Table Of Contents September 2011
8 Christina Watka 22 Sam Furst 36 Micah R. O. Litant 50 Ari Hauben
2 Abstraks September 2011
The Ultimate Zombie App! http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/zombie-bomb!/id448617609?ls=1&mt=8
Kevin Hebb Zoe Hyde David Showalter Jr. Darius Loftis
Pete Cosmos Darius Loftis
4 Abstraks September 2011
September 2011 Abstraks 5
Christina 6 Watka Interview by Zoe Hyde
Christina Watku wants to know what you’re touching and what is touching you. What you grab when you wake up in the morning, the first thing you leave your fingerprints on, and whatever you‘re clutching as you drop off at night. She’s interested in the doorknobs you’re clasping, the corners you’re skirting, the floorboards wearing away under your feet. Christina’s work deals with object memory, the effects of personal affects, and how we inherit, experience, and leave behind our own material worlds. Walking into Twelve Chairs, a large boutique near South Station, I’m slightly thrown. I’ve never seen a store with installations in it, although granted, art and merchandise are often juxtaposed and granted, it’s not like I have a lot of cause to be in fancy boutiques all that often anyway, so what do I know? Actually, I find the installations to be very complimentary towards the contents of the store; I like art, I want it in my home, I like nice furniture and furnishings, I want those in my home also. Right when you walk into the store, one of Christina’s installations is immediately prominent; a wallpaper textile made up of lace, leaves, sticks, and bits of ephemera rises and flutters on pins from the left wall as the door is pulled open. This is on purpose; what I find out about Christina when I meet her later in Davis Square, is that she’s thought about every stray element of her work, and if she hasn’t, she’s probably cool with whatever is happening and whatever you’re interpreting from it. I can’t help telling her what I see in her pieces, hoping I’m providing some kind of revelatory take on her artwork. I’m not, of course, but she nods and smiles enthusiastically when I refer to her lace chandelier installation as a “maternal-feeling Edward Gorey ghost babysitter” and tells me that her Dad saw a psychedelic jellyfish, and how amazing it is how different everyone’s perspective is.
Zoe: It seems like installations are your preferred area in which to work? Because there are some other works on your website as well. Christina: Totally, there are some paintings and drawings and stuff, I think that soon I’ll probably be doing more of an edited selection of stuff I have on there because soon I will have a bigger body of freelance installation work that I can put up. When I started my website I wanted it to be a broader selection, but I think the portraiture is important to me because its just a totally different way of connecting with people but yeah, installation is absolutely where it’s at for me. I love it. Zoe: Awesome. Well and the nice thing about installation is that you can incorporate… Christina: Everything! You can have video, you can have music, you can have smell…anything. Zoe: A lot of your installations involve adding organic elements to textiles, I’m thinking specifically of an installation on your website that features shirts and, bleach, is it?
Page 10, 12 & 15: “Lace Wall: lace from old garments/curtains/tablecloths, pins Page 16 & 17: “Undulating Thumbs: clay, watercolor”
8 Abstraks September 2011
Christina:Yeah, it was paint, it was wall paint. That was my thesis project when I was in school. When I was discovering what I wanted to do for my thesis, I really worked with people’s personal belongings and things that already had history in them, and when I did that piece I was really trying to get into installation and that’s really what I tried to push myself towards in school. My grandfather had recently passed away, so a lot of those shirts are actually his shirts. I wanted to choose something that was timeless and could be used as a pattern, and could create an environment, so, I built this fake wall in the gallery that you entered through the actual cellar door of the house that he had built, with a cast doorknob that had a pocket watch in it…I was trying to work in details at every step of the way and think about things that people connect with unknowingly everyday? Like opening a window, opening a door, driving a car, things that you touch that you don’t realize you’re relating to.
wallpaper form, and then, on the other end, there’s driftwood, paint, wilting plants, basically raw material. Would you say, form aside, that your work has a connection to nature?
Zoe: I’m glad you bring up doorknobs, I may as well ask now: what’s up with the doorknobs?
Zoe: How do you even discover something like that?
Christina: This is something that I want to keep going with, actually, it’s a project that I fleshed out a little in school but I really want to really focus on. I was learning mold making and was really excited about it, and so I took this old doorknob, and there’s something so charming about an old doorknob, it feels really good in your hand, it reacts to what you do to it, and its one of those things that you touch everyday and don’t think about. So I was thinking about how we could relate to history, and how I could get people to relate to something that was personal to me but also add their own spin on it as well. I chose doorknob because I knew it would be an easy thing to cast, in my beginning casting, and I made a bunch of them. I bought this amber resin, because I wanted that idea of preservation, and history, and also it was sort of translucent so you could see the items in it. So I made this mold and all of the stuff that I put inside the doorknobs was stuff that used to belong to someday and was close to their body, so I had some necklaces, some watches…my grandfather was a police officer and I had his traffic directing glove, so I stuffed the whole thing in a mold and poured the resin in so that when you actually held it you could feel the texture of the glove, which was cool. Zoe: The materials that I saw in your work were lace, pink satin, what I’m reffering to as “wall florals” but basically a
Christina:Yeah, I think that it does definitely have a connection. Like the driftwood? That wood was actually strips of peeled paint from my parents’ old house. So there’s this artist, his name is Dario Robleto, he does all these really specific things, like he’ll make an entire trunk filled with World War II veterans’ pocket watches, for example. I was heavily influenced by him when I was working in school, so again, rather than it just being driftwood that I found, it’s the underside of the wood remnant from the home that was painted years and years and years before I was ever here, and I have this strong instinct to document that. So, in addition to connecting with nature formally, I’m always looking at the way nature grows and draws itself.
