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EKUNDAYO by HENRY SOZA
Whether creatively attacking a wall, canvas or a piece of paper, Ekundayo seems to always be deep in thought. His work is loaded heavily with intense characters, psychological narratives, surreal landscapes, heavy symbolism and a want for the viewer to get up close and personal. Explain to us what your name means? Ekundayo is a Nigerian name that means “sorrow becomes joy”. Some people believe you don’t choose a name but the name chooses you. This is definitely the case with me. The funny thing is I’m not Nigerian. My father was a black man born in Inglewood, California (and so were his parents). He chose the name because it was the name of a very close friend to him. As the years go by, my life has been the exact definition of that meaning so I’d like to think it was meant for me. The older I get, the more the name suits my outlook on life. When did you realize that art was what you wanted to pursue? I started to draw after my father passed away. It was a way for me to deal with all the heavy feelings of his passing. As I continued on I met other people and mentors who showed me the way of an artist. I just knew it was what I was meant to do. You’re a Hawaii native but you’ve moved around to different places. How have those different places inspired you? Every new place I go leaves an impact on me. The people I meet and the memories always seem to inspire my work.
What made you move back to Hawaii? Hawaii is where I was born, so in that way it always will be home to me. I love to travel but I feel closest to my art here because this is where I truly started to discover my talent. Where does most of your inspiration come from? Usually it comes from the simple things, someone I’ve met or a conversation about life. I just start to paint. Once I get going the piece sort of talks to me and a conversation begins.
Do the colors in your work and characters you paint have any significance? When I was younger I was always attracted to bright colors because I found it a way to welcome people into my art and once they got closer they can see a deeper meaning within the beautiful color. As I mature with my work I use more of a subtle approach, with bursts of color wrapped around more neutral tones. What does the future hold for Ekundayo? The sky’s the limit really. I want to just keep growing and keep inspiring people with what I do. It’s a very rewarding feeling to know my art can sometime reach further then my physical presence. www.ekundayo.com
Charlie Owens Amidst black velvet Jesus paintings and skate decks of yesteryear hang antlers and animal skulls of varied shapes and sizes. A gas mask or two dangle alongside an oversized American flag hanging over a table stacked with work, prints, and unpainted canvases. A radio murmurs rock music while a mid-80s television blinks in and out of static snow. On easels, in corners and upon tabletops sit stacks of sorted prints waiting to be sold and shipped, and pieces of screens freckled with the ink remnants of a dayâ€™s work. This is the lair of Charlie Owens, a Knoxville, Tennessee native now living and working as an art director in Atlanta, Georgia. The southern born-and-bred mixed media artist earned a Graphic Arts degree from the Art Institute of Atlanta while at the same time experimenting with new printing techniques and further honing his design skills. While earning a living doing freelance design work, Owens never lost sight of his roots, conjuring images inspired by street art, rock-nroll, and most notably skate art and culture. www.charlieowens.com
SKINNER By David Kenedy
Think of a cryptic demon lord from space. Go ahead! Think of one right now! Now give it some acid and a skateboard. Watch as it picks up an enchanted crystal staff, puts on an ancient shamanistic mask, and becomes one with the universe. Don’t get freaked when it comes closer, it’s only trying to give you a high five. Give it a high five. Good job! Now it’s time to party, because you just got one step closer to understanding the mind of one of the most gruesomely talented artists around. Skinner works out of his studio in Sacramento, California. He’s totally self-taught, and has been regularly pumping out a shit ton of seriously fucked up, headturning, artwork for years now. So needless to say I was pretty excited to be able to drill a hole in his brain and see what kind of sorcery he’s been working with lately. So you must be a pretty busy guy these days! What do you find yourself currently spending most of your time on? Wrapping up the art for a commercial for Santa Cruz Skateboards, I’m doing it with my buddy Jim Dirshberger, who I did my Hell Dream cartoon with. It’s going to be pretty great I think. I got to legally get away with doing my own versions of the iconic Santa Cruz characters: the Screaming Hand, the Ripper and that big yellow Rob Roskopp face. I’m also trying to wrap up the album cover for the band Holy Grail and some toy concepts then I’m doing something for the Pangea Seed (shark conservation society). You’ve done quite a few shows at this point. How has seeing your own work in the context of so many other artists around the world affected your artistic