorous, before becoming an established artist, did you ever have that approach or and content backfire in trying to garner notice from galleries or art dealers? I like to think that the visual art world is a big table with room for everyone, but do you think there is any kind of prejudice by the “fine arts scene” with humor-based work? This intrigues me since I think musicians like Frank Zappa or Ween have been at times trivialized since they also used humor in their work.
D.C.: I think I’m still dealing with that issue with galleries and art dealers not wanting to give me a second glance due to my style and content. It might be a combination of factors though. I’m probably just not good enough yet, or my subject matter just isn’t what they’re looking for, which I also understand. Galleries are a business and they need to feature work that’ll sell for big bucks, so if my work doesn’t fit their aesthetics or requirements, I get it. But that doesn’t make it any easier. However, I’ve found that regular awesome people who love my work like it because they can easily connect with it. And for me, that’s a serious bonus because I’m just doing what I want to do to make me happy, and if that makes other people smile too – Fuck Yeah! Right?? Plus…how are you supposed to take humor seriously anyways?
S: While the characters in your work seem cartoonish and playful, there is also a healthy dose of bodily fluids, mutation, violence, and vulgarity. Do you think those are the four keys that unlock the portal in becoming a professional artist in the 21st century?
D.C.: I don’t think that’s the key at all. Even though some of my work has vulgar elements, I never want it to be vulgar to just be vulgar. The main reason if and why I have any of those elements in my work is either because it was something that I dealt with personally, or it helps convey my emotions/thoughts more effectively.
S: Your Art Dorks Rise submission, Adapting to Change, features a fish that is seemingly in a state of evolution or mutation, lying in a pool of water that is either being polluted or fortified with multi-colored swirls. Some of your pieces like The Portrait of Nhu, The Annoying Pig, and Beaver Chomp! Chomp! , also seem to depict naturally occurring beasts that are either somehow in states of transformation, while additional works seem to offer other types of chimerical, distorted creatures. It is almost a case of whimsy gone insane. Regarding these kinds of once-recognizable but now altered-creatures is there a separate significance to these ideas compared to the rest of your other work?
D.C.: Well, with my piece for the ADR show, that creature is based off of my first vinyl toy I put out last year, Shrympee. That toy was a huge deal for me because it helped launch me into a different medium and form of expression that I hadn’t yet attempted. But as a whole it had more to do with me feeling the constant need to improve and evolve as a person and artist. If I keep doing the same things over and over again I get bored and I feel like I’m just cheating everybody. That painting was to show my appreciation and respect out of that event, but to also share that even though things might become a bit awkward and uncomfortable for me, shit’s going to get better.
But to answer your question, there isn’t a real big significance to the way these creatures look. I tend to do a lot of just random stream of consciousness drawings in my sketchbook and a lot of them just form from those doodles. I’m all like “that looks like something…I don’t know…let’s just call it a pig? yes. DONE! I’m a genius. now to reward myself with a trip to Wienerschnitzel.”
S: Equally impressive are the titles of your pieces. To wit: Shooting Down Dreams with Onomatopoeias, Fuck This Shit, Herro Cat Teaches Sex Ed (incidentally, a personal favorite), And Not A Single Fuck Was Given That Day, The Corndogs of Life, etc… I’m wondering what comes first: the cannibalistic egg or the deranged chicken; do you ever sit and brainstorm titles and then begin creating the work off a title or phrase?
D.C.: The titles usually always come after my piece. When I start a piece I do a lot of writing and brainstorming. I’ll write down words associated with the subject matter that I want to work with, and then sometimes I’ll even start writing down back stories to my characters so that they become more real to me. But the actual titles that I give my paintings are way more fun to do after the piece is finished. It’s more like creating a caption rather than a title for me.
S: What are your post-Art Dorks Rise plans? Are there any upcoming projects or exhibits that you’d like to mention?
D.C.: Well I have a small group show I’m preparing for in January 2014 at the WWA Gallery in Culver City, CA. And in between that I have a new secret vinyl figure coming out from 3D Retro, a resin figure I’m releasing on my own, some cool shit with Munky King, a SUPER secret but hopeful project that I’m working on with Attaboy…I think there are other things, but I can’t remember them all at the moment.
Check out more of David Chung’s work here:
Heiko MüllerStarehouse: How did you get pulled into the Art Dorks collective? A wrinkle in the space-time continuum? A fencing duel gone horribly wrong?