Christina: That was something where I had this wall I wanted to do an installation on, so I thought okay, definitely going to be a low-relief thing, its got to be something that’s easy to put up. I really love playing with shadows and cross-lighting, too, because that’s a whole other drawing in and of itself. I was still playing around with the idea of history and other people relating to things in the past that I can relate to now in a different way, and there was a ton of peeling paint at my parents house, I happened to be there and I thought ‘that would be really cool, I wonder if I could put two needles on that and pin that to the wall’, and I did a few tests and it looked really great, but also felt really steady. Zoe: One of the works on your site is “Love Sphere”, [a large-scale installation of a hanging, lit ball composed of strips of paper with fragments of typed sentences printed on them] is that still at Suffolk?
So, in the late winter, maybe February of this year she called me and said there might be space for you now, we finally feel like we’re ready for installation.
Page 9 & 14: “3-Dimensional Wallpaper: lace from old garments/curtains/tablecloths, dried flowers and leaves, pins Page 13 & 18: “Weathered: peeling paint from the house my grandfather built in 1948
September 2011 Abstraks 11
Christina:Yeah, that’s probably one of the oldest things I have on the site. That was for a class that we did, really my first large scaled anything. So I definitely worked through that, and made a bunch of pretty big steps in my work, in knowing how much of what I wanted and needed to create what I imagined would work, and there were a lot of things I had to troubleshoot and reassess and stuff. We had a new library at school, and they had the thesis class that I was a part of, create work that would be site-specific, whether it be somebody’s framed artwork or whatever we were working on, I just happened to be doing installation. There were two levels, and there was this 5 ½ foot diameter opening, and I thought, ‘that’s so cool, it would be so great to do something in there’. So then I asked a bunch of friends and family to send me things that they had written to or from people they were in love with that they were comfortable sharing, journal entries, anything. I was trying to create this giant globe that expressed the way that people felt about each other in general. It was cool for me because, if I go there and read any piece of it, I still remember who told me that thing specifically. I remember though, I had a crit for that, and I had this teacher who said “Christina, you’re so naïve.” And I thought, well, its so happy though! There was some pain in there too, though. If I went back and re did it now, I’d probably do it in a totally different way, but it was something that really helped me learn about space. But it was only supposed to be up for a year, and it's still there. Zoe: When did that go up? Christina: Oh jeez…2007? Zoe: So you went to Suffolk? Christina:Yeah, The New England College of Art and Design merged with Suffolk a few years before I went there, so. I was in the art school but I wanted a full education so I could take English and history and get a full degree. Zoe: I also took a look at the music section of your website, is that something you’re still pursuing? Christina: I mean, if someone offered me a lifetime of singing jazz and soul, I would take it in a heartbeat. I almost went to music school, but when I started, I began as an interior designer, for a few months, and then I went to my first critique with all my foundation stuff and they said
“You shouldn’t really do this, you should go into fine art.” So I thought about it and I thought ‘okay, lets do that’ and I totally fell in love with it, and then installation happened, and I was really, really in love with it, and I was also involved in theater, which I think is another reason installation is so perfect for me because I get to relate to people but I also get to use space to create things that attack your senses, you really experience the space in installation, that’s why I love it. But music, without a doubt. lately its been a lot more soul, but, yeah. When I was in art school I thought ‘okay, I’ll learn how to draw, I’ll learn how to sculpt, and how to do all that stuff and the whole time I’m just going to listen to jazz, the whole time’, so that’s what I did. Once I got to art school, I had to be there and devote my time to it 110% otherwise it wouldn’t be worth it, so I was doing less music, but I’m working on it now. Zoe: Are you working on anything right now? Christina:Yeah, I am, I’m working on the most exciting thing so far. I have a solo show I’m doing at the end of October, and its funny that you should mention the music thing. Do you know “Voltage Coffee” in Kendall square? Zoe:Yes. Christina: So I’ve been in touch with the curator of that since they started it, and she’s always wanted to have my work in there, they just wanted to create a few group shows to get the hype going. So, in the late winter, maybe February of this year she called me and said there might be space for you now, we finally feel like we’re ready for installation. They were nervous about an installation in a coffee shop because they didn’t want it to get ruined, but I was talking to anna, the curator, so she said ‘you can either do a permanent installation or do a solo show and have the whole space’. So I thought, a permanent installation would be great because it's there forever and people will always get to see it, but for me, a solo show is more of a challenge because I’ve never done that before, so I did that. The opening is October 28th,Voltage Coffee in Kendall Square. Contact: www.christinawatka.com firstname.lastname@example.org
September 2011 Abstraks 19
Sam 20 Furst Interview by Kevin Hebb
I recently sat down with friend and designer Sam Furst. I met Sam in college, but I have no doubt that at some point during our angry adolescence Sam and I punched each other in the face during some bullshit show in some rec hall on the south shore of Massachusetts. As you get older, you drop some of the bands, shave off the mohawk and the term “sell out” starts to mean less and less as you realize shit is expensive. With a budding design studio and clothing line, Sam is well on his way to figuring out the next step for a 25 year old punk. Kevin Hebb: If you could be placed in any horror movie, as a sidekick, what would it be?
on the road and hard living, make him an excellent candidate for a leadership role in my gang.