approach? Well, I can do more involved installs and be more a part of a show when it’s closer to me. It’s nice to have shows in other countries and I’d like to fly over and go off like fuck but it’s something I will get to when I do. A lot of shows in Europe are more diverse in genres; more of the spectrum is represented sometimes, from fine art to sculpture to graff to weird shit like what I do. Here it’s very gallery-to-gallery and each one has a focus or a parameter of what they show. But there are always artists who are exceptions, ones that cross barriers. It’s cool to see. I love the Butcher Kings series! How does it feel be an artist at a time when we have so much pop culture to pull from? Compared to, say, a hundred and fifty years ago or so when artists like Gustave Doré were doing amazing work but it was all limited to subject matter drawn from biblical influences? It’s interesting to live in this time and be an artist. I feel lucky that I live in a time where art is kind of put on a pedestal as well as the artist. How many times do you hear about the stereotype of the starving artist? Who only gets popular after they die? It’s almost like a PSA on why you should never become an artist. But the art movement that I am in affects so much: movies, video games, toys, shirts, design, cartoons, skateboarding. Almost every part of our culture is inundated with art and design. It’s a good time to be
an artist. I feel lucky and it’s all on the backs of those that came before me: the Robert Williams’s, the Big Daddy Roths, the underground comic companies, the weirdos and the visionaries who just did it and weren’t being given big ass checks by Nike or whatever. All the kids my age who grew up with cartoons and 80s pop culture are now kind of the prevalent adults and determine what’s kind of cool so here I am doing all this stuff. I’m not into heavy-handed pop culture stuff for myself but it was fun to collaborate with Alex Pardee on that. I got to be like Mad Magazine cartoonist Basil Wolverton for the month! As for Dore, he would have been better off living now, as well as Virgil Finlay, the best of the best.
I remember being young and always imagining these fantasy battle scenarios, like Terminators and Predators somehow making it to Jurassic Park and everything going crazy. I feel like your work somehow embodies that same kind of spirit.
In your Fragile Art of Existence series you deliberately moved away from your typical freaks and ghouls type of thing and went into a whole other world. There are elements of nature and mystical spirituality. The overall tone is much deeper. How did this come about? Why do you think it’s so hard for so many artists to move away from what they are used to and explore new territory?
I got into it later, but I did remember liking the Lord of the Rings stuff. He really did some great stuff except I think he bummed out a bunch of people he worked with. I love Fire and Ice.
I think if you are concerned about keeping up an idea of what people can come to expect from you then your concern is immediately about appeasing a projection and your art immediately takes a back seat to “being liked”. It’s a pressure everyone feels once they are establishing themselves. This series of paintings were a risk for me and it’s a place I am going back to as soon as I have the time. I want to take the risks because the rewards are great. I recommend that every artist do it. Your work definitely has a very recognizable aesthetic and style. How did that develop? What advice would you give other self-taught artists who are trying to find their own? Well, I would say it’s ok to be influenced by other artists but be honest with yourself about it. If you really, really like someone’s art and you kind of use it as a guideline, that’s fine but you have to know that your own style and voice is waiting to get out. The sooner you come to terms with the fact that you are deriving too much influence from someone else the better. It takes years and years to get your shit together. It’s weird because I worked my ass off for ten years and then was like, “I’m ready to try and do this for a living” but dudes are hitting me up on the interwebs asking me what I think about their art and it’s like they just fucking started doing it. I’m like, “Keep going. Do a 100 paintings and then hit me up.” I had 190 paintings in my first solo show, 180 in the next. They may not have been good but I was dedicated to it, growing and learning. The Internet has made it so people do a few paintings and are like pushing them on their Big Cartel (online hub for artists). That’s fine but check your dedication to shit if you want to rise above the ocean of this stuff. What is going to make you better or good or memorable, that you already made prints out of your first 20 paintings? Fuck no! You haven’t even begun. Just work. Work your ass off and make sacrifices. The rest will work itself out. There’s something about really vibrant color patterns mixed in with super grotesque and demonic subject matter that just seems to make sense at this point. Why is that? Because it’s the visionary inertia of every ancient culture and it is our collective consciousness and ancient world mind.
