Issuu on Google+

22 THE

MAGAZINE

VOL 3/III/Three

1


2


3


While we “discuss” the mundane, ember flakes and x chromosomes ascend, so as to summate into the God metaphor; and while we bombast in the first dimension, totem birds achieve a still point of decisive intuition. —DAN HEDGES


EDITOR/PUBLISHER/DESIGNER Cat Gilbert

LEAD EDITOR Aimee Nicole

EDITOR Laura Grandmaison

EDITORIAL INTERNS Carolyn Supinka Bradley Tsyluak

Cover ImageS Front: Lythrum salicaria, 2012, Penelope Gottlieb Back: Still and Here, 2011, Ricky Allman Interior pages front and back: Decloaking, 2007, Bradley Ehrsam


The

22 Contributors

Volume 3/III/Three

1) ADAM VOID (pg 24) transforms ready-at-hand or bricolage materials into objects that address social and po-

litical concerns of class, control, and community. He is dedicated to exploring the details of countercultures particular to his experience: punk rock, graffiti, freight hopping, zines, and social activism. He has shown his work nationally with institutions such as The Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Fountain Art Fair, Chashama, and Mighty Tanaka Gallery, as well as non-conventional spaces including The Silent Barn, Secret Project Robot, and Space 1026. His work has been featured in Juxtapoz, Showpaper, and Beautiful / Decay, in addition to the websites, Vandalog, Popflys, and Brooklyn Street Art. Adam has an M.F.A. from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a B.A. in Existential Philosophy from the College of Charleston. He was born in Florida, has lived in South Carolina, Brooklyn, and Baltimore. He currently resides in Asheville, North Carolina.

2) ALLISON SOMMERS (pg 34) is a Brooklyn-based artist working primarily in gouache. She creates com-

plicated, intricate, uncomfortable worlds of meat, vegetation, birds, and beasts of various sizes. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in History and a concentration in Early Medieval England. Allison grew up as an only child with an abundance of pets and a sense of reality grounded in make-believe. Being constantly surrounded by animals led her to develop a skewed concept of personhood that now extends into her work: humanoid animals, beasts, and even inanimate objects and foods take on an agency and interact with her worlds. Her work is intentionally vague, both conceptually and morally, and hints at underlying narrative structure without providing clear artistauthorship to guide the viewer through. It is work that combines technical excellence in a difficult medium with motifs of vagueness, ambiguity, and discomfort.

3) ANGELINE GRAGASIN’S (pg 40) short films combine documentary, narrative, animation, and music

and are heavily influenced by her love of international cinema and performance. Angeline’s work has earned her the attention and respect of online tastemakers worldwide including prominent curators and creators at Vimeo, Portable. tv, Kickstarter, Got A Girl Crush, SFE.tv (Paris/Cologne), Montagne (Paris), File Magazine (London), Directors Notes (London), and Smashbox Studios (Los Angeles). Angeline founded NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS in Chicago in 2009, as a comprehensive web and digital media production studio. In 2012, Angeline expanded the company to include collaborators and service clients in NYC, LA, and SF, and is now a dedicated video production and postproduction company which focuses on original storytelling and branded content. She has created videos for and with a number of influential personalities such as mortician Caitlin Doughty, writer Amelia Gray, painter Derek Erdman, and cinematographer Philip Bloom. She holds an A.B. in Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities from The University of Chicago.

4) BRADLEY EHRSAM (pg 52) is the CEO of B.E.M.E. Creative, LLC and Bradley Ehrsam Designs.

Born in Chicago and raised in Wisconsin, upon completion of his degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Bradley launched a custom motorcycle business and a furniture line. Bradley then established his art, design, and studio business, Bradley Ehrsam Designs, where he did both commission work and small-run productions. He expanded the scope of his business to include the design and the remodeling of interiors and exteriors of residential and commercial spaces. He created an arts program for troubled teens consisting of classes on welding, woodworking, and painting. In this capacity, Bradley funded an artists’ co-op for young artists and most recently expanded his work into a public practice forum connecting youth in underserved schools with the creation of public art. Bradley is continuing to expand his exploration of multimedia paintings, sculpture, studio furniture, and his passion for tricycles.