Heiko Müller: In 2005 I was a lonely, confused artist. I was wandering in search of a warm place. Kim Scott and Brendan Danielsson then took me to their clubhouse and gave me hot soup to eat. I was very grateful to them and swore eternal fidelity.
S: In your statement, you explain how your art is inspired in part by uncovering what nature is concealing. How did this approach come about? What do you find so mystifying about what you describe as the “dark goings-on behind the façade of nature … the hidden machinations of the animal kingdom”?
H.M.: In 2006 I moved with my family to an area with a lot of forest. In the evening I go jogging regularly. Sometimes I miss the right time, and while I’m running through the forest it is getting so dark that I could hardly recognize the ways. Then the whole perception changes. The senses are strained and the imagination becomes independent. Every sound startles me and I feel being watched. Although this sounds terrible I must admit that this is a pretty enjoyable horror that inspired me again and again.
S: As a way to create and express this belief, you state the following: “I usually tap the lines linking religious icon art, renaissance painting and comic culture.” How do you balance and blend those influences in your work? Specifically, how do you think this applies to your Art Dorks Rise-submission, Night Sight?
H.M.: In my immediate environment religion plays no major role. Science has replaced faith. The line between faith and science is flowing and the doggedness of some scientists reminds me of religious delusion. Very often I can find that at the so-called fringe science. Lately I like to watch documentaries on YouTube. Recently I have seen a very good one about Aleister Crowley. But I also love those that have been created by supporters of fringe science. Those are about Nazi bases in the Arctic, crashed UFOs on the moon, and other stuff. Some of the so-called evidence photos or movies are made incredibly bad and yet there are always people who accept those as evidence. Some supposed evidence photos and movies got spread through the media and got in a certain way to modern icons. This has inspired me in my Night Sight image. I think that the comic aspects are quite easy to find.
S: As I have grown older, I have noticed that in my own experiences of being in nature, it seems like there are these spontaneous instances that can bring up memories or connections that are exclusive to that environment; the natural world. You freely use the word “spiritual” in describing your work. Do you think you have had similar moments while being in the countryside and woodland areas that have driven your creative endeavors? If so, do you think those moments could be considered spiritual, or rather some kind of biological response that occurs when returning to our ultimate beginnings as a species i.e. nature?
H.M.: I would not call myself a spiritual person, but I believe that nature still holds many surprises for us. Many people experience certain places such as Stonehenge and Chichen Itza as places with a special energy. I can not feel that, but certain places in nature provoke to me from what you refer to as biological response. For me these feelings are a major drive to paint images and so, even if imperfectly, to banish these experiences into images.
S: The deer in Night Sight have a photographic quality to them. Do you try and photograph animals in the wild as studies or models for your animal-themed work? As some of the animals in your paintings almost seem as if they are being “intruded” upon, would you say that there is an underlying protective and conservationist quality to your work?
H.M.: Quite often I visit wildlife parks with my family and there I make lots of photos of the animals. Sometimes it amazes me when I realize that the animals are not so pretty in the photos, as they appeared to me in my encounter. In my paintings I try to paint them, as they appeared to me and not how they look in the photos.
S: Who is the recurring character Hofer that is featured in your work? Is this a kind of tribute to Andreas Hofer, the 18th century patriot? If so, what do you find so inspiring about him? If not, who is the Hofer that you paint?
H.M.: You’re absolutely right. This is Andreas Hofer. I have a special affinity for each type of icons – classic and modern. Andreas Hofer is such an icon. When I first stumbled over pictures of Hofer I was fascinated by this special appearance. He actually looks quite droll – red-cheeked and slightly overweight. At the same time he also radiates enormous self-confidence that makes him look very strong. I then looked around the internet for information on him and found that he is something like the South Tyrolean Robin Hood. I liked that and so I decided to paint him.
S: It seems that over the years, your work has evolved from a kind of playful or cartoonish quality to becoming more focused on a kind of realism that is then imbued with the bizarre. Do you agree with this? Can you foresee where your style might next be heading?
H.M.: I must admit that I am not so happy with my realistic painting technique. My goal is to achieve a similar effect with a more pleasurable, expressive style of painting. I guess it’s a long way to go though.
S: What are you post-Art Dorks Rise plans? Are there any notable upcoming projects or exhibits that you are excited about?
H.M.: In almost exactly one year I will have a big solo exhibition in my hometown of Hamburg. It’s crazy, I’m working with them for 10 years and despite repeated offers, I have never done a solo exhibition there. I wish that the exhibition will be great, so for the next 12 months I will only work for this show. Then in 2015 a solo exhibition in San Francisco is planned. That being said, I hope that I will make many exhibitions along with the Art Dorks.