Yeah, except I think what I do is like a third grader gone mad. It’s funny; I’m just doing more twisted versions of what I have always done. I’m more gods and cosmos than Terminators though. Were you ever into Ralph Bakshi’s stuff back in the 70s and 80s?
Top 5 favorite monsters of all time, go! Hulk Godzilla Jaws Frankenstein That horned thing from Conan Can we talk about your band a bit? What role does that play in your life overall? What are your musical influences? Ungoliant is on a hiatus maybe even indefinitely. Some of the dudes in the band developed different priorities and I’m too busy to be a band dad, which is what every band needs to keep going. There’s always one band dad. But I’m still jamming on my guitar for fun and will form another band at some point but I’m doing this album of dance music that will blow your freakin’ socks off. The project is called Absolute Warriors or Abwar for short because abs are awesome. Have you ever had a bad trip? Yeah man I did. I was on a long, long walk with a lot of people and it kept going into this forest for so long and it got darker and darker and I asked everyone if we were going to die. It turns out isn’t the best thing to say to a group of people high as fuck on LSD. Some were all concerned and others were like, “Oh shit! Are we going to die?” Hahaha!! Seriously I wasn’t that scared, I just wanted to know. I was curious. It seemed like it was supposed to happen. I have tons of stories like that. The lesson being, don’t ask questions like that while frying with others. Can you tell us about the first time you ever saw The Neverending Story? Oh shit, it was right after my mom got us a small little apartment after she divorced my dad. This is taking me back. We got one of those early cable boxes. We never had that before. We were all plugging it in together, my mom got it working and we were flipping through the channels. There must have been 26 channels on this thing! My sister found The Neverending Story. It was awesome! All three of us wrapped up on one small couch in an unfurnished apartment watching cable for the first time. Wow. This is kind of an emotional thing to remember. I wish I was young again.
Ancient Aliens, what’s up with that? Well, there’s a lot of unexplained shit that points to a lot of different theories that have little to do with preserving our fragile grasp on reality. It’s hard for people to feel okay about aliens or that our beliefs in someway aren’t the whole story. You will find fierce resistance when challenging the narcissism we have with our importance. It’s not safe for a little eggplant brain. Gotta go easy on these lumps or they start freaking out. I’m open and hoping that aliens are flying by our planet and pick up a Nickelback song on their advanced alien radio and say, “We gave them the technology of the ancients, the crystal skulls, the understanding of the vast universe and it’s beauty and this is what happens a couple thousand years later? This aggression will not stand, we have to destroy the planet. Every mewling pink worm must pay.” What are your thoughts on death? I fantasize about it way more than I should but I’m super sensitive and I’m really affected negatively and grossed out about our privilege and how much people and animals suffer. I want it to stop and I feel powerless and I get depressed. I try to hide it from people but I’m really transparent so my friends know. My girlfriend knows. She’s really sweet though. She makes it worth it. If Satan came up to you and he was all like, “Hey listen, uh, I just wanted to say that I’m really just trying to chill, and if you ever need anything you know where to find me, ok?” what would you say?
