Table Of Contents July 2012 6 Kevin Hebb
24 Kathy Chapman
38 Nicole Burnor
50 Dustin Covan
Brianna Calello David Dâ€™Alessandro Zoe Hyde Carina Wine
Pete Cosmos Kevin Hebb
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Kevin 6 Hebb Written by Carina Wine
If this were a movie, the opening shot (where all the good foreshadowing is) would be this: a man and a woman searching for each other in a train station. If this were an indie film the scene would be about souls swimming against the stream with synth bleating in the background. And everyone would be wearing scarves. If this was a Fellini film, the scene would be a shimmering pearl of discontent set into the band of a dream. If this was a Michael Bay film, well, the two leads would be much better looking and then alien testicles would attack the building. But really, it is this: it is raining outside of the cavernous train station, a man and woman haven’t met yet, but they are already shouting at each other. “I’m right by the stairs but I can’t see you.” I am marching purposefully in circles shouting in to a cellphone. “Are you sure?” Kevin asks me. “What do you mean, ‘Am I sure’? Of course I’m sure I’m by the steps.” “Can you see the flower stand?” “Flower stand? Are you sure?” “What do YOU mean, ‘Am I sure’? Of course I’m sure I’m by a flower stand!” This conversation is not an anomaly. Kevin and I tend to bring out the shouty in each other.
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Later, in a bar, I sip the worst poured martini in the history of the world while Kevin is talking with his arms. He’s never had a drink in his life. He’s twentyfive. This fact makes me feel bitchy, so I say bitchily, “You are not allowed to order a Shirley Temple again. That is just embarrassing.” Kevin quickly shouts to the waitress, “I’d like to have a Shirley Temple, please!” We are going to disagree about many things this night: celebrity look-a-likes, veteran’s memorials, and even where to go after we leave the bar. “Where do you want to go? We could go anywhere!” Kevin is bounding down the rainy street outside of the train station. “I’m really more of a boozy indoor type. I’m a writer so I like being indoors all day.” “I’m a writer. I write for Abstraks and I love being outside!” Kevin counters. “Why do you write for Abstraks anyway?” I ask. “Why do you?” Kevin turns it back on me. “It forces me to meet new people. It keeps me from being a completely unlovable recluse.” I say. Kevin blinks. “Yeah, that’s why I do it too.” We share an instant of bonding, but then Kevin says bitchily, “Would you put that umbrella down? It’s not even really raining. It’s embarrassing!”
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And on we go to the diner. Our waiter asks Kevin to take his feet off the booth. I eat something that gives me hives the next day. Later, the diner is discussed this way: “The waiter thought we were on a date,” Kevin says. “When you went to the bathroom he gave me a look like, ‘I’m going to do my best to make this not work out for you.’” “I thought he was gay,” I say. “I was getting like a real drag queen vibe from him.” “No,” Kevin adds ominously, “And this is not the first time he’s done that to me.” “It isn’t?” I say. “Do you normally come in here with dudes?” “I’m not gay. That’s the second time you’ve told me you think I’m gay.” “Every time I talk to you, you’ve just come from late nights hanging out with drag queens.” “I have more friends who are gay then are actually straight!” Kevin exclaims. “And you recommended me to check out [redacted].com.” I point out. “I would like to formally plug [redacted].com! Not because I have stock in there or because I go there.” “Kevin, it sounds like a gay cruising website.” “It is. And the people are so nice.” “Tell me about those shirts you want to make that say “Sassy Faggot” spelled out in sparkly crystals?” “Not crystals, but a decal of ‘Sassy Faggot’ that looks like crystals,” Kevin corrects me. “I’m going to print them because I think that will add to the trashiness of it.” “And your drag queen friends?” I ask. “They will FUCKING love them! I have other ideas for shirts too. I was thinking about starting a Kickstarter. I keep doing projects and then actual projects come along and I have to do them because they are actually paying me. I did a Misfits shirt and Slayer and Black Flag bedazzled decals for shirts.” “That sounds awesome!” I say genuinely. Then I ruin it. “Holy shit, Kevin, did we actually agree on something? I’d buy that shirt. Gay clubs would love them is that what you are thinking?” Kevin agrees, declaring, “I have spent 15 minutes coming up with this marketing strategy and it is going to work!”