Check out more of Heiko Müller’s work here:
Starehouse: How did you become involved with the Art Dorks? Coerced with the offer of a Noni Juice franchise? A chance encounter at the pain management clinic?
Jason Limon: Brendan asked me to be a part of the show and I accepted. That’s not exciting at all, but for me personally I was super stoked that he asked me. Back when Art Dorks started I was not working full-time as a painter yet. I was working full-time as a designer and doing a little commercial illustration on the side. I used to scour through books and the web always checking out art. I was really into what this gang of artists was doing as a group and independently. It was always a hope of mine to move into making art full-time and to be more involved like these guys. Since I first noticed the Dorks until now, I never would have imagined that I’d now be working with them. So for me it is way more exciting than being initiated into the group with juice or pain clinics, though those would be good stories too.
S: Your artist statement explains that your work “rejects the Western notion of death as something to be feared,” but rather you use “skulls and bones as part of a regenerative cycle” that in turn inspires “hope for a new beginning with bouncy organic forms and characters that seem to harness the powers of nature.” How did you come to this belief and why did you choose to make this as a kind of directive or goal in your work?
J.L.: A few years back my art was a bit broader, focusing on a variety of subjects. Then I began to adopt this story about the Earth and how plant-life would consume all other living beings to balance things out. In the story, plants would change people (and other animals) into a strange hybrid species, yet killing off the bodies of its hosts. There was a lot of death involved and it was a story that consumed everything I did. Almost everything I created was related to the tale and would fit somewhere within it. Death of one was a beginning of something new.
I just recently decided to lighten up the mood and get back into a variety of subjects again. My last show at Rotofugi, The Bone Banquet, was sort of the end of it, where I imagined the planet with nothing left to consume except for bones; so all these strange creatures were now hungry, ferocious, and eating nothing but bones. I think I’ll be changing that bio at some point soon since it is not death I’ll be focusing on all the time, yet lighter subjects.
S: As you describe this “hope for a new beginning … that seem to harness the powers of nature” in your work, do you think you are really touching on the idea of regeneration or even rebirth on a spiritual or, conversely, more scientific matter-as-energy journey?
J.L.: Whenever I imagined a scene in this story I felt that if an animal or human were being altered by the plant-life and their bodies taken over then maybe their minds would be trapped inside this thing forever. They as a being would die off, yet they would also carry on to form something new that would benefit the planet. Though it was good for the planet, I never felt that the one trapped or their spirit would be happy, but you would never know this since looking at it from the outside it would be bursting with life. I guess it’s sort of like when you bury an animal and life always forms all around it.
S: In the Western world we do, on some level, seem to culturally reject death. Many times we shuffle the elderly or sick off into nursing homes; the corpses of loved ones are rapidly removed from sight and shipped to funeral homes, the memorial services are scheduled quickly, usually lasting for no more than an hour, and after one’s passing the body is just as hurriedly either cremated or placed into the ground. It seems as if we almost awkwardly turn away from death. Why do you think this is? Is it a form of hive-mind-denial i.e. by denying the reality of death we are essentially refuting the fact that we will all eventually die?
J.L.: Sure. I’d say that’s exactly why. It’s something most of us avoid thinking about since it scares us. There are way too many questions about it and no answers at all so I guess why dwell on something that is so uncertain? I don’t sit around all the time and ponder what happens when we go, but it does pop into my mind from time to time. It can just go black or we can continue to something else. I always feel that there is so much stored within us that it makes no sense to just go black and just disappear. There has to be some use for all that we experience. We are really all eager to know the answer, but not eager enough to die to find out.
S: Much of your work seems to concentrate on the eye, whether it is set in a skull or placed in the center of an animal or creature’s head. What is your fascination with that particular body part?
J.L.: As I mentioned earlier about the human or animal being trapped, it was always the eyes that were left peeking out to see the changes that happened. It’s important to continue to see the changes around us. I am extremely fascinated with our history: all that has happened and has been taken in by so many eyes. I wish I could see what they saw.
S: You also create three-dimensional sculptures. While they are doll-like in their size and shapes, they seem more akin to something like effigies, talismans or tiny monstrosities. What is the impetus and story behind these figurines? Do you think they are equally inspired by the same sensibility that informs your paintings and drawings?