Easy, I would challenge him to a rock off and make him pay my rent. So what’s around the corner for you? Any long term endeavors or projects in the works? I’m just trying to make time to focus on my weirdness expansion, skills and travel. I have some cartoon pitches out right now with Jon Shnepp and art direction on that. I’m going to get more involved with my company, Critical Hit, making shirts and prints. I’m going to “dial it in” more, make some music videos, focus on my music, laugh more. Get some vinyl figures, I’ve gotten inspired to get weirder with that stuff. Be good partner to my girl, Kristie. Have more fun. I would like to leave you with this hypothetical battle situation: An army of countless thousands of Satanic Tyrannosaurus Rex Warriors are standing their ground on one side of a battlefield, and on the other, an army of countless thousands of Doom-Enchanted Hello Kitty Mutants… Well this sounds really, really good but what I’m really hoping is that they join forces after realizing that their real goal is to annihilate mankind. Just wash that shit away in a massive sweeping wave of gnashing teeth and bone splintering cuteness. Crush all the malls, destroy the politics, smash our cute outfits and fake boobs, disintegrate our social hierarchies and judgments, slash our self-importance and disembowel our arrogance. www.theartofskinner.com
AARON JASINSKI I imagine my painting as one piece of a two-part puzzle. The puzzle is completed by the unique experience and perspective each person brings who views it. I think all great art says something about being human. Artist and audience work together to discover what that is being said. What we each gain from experiencing art is as unique as our personalities. I hope to relate to my audience by painting things familiar in a way that can surprise. I draw from my personal and cultural experiences and create (or rather communicate) using pop-culture references, surreal scenarios, vivid colors, and energetic textures with a touch of humor.
ANGRY WOEBOTS BY PARKER
Aaron Martin (AKA Angry Woebots) is anything but angry these days. He’s humble, appreciative and extremely excited about life! Even though he’s been busy traveling all around the world spreading his panda imagery with his Army of Snipers crew, Woes took some time to tell us a bit of his story and drop some knowledge. You grew up in Hawaii, have lived in Seattle and now Los Angeles. How did those environments affect your creativity? Everywhere I go effects the push with seeing how people work the techniques. It’s all about the travel and experiences along the way. I never went to art school. I wish I had, but coming up in my career on my own has been my “school” with every place that I’ve lived and traveled. Travel and my art go hand in hand. What mediums do use and why? I use acrylics and ink mostly when doing gallery works and commissions. I’ve been really into walls because of my travels, so I got back into aerosol and using house paint and rollers. Acrylics for the smaller pieces makes sense but I came up using aerosol and went back into it from painting with graffiti writers and muralists. That’s also where the roller and house paint come in. It’s also a lot cheaper and you can’t always find good aerosol during the travels but you will always find house paint. You were in a bad car accident in 1998 that left you incapacitated for a year in which you starting delving more deeply into acrylic painting. What were some of the lessons you learned during that time? How did it affect your art? It affected my state of mind. The car accident put me in a wheelchair and bedridden so I started painting with acrylic because it was like therapy. I had nothing else to do. The accident affected how I looked at everything, not taking anything for granted from then on. It was fucked up, but a crazy blessing looking back now. I love my life. Even if the whole art shit stopped now I’d actually be happy, never expected to get too far doing this, but it has blessed me a million times over.