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“Kickstarter proposals usually need a video.” I point out. “I think you should make a video.” Thinking about something I heard on HBO last night I try to pay him a complement by saying, “I think you’d be good in a video. You vibrate at a very strange level.” “What does that mean?!” We are back to shouting again. “You have a sort of freakish charisma!” I shout back. “It’s a compliment!” “Freakish charisma is a compliment? Well, a lot of girls do say I’m charming.” “Girls you date?” “I don’t really date right now.”
By the end of the conversation we find a few things in common: we agree that doing [redacted] when you are [redacted] can be really fucking fun until you get [redacted], that Chad Michaels is a classy queen, and that eye-patches are awesome. And we agree that parking lots are pretty great little sanctuaries in the city. Kevin says in reverent tones, “My favorite place in the world is a parking lot over by [redacted]. But don’t mention where it is because I don’t want everyone invading! It is like the best view of Boston, because you can see so much of the skyline from so close to the city. I like the idea of leaving civilization. It is super hectic in the city and you walk 100 feet and it is quiet. You walk down by the water and you might see a body!” “During late fall, early winter you go down and there are thousands of seagulls,” Kevin continues. “I used to like to [redacted] and [redacted] in the parking lot at night. There would be all these sea gulls swarming at me.” That is going to sound hilarious with all the stuff I have to redact from the interview, I think. “You have a painting of a parking lot on your website”, I point out. “That parking lot is gone now. It was on the Stoughton/Randolph line. It was in my senior show, and everyone thought it was trying to say things about nostalgia, but I wasn’t. The paintings are documentation of things that I used to do. They let me pay a little homage to do that.”
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“Let’s talk about your tools series,” I say. “Yeah, you said you were really impressed that I have rebuilt a few carburetors. I like working with my hands and I like working with tools. “The brushes, hammers, pliers and saws all juxtaposed onto a wall paper motif. What are you doing with this collection?” I ask. “I really wanted to challenge myself and so I got these old tools from my shed and they were covered in rust!” Kevin explains, but not really. “Ok…?” I turn two syllables into a question. “Rust is really challenging to paint!” Kevin says like everyone should know that. “I like how you have those wall paper design elements in the background. Almost like that flocked kind of wallpaper you see in older homes. I have earrings in almost that exact same shape.” “It’s a stencil I bought it at Michael’s. I’ll sell it to you if you want!” Kevin inquires eagerly. “A painting? No, but thank you.” I demure, but secretly I’m thrilled to be offered a work. “No, not a painting. Those are all sold. Well, I took three of them back and gave them as gifts. But you can buy the stencil.” “Are you offering to sell me… a stencil you bought at Michaels?” I’m back to shouting again. “Well, I keep giving away paintings so I need the money!” Kevin shouts back. You know how when you are texting someone and you type “ainttongs” and Autocorrect knows you really meant “paintings”? That intuition is the exact opposite of every conversation Kevin and I ever have. “Tell me about your current work,” I say a little warily. “You have paintings on your website that have grenades and bird houses.” “That’s not my current work. I really need to update my website. I was really into science fiction at the time. I think subconsciously I stole those ideas from a Bad Religion video. I collect grenades actually. There is something that is very tense about a grenade sitting on a table.” I am silent. You would be too if you spent all night shouting at a guy who turns out to be a grenade collector.