Sam Furst: Thats a tough one, I think if I could be anyones sidekick I would love to be Ash's sidekick in Evil Dead. Mostly because I think my life tends to lend itself to the slapstick humor that is very apparent in Sam Raimi's writing.
Picking a babe is more complicated. What attributes do I go for? How badass they actually are or just purely base it off of looks? Or do I go for both and just say Joan Jett? Because really she's tough to beat. But honestly, I would choose my wife. She's about as tough, pretty, and as cool as they come, I don't know what I would ever do without her.
KH: With that said, assemble an elite badass gang made up of misfit toys and horror movie icons. Throw in a babe and a setting for fun. Limit of 3, plus babe. SF: My crew would consist of all aspects of my life. Monsters, nerddom, and rock'n roll. While I wish I was totally badass the reality is I'm a gigantic nerd, my choices for my gang probably reflect that. My gang Frankensteins monster - He is my entire life currently. That has been going on for over a year now since he is the central design for the Monsters are Good logo and a lot of the merch. But beyond that, just for brute force. Darth Vader - He will always be one of the most badass characters ever put on film. My entire childhood revolved around Star Wars. The first movie I remember seeing was return of the jedi and that changed my life. Plus, he's got the force and a lightsaber, you can't really mess with that. Lemmy Kilmister - The man has been leading one of the greatest rock'n roll bands for the past 30 plus years, he bends to no man. But his knowledge from years of being
22 Abstraks September 2011
I picture the setting being in space, going around roughing folks up. I think someone should make that movie! KH: Coming from a background of rock n' roll and geeky pop culture, it seems natural you would go in this direction. Tell us more about your start with apparel. SF: I've always wanted to do something on my own. It really all started in high school when I purchased my first button maker. My older brother Max and I decided we would start a distro that specialized in pins, patches, and even bootleg cds of punk bands that you could never find any merchandise for. We called ourselves "Caffeinated Youth" a reference to the many 80's punk things that had youth in their name, and our love of coffee. We made it out to a couple of shows, sold a few things on online, but it never really sprouted into what we wanted it to be. In the years following I kept it up in a small way making pins for myself or my friends and occasionally selling them to record stores around Boston. A huge change came when I took the plunge to move to
Kansas City. I began school for Graphic Design in one of the most intense programs in the country at The Kansas City Art Institute, got married and even had a daughter, Paige. As these changes came in my life I found myself at 23, a father, a husband, unemployed, and hopelessly a geek. I decided that I needed to do something productive with this time I had. I started trying to make pins for local bands and businesses again. I started selling to my good friends at Chop Tops Hair Company and Clint's Comics. But other than for trade, this really wasn't doing anything for me. From my relationship with Chop Tops, I had a few friends in the hotrod/ rockabilly scene in KC and they told me of a upcoming event called Gear Grinder. A two day hotrod and music show. It was a second year event and I had roughly a month to do whatever it was that I was going to do before the event. I payed for a vendor spot and went to start making stuff to sell, what that was going to be, I had no idea. Monsters are Good was born. It came from a few places. My childhood love/obsession with Frankenstein and my disillusionment with gory horror flicks. When I was in High School, I was all about the horror movies, specifically the gory ones but as a dad and just a different person those movies didn't really appeal to me as they once had. I
28 Abstraks September 2011
started becoming more interested in comic book characters and the entire Mythos that goes along with each character, this is probably why I began becoming completely enthralled with the classic monsters of film. I still loved horror and monsters but I wanted to do something fun, with an appreciation of graphic design. I pulled together a couple hundred dollars, whipped up some designs, and bought some screen printing supplies. I was all set to start production but was quickly running out of time. So I recruited the help of best friend and former KCAI classmate, Josh Lenz who still works as my righthand man. Without hesitation we began printing shirts, printing patches, and pressing pins. We had 3 shirt designs, maybe 10 patch designs, and 60 different pins. To say Gear Grinder was a success would be a lie. We made some money but it seemed to be almost entirely from pins. At this point all our shirts and patches had been recycled band and vintage horror imagery, with the exception of one shirt that we still sell. Now, I could have been discouraged by this, but I had so much fun doing something for myself that I was more determined than ever to push forward and to do more events. We kept at it, working any show or event we could, till we sold almost all of what we had.