J.L.: All the sculptures I’ve done were influenced by the story I was telling. I create a lot of characters in my paintings and it’s good to bring them out into the real world. Over time their design coincided with the two-dimensional art I was creating at the time. As they changed in the story, they changed in the real world. The last group I created was all about the end of that story. The primary focus was human bones because that was all there was left to eat. As I move into different subjects so do the sculptures. I’ve been painting some “altered” animals lately so the dimensional stuff swings in that direction as well. I’m currently working on a group of these animals for a convention in Pasadena, CA called Designer Con.
S: If given a choice, what is your ideal way of dying?
J.L.: Yes, I think about life after death, but I never really think about how I’m going to go. That’s the scary part. I just don’t want it to hurt.
S: What are your post-Art Dorks Rise plans?
J.L.: I’ll be sharing a booth at Designer Con with my friends Jeremiah Ketner and N. C. Winters on November 9th and 10th where I’ll have some new art available. After that I have a break from gallery shows, but I will most likely be putting up a few online shows while working on some larger paintings to get out there. I try to keep my website events page up to date and everyone informed through the social networks.
Check out more of Jason Limon’s work here:
Anthony PontiusStarehouse: How did you become involved with the Art Dorks? Chicanery? Winning, or even losing, a brutal round of Three Card Monte played upon a rickety apple crate?
Anthony Pontius: I became involved with the Art Dorks around the fall of 2005. I stumbled upon the website by chance. I am pretty sure that I was scanning the internet for inspiring painters or paintings and went down a wormhole and found the dorks. I remember seeing work posted by Brendan, Chris, Jeff and Travis and I thought, “Wow, these artists can paint.” During that time I was teaching and was doing a residency at the Des Moines Art Center. I had just moved to Iowa and I did not know too many people and I kinda just started chatting with the cats from the art dorks site. We shared art and thoughts and became pals, the rest is history.
S: Your artist statement explains that your work addresses the “importance of the human connection” to ideas of history, mythology, nostalgia and seemingly our kind of shared narrative of being. How did you come to this concept as the kind of propulsive force in your work? What do you find so fascinating about these universal notions?
A.P.: The importance of the human connection to history, mythology, and nostalgia fuels my creativity. The shared narrative of life is what brings us together on many levels. We are born into a world where those elements are what shape our perceptions of what came before our consciousness. Our interpretation of that information is what shapes what we do with that information and informs the life we live. And although that life will traverse many different paths that create individuals, the origins are from the same land. In painting I find that I can present a great deal of experiences from many journeys that humans may or may not stumble upon and as an artist it is my responsibility to explore those things. But (when I report back to the basecamp – meaning a finished painting) the connection that I have with the viewer allows for the painting to evoke those connections though identifiable symbols, clues, and notions that evoke history, myth, or nostalgia; and thus creates a place that the viewer can access the imagery and feel “connected.” With that being said, the meaning system of the painting is just that “experience of connecting” the actual painting is not important. It is the experience of painting for me and the viewer’s participation that allows for human connection. Most of my work makes no real statement. It is more of a space where aporias are shared. It is the place where a conversation within a group of people are speaking about something that everyone is engaged with full intrigue and excitement but no one can quite explain what it is, because it is on the tip of everyone’s tongue…
S: Since you are so clear about your intent and motivation in your statement, could you explain how that fires the composition and even narrative behind your Art Dorks Rise submission, The Oracle?
A.P.: My motivation to paint has always been this search to connect with the unknown; which is what I was speaking about earlier. I do not adhere to my statement; I use the ideas of my intent to allow myself to paint as freely as possible. In doing so, that creates a space for me to touch places in the collective unconsciousness. So, yes, The Oracle is fueled by my intent but at the same time it has its own source of origin.
S: In your work, through the use of swirling colors and shifting grayish-tones, I see a recurring use of what seems to be a storm-like force brutalizing a darkened landscape. Some of the characters seem to be fleeing, while others appear stoic and in a state of surrender to what is occurring around them. Why do you seemingly choose to have some of these beings captured in a moment of terror while others are accepting of this environment?
A.P.: I like this question. I like your descriptions of the work and how you captured what I see when I paint. I spend a great deal of time people watching in so many different scenarios and places. Situations are always all encompassing: simple and extreme, unabated and demanded. It’s life that is that way. Nature does not care one way or the other with what happens; it just happens. We as humans are the only ones that need to connect to the things like history, myth, and nostalgia. That demand creates a sense of meaning. But as stated earlier, the place in between is the real journey. In my paintings, it is the places that the viewer goes in their mind and their aporias form the land where we really connect. Those places that we actually connect are the places that we cannot verbalize with language. Some of us can get there and accept the offerings; some of us do not accept such things and need reason. But reason accentuates the horrors and thus resistance and meaning prevent truth. So, some of the characters demand and others accept the land for what it provides. It is a dark journey full of wonderfully orchestrated acts that require beauty and decay in order to exist.