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“I am doing a showing at M.I.C.E (Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo). I am painting portraits of my friends dressed up as superheroes. Not because I think my friends have that much value but because the best thing to do when making stuff is to compare it to your peers. When I started art my friends and I would do graffiti and trade around notebooks riffing on each other’s art.” “I am in a show at Asbury Park in September. I love that place, there is so much culture and music - a rock-city! There is a big art scene down there and they were really welcoming. I was down there for another show and they invited me back so I’m having a show at Parlor Gallery. Every show is different; it seems like the work is really inconsistent but it is because it should be defined only by that show.” “But what I am doing right now is a lot of murals. That is how I got a real interest in art, I was doing murals in high school and it kind of stuck. To this day, nothing has influenced my work more than graffiti. I was fortunate enough to have the right teacher at the right time who helped me transition from being an angry punk teenager to realizing there are legitimate things in art past graffiti. Big shout-out to Rob Kmiec!” Kevin and I have gone from shouting to shout-outs. Excellent! “I’ve painted a bunch of murals for people through word of mouth which is good because I’m really bad at selling myself. The mural I am working on now is 10 x 120ft.” “I think you are the first artist I’ve interviewed who does primarily murals. That is really cool!” I say it and I mean it. “I usually get a lot of freedom when I do them. I love that in a mural you can do everything you say you are able to do. It is like a huge surprise to someone, when they say, ‘Do you think you can draw this huge slice of pizza?’ And I say, YES I CAN! And they say, ‘THAT IS GREAT!’” So maybe Kevin isn’t like aggressively shouty, I think. Maybe he’s just naturally shouty and I’m reacting to it. “What is your process when creating murals?” I ask. “I like murals because I can dance while I paint them. I can dance up to them
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then paint a little then dance back. I DANCE TO MY OWN DRUM! I am going to come and dance around your locked up storefront! When no one is around I really kind of undulate! You always hope for the places without a big glass window. No, really I can’t do anything without listening to music. When I am starting a project I listen to classic punk: Ramones, NOFX, and then always it moves directly into 90s east coast rap: Redman, Wu Tang, Public Enemy, a lot of Dr. Dre - ” “Dr. Dre is West Coast.” I interrupt, unable to stop. Shit, I think, that was unnecessarily bitchy. I try to make a joke. “I guess you forgot that like others who have FORGOT ABOUT DRE!” “Whatever. So also Parliament and then it moves into Tom Waits. I am a terrible singer and it is good that no one is around. Maybe after all these murals calm down I’ll try my hand at rapping.” “Don’t forget that Dr. Dre is responsible for inflicting 50Cent on us.” “I hate 50Cent. I’ve always hated 50Cent.” Yes! Kevin and I are actually having a rapport! Bantering even! “So, let’s get back to why you do murals. Tell me why you like them better than canvas?” “I like their size and feel murals are really impactful because - ” “Kevin, ‘impactful’ is not a real word.” Again! It is like I have bitchy Tourette’s. “Yes, it is!” Kevin insists. “No, it’s like ‘ginormous’ or ‘doggy dog world’. They aren’t real words. Well, maybe that last one is, but only if Snoop is saying it.” “I know so many people who use ‘impactful’! “And I know so many people who use ‘irregardless’ and ‘for all intensive purposes.’ But that doesn’t mean they are real words either!” “YOU KNOW DAMN WELL THEY SHOULD BE REAL WORDS! “ Kevin is back to shouty again. “YOU CAN JUST WRITE THAT I TALK LIKE I’M AN IDIOT, OK?” The interview is over. Buzz buzz. Kevin is texting me. “Sorry if you are sleeping but make sure you include that Biggie was better than
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Tupac” “Can I read a draft?” No, I text back. “Just don’t write me like a lunatic [redacted].” “I don’t need pity. Haha” “I just don’t feel like we talked about anything.” We talked about plenty, I text back. Just not art so much. Think of this article as more of a celebrity profile. Buzz buzz. I have an email from Kevin. “Call it short sighted, but if it doesn’t somehow improve the service it’s hanging or painted on, I can’t really get down with it. That’s great that this piece is made by channeling a dead animal spirit and communicating your thoughts on Free Trade by smearing peanut butter on your balls and rubbing it on the cover of the New York Times. But, seriously, come on. When I go to galleries, I often find myself feeling like the only one that doesn’t get the joke. I guess you could say my tastes remain in the practical side of things.” Ha! Peanut butter on balls. Who doesn’t love that? I read on. “Writing came about after seeing too many people with no experience in art writing about it. Call me a snob, but if you don’t make art, I don’t really care about what you have to say about it. When I need advice on a painting, I wouldn’t ask someone with no artistic background. As my friends started to emerge from school and gain recognition it began happening and I wanted to