With the first round of merchandise payed off and sold, I decided we should do something bigger and better than before. Our goal was the annual Hotrod extravaganza Greaserama. This time I paid someone more experienced to print our shirts, which ended up costing just as much as me printing them except they looked way better. With production mostly out of my hands I spent more time on the design side of things and really worked to create stuff that I would truly be proud of. It payed off, we were even more successful than I could have hoped for at that event. It was probably the most fun I've ever had at a event. KH: With an honest and grounded approach, where do you hope to go next? Where do you plan NOT to take things? SF: Its really tough to determine where I want this to go. Of course I would love for this to grow and grow. For it to be as successful as some people that have had similar beginnings, such as Johnny Cupcakes and Fright Rags, both of who I commend and envy for making a go at what they are truly happy doing. I would like to open a store in Salem, Massachusetts. I can't imagine something that sounds more pleasant than having my own store front in my favorite city in the U.S. Of course I want to continue doing conventions, concerts, and hotrod shows, but it would be great to have a official home base of operations. I am already trying to get some distribution with a few stores and websites. I do not want the company to only be based around our merchandise. Graphic design is what I went to school for and still intend to do professionally. We have begun to build up a list of design clients such as the KC Rockabilly group, a small mask and prop builder called Misery Productions, and couple of bands such as 500 Miles to Memphis(OH). I would love to see this pan out to doing more posters for bigger concerts and events, and help more and more people make their projects look more professional. KH: With the increase of internet marketplaces and success of small brands, it seems like anyone can start something and run with it. What do you feel makes you stand out from the rest? SF: I think our concept is unlike anyone else's. We are a
company for Monster and horror fans who have a sense of humor about themselves. I have no interest in making scary or gory designs, its not that I'm a prude or something, but that market has been tapped and flooded with every kind of horror shirt you can imagine. We try to appeal to more than just the general monster or horror fan, reaching out to a broader audience. For another thing, we're not just a clothing company, there are many different facets to the products we offer. We really lend ourselves to be able to do just about anything someone needs us to do. We do a lot of leg work for people who want to get shirts printed, want design work, or need pins for their band or event. We've done several charity events at which we've sold specially made Monsters are good designs for the event and we've been able to donate a nice amount to a couple of no-kill animal shelters and even Alzheimer's reasearch. I really don't want to ever get cornered in the market, I want to do everything. We're even working on a hair product! So, yeah, I would say more than anything we stand out by making ourselves as versatile as we possibly can.
“For me I always pictured the scene in Young Frankenstein where the monster is playing with the little girl. I’d say just Frankenstein but he accidentally kills the little girl and I don’t want people to think that of me.” What was your inspiration for the "Monsters are good" concept and name? How, if at all, has a marriage and daughter affected your approach to working in the horror scene? My marriage never affected anything I've done. There is a reason I married that woman and it's that we shared a unbelievable love for the same things. She has been the most supportive person when it comes to all the Monsters are good stuff. My relationship with my daughter on the other hand, was a different situation completely.
September 2011 Abstraks 31
"Monsters are good" concept wise came out of the idea of not judging a book by its cover. I was really taken by this idea after becoming a father. I don't think I'm a scary looking person, but I can see how, to some, I might be intimidating; I'm not a small guy, I wear a lot of black and have tattoos. Every time I was in public with my daughter I felt as though I was being watched, as if the people around me were asking themselves "whats he doing with a child? thats just not right!" Of course this bothered me, but I knew I was a good father so I didn't let their judging eyes get to me. I was not what I appeared to be and I met more and more people who dressed, talked, and were interested in the same things as me, who were parents too. For me I always pictured the scene in Young Frankenstein where the monster is playing with the little girl. I'd say just Frankenstein but he accidentally kills the little girl and I don't want people to think that of me. The first time I put a name down on paper it was actually a concept for my personal art website, "Wind-up Monster." This sort of unthreatening version of something that should by all means be scary. It didn't pan out for fear of being judged on that instead of my work. But I didn't want to abandon the idea, I thought it just fit me too perfectly. When I was getting ready for our first event, I was reading some issues of "Famous Monsters of Filmland" and came across an article called "Monsters are good for you." The article discussed the positive health benefits of watching monster movies which I found to be particularly interesting. But the name, it was so simple and to the point that it really was what I was looking for. I simplified it more, and from that I had "Monsters are good." Contact:
September 2011 Abstraks 33
Micah 34 R. O. Litant Interview by Darius Loftis
When it comes to art, it’s not about what is right or wrong but rather the expression from the individual. This is the belief of Micah R. O. Litant, who is an artist and teacher that plans to spread this message. Micah expresses his experience, interest and emotional outlooks with art. I was able to find out how he became a tattoo artist, and how he plans to continue teaching. Darius: Alright, first question. How did you get into art? Micah: I was always doodling and drawing on anything I could get my hands on. I never really started getting serious about it until high school when I started doing a lot of photography work. Throughout high school all I did was photography. I never really thought I could develop my drawing or painting. But after high school I felt pretty burned out and uninspired, and picked up the pencil again and started taking courses. I just started focusing on different mediums with drawing and painting and it took off from there. D: When I was looking at your art, I noticed you have a lot of realistic characteristics to your work. M: Just up until recently I sort of had difficulty finding this balance between copying from real life, within my work when drawing and painting. Whether it be straight from life or a photo, and finding avenues to stray from realism or creating a reproduction of something else. I guess a lot of my original training was out of photography. When I first started painting I wasn't really sure how to use the mediums and have fun with them. So I really just concentrated on the technical aspects, because I was in a course for drawing. And my teachers were really strict on how to do things right and wrong. After years in school doing things that were more like exercises and much less fulfilling, copying things, drawing from real life. I‘ve recently started to break away and develop my own style. D: Do you have a specific style or a concept that you repeat? M: My art being extremely colorful is a large part in most of my work. At the moment [there’s] this loose feeling that’s got the urge to discuss my frustrations and ideologies with modern American society, consumer culture, Page 37: “Wobbles” 8”x10” Acrylic on canvas Page 38: “Rest” 7”x5”, Graphite on paper
36 Abstraks September 2011