5) CHARLOTTE GREENWOOD (pg 56) is a multidisciplinary artist and an honors graduate of Central St-

Martin’s College of Art and Design and Chelsea College of Art and Design in London, United Kingdom (1994). She returned to London in 1996 and started working as a sculptor and special effects artist, in prosthetic makeup and model making. Her work can be seen in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), and many others including Gladiator (2000), James Bond: Die Another Day (2002), and Troy (2004). Evolving in the Canadian film industry for seven years, it is in Montreal that the artist established her studio to resume her painting career. In Montreal, Greenwood developed the series, “The Paradox of Consumerism in the Age of New Baroque” (2009), an anticipated introductory show on the Canadian art scene. From her reflections on what the artist refers to as “the perfect paradox” was born The Rancid Feast (2007) and The Loss of Innocence (2009). Current developments have included an exhibition of new works at the Parallax Art Fair in London, UK and NYC , and  drawings for a new art book called YOU.

6) CLESS (pg 46) likes walking in the middle of the road, picking up magazines and papers of the streets and

rubbish containers and listening to music to zone out of the planet. Cless likes to write his name on the streets, paint graffiti on walls, meet up with his crew, paint a piece, take pictures of the process and get home to see them again and again.

7) GERARDO MENA (pg 120) is a decorated Iraqi Freedom veteran. He spent six years in Special Ops with the Reconnaissance Marines and was awarded a Navy Achievement Medal with a V for Valor for multiple acts of bravery. He has been nominated for a Pushcart, won or placed in several contests, and was selected for Best New Poets 2011. He has pieces published or forthcoming from Cream City Review, Raleigh Review, Diagram, and Cider Press Review, among others. For more information go to www.gerardomena.com.

8) IRON DOG

(pg 85) creates spontaneous soundscapes where minimalist structures erupt into psychedelic onslaughts. The multiple roles of each performer are in full effect: Stuart Popejoy maneuvers synthesizer and bass collisions, Sarah Bernstein delivers distorted violin and enigmatic spoken word, and Andrew Drury commands a sonic sphere of drums and manipulated materials. The Brooklyn-based trio has been together since 2009.

9) JASON STONEKING (pg 20) is an American poet and essayist currently located in Paris, France.

He has published two collections of poems, Double Edged Pen (Fresh Hell Books 1997) and no demon no god (Onestar Press 2000) and two collections of essays, Audience of One (In Libro Veritas 2011) and the newly released follow-up Audience of Twelve (Happy House Books 2012). He has also written several screenplays, directed two of his short scripts, and released an album as the frontman of a punk band. He is an avid chess enthusiast and moonlights as a tournament commentator for chess.com. This summer, he will be touring the United States reading his essays aloud. Books, excerpts, and tour info can be found at www.jasonstoneking.com.

10) JEFF TIGCHELAAR (pg 46) is a stay-at-home dad in Kansas. His poems appear or are forthcoming in

Pleiades, Grist, Best New Poets 2011, Coal City Review, Court Green, Controlled Burn, Harpur Palate, Aethlon, North American Review, Blue Island Review, Rhino, el Paper, The Southeast Review, Redactions, Fjords, Juked, Margie, Kansas City Voices, Natural Bridge, and Tar River Poetry, and on Hunger Mountain Online and Verse Daily. He received a poetry grant from the Ohio Arts Council and a Pushcart Prize nomination but “Stop reading this now and go read my work,” says Jeff. “This is not me. My work is me. Me is my work.”


11) JIM FORD (pg 78) is an American visual artist and designer from Chicago. Jim got his start working for a

small, but prolific point-of-purchase agency. He then went on to study advertising art direction and then graphic design at Columbia College Chicago, until 2005. He has designed custom typefaces for corporations, publishers, software and hardware manufacturers. After becoming senior type designer at Ascender, Jim parted to start his own art and design company, Rebeletter Studios in 2010. More recently his focus has shifted to fine art, producing a plethora of wildly challenging collage works and mixed media pieces.

12) J.J. CROMER (pg 98) is a self-taught artist from Virginia. His work is in several public collections, in-

cluding the American Visionary Art Museum, the Intuit Center of Outsider Art, the High Museum of Art, and the Taubman Museum of Art. The American Visionary Art Museum recently featured his work in the exhibit “All Things Round: Galaxies, Eyeballs & Karma.” The Fall 2010 issue of Raw Vision featured his work. He and his partner Mary live on a farm in central Appalachia. They are new and eager beekeepers.