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try and give them the best platform as possible. I’m not on a crusade to save the art world of mediocre journalism. I saw what shotty reviews by indecisive writers (bloggers) can do to affect people’s livelihood and want to do my part to help out my friends.” Two points stuck out to me right away: 1) I am not an artist, so I guess that Kevin does not believe I am qualified to write about art. 2) “Shotty” is NOT A WORD. Fin. Contact: email@example.com
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Kathy 24 Chapman Written by David Dâ€™Alessandro
Kathy Chapman: A Unique View A moment in time is a fixed point. It is one millisecond of life. Many great, iconic photographs are able to capture a devastating, historic, or momentous instant in time for all time. Joe Rosenthal captured the pivotal moment the Marines in Iwo Jima raised the large American flag on Mount Suribachi after a horribly brutal battle during World War II. One of the first astronauts to orbit the moon, William Anders, immortalized the first Earthrise ever seen by humans, sparking the modern environmental movement. And, thanks to Ray Lussier, we will forever have Bobby Orr outstretched horizontally, suspended in the air after scoring the series winning goal in the 1970 Stanley Cup Final. However, we do not experience life in this way. Instead, our lives consist of perpetually changing moments, flowing from one into the next or layered on top of each other. In order to capture this movement, some photographers have opened their lenses and taken long exposure shots, resulting in images with car lights or ghostlike characters screaming across the photo. Most of us have seen (even attempted?) these types of shots. However, Kathy Chapman (www.kathychapman.com) has de-
veloped an innovative way to display movement, change, and the passage of time. Chapman’s multi-exposure works allow us to see, in a single photograph, the subjects as if we were walking past, through, or around them. She accomplishes this by capturing, on a single negative, several exposures from different points-of-view. Through this technique, we “experience the event” in a way that is impossible to capture with one shot. “The mind sees visual information as one image, but one’s eyes are always moving. These photographic works are composed in the camera and experienced with jerks and starts. The multi-exposure works are a sequential succession of film images wherein the image is deconstructed and replayed.” In essence, Kathy is layering several snapshots from different positions on the same negative. It establishes a sense of perpetual change. I can’t help but feel the effect as a mixture of walking through life while experiencing parallel worlds. For Kathy, though, it is “how I realize the experience. I am the camera, and I’m walking through. You don’t see this in nature unless you are walking.”
Page 27: Zemia in North End apartment, Boston, MA Page 28: Winter Storm Surfers, Winthrop, MA
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A great example of this technique is displayed in a photo taken in Irving Park, St. Paul, MN. Chapman has overlaid five shots of the park with a huge fountain centering the work. When I first saw it, I couldnâ€™t help but feel that I was walking through the park, occasionally glancing to my left as I pass the fountain. The position of the trees change, the fountain seems to slowly rotate towards me, and in a few more moments I will pass by it into another tranquil part of Irving Park. At the same time, the layered image projects a transcendent sense of peering into other dimensions.
Light appears to illuminate the objects from numerous positions, making me feel as though I am standing in front of this brilliant fountain at different moments in many of my different lives. It is a remarkable effect. Chapman has a diverse range of subjects in her multiple exposures portfolio. There are wonderful, blooming gardens that seem so appropriate as spring engulfs New England. She walks us around buildings whose architecture alone is entrancing. And, she enables us to span bridges while standing in one place. However,
Page 29: Mothers on the streets of Southie, Boston, MA Page 30-31 top: Fort Point studio freight door, Boston
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the photograph that arguably best captures Chapmanâ€™s layered, multiexposure technique is of a building on 57th Street in New York whose first floor eave is circled by clocks. In this photo, she has shots from a few different sides of the building. The clocks display times from all over the world, yet they appear to be melting into one another. When I look at it, I quite literally feel as though I am seeing time move and the world change. One moment is combining with the next, and I am passing through life.