and capitalism. Especially in light of post World War II and American culture. I’ve been a bit lost with exactly what I want to say, but using bright candy colors and almost 50’s style pastels, and plastic toys and dolls of false representation of life. This sort of began directing a conversation to consumer culture and which hopefully in the future I’ll continue with it to an extended level. That would be the overall theme for my choices and palette. D: Are you big on art history? M: A bit, not as much as I’d like to be. D: Do you follow any people that influence you? M: I randomly found this book on this stack of trash someone was throwing out. I believe it’s from the 1500’s, 1400’s, of bold medieval paintings with insane amount of information about these characters. It looks like a precursor to Mark Ryden’s work, or pop surrealism kind of stuff. There’s all these crazy little characters holding things, and its very narrative as well which I feel drawn too. He’s certainly one of my main inspirations as far as the level of creativity. Particularly for an older artist. As for more recent any painter that seems more engaged with their work emotionally, such as Lucian Freud, or Jenny Saville. They’re figurative painters, which I don’t do as much, but they paint with really broad heavy brush work, and thick layers of paint with lushes colors. I’m really attracted to people who are extremely engaged with their canvas, where you can almost feel the intensity of them working just by looking at the piece. D: Back to photography, you said you based drawing and paintings from photography. Do you still do photography? M: As a reference or starting point for drawing and painting? Page 39: “Target Deer”, 60”x48”, oil Canvas Page 40: “Bird” 12”x16”, Watercolor and ink on paper
D:Yeah, but do you also own a camera and go out and shoot? M:Yeah. A big reason why I moved away from doing a lot of photography is because I really enjoy working with film. I love things that are process oriented where I can be hands on and be in control of the entire process. Such as with painting and building my own frames, and stretching my own canvas’ because it feels a lot more rewarding when you make the entire product. I’m sure you feel the same way when you make the magazine, from the ground up. And then having a final product that shows every step throughout the process. I got really disappointed after high school when film became such a dying medium. It just really wasn’t feasible for me to continue working on, and it was starting to become so expensive to get anything done. I had a lot of frustration with photography. With a lot of photography you’re almost bound by what your surroundings are for what you can work on. When I started drawing and painting, it was the freedom that it lends you at any time or place you can almost find a pencil and a scrap of paper.You just sit down and create your own world, just flush out these ideas that only exist in your head. In that aspect, [drawing] it’s just more of a liberating medium to work in.You didn’t really have to worry about cost that much, and do things really cheaply, do what ever you want, anytime, any place. I find myself using references for photography, but I try not to get stuck in working straight from the picture. Then it just really becomes the things that made me stray from photography in the first place. D: When you create a drawing or painting, how often do you derive something from your own imagination? M: I guess it depends. Usually I do start with some reference to ground the piece. Even if it’s just a loose idea or to get the proportions of it. Then I remove the reference to build up inspiration for other ideas that I can add into the piece. D: It looks like you’ve experimented and have experience in using different mediums. What kinds do you use? M: Once I switched from photography to drawing and painting, it came really exciting to me that there’s all these different tools and materials. There’s also so many different textures and patterns and feelings you can evoke from a piece just based on those. For the last couple of years Page 41: “Bats” 16 1/2” x 30” Watercolor and ink on paper Page 42: “Jujubees” 60”x48” Oil on canvas
44 Abstraks September 2011
I’ve bounced back and forth between a bunch of different things. A big aspect of my work that I’ve been trying to emphasize is sort of delivering a message or sharing my artwork. Basically really putting things out there more so, rather than keeping a framed photograph in my kitchen. Creating pieces that will move out into the community or society. I did some drawing in the past using sharpies on t-shirts, like trying to create mobile pieces of art. And additionally I’ve been doing a lot of linoleum cut prints lately. Which is really exciting because everything is dirt cheap and it barely cost any money. Plus I can set up a little printing studio in my living room when I get sick of drawing or painting. Or [when] I work on one painting forever and I have one final product left to show for it, it’s really rewarding to move into linoleum cut prints. I can buy a block of linoleum that’s 12x12 for a couple bucks and carve it out, then I can pull as many prints as I want from it. The prints are so cheap and affordable that I can give them away to friends or use them for whatever. D: Are you interested in street art also? You mentioned getting your art out there, and making it mobile too so people can see it outside. M: I’ve always been fascinated with street art and really engaged with that. I’m not quite sure where my explorations will take me with this aspect of sharing my art. I don’t really think I want to do just spray paint and stencil work, for some reason that’s never been my thing. Maybe I’ll explore that a bit more but right now I’m looking into this print thing quite a bit. Actually that’s why I sort of got into tattooing in the first place as well, and now I’m kind of switching out of that or toning down how much I’m tattooing. But for the last 5 years I was all about that medium. It was just the reward about somebody coming to you and requesting a custom piece of art to put on themselves and wear it forever. The idea of finishing a piece and it’s on them, where they are this mobile canvas with your art on them. It’s just a fascinating concept to me, there’s nothing like that where it’s so rewarding. D: Well when I first met you about a year ago, I met you as a tattoo artist. How did you originally get into that field? M: I started getting into tattooing as soon as I turned 18. When I was 17 I started going into this shop and having consults, and planning out the day of my 18th birthday. For some reason I always knew I’d be completely covered, Page 43: “Skull”
that was always the goal in my mind. As soon as I was 18 I just started getting tattooed as much as I could. I had a bunch of random jobs like working at Friendly’s, dog shelters. So I’d save up some money for a couple of weeks then get some more work, then another month and go in. Eventually I was pretty heavily tattooed and it was right at the same time I started switching from photography to drawing. I started to become a bit more engaged with it, as I was creating my own pieces that were similar in style. I ended up hanging around a shop long enough, and I was working out in Western Mass at another shop, a couple ones here and there. But I was around the ones out here [Boston] so frequently that finally they hired me to start working behind the counter. I just stayed there and worked while I was in school, and bouncing back and forth between different places. I eventually got an apprenticeship and began tattooing. D:You mentioned walking away from tattooing or trying something else, what are you planning? M: I just got a scholarship to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts for the fall. I’m going back there for their post grad program, and then try to get some scholarships for a masters program, and then pursue teaching in oil paint. I did a lot of teaching undergrad and found it really rewarding. After 5 years just getting burned out at my current job, I’ve come to a point where I [should] leave and explore
for a while or I was just going to get stuck where I was for a long time. I just started feeling unfulfilled artistically with tattooing, because it started to feel like a standard corporate art job. I know it doesn’t usually seem that way, but it’s funny how it can become that. I guess any job after a certain point becomes repetitious. D: The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, you went there before right?