In general how has your creativity evolved over time? Like I said, all this has been my schooling. Over time doing this has taught me to become a better painter and the hard part of this is being a self-promoter and business person. No matter how much you try, you have to build on that if you want longevity. Tell us how Army of Snipers came to be? What are some of the most fulfilling adventures you’ve had with the crew? What’s next for AOS? Army Of Snipers was a t-shirt brand I came up with for myself in 2005. It only became a crew in 2009 when I started traveling and meeting other heads with like minds in other countries so I started recruiting. It’s more like a network, which brought me overseas to the same places over and over, locking down crew and friendships. So I started recruiting amongst my community here in the US and now it’s a solid collective of painters, graphic designers, sculptors, toy designers, animators and street artist. The last two years have been amazing with members in Europe, Asia and the US. We have a solid highway which we can help each other do shows and paint walls rather then just locally. Eventually we want to be able to do everything in house, with toys, t-shirts, prints and funding to bring members to here and there. Recently we did humanitarian work on the Thai-Burmese border helping Burmese refugees, orphans and victims of human trafficking. A few of us got involved from other crewmates that were involved a year before. A lot of us are well situated and our careers have brought us so much, so with this it was an art trip with more weight and a way to help out using our art. It was amazing. So we will try and get involved in more stuff like so in the near future. Any advice you would give to a young person who wants to continue down a creative path? Always do you, know your roots and remember the ones that help you climb. Always respect that. Also, don’t pay attention to those who try to bring you down. Just keep doing your shit. Get the networking down; always have a card with your info, shake hands and smile. No one likes dickheads or prima donnas. Leave that ego shit at home. You might be a skilled artist but there’s always someone hungrier then you, so keep pushing. Last but not least learn to laugh at yourself. Shit isn’t perfect and criticism is good so learn to take it. Aloha, shout out to my AOS family! www.fatsniper.tumblr.com
KELLY DENATO Kelly Denato has been working professionally in illustration and animation for more than 6 years. Her work has spanned from character and background design to album artwork, comics, and childrenâ€™s books. Currently Kelly is focusing on painting, character art and plush toy design. Kelly lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. www.kdenato.com
Jim Mahfood by Mikemetic
For an artist to present a truly focused, finished product there has to be a process of building and destroying ideas and concepts that often flow freely through an artist’s chosen medium. Stacking “good ideas” up to the ceiling like a pillar of granite then chiseling away at them until only the best developed, most relevant and expressive elements remain is a process that most any critically creative mind can relate to. Jim Mahfood understands the intricacies of this process very well and uses it to fine-tune his comic and animation presentations to a high standard that has been the key to his well rooted and still growing success. One of his most recent creative presentations is a book of collected new and old works based on his popular web comic, Los Angeles Ink Stains. His process for dealing with the real-life experiences he uses as content to fuel Ink Stains mirrors the process of critical refinement that many artists put their works through: I always try and concentrate on the most memorable moments. The moments that stand out the most and have the most impact. This is either an action or something verbal, you know, something really funny that someone said or whatever. The whole process for writing and drawing my own comics really boils down to coming up with ideas and then editing them down. I will think about a story for a couple days and let it stew around in my mind for a bit. Then I will start to write and put it down on paper. I’ll just put it all down, everything I can. And then I put on my special editor’s hat and I get in there and cut out all the fat and boil that thing down to the main essence of the idea: the core story, the best moments, the funniest moments. Ink Stains is supposed to be a comedy, so I’ve had to develop the chops and timing of a comedy writer. It’s challenging but very enjoyable. Even before Ink Stains, Mahfood logged quality hours generating his own material in the form of his well reviewed Grrl Scouts and 40 oz. Comics. His growing foundation of original work eventually led him to high-profile gigs writing and illustrating for Marvel Comics, directing the 2007-2008 ad campaign of malt liquor giant Colt 45, and working on promotional campaigns for big name clients such as Nissan and Ziggy Marley among others. With all of that and more on his resume, the momentum towards commercial success keeps flowing in 2012. He’s steady working on his Disco Destroyer cartoon that will be part of MTV’s re-launch of their groundbreaking 90s animation show Liquid Television in 2013. He also recently completed a three issue mini-series for the new Tank Girl comics called Everybody Loves Tank Girl that dropped this summer. That project fits in well with his affinity for illustrating strong, heavily-armed women which were some of the driving images of his Grrl Scouts comics. Tank Girl in general also embodies the everyday tattooed girl appeal found in the images and content from his Mixtape art books and in other areas of his work as well. And while drawing women is an obvious passion of Mahfood, his recent live-canvas series takes his adoration for the female figure to another level: I love women and I just wanted to paint on them. It’s that simple. I really enjoy drawing females and the natural extension of that just seemed like I eventually paint directly on them. My photographer friends Love Ablan and Akirophoto have the same taste as me, and we just formed this crew one day called “The Pervert Train”. I paint on girls. They shoot it. We usually party a bit and have fun while we’re doing these shoots with music blasting really loud. It’s fun and sexy.