When I met with Kathy, I was excited to learn how she came to develop this unique form of photography. Not surprisingly, the path that took her to this point was long, full of many experiences, changes, and layers. Like her work, Kathy Chapman is complex and always on the move. When I met with her, she eagerly opened her portfolios and we began to flip through page after page. Our conversation rarely stayed on one topic for much longer than a few minutes. However, it quickly became apparent that Kathy has a real pas-
Page 30-31 bottom: Longfellow Bridge on Valentines Day, Boston Page 32-33: Grove of trees, Brookline, MA July 2012 Abstraks 33
sion for her work, people, and life. Chapman’s earliest exposure to art was through her grandfather. He was a musician who saw action in World War I, and would entertain the troops during down time. When she was young, she remembers lying under his piano as he played. She loved his music and the progression of chords flowing seamlessly together. Page 34 Emy and Peter, Annandale, MN
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“It was my favorite place to hang out. I would lie there and just take it all in.” She received her BFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design, spending her third year abroad at Epson College of Art and Design near London. During this time, she experimented with several differ-
ent mediums. She painted and made 16mm films; one of these films, My People are My Home - made with the Twin Cities Women’s Film Collective - is based on social activist Meridel LeSueur and shown on PBS periodically. “I loved technology. All those tools. Making wild movies,” she told me with a laugh. “Photography was the most explicit.” While in London, Chapman fell back into the music scene, meeting and spending time with many popular rock bands. Later, back in the states, she began working with the Boston Phoenix photographing local and national music. During this time, Chapman captured a “great cultural collection” of musicians and artists hanging out in
bed and at home. She has photos of rockers, like Joe Perry and his wife Billie, lounging around, totally at ease, separated from the strains and rigors of touring and fame. Portraiture is a strong suit for Chapman. Along with her photos of musicians, she has created portfolios of single mothers in South Boston pushing their children around in vintage strollers, images of teens in gangs, and people in their workplaces. All of these images marvelously capture the essence of what make her multi-exposures so fascinating: they are alive! “I’m intense! The intensity of my work, I take a few pictures during a session, and then I let them relax. That’s when they come through with their real personality; it’s not posed at that point. I fumble around with
Page 35 Third Street Bridge over Mississippi River, Minneapolis July 2012 Abstraks 35
the camera and they think, ‘what am I doing?’ I’m getting them to relax. I really connect with people.” Chapman has recently moved to Gloucester, MA. She went there, of course, because she loves the ocean. The constant ebb and flow of the tides, the waves crashing against the rocks, overflowing to create whirlpools, is the type of constant movement, change, and energy that has categorized her previous works. And her photographs of the sea capture this perfectly.
incredible portfolio of people living throughout her career. Her focus has shifted and it has changed; however, she has always managed to capture the enormous depth, power, and vivacity of her subjects. In her multiexposure pieces, she uses this talent to help us see the world as she does: always moving, beautiful, and alive. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org www.kathychapman.com/
“I love being in the water at sunset, with all the deep colors, swimming around with the surfers. The sun hits the white foam, the gold and yellow foam. It’s euphoric to be there, in the water and dive in a golden foam wave. There’s nothing like it.” It is here, in Gloucester, that Kathy has found her next focus: the culture of the surfer. “I want to look closely at the culture of surfing. Understand the mindset of people who go out in the storms. I’ve always felt comfortable walking up and taking pictures of cultural things. The angst of teen mothers, the angst of teen gangs. Surfers have that same angst.” Kathy Chapman has compiled an Page 35: Jan and her twins, Somerville, MA July 2012 Abstraks 37
Nicole 38 Burnor Written by Brianna Calello
Nicole Burner is a New York transplant after having spent her undergraduate years in Boston, and hails originally from New Hampshire. Her work immediately triggers a sense of nostalgia and innocence, but simply put, it is not that simple. Now at 28, she faces the challenge of fitting in time to make art while balancing work, and every other facet of real life that many of us can easily relate to. Nicole is a genuine human being, the kind that goes above and beyond to make sure every guest in her home is taken care of, and nine times out of ten sheâ€™s wearing a smile on her face. B: Before we get to the nitty gritty of your work, care to throw some facts on the Burnor? (Get it?) NB: I always loved to draw. I graduated with a BFA in Graphic Design/ Illustration (because I couldnâ€™t just pick one). Now I live in New York City, Nanny by day, Hooligan by night. I moved here to pursue a volunteer position with AmeriCorps and when that ended I wanted to stay in NYC so I applied to a few gigs and found the rad family that I work for by taking care of their two children. Since I am 4+ years out of college, I am constantly struggling with the challenges of self-motivation to make art. I have creative spurts and find my way back into the groove. This is my happy place.