“You know, when you go to work and somebody else is in charge and the boss can tell you if you’re right or wrong.You have to do things a certain way, throughout the day you’re constantly seeing yourself judged in society like there’s a right and a wrong way to do things. “
September 2011 Abstraks 45
M:Yup, I did my junior year there as a transfer student. D: What are your plans for the future, besides teaching? D: What’s your creative process like? M: I’m super process oriented and organized. I usually have a set path for how I work on things. Generally I start with the red Prisma colors, because you can get such varying degrees of tone out of them.You can sketch things really lightly to get broad shapes and forms, or a direction of a piece. Then just start building them up to get specific detail, then shade it all in with the pencil and fill in all the lines. But the red Prisma colors are fucking awesome; they’ve been the secret to my work! I’ve learned that from my friend Jason Maybruck who’s another fantastic tattoo artist. Additionally, a lot of my inspiration, guidance, and support has come from my mentor in tattooing for the last five years, Natan Alexander. Through his direction and my experiences apprenticing under him, running his shops, and managing the Boston Tattoo Convention (coming up over Labor Day Weekend 2011!), I've found completely new avenues for approaching my artwork and much of life in general.
M: Basically my main plan right now is just to explore. I’ve been in Salem for the past couple of years, and I guess when I live in any place for a couple of years I start to get really bored or fidgety. I haven’t really been out of the Northeast or Massachusetts really, and I’d really like to just see some other places and cultures I’m unfamiliar with. Take in some knowledge of different cultures and how people live, and that’ll add more influence and a different perspective to my work. But I’ve recently just started to get into making band posters and t-shirts for some of my friends’ bands. I’d really like to do that more, because that ties in with the idea of that mobile kind of work. Contact:
D: So earlier you mentioned you were going back to school, to basically become a more advanced teacher. What are some of the things that you would like to teach to your students? Possibly something that you’ve learned from your past teachers. M: I guess one of the main things that drew me to drawing and painting in the first place, is that it is an academic scholarly pursuit. But there’s also this level of it not being right and wrong. Like that applies to not just other subjects of art, but also other thoughts in life.You know, when you go to work and somebody else is in charge and the boss can tell you if you’re right or wrong.You have to do things a certain way, throughout the day you’re constantly seeing yourself judged in society like there’s a right and a wrong way to do things. There’s a way that you need to fit in and be accepted to groups, with your friends, or at the work place. But when you pick up a brush and paint, there’s just a blank page before you. There’s no way that anyone can possibly tell you what you’re doing is wrong or correct. In many ways, that’s the highest form of freedom to me. But it took a long time to discover how I wanted to say that, or what I wanted to do with it. It became really important to me now, because I want to go back to school and teach, to help people find their own voice. Page 45: “Bring your own friends” 26” x 8” Graphite on paper Page 46: “Always” 12”x12” Linoleum-cut print on paper September 2011 Abstraks 47
Ari 48 Hauben Interview by David Showalter Jr.
Ari Hauben is the kind of guy Lynard Skynyrd wrote the song “Simple Kind of Man” about. He is the precise definition of someone who is living a comfortable lifestyle of his own that works because he did it himself. This lends well to his art. It is the kind of art that makes the biggest impact when viewed firsthand. Every millimeter of space is used. He has a brilliant existential thought process which is complimentary to everything he does. This coincides symbiotically with people affected by his work as an artist and educator. I had the fortunate opportunity to visit Ari at his studio in Boston for our interview. I so want that studio. Also, he’s left-handed. Don’t tell anyone! David Showalter: Is there anything specific you wanted to say about how you define yourself as an artist? Ari Hauben: A while ago I got a grant and I was travelling with some other teachers. Somebody had spray painted on a wall: “I will not draw as I am told.” I think that’s become my loose philosophy for teaching and my art in general. I’m always looking to try something different and expand on what I’m doing. A lot is self-taught. I was never trained classically. A lot of the solutions to problems I have I find them in different ways than other people. That drives me. DS: I was really impressed with your use of color. Could you talk about what you do as a colorist? AH: I think to balance the newspaper which is what I’m typically using with color. The contrast of the color to the newspaper is something the pieces need in order to create balance. Also, I like color. I think rooms need it. I think art should have color. Ultimately, I’m drawn to it. Some of my pieces have one main color, but I’ll look at twentyfive different colors before I choose that color. If you’re only going to put one color down it needs to be the right color or it will ruin the whole piece.You have to put a lot of value on it.