13) JOSEPH DALEY (pg 92) was born in New York City’s Harlem, and began his musical studies in elemen-

tary school and received high honors throughout his school years. During his high school years, he began performing on the Latin music scene performing alongside such fine musicians as Rene McLean, Monquito Santamaria, Andy Gonzalez, Alex Blake and many others. He received a scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music where he got his B.A. in Performance and a M.A. in Music Education which led to a career as an educator in the New York and New Jersey school systems from 1976 until his retirement in 2005. Joseph is also currently a member of the eclectic ensemble Hazmat Modine, under the direction of musician and visual artist Wade Schuman. Schuman’s paintings helped inspire the creation of Daley’s Seven Deadly Sins project, which was developed at the MacDowell Colony in 2001. In addition to his Earth Tones Ensemble, Ebony Brass Quintet, and his solo performances, Joseph’s focus right now is on his next recording project, The Seven Virtues, featuring a large string ensemble.

14) MEGAN MONCRIEF (pg 83) is an audiovisual artist in Brooklyn, NY. Her primary project is called

Lazurite; the majority of her work employs the ukelin (a 36-stringed invention sold door to door during the Great Depression). String drones, feedback, and percussive strikes bleed together with synths, homemade effects, and drum loops, all processed through the ominous digital buzz of a stack of throwaway pedals. The first Lazurite tape, “Secular Geometry,” was self-released in 2011. A forthcoming self-titled release will come out on Fabrica later this summer.

15) MICHAEL BAZZETT’s (pg 74) poems have appeared in West Branch, Beloit Poetry Journal, Best New Poets, DIAGRAM, and The Los Angeles Review, among others. He was the winner of the 2008 Bechtel Prize from Teachers & Writers Collaborative and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. New poems are forthcoming in Boxcar Poetry Review, Bateau, The Collagist and Sentence. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children.

16) NATHAN VERNAU’s (pg 28) colorful artwork touches on themes of instability, insecurity, confusion,

and a misdirection of emotions. As self-portraits, these drawings offer bits and pieces of his character, along with alternate identities or personas. His work has been reviewed by ArtSlant.com, ArtLog.com, and The Chicago Tribune, as well as featured in The Madison Review, New American Paintings, Studio Visit Magazine, and MISC Magazine. He has shown extensively in Wisconsin and Chicago at The Milk Factory, OhNo!Doom Gallery, Offwhite, Doppelganger, and Robert Bills Contemporary. He earned his B.F.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in 2005 and his M.F.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2009.


17) NICK LAMIA (pg 65) is an artist whose work includes drawing, painting, printmaking, installation and

sculpture. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship as well as residencies at Wave Hill, The MacDowell Colony, the Robert Blackburn Print Workshop and the Triangle Artists Association where he is now a member of the board of directors. 500 of his small scale drawings were included in the first ever Bronx Museum Biennial in 2011. Recent solo exhibitions include “Coppice” at Jason McCoy Gallery in New York and “Greenhouse,” for which he was selected to create a group of site-specific wall works for the Richard Meier building in Brooklyn in the spring of 2012.

18) NICOLE GORDON

(pg 106) grew up in Chicago, IL and received her B.F.A. at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She has been working as a painter and sculptor in Chicago for many years and had solo exhibitions in Chicago (Linda Warren Projects, the Chicago Cultural Center and the Elmhurst Art Museum), L.A. (Lois Lambert Gallery), Wisconsin (The Kohler Art Center) and Boston (Miller Block Gallery). She has also completed a couple of large scale permanent public art commissions including one for the Chicago Transit Authority and one for New England Biolabs in Massachusetts.

19) PENELOPE GOTTLIEB (pg 12) received her B.F.A. from the Art Center College for Design in Pasa-

dena, and went on to earn her M.F.A. from the University of California in Santa Barbara where she currently lives and works. Gottlieb’s latest paintings appropriate a methodology common to both Surrealism and Baroque, namely the linking together of heterogeneous, diverse orders of things—in this case the normally separate analytical syntax of Audubon and plant biolog—in the form of a representational “mash-up” or “heterotopia.” Painting directly over pre-existing Audubon prints, Gottlieb literally envelops the birds in a tightly woven braid of plant leaves, tendrils and tentacles, so that what would normally be part of the birds’ natural habitat has suddenly turned on them as a form of domestic colonization. Gottlieb thus raises implicit issues of power/knowledge in relation to systems of classification in addition to her more explicit ecological critique.