the stuff that gets me excited, I put it in one big ass pop culture blender, add my own secret special hobo herbs and spices, and out comes my style. It’s like cooking. Funky cooking... The same amalgamation of influences and real life experiences that help him form his visual artistic expression also carry over into his audio expressions. He has a popular podcast called “The Beat Bee Sessions” that brings some of his musical musings to life. Music is obviously one of the biggest influences on my visuals, so doing a podcast where I play the music that inspires me seemed like a pretty natural idea. Each volume of “The Beat Bee Sessions” sort of represents what the soundtrack for my life is at that very moment. My friend Jane Dope co-hosts the show with me and we hang out and drink and talk and have fun with it. We want the vibe of the show to come across like the listener is hanging out with us. Having a beer and listening to good tunes with us. Turning his artistic talents into a successful multi-media brand would not have been possible for Mahfood in his original hometown of St. Louis. Even after leaving there to attend college at Kansas City Art Institute and his subsequent move to Arizona after graduating in 1997, his growing success would not fully blossom until his 2003 move to LA: I stayed in AZ for six years and then eventually made the move to Cali. Six years in the desert was enough for me, but at the same time I scored a cartoon deal with Disney and wanted to move to LA to work on the show. The show fell through, but it didn’t matter, I knew I was in Cali to stay. My career was already well established before I moved here, but living here for the past ten years has helped make it skyrocket in ways I could only dream about. It’s been really good for me. A lot of cool shit has happened, too much to go into, but after four different optioning deals at various studios I finally get to see my stuff turn into an animated show. This year the new thing, Disco Destroyer, is happening and the show is going to be totally badass. I’m excited. If the Disco Destroyer animated series and Tank Girl Trilogy are any indication of what the rest of 2012 and beyond hold for him, Jim Mahfood’s future is indeed brighter than those Hollywood lights where he calls home. You can check out Mahfood’s impressive resume, merchandise, and upcoming projects at jimmahfood.com, his blog at foodoneart.blogspot.com, and “The Beat Bee” podcast with co-host Jane Dope at HYPERLINK thebeatbeesessions.llbsyn.com.
With Mahfood (who also answers to his alias “Food One”), his vast array of influences are very evident in the broad spectrum of artistic mediums he works with. His graffiti and mural work echo the stylings of angular artists such Jean-Michel Basquiat and Futura 2000 while also sprinkling in more traditional and personal affects to deliver his unique, blended style: I am always looking at different things and absorbing it all. I could name at least 50 artists off the top of my head whose work means the world to me and then on top of that I could probably name 100 more people. I’m always looking and studying art and things. I love that part of the process. Being a good artist means having really good taste. If you’re doing art, and your taste in art and music sucks, your art probably isn’t that good. That’s a little secret thing I’ve discovered over the years. To answer your other question, I most definitely see my style as an amalgamation of all of my influences coming together. I take all this stuff I dig,
NILS WESTERGRAD Contrast plays heavily throughout my work. Both literally in the composition of my pieces,and conceptually in the ideas they represent. Street art itself is a movement that has long fought to be appreciated for the beautiful art that comprises it, as opposed to the ugly illegality that is all too often not looked past. I strive to make beauty out of what is often considered the crude medium of spray paint, to contrast with what most people call to mind when they hear the word then elevate what was previously disregarded as petty vandalism. Authority plays heavily throughout my work as well, because the nature of those who represent authority, and those who oppose it, are on opposite sides of the spectrum but are shockingly similar. One can not exist without the other and while street art might have to fight to exist, that fight is also intrinsic to its existence as it defines the nature of the art. www.nilswestergard.com
by S. Preston Duncan In a small room down the hidden alley between renegade rattle can art, and the track lit galleries of chic, urban off-street design, reside the strange creations of Jesse Yu, more commonly known as J*RYU. At once whimsical and ethereal, low-brow and highly conceptual, well crafted and apparently browless, his work carries within it an identity that is as difficult to explain as it is easy to recognize. His pieces occupy the narrow passage of originality that stretches between the derivative and the irrelevant. Like ghost colored little girls riding dark eyed ponies into the merry-go-round of aesthetic vernacular with demonic metal/ carnival/goth/hip hop music playing on a really nice sound system; it’s hard to explain. J*RYU, a self described “Southern Yella Boy” from North Carolina, is a designer, sculptor, custom toy maker, and aesthetic philosopher with a proletarian bend and a sense of popular style kept in check by his own (kind of twisted) imagination. As an artist, he