AH: I’ve been teaching for seven years. I didn’t think I was going to be a teacher. After college I moved in with my aunt in Hawaii for a little bit. When I came back I didn’t have a job and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I got my undergrad in Industrial Design. I found out right away I wasn’t a big nine to five guy. One of my father’s friends who had been teaching at McKinley South End Academy said they had positions for assistant teachers. I went in for an interview and I brought my portfolio. The art teacher had just quit and they hired me on the spot on waivers to be the head art teacher. All the kids at the school have been either expelled or displaced. The beginning was challenging. I had not been trained as a teacher or to teach art. They took a risk on me, but it panned out. I really enjoy it. I think I’m pretty good at it. DS: How important is teaching art to you? AH: I don’t know if I’d be doing my own art if I hadn’t started teaching. The old art I was doing was project based, for somebody else, or for something else. I started doing all these projects and adjusted them to fit the students’ needs. My art work was created out of my teaching art. I think they’re interconnected. Teaching was the seed for my art. Now it’s starting to turn around. Art is becoming the seed for my teaching. Now I use my art and my own processes to teach.
DS: When did you start teaching?
Page 51: “Necco Street” 30”x40” Mixed Media/Newspaper, Page 52: “Make Fun Not War” 30”x40”, Mixed Media/Newspaper
50 Abstraks September 2011
DS: What is your pedagogy? Do you have a specific teaching philosophy? AH: It draws back to “I will not draw as I am told.” Especially with my students who haven’t succeeded within the confines of the spectrum of public education. I try to encourage them to not draw as they’re told. I don’t want them to run wild and go crazy. I try to create a general system but then they can create their own steps. DS: There is a lot of iconography in your art work. How do you connect with those individuals, images, and characters? AH: The bigger pieces I do are time consuming and monotonous. I do portraits so I can finish something in a short amount of time and be done because it feels good to finish something. I have a certain fear of these really important historical figures being lost. I’m starting to see a disconnection with some of the people that are really important to the country. [I connect with] their philosophies and idealism. Lincoln’s wearing the Wayfarers because he was an idealistic trendsetter. These are people who push the boundaries. Now there are no iconic leaders like there were then. I like the old school aesthetic from a visual standpoint. DS: Would you say part of the reason why you use these people’s images is your own self-perception? Do you want to be part of that canon or pantheon? AH: I never really thought about it like that. I don’t think so. It’s more about what I value.You need to be aware these things are important. Part of me being aware is addressing some of the ideals I think are important through the images of these people. They were passionate and believed in something, for better or worse. DS: I noticed you use a lot of recyclable materials. Would you consider yourself a green artist? AH: It’s a slight contradiction. I want to be careful. I use an epoxy resin that says it’s environmentally friendly, but I’m still using epoxy resin. I use spray paint and aerosols. I’m definitely preserving and recycling. At the same time I can’t say that I’m not part of the problem. I’m doing my best with what I’m using within the confines of creating and putting out a product. I’m using the best of the materials
that are out there and I’m doing the best I can. DS: There are some pieces you emphatically said: There it is. Enjoy it! And there are others where there is obviously a message, something underlying. What is Ari Hauben’s message? AH: It varies. There’s no specific message. I like when there’s form and function. I like when form meets function. I think it’s the industrial designer in me. For me, I like when art can be hung on a wall and make a room come together or look beautiful but I also like when it’s about something. It has more depth. I’m [changing the] context of the newspaper. In terms of the newspaper, I like the idea of taking something that usually has a one day life span, freezing it, and creating something unique out of it. These words mean something and [I] put them in an image that is attractive or aesthetically pleasing. Each piece individually will say something different. As a whole they become important. It’s almost like Impressionism. When you go up close you can see all the little parts and how they fit together; when you back up then you get the whole thing. It’s the whole thing that’s really important. DS: How important is it for you to have your own space to create? AH: Before this, I was living in Brighton and I was using my parents’ attic for a while. I would go there and try to create. Inevitably, you can’t be creative all the time.You can’t put yourself on a schedule and get there and want to do it. [Referring to his studio] This is a live in workspace. When I feel like doing it I’m already here. I’m coming to the point where I need more space. I think you’re limited by your space or lack of space. If I had more space I could pursue different directions. The reason I’ve been going strongly in one direction is because I really enjoy it. People seem to respond to it. Also, I don’t have much space to work in two directions. If I’m doing one of those pieces I have to be doing one of those pieces.You don’t realize how important it is until you have it. Since I’ve been here my work has progressed tenfold. DS: What materials have you experimented with and what materials would you like to experiment with? AH: I would like to get back to oil paint and textured oil paint. Within what I’ve been doing I’m going to start treat-
Page 54: “Boston Skyline” 30”x40” Mixed Media/Newspaper, Page 55: “Impermanence Permanent” 30”x40”, Mixed Media/Newspaper September 2011 Abstraks 53
ing the layers different and work more on different layers. There’s still more room for me to grow within the materials I’m using. Every time I do it there’s always something new I find I can do. I thought about using novels and doing images based on the theme of the novel. I have this idea to do melted-crayon drawings. I can’t give away all my secrets. I’m going in different directions. I’d like to use everything. It’s just a matter of time. DS: I found myself chuckling so many times while observing your art. Do you try to be funny? How do you use your sense of humor in your art? AH: I don’t mean to be overtly funny. I have a message. I don’t want to drive it down people’s throats. I want people to understand what I’m saying. I really like simplicity to a certain extent and it’s hard to do right. All of those things lend itself to humor. I try not to get too complex.