20) RANDY MORA (pg 20) is a freelance illustrator/artist from Bogotá, Colombia. He studied advertis-

ing but chose art and illustration as a profession instead. He has worked for various editorial clients in publications around the world such as Wired Magazine, GQ Spain, The Guardian, Dinero Magazine, The Quarterly Magazine, Il Sole 24 Ore, among others. His collages have been recognized in books such as Gestalten’s Cutting Edges: Contemporary Collage (Germany), Cut & Paste: Collage Put Into Practice (Sweden) and {img.} 50 Formas de Ver la Ilustración (Colombia). He has also been part of several group exhibitions in China, USA, Sweden, UK, Mexico and Colombia.   

21) RICKY ALLMAN (pg 112) was born 1978 in Provo, Utah. He received an M.F.A. with honors from the

Rhode Island School of Design and a B.F.A. with Distinction from the Massachusetts College of Art. Allman’s paintings often appear as landscapes, psychological landscapes, and cityscapes. Utilizing the geographic landscape of his childhood in the Rocky Mountains, modernist architecture and gestural abstraction, Allman’s work reflects an indefinite future; a complicated and frenetic world of colliding forms often in the moment of origination. His work has been exhibited and published nationally and internationally including Paris, Copenhagen, New York, and Miami. Allman lives and works in Kansas City, MO where he is a Professor of painting/drawing at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.


22) SARAH BOOTHROYD (pg 72) is a Canadian sound artist. She studied visual art and costume design

on her way to a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and a master’s degree in Journalism. Her work has been broadcast on over 50 radio stations around the world, and is available on over a dozen CD compilations. Her talents have been recognized in competitions held by the New York Festivals Radio Programming Awards, the Third Coast International Audio Festival, New Adventures in Sound Art, the European Broadcasting Union, La Muse en Circuit, CBC Radio, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, the Canadian Association of Journalists, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Ontario Press Council, the National Film Board of Canada, the National Screen Institute, and the San Francisco Women’s Film Festival. Her website is www.sarahboothroyd.com.


11


PENELOPE GOTTLIEB BY CAROLYN SUPINKA

CAROLYN SUPINKA: Tell me a little about your artistic history, where/when you went to school and how you became a painter. Penelope Gottlieb: Even as a child, I was fascinated by popular culture and the seductive power of its imagery. I drew cartoons. I was constantly absorbed in visual observation and synthesis that my parents chalked up to too many comic books! I filtered my world through the illustrations I drew. The image became a conduit for the real, and to me the image was just as salient and immediate, if not more so, than the reality of the world I observed. To my impressionable mind everything was visual, everything was saturated with content for my drawings. Even when I was a kid, the images I drew seemed to tap into the irreverence of an unexpected twist or a wicked element of surprise. I loved the subtle powers of subversion available to the illustrator, something I could wield through my own hand and summon with my own imagination. I drew my parents’ dinner parties, my mom’s beauty salon, people grocery shopping; innocuous every day observations I could transform into imagery and narrative. I eventually pursued a fine art education and completed my undergrad at the Art Center in Pasadena, CA. I then received my M.F.A. from UC Santa Barbara, CA. The power of the image has never lost its seduction for me. CS: Your mother was an artist as well, correct? PG: Yes, she was. My mother was a puppeteer and my father an architect. As a child, I grew up in a household full of creative activity and making. My mother always had some fun project she was working on, and my friends were totally envious of me. The puppets were these fascinating creative objects I got to observe my mother at work on, indelibly linked by association to the potential of storytelling. I am sure it was no accident that I developed such a penchant for visual narrative. My grandmother was also an amazing artist; she was an oil painter and was actually the one who guided me towards painting. I grew up surrounded by these familial ambassadors of the creative disciplines, they all influenced me to some extent. Our house was also filled with great art books, a veritable goldmine of content for a kid with my visual appetites. CS: You currently live in Santa Barbara correct? How do you feel this environmental landscape has effected work? PG: I grew up in Los Angeles, but moved to Santa Barbara about 13 years ago. I love being outdoors, and my lifelong love of observation has always found great aesthetic ground there. I have about 25 quail that come to me for breakfast every morning when I whistle for them, which is a pretty bucolic image in and of itself. I have a garden and really enjoy this proximity to nature and botanical life. Its closeness to my every day has certainly sensitized my sensitivity to and appreciation of it. I also glean imagery directly from my environment and often incorporate plants from my own garden into the work. CS: Have you seen dramatic changes is your environment (drought, destruction) that have effected you artistically?