transcends genre, stylistic categorization and medium. This discarded boundary approach to art seems to be the commonality between the diversity of artists at the forefront of innovation today, and is quite possibly the unifying element in the unnamed (or rather, thousand-named) current artistic movement. I believe that the so-called “low-brow” or “pop surrealism” scene is one such that it reflects and oft-times is a distillation/ regurgitation of seminal shared influences such as cartoons, video games, movies, pop culture, toys (and the like) that our particular generation grew up with. That said, from a practical standpoint, the skill sets of the artists involved encompass a very broad spectrum of practical disciplines and training: fine art techniques to digital painting, resin-casting one’s own toys, modifying well-known DIY platforms, to graffiti and large-scale mural painting and more. With the advent of technology and the internet, and the “street art” movement gaining momentum and acceptance around the world, I believe that what we’re seeing is a mixture of classically trained and self-trained artists who have the desire and ability to easily have their art widely seen, and more importantly, accepted for what it is. The statements that are being made all have value to someone, somewhere out there. I do consider myself a participant in this scene, as I too grew up with love for Nintendo, read myths and comics as a kid, watched the Dark Crystal continuously, and bought toys well into adulthood. Thus, when I create my art or see the art of my colleagues, it is always somewhat familiar. It’s something that isn’t as hard to appreciate as other, more blue-chip genres such as impressionism, post-modernism and the like, and I am totally ok with that. Good art is good art. It should transcend medium, formal training and time. The custom toy scene is a strange subset of found art in which the artists use existing, commercially produced platforms upon which they build unique sculptural forms. It’s a semantic nightmare for the pedantic, “but is it art?” coffee shop intellectuals, but a liberating interaction with generational iconography for those who create them, and a definitive statement that self-expression is paramount to technical craftsmanship.
A custom toy is when an artist does their own take on an existing shape or platform, such as Kidrobot’s Munny toy or Toy2R’s Qee. Since the artist is already working from an existing shape, it cannot be considered a wholly 100% artist created piece of art, unless the artist is obscuring or reconfiguring the original toy to such an extent in which the original shape is no longer recognized. In recent years, this art form has become very popular as more and more artists consider it to be a valid canvas in which to express themselves. The difference between creating a custom vs an original sculpture is just determined by how much of the original shape is still left to be recognized, while an original sculpture has no previous point of reference to be compared against. For me personally, I’d rather have more people that appreciate my work be able to easily obtain it because of supply and more importantly, be able to afford it. That’s why one of my focuses is to create pieces that are accessible to my fans. This is in addition to pieces that may be shown in galleries, shows, and events where they are one-off sculptures, so that I have a range of items available for the different segments of my collecting base. In his own work, J*RYU (AKA the Gentleman Ghost, AKA the Purdy Supremacy) creates a “neo-gothic/fantasy” world where the echoed moans of street art, dark fairy tales, mythical phantoms, and disturbed nature mingle in the deep. Trained in graphic and interactive design, his studio work toys with the notion of the unique object versus the reproducible, while generating an unutterable insight into something highly personal, slightly uncomfortable, and specific to his generation. With continual practice and refinement of my skills, I am finding that I am become very adept at creating quality pieces faster, without the loss of quality. Now that’s just the practical execution. When it comes to finding inspiration, my work is extremely personal to me, as it often deals with life, death and loss, something that I’ve had to intimately deal with in my own life. Thus, the well of ideas that resides inside me is almost never-ending. Having the skills to produce design work is not nearly as personal to me, and while I find it enjoyable and a challenge, it just doesn’t have the allure of creating work that is intrinsically my “own”. I’d rather have a brilliant idea with mediocre execution, than a mediocre idea with brilliant execution My signature style is neo-gothic/fantasy and my ongoing narrative, “The Forest of Sorrows”, most often features a spirit in the form of a young girl, who resides in a dark forest where she faces the reality of her existence. In this forest where trees are the replanted souls of humans, and creatures are manifested by the inner turmoil of its denizens, there is a thematic confrontation of fear. The notion of this incapacitating, almost unrecognized fear that permeates our society is a consistent element in J*RYU’s work, which seems to imply that overcoming ones own trepidation, inaction, and self-doubt is a perennial necessity, rather than a onetime accomplishment that indefinitely frees those who manage to stare down their own circling demons.