S: Your CV/statement also explains that you have taught extensively at the Des Moines Art Center, the University of Kansas, the Lawrence Arts Center, and the Herron School of Art and Design. Do you suggest, if not urge, that your students remain mindful of this similar type of narrative, history and mythology as a means to create a sense of connection in their own work?
A.P.: In teaching I think that it is important to always try to get the student to find their own art. I keep my intent away from students. I do not want to fuck with anyone’s head with that murky soup.
S: Your work seems to celebrate abstraction, particularly in the use of the aforementioned splashes of color and washes that sweep across the surface. Yet in the featured studies and drawings on your site, the composition seems strongly defined in regards to the characters and their placement. In your process, do you set the idea in place and then simply allow this idea of abstraction to dictate the final outcome? After this initial sketch, when the paint hits the canvas, do you engage in a kind of spontaneous composition or free-association method in layering on the color and texture?
A.P.: my physical process is always about evolution. sometimes I do start with a particular concept or character and sometimes I just go at it not knowing what is gonna happen. I like the sense of chance. I also like taking something pristine and destroying it. You ask about
abstraction; that is something I love. I really embrace the destruction realism with abstraction. I also love to manipulate with illusion. I find this funny because “realism” to me is actually an illusion so it feels false to me; not actual. Abstraction feels real to me because it is the action of the human just making marks, or more so the physical act of making marks in a place where consciousness and subconsciousness mingle. It is all art. That sensation is real no matter what the final product may yield.
S: What are your post-Art Dorks Rise plans? Are there any upcoming projects or exhibits that you would like to mention?
A.P.: My post-Art Dorks Rise plans are as follows: I am honored to participate in two group shows this fall – The 13th hour at Last Rites Gallery here in NYC and Don’t Wake Daddy VIII at Feinkunst Kruger in Hamburg, Germany. I am in the process of finding a space to hold another Art Dorks Exhibition here in NYC for next year. I am working on a new book that highlights the past 15 years of my career. And most importantly, my wife and I will be welcoming our first child near Halloween!
Check out more of Anthony Pontius’ work here:
Aeron AlfreyStarehouse: How did you get pulled into the Art Dorks collective? Visual Arts Subpoena? Mistaken Identity? Clandestine Subterfuge?
Aeron Alfrey: I discovered the Art Dorks through the blog that Brendan was running around the middle to later part of 2005. I recall poking through the site and finding a forum with likeminded artists so I joined the forum and was introduced to, and gained valuable feedback from, a lot of these incredible artists – many of whom I made a life long association with. Travis Louis got me involved in the Art Dorks Squared show in New York from around 2006 which I contributed a painting for. And while the Art Dorks site went offline many years ago, I’ve considered myself a part of the fascinating assortment of artists from the collective ever since. I was happy to hear that the Dorks were getting together again for a show and I was more than happy to be a part of it.
S: On the Eaten by Ducks blog site, there is a collection of drawings that you made when you were eight-years-old. These are pictures of monsters of various forms. Decades later, you still create the same sort of artwork, albeit with much greater skill and a darker approach. While many children go through a phase of drawing monsters and weird beasts, but then turn their attentions elsewhere, it seems as if you never strayed from that initial inspiration. Why do you think this is? Did you ever go through a period of exploring and creating different subject matter; or have you always focused on these kinds of ideas?
A.A: I love the imaginative nature of monsters; they’re generally just abstractions of the human form so it’s often more a reflection of humanity in some distorted design. As an artist, I feel like something of a distorted human being, unlike the majority of people out there, so I imagine there’s a connection that I feel with monsters in some way. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve always had a very specific driving force in me that has inspired me to create a wild mythology of my own design for the majority of my life. I’ve been building on that lifelong passion in monsters and developing it into a unique imaginary world. That being said, I’m interested in exploring more subtle horror oriented imagery at some point; suggested events through clues in imagery. I like the idea of seeing an image and knowing something terrible is happening but not having that reason immediately known, but rather clues left in the work that build onto a narrative, allowing the viewer to put the pieces together. That kind of work sounds exciting to me and something I’d like to explore in the future; interpreting an artwork as a sort of episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits.