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Many people do not get a job straight out of college, or one that pertains to what they majored in, I was one of those people. I chose to take a break from it all and do something else that inspired me, volunteering. With that I was able to move, travel the world, and work with students who are passionate. Now, at 28 years old, I am ready to get back to where I was headed, I just needed to take a detour first. This is life. Through our experiences we continue to grow, learn and live. If anything, we can take what we experience and translate that into our work. B: Your work has a feeling of innocence to it- thereâ€™s certainly a theme throughout. It definitely makes me feel happy! What drives you to make this work, what inspires you, and
at what point did you start making work that had this “Nicole Burnor” feel? NB: There is no doubt that my work comes across as quirky/ fun/ childlike. During my time in undergrad I battled with finding my style until I had an, ‘ah hah moment’ while doing an independent study with one of my illustration professors. It was by far a moment of clarity, a moment where I felt like, ‘this is it; this is what I want to do. This is what defines me.’ I started with obscure, linear portraits and soon incorporated them in an abstract environment filled with color and movement. Some of my inspirational artists/authors include: Jesse LeDoux, Graham Rounthwaite, Ralph Steadman, Dr Suess, Roald Dahl, Hans Christian Andersen and Damien Hirst. B: There is a recurring character in your work, can you tell us a little about him? Is he someone you’ve always drawn? NB: The recurring character is just someone I made up. I guess you could say he symbolizes the men in my life, be it romantic or not. I’ve always been drawn (pun intended) to male figures than to female.
B: In one of your pieces you’ve introduced some mixed media with a photograph. Is there a connection between your characters and the people in the photograph? Do you know the people in the photograph? Should we read them the same way we read your fictional characters? How does this mixed media tie into your other works? NB: I’ve always been interested in my family heritage, where I come from, where my parents come from. With that said, I have a knack for collecting old photographs & other paraphernalia of not only my relatives but also other peoples relatives. I do not know the people in the photographs, nor do they share a relationship with my characters, but in the big picture there is the idea that we are all connected in some way. Where we all come from is in some way, shape, or form very similar. I’d rather be more vague with the idea that the audience will identify with the characters in their own way. B: For the work with text- are those your words? I watched an episode of PBS Art21 the other day and artist Glenn Lignon spoke about his use of text and how important it was that he did not use his handwriting or his words because he did not want to tell his story but rather a story that
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affected everyone. I’m curious about your use of text in comparison to his… NB: I would agree with Glenn Lignon and his importance to not use original handwriting and words. The text that I have used in “We will never not be friends” was inspired by a 6 yr old that I nanny for. Her words were very relative at the time, I was going through a transition in relationships both romantic & friendship. Her simple way of expressing herself inspired me to create a piece where people could process it however they wanted to. Human connection, even through innocence, is forever relative. B: Is there any reason why most of your characters have floating heads or why you choose to work on such small canvas? NB: Portraits are a common theme throughout my work, old and new. I am constantly soaking in the people around me, who they are, where they come from, what their story is. In terms of concept and composition, I’m inspired by dreams and how I remember them so vividly. This is then translated within the frame. I’ve always preferred to work on a small scale. It leaves me with a confined space, which is a challenge for me.
B: What does the future hold? NB: This is a huge question. It’s difficult to look too far ahead without getting a bit anxious. I’d like to continue making work and building my portfolio. I would like to leave New York City at some point (with no hard feelings of course). I am in a constant state of venturing; I love to explore new environments. I crave nature as of lately. For future projects I’d like to; write and illustrate a children’s book based on the adventures I’ve had with the children I nanny for. I’d also like to write a memoir, which is in its beginning stages. For now I am focusing on myself; growing as an artist, ‘growing up,’ and taking responsibility of my own destiny. Nicole has been featured in The Charming Wall Gallery, The Art House Coop, and a few accredited fundraising projects for non-profit organizations.