I have a need to understand why people are so fearful, especially fearful of being bored, fearful of appearing weak. People don’t know what to do. Society encourages the idea of self-sufficiency, you know? You don’t want to appear weak. People are afraid to speak up about being unhappy at work because they’re afraid they might get fired, or looked down upon. We have all this entertainment technology because people are afraid of looking inward. My art is about saying it’s okay to say how you feel. If you feel shitty, say you feel shitty. And it’s not simply the subject matter of his work that acts as a catalyst for pursuing life fearlessly, but the act of creation. For J*RYU, art is a kind of therapy through which he can express and confront his own turmoil, while simultaneously offering a kind of aesthetic commiseration with his audience. Through his exploration of themes such as mortality, emotional legacy, and the fantastic, he has been able to confront his own life experiences, traumas, and fears. Through pursuing his artistic career, he has confronted the crippling notion that chasing dreams is a futile endeavor. He has confronted the ubiquitous phobia of failure. I want to be the person putting the golden ticket in the candy bar, not the person waiting for the ticket. I think 99.9% of people out there are just waiting for their ticket. I have more respect for the person who risks everything just to live a life they believe in, than the guy with a Lamborghini and a $900,000 a year
salary. Success isn’t about how much you make, or how well known you are. Success is being able to optimize the most mundane situations. I try to live my life without fear or hesitation. As J*RYU continues to navigate the ethereal terrain of the human condition through his various mediums, his emotionally honest style and earnest work ethic seem to be resonating. With recent trips to Singapore and L.A., and future plans for more toy releases, an Asian tour, comic cons, art festivals, group shows, and custom toy conventions, his work is catching on. And, perhaps, the reason for this is something that is as universal as it is deeply personal. Perhaps it’s this: Remember that feeling when you were a kid and you got a new toy? That sense of wonder and possibility, all those elaborate and adventurous fantasies rushing forth from the spontaneous canals of imagination, swelling with enthusiasm, shadowed with the secret indulgences of your own private and expanding universe? What if you could feel that again, even with all your tragic life experiences, even after your intimacies with doubt, and fear, and transience? Maybe that’s the real value of J*RYU’s art: it’s a portal to another world. For him, it’s the “forest of sorrows”, for the rest of us, it might not have a name, but it’s somewhere we’ve all been. www.designpimps.com
Jeremiah Ketner Jeremiah Ketner's paintings are instantly recognizable amongst his contemporaries in the pop surrealism movement. His early work, characterized by mischievous sprites and whimsical patterns, has evolved into lush, richly colored environments inhabited by a cast of pensive, dreamy young women. Each character presents a unique brand of beauty, created entirely within Jeremiah's imagination and painted completely from memory. Jeremiah's pop culture-inspired style and unconventional creations have a traditional foundation. With his family's encouragement, he began formal art studies at the age of 12. He holds a BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design and an MFA from Southern Illinois University. Jeremiah's paintings and toys have been featured in solo and group exhibitions in more than 50 galleries across North America, and he's acquired a strong international following through his dedication to the Internet and social media. www.jeremiahketner.com
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