S: Your artwork has been featured in two anthologies of art work inspired by horror heavyweights H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King. You have also designed original artwork that has been used as cover art for books by Thomas Ligotti. As Ligotti is known to be a notoriously reclusive and private author, how did that connection come about? Did he contact you as a fan of your work or were you commissioned directly by Subterranean Press?
A.: I’d been a fan of Ligotti for many years prior to my creating artwork for his books. I discovered his collection “The Nightmare Factory” at a book store sometime in the late nineties and it struck a very deep cord in me. Ligotti’s writings have been a great inspiration over the years in my art and it was a pleasure creating work specifically for his stories. I’d originally come into contact with Ligotti through the site devoted to him. A collection of some of my earlier digital work was presented on the site under The Imaginary Museum. I expressed interest in creating art directly inspired by Ligotti to him and he mentioned having me create a work based upon his short story “Teatro Grottesco.” That artwork, while never finished, was very close in scope to the detailed sort of works I would later create for his book covers. And it wasn’t until years later that I became involved in the Subterranean Press books but the collaboration, as it were, began there. Ligotti is a never ending source of inspiration for me and I could easily devote my life to creating art inspired by his writings.
S: You were also invited to be a participating artist in the book “Black Sabbath – the Illustrated Lyrics.” What Sabbath song did you pick to render? Are you a fan of Sabbath?
A.A.: I had a few works chosen to go into the book but unfortunately I can’t recall which songs they were for. And yes, I enjoy Sabbath.
S: Out of all of the artists involved with Art Dorks Rise, your body of work is certainly the most macabre and horror-inspired; it seems to be drenched in these malevolent beings and scenarios that appear to be born or released from supernatural, unholy realm. Yet I had read in a previous interview that you really don’t believe that such a thing exists. Acknowledging that, after decades of focusing your attentions on this subject matter, what sustains your fascination in creating these parallel and horrifying realms?
A.A: I’m drawn to the darker sort of imagery for whatever reason; it inspires me to no end. Perhaps it’s the intensity of sinister things, the drama of terrible abominations, all the strange directions those anatomies can go, and the wild fantastical nightmare imagery always gives me pleasure and allows my creativity a direction to travel. That being said, a lot of my work is inspired by real things, dealing with mortality, being in a world where everything and everyone is slowing, or quickly decaying, around us.
S: I’m intrigued as much by your choice of media and materials as your subject matter, particularly in the black and white pieces. Much of it seems to be a blending of traditional illustration techniques combined with some form of digital manipulation. I think that what makes that all the more remarkable is that the finished works actually appear to be created by more traditional and “analog” means, such as printing, etching or layering black and white photographic transfers via slides and projectors. Without giving away any of your particular secrets, would it be possible to briefly describe how you create some of these black and white works, such as the Noctuary or Grimscribe prints?
A.A.: Strangely enough, the imagery that I create in my digital work was born in a very traditional lithographic printmaking studio. I’d made an old fashion cut out collage of a decapitated body with its arms outstretched, standing before a desolate landscape, above it a black sphere with false teeth floating above. This work was transferred onto a heavy chunk of stone for a lithographic print. A few months later I’d discovered the potential of using Photoshop and I started playing around with this darker sort of imagery through a variety of techniques that I stumbled into. I had spent a lot of time painting and using the print studios in art school so I suspect that more visceral approach to art has transferred into my work. My process for creating something like Noctuary or Grimscribe involves my obsessively going in to every little detail and constructing landscape sections, architectural parts, characters, creatures, etc… out of countless tiny pieces that are layered over and over, into, under, and in between. There’s a matter of meshing thousands of little pieces together but blocking in the larger composition with a more painterly approach with lights and darks, focusing abstract visual effects into the larger picture, etc… It’s a weird mixture of keeping some things looking photographically real while still carrying a hand constructed look.
S: You are refreshingly open and direct about your influences, both in interviews and your Flickr page, which is almost devotional-like in your celebration of the works of others. I’m most interested in your fascination with Valère Bernard (1860-1936) who almost seems like a lesser-known-yet-crucial bridge between Romanticism and subsequent artists like Max Ernst. When did your discover Bernard’s work? What do you find so captivating about Bernard in particular?
A.A: Bernard was a newer discovery for me. What captivates me in his work is the sincere emotion he is able to get across in the characters he depicts. The expressions of fear and horror, madness … it’s all very intense in his works and gives the artwork an emotional weight that I find appealing. And what you are seeing on my Flickr page is the content of Monster Brains that I upload to and host from it. It is my way of celebrating, promoting, revealing and sharing a lot of the more monster centric imagery that fascinates me.