When you start to get more complex it becomes less funny. I don’t want to be taken too seriously. That’s not what I’m trying to do. I have feelings about things that are happening in the world but I don’t want to force them. I’m not trying to tell you how I feel. I’m just trying to show you in a light-hearted way. DS: Do you have a process or a certain way of doing things? Is it more about the organic nature of your art happening?
“I don’t know how much I want to lead people down a certain path or let them take themselves down it.”
Page 54: “Boston Skyline” 30”x40” Mixed Media/Newspaper, Page 55: “Impermanence Permanent” 30”x40”, Mixed Media/Newspaper September 2011 Abstraks 55
AH: They all start in different places. It’s all topic based. Sometimes I have an idea and I create imagery based around that idea. The stuff I’m doing is so process-oriented. It has to be done a certain way and in certain steps. The cool thing is I created it. It wasn’t a process to begin with. I created a style I really like to work in. A lot of it is really monotonous. There is an organic aspect to all of my pieces. Each piece has many different steps that veer off the process and then come back. I’ll change something at the last minute. I never close the door on anything. I try to keep an open mind. A lot of times those last minute decisions have been my favorite parts of the pieces. DS: On your website you talked about the 360 degree factor and how your art changes as you move around it. What changes in your work as it’s viewed? What do you want people to see when they view your artwork?
Page 56: “Tanks 4 Nothing” 30”x40” Mixed Media/Newspaper, Page 57: “Trendsetter” 18”x24”, Mixed Media/Newspaper
56 Abstraks September 2011
AH: There’s a deliberate attention to detail. If you really look hard you’ll find the letters wrap around the edge. Even the way I sign my name. Everything is there for a reason. When you see it as a whole all those little things add up to a consistent image. I work on inch and a half wood canvas. I used to frame [my work]. Now I don’t anymore. Those sides are part of what people see. If it’s there and you can see it I think it should be incorporated into the piece in some way. DS: How do you go about titling your work? AH: I’m caught between wanting to call it something directly associated with the image and wanting to call it something that relates to what the message is. For me it’s a constant struggle. I don’t know how much I want to lead people down a certain path or let them take themselves down it. I don’t know how much and how little to tell you
about the title.
you to see their art. I want to share what I’m doing with the city I’m living in. Just go do it!
DS: Do titles come about before, during, or after? Contact Information:
AH: Before, I have a specific title in mind but then after I finish the image and it speaks for itself I want to call it something simpler; something that embodies it as a whole. I’m looking to come up with a more consistent method of naming stuff.
Email: email@example.com Websites: http://www.arihauben.com http://www.arisgeneralstore.com
DS: Is there a difference between your personal work and commissioned work?
Fort Point Open Studios Fall 2011 Location:
AH: I realize the value of doing work for yourself. If you believe in what you’re doing, other people can believe in it too. It’s more rewarding to make money off of art you made for yourself because it means people are relating to what you’re trying to say. I’ve been less inclined to do commissioned work. I feel like if I keep doing work for myself and things I think are interesting there are just as many people out there who will want that. It’s easier to work for yourself and make the decisions. There are commissions I will take if I find them to be interesting or challenging or make me a more diverse artist. It’s using the style you’ve created to make yourself happy and if that in turn makes other people happy then that’s rewarding.
Midway Studios, 15 Channel Center Street Studio 211 Boston, MA 02210 Dates/Hours: Friday, October 14th 4 PM – 7 PM Saturday, October 15th 11 AM – 6 PM Sunday, October 16th 11 AM – 6 PM Link: http://www.fortpointarts.org/cgi-bin/FPAC
DS: What is the significance of being able to share your work with others? AH: There wasn’t. I used to do it for myself. As I started to like my work more I got more comfortable sharing it. I want to show as much as possible. If I continue to have some of the success I’ve had at some point I think I’ll rent my own space. I’ve talked with a friend of mine about working together to do a “pop-up store” for a month [and] have control over how the work is seen. “Please Touch the Art” would be the name of the show. I don’t necessarily want people to rub their hands all over the work, but the idea behind that. The art is not just something hanging on the wall to look at. DS: What would you like to say to our readers? AH: For me personally I would say come see my art live. [We laugh] It’s dramatically different than it is online. Being able to interact with it is important. Other than that: Don’t be afraid to go out and get involved. People want Page 58: “Buckminster Fuller” 24”x30.5” Mixed Media/vintage magazine Page 59: “Look/Allston” 30”x40”, Mixed Media/Newspaper Page 60: “Boob Not Bombs” 30”x40”, Mixed Media/Newspaper
September 2011 Abstraks 61
September issue of Abstraks