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Dustin 50 Covan Written by Zoe Hyde
My apartment is easily 6000 degrees as I’m looking through Dustin Coven’s website and Google results, trying to piece together some questions that will make an interesting and engaging interview. I search for questions in the bumpy white faces of his characters, somewhere between Victorian china doll and disfigured vampires creature. Looking at his work, I’m uneasy, confused, but still intrigued; I find it hard to tell whether his sweet, toy-like characters are happy or sad, tortured or relieved. I imagine the creator of these little creatures to be someone subversive, alternative, the type of guy to have one long dreaded beard hanging to his waist and several eyebrow piercings. Which is why, when I meet Dustin in a coffee shop in Allston, and he is perfectly polite, informative and clean-shaven, I’m somewhat taken aback. Zoe: So, my first question for you is that a lot of your work seems to have some kind of narrative, or narrative flow. Is that something you’re interested in? Dustin: Yeah, that’s actually how I got started with (my work). I actually was working on picture books and that was part of my plan originally. So I did about three of those, when I first wrote the books I sent them out to a bunch of publishers but nothing got accepted. I started thinking, well, rather than let the books sit in a drawer, I took the artwork and
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started showing it as art so at least people could see the illustrations. Recently I just put together a website so I am finally able to put the actual books on the website. Most of my stuff came from wanting to do narrative because I started out wanting to be a writer. But most of my writing was just basically trying to describe pictures, so I thought it would be better to just put the pictures because I found when people read the work, they’d ask “where’s the story”? So I started to draw the pictures to try and shorthand all that.
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Zoe: So you didn’t start out as an artist? Dustin: Well when I was a kid, I did, a lot, and I liked comic books and stuff, but then as I got older I got more into movie directing, then I got into wanting to write movies, which got me back to art. Zoe: In terms of the books - your ultimate goal would be to publish them and have them be picture books for adults? Dustin: That was the plan originally, but since then I’ve kind of been moving towards shorter narrative pieces, which is like some of the ones I’ve submitted - more six frames that tell a little story and continue on; but I’ve been exploring this idea of doing narrative without words, as well. Zoe: Yes, they all seem to have some sort of leading characteristic… Dustin: Yeah, that’s what I’m trying to do. To tell a little story. Zoe: The thing I thought of the most when I was looking at your work was the idea of fables, and folk stories. I was wondering, what inspires the characters or stories?
Dustin: That is the main thing, I think the reason I do the different characters with the specific colors is so that they can be metaphors for different feelings or emotions, and how the same character can transform, so this guy can transform into a bigger, stronger character, or vice versa. It’s all just kind of representation of feelings. When I was trying to write the stories, it was the same thing, but it was too much description and it got weighted down, but with the art, you can just show it - boom - and it’s right there, much more accessible, it seems like, to express what I’m trying to express. Zoe: When you were originally writing the stories, where the characters in the stories the same? They’re kind of humanoid characters. Dustin:Yeah, it was the same type of thing; they were kind of humanoid external representations of emotions. Zoe: In footy pajamas. Dustin: Well, I didn’t have the footy pajamas. Not yet. Zoe: What kind of schooling did you have? Dustin: I went to college for communications, so it wasn’t art related.
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Now that I’ve got back into art, I would like to try to go to art school and try and hone it down. What made me stop going to art school was that I hated trying to have to draw shirts, or hair, or anything that was time consuming and then I’d get burnt out in the middle of it. So when I started getting back into it, one of the things that made me want to do it was that I focused on the things I liked and left out the external stuff that doesn’t have much to do with what I’m trying to express. That enables me to speed up the process, and by the time I end up getting bored with one, I’m done with it and I can move on to the next one. That’s where the footy pajama thing came into play; I like drawing faces because that’s what expresses a lot of emotions and feelings, on top of the colors and sizes of the characters. I was able to just work on what I like the most, and also I do enjoy kind of the “telly-tubbie” look, mixing in the dark with the innocent, those juxtapositions. That worked out for me. Zoe: I think its an interesting, like you say, juxtaposition, because they are these amorphous, sweet, lumps that are, like, getting taken by the blackness, etcetera. Dustin: That’s the other thing I like, because it’s humanoid, so you see
their faces, and it makes you wonder what’s underneath the costume. What are they hiding? Zoe: What kind of mediums do you use? Dustin: The majority of them are cut paper and ink, and color pencil. All the colors are cut out of paper, or drawn on with ink and then cut out of paper, and glued on. Then, to get them into the computer I usually do scan them. What I’ve been wanting to move into next is all digital stuff, because I found one of the hard parts of doing it my way is, when you try to scan it in so people can see it, it never looks like what it looks like originally. I was messing around with digital last year, and I liked it, but it was more limiting with my skills right now. Zoe: What would you like to change and develop about your work? Dustin: I’d like to move into digital stuff, like I said, but I’ve also been looking around and researching online about the different resin toys? Or vinyl toys? Doing little sculptures of the characters and casting them in resin to reproduce little figurines. That seems like a cool development, or next step, of these characters.