S: The great pioneering horror author and mystic Arthur Machen once wrote: “We have just begun to navigate a strange region; we must expect to encounter strange adventures, strange perils.” Considering all of the strange regions and perils you have already navigated and portrayed in your work, do you ever fear that you might exhaust yourself of these dark ideas or hit an impasse? I don’t imagine you suddenly shifting your attentions to the greeting card industry, but do you ever imagine that you might move in an altogether different direction?
A.A.: There are thousands of artworks in my head, the kind that I think about sometimes, dream about, epic battle scenes, wild gardens of grotesque plants, detailed architectural landscapes of fantastical specimens, and mist covered landscapes of giant nightmarish beasts with glowing eyes shining into the darkness. I’ve been filling up a sketchbook this year with bits and pieces of compositions, creature ideas, architectural designs, and story concepts. The ideas are never ending and ever more complicated so I’ve got my work cut out for me.
S: Since you deal in fearful subject matter, what do you personally find to be some of the most fearful things in life?
A.A.: Mortality. I watched my younger brother come very close to dying in front of me. He had a strange cut in his esophagus and he was bleeding out, vomiting blood, a lot of blood, into a bucket in a hospital room. That is probably the most terrified I’ve ever been in my life, seeing how quickly and pointlessly life can slip away.
S: What are you post-Art Dorks Rise plans? What other projects are you currently working on that you find exciting or challenging?
A.A.: I’m working on a lot of things but I can’t disclose much right now for various reasons. I’ll say that what I’m working on right now is inspired by the suicide forests of Japan. I’m slowly developing a book devoted to my Land Of The Moth series of artworks, some interesting collaborations with various artists, and I’m in the early stages of designing a soft vinyl toy. I’m also something of a story teller and I’ve been developing a variety of short stories that I’d like to eventually expand into a novel length collection someday.
Here’s something short that I wrote awhile back that sums up my writing style.
I’ve also got a huge 1,000-plus page hand drawn graphic novel called “Hob Bob” that I’d like to see the light of day before I die. A project that I’m not involved with right now but would like to be is an Aeron Alfrey reimagining of Stephen Gammell’s illustrations for “Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark” for some future release. That is something I would very much like to work on.
I’m also available for original commissioned artwork, album covers for bands, etc… Contact me at email@example.com for details.
My artwork is available at http://aeronalfrey.storenvy.com/
Check out more of Aeron Alfrey’s work here:
Starehouse: How did you become an Art Dork? Freed from a bear trap by an Art Dork? Losing or winning a game of “Is That a Baby or a Hand Puppet”?
Gregory Jacobsen: A friend forwarded me the link to an early version of the site, which was very Brendan Danielsson-heavy. I was instantly in love with his work. Correspondence with Brendan developed into more participation on the Art Dorks message board, where I made some great friends.
S: While your work seems to be primarily figurative, you also acknowledge that over the years your work has also developed in creating these tasty-looking tableaus of meat, innards, produce and other various items that are “constructed into heroic yet pathetic towers spattered with gloppy sauce.” Do you paint these from a display of actual-still life items? If so, do you only use only organic, farm-to-tableaux, GMO-free materials? What is your obsession with those particular things?
G.J.: I take some reference photos – for depth, color, texture, etc… but I don’t paint the photos directly. I’m incapable. I use various elements and assemble various parts together. They’re formalist exercises; the glistening organ/guts/food elements give them a more immediate and visceral feel. I am a little food obsessed…in an abject way. I was a fat kid, so my relationship to food is complicated and a bit OCD.
S: Your Art Dorks Rise submission, I’m Mandy! Fly Me! is a figurative piece. This delightful lass, like many of your other portraits, features facial and other physical features that appear to be mutated, wounded or damaged in some way; yet many of them seem quite gleeful, if not vain, about their looks. Why do you create these lavishly ugly people? Did you originally study formal portraiture and gradually introduce your own ideas of beauty? Who is this Mandy and why is she urging the audience to “fly” her?
G.J.: It’s a 10CC reference. That song always brings up these 70s/early 80s garish California colors for me…sunsets and overly-color-saturated plastic…like the painting. The song has this weird triumphant melancholy to it that I feel relates to the painting; I was getting really obsessed with the song at that point.
I create these characters for a few reasons. One is that I am somewhat incapable of painting a straight portrait. I try. I say to myself that I want to focus on beauty, and not rely on a crutch of grotesquerie. I often fail because I get bored, or I get frustrated that it doesn’t have that weird vibrating emotion of something like a Lucien Freud. I end up rearranging the face. I work at it until it transcends a one-note grotesquerie, and forms into something that is relatable with which a viewer can empathize, but still is terribly off. It’s like when you’re looking in the mirror on a bad day and all of your imperfections are exaggerated to cartoonish absurdity….or when you’re on the train and someone’s odd look is strangely alluring, weirdly sexual.
S: I would be amiss to not ask you about your acclaimed-band Lovely Little Girls and the group’s delightfully-warped video, “Massive Vulva Cantaloupe.” It is nearly as disturbing as Renaldo and the Loaf’s “Songs for Swinging Larvae” video; which is saying something. How long have you been playing music?
G.J.: Thanks! I love Renaldo and the Loaf. The video was inspired by Cardiacs’ “Tarred and Feathered” video…a video I have watched over and over, so many little details, such a simple but effective form of video-making. Music videos bore the fuck out of me, especially narrative ones. Who wants to watch a garbage student film set to shit music?
I have been doing performance/music for 16-17 years. If I wasn’t so entrenched in developing an art career, I would be doing something like acting, comedy, or voice work. Something in the field of performance that is more accessible than difficult artsy music.
A few years ago, I stopped doing music to focus solely on painting. Ideas dried up and I was left with a crop of navel-gazing paintings. Although it’s incredibly hard to split my headspace between painting, which is a solitary activity, and music, which is more social, it is essential for me to have both in order to bounce ideas between the two methods of working. It’s an organic development of ideas; it’s a little messy and non-linear.
S: What exactly is a “Massive Vulva Cantaloupe”? On your site you explain that, “Using my paintings as a starting point, I write lyrics about sex, food, humiliation and abject undignified death by using a cut-and-paste approach.” So following that description, is this song like The Band’s “Tears or Rage” or Brenton Wood’s “Oogum Boogum” of contemporary times?
G.J.: “Tears or Rage”? Ha! – Definitely “Oogum Boogum.” “Massive Vulva Cantaloupe” was our misguided attempt to write a simple pop song with ‘rapping’ sort of lyrics that I shat out in five minutes. It’s essentially a slowed down obscure Yes riff that occurs for thirty seconds in one of their bloated epics set to a Go-Go beat. We don’t play it anymore, we can never nail it.
S: Along with being a visual, performance, musical, and even cinematic artist, as Fatty Jubbo you also produce and record the Cake & Polka Parade podcast for WFMU. In your own words, Fatty Jubbo “has misguided notions of grandeur and a tendency to place the blame on others for his shortcomings.” So is Fatty Jubbo a kind of self-help guru, or at least a De-Motivational Speaker or life-ruining life coach?
G.J.: Due to lack of time, I unfortunately stopped doing the podcast in April. But through doing it, writing monologues for the intro, I developed a character voice that was like a self-help guru- one of those vampiric insufferable assholes that subtly manipulate the intentions of words to turn it around on you. The hidden self-loathing and passive aggressiveness hidden in conversation is fascinating.
S: The musical content of the podcast focuses on odd/avant/outsider music. What is your criterion for choosing the music and who are some of your favorite artists of that glorious realm?
G.J.: I tried to always create a free-flow mix of vastly disparate genres that related. Hellhammer into some sound poetry…it works! Lipps Inc. into Kim Fowley, etc…Some artists I always came back to are The Fall, U.S. Maple, Arrigo Barnabe, Celtic Frost, etc…
S: In 2004, you received a grant from the Chicago Community Arts Assistance Program (CAAP). With all due respect, did you use some of those funds to seek psychiatric or psychological help such as Janov Primal Scream, Gestalt or Jungian Therapy, EDMR (he asked, rolling his eyes) or even an exorcism performed in an Inuit Sweat Lodge? Or did the money go towards more mundane-albeit-needed items like painting materials, rent, intestines and eggplants, or the Chiclet™ of the new millennium: Suboxone™?
G.J.: Totally mundane answer: supplies.
S: What are your post-Art Dorks Rise plans? Are there any upcoming projects or exhibits that you would like to mention?
G.J.: I’m currently in a group show at Le Confort Moderne in Poitiers, France called Altars of Madness. I’ll be in a group show in Copenhagen at Gallery Poulsen, as part of their 10 year anniversary show. The great Christian Rex van Minnen invited me. I’m also working towards another solo show here in Chicago.
Check out more of Gregory Jacobsen’s work here:
Daniel A. Brown