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Zoe: Have you thought about animation at all? Dustin: Yeah, when I was messing around with the digital stuff, I did also mess around with flash animation, just trying to learn it. I learned the very fundamentals of it, but I would like to go back, maybe team up with someone who knows the more technical side of it so I could create the character rig and they could help me animate it. I would definitely like to move into that if I could. Zoe: Would that fit into the narrative you’re trying to create? Dustin: I think it would. The work I do now, I’m tempted to put words
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into the pieces to clarify or add extra stuff, but I think if it was animated, there’d be even less need for words. I could really branch out with the stories I could tell, or the emotions I want to represent more dynamically. Zoe: Sounds too, would probably be helpful. Dustin: Exactly, sounds would really help create an atmosphere. Zoe: Do you work on one piece at a time or do you have many going at once? Dustin: Usually I work on one at a time, sometimes I’ll do one box just to start a story idea, and then I’ll go
work on something else, then come back and do the rest of the boxes. But usually it’s one at a time. Zoe: You’re work is kind of unusual in comparison to the other artists’ I’ve interviewed, which makes me wonder, what kind of media do you enjoy? Meaning, what do you read, what do you watch? Dustin: I love to read, if I had to choose one outlet of entertainment, it’d be reading for sure. I read all kinds of stuff; I’ll go through cycles where I read just literature type stuff, some cycles I’ll read a bunch of true
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crime, or nonfiction, stuff like that. It basically ties in with my art, you know? Whatever I’m interested in I want to have a book on hand about it so I can read it before the desire fades away. I like movies, probably the movie influences I was conscious of when I was writing were David Lynch, I like him a lot, Todd Solondz. Some graphic novels; I like Jim Woodring, he’s got the “Frank” books, and those influenced me by showing me what you could do without words, just surreal visuals. I like Daniel Clowes, it’s not too much like what I do, but I like his stuff a lot.
Zoe: It might be a hard question, but can you give me any insight to what you’re thinking about when you start a piece? Dustin: Well, now, originally with all the books it was always the same group of characters, like the main character is Duncan, that guy in the white. Zoe: He loves his sheep. Dustin: That’s right! He loves his sheep, see, you know him. So those ones, I spent time just working on the characters to represent emotions, and now I’m kind of branching off. Zoe: So there are reoccurring characters. Dustin: Yeah. The most reoccurring is “The Black”, that monster thing, and then there’s “Magoona”, and “The Great Golden Beast”. Sometimes the characters will change, but the color stays the same in terms of what I’m trying to represent. For example, red; that’s more of like, a power, night life, kind of dark, kind of scary, when I think about the kind of characters that will seduce you and kill you, usually red represents that. Green is more of a childlike, infantile, weak but exuberant kind of thing. Blue is more
a downer, sad color. The colors will stay the same, even if the characters change. When I start a piece, usually I will think about what kind of feeling I am trying to represent, and what happens when I’m under the influence of that kind of feeling, what kind of situations occur, and how does it evolve? Zoe: Would you be interested in having a show at all? Dustin: Yeah, I just actually started that, my first show was in October, when a friend of mine was putting on a show for Halloween. That art show kind of got me back into it, because after I did the books, I kind of felt burnt out and I took a break from art, but I enjoyed the art show and it got me thinking about it again and thinking in different areas. I’ve also been working with a gallery in Waltham called the Lincoln Arts Project, and they do something similar that lets locals show art. I’ve been sending out stuff, trying to get more shows together, trying to keep motivated. Contact: Dustin Covan 175 North Beacon St. Watertown, MA 02472 (617) 458-1213 email@example.com www.dustincovan.com
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