RIGHT: Passiflora vitifolia, 2011, acrylic and ink over Audubon print   


PG: When I was growing up, I lived next door to “Mt. Olympus” in the Hollywood hills. I witnessed a track development being implemented into the rural landscape. I think it really piqued an early sensitivity and sadness in me at the sight of environmental vulnerability and distress. Recently, the destructive wild fires in Santa Barbara, fueled and exacerbated by non-native grasses, are another brutal reminder of how invasive ecological changes can catalyze the speed of terrible destruction. Witnessing destructive natural phenomena is both humbling and terrifying, it makes you realize how fragile the balances really are. CS: Much of your work deals with mutations and evolutionary roles (invasive species, extinct botanicals), tell me a little about how these series began and your interest in the “fantasy” of evolution? PG: My interest in extinction evolved literally from spaces of absence. My interest in, and concern for, what I had heard was an extinction list increasing at an exponential rate, started a personal process of research and excavation. I found that there were no cohesive accounts of loss. It was difficult to find reliable extinction lists; they lacked detail and information. These plants were often itemized without imagery (in the form of botanical notes.) Many had never been photographed or illustrated and in the complete absence of visual information or definitive accounts, my fascination with representing loss began. I decided to begin my own “list.” Since much of the time I was relying on textual description alone, the process of fleshing out these lost species resulted in an imagined taxonomy of loss. Because I knew my visual list would never be correct, the inevitable proliferation of its inaccuracies became a source of fascination. This process of imagining loss became a further illustration of the finality of extinction to me. I knew that I could never recover what was gone and lost to me forever. This activity of imagining recovery would ultimately elide my imaginative powers, and would always resist resolution. My work is very much about these irreconcilable spaces between loss, language, and imagination. CS: Why did you choose to use Audubon prints for the invasive species? PG: I had a few Audubon prints in the studio that I had bought at a thrift shop, intending to repurpose their frames. I kept looking at them and one day got the idea to “invade” them. Non-native invasive species are one of the top three reasons for botanical extinction. The other two are loss of habitat and global warming. I wanted to address this subject visually in my work, but wanted the series to have a different feel from the extinct botanical paintings. So, I decided to “invade” the existing Audubon prints with the addition of invasive vines enveloping and strangling the birds in the images. It became a very powerful visual for me; the literal invasion of an existing image, and the violence of incapacitating a vulnerable subject. The process of making the work mirrored the environmental violence of the phenomena. By appropriating these vintage reproductions, and ultimately staging my invasive interventions within them, I could enter into a dialogue with a historical representation of nature and insert my own voice and contemporary perspective directly. CS: Any thoughts on the work of Audubon? Pros, cons? PG: Nature was looked upon differently in Audubon’s time. It was there to be subjugated and colonized for the advancement and enjoyment of “man.” Audubon’s consumption of nature literally knew no bounds. He is quoted as having said: “A day without killing 100 birds is a day wasted.” He is a complex figure in that he genuinely loved the birds he meticulously rendered and catalogued, but also loved killing them. At that time, of course, there was no concept of extinction in the contemporary sense, nature and wildlife were abundant and seemingly inexhaustible. It was not seen as a fragile thing, but rather a vast and limitless frontier. His work lives on today because he captured the spirit and animation of birds in a unique way, so it is a conflicted question. It was an age in which loving something and killing it were not seen as irreconcilable impulses. “The Birds of North America” is an amazing archive. CS: Tell me a little about the bold, at times comic, style of your botanical work? Any trends or traditions you were trying to push here? LEFT: Leucanthemum vulgare, 2011,  acrylic and ink over Audubon print


PG : I wanted to make very bold, colorful, paintings to capture a very important subject. I wanted their aesthetic to convey the anxiety and perilous nature of their content, and to succeed in securing the viewer’s attention. The work is informed by a number of visual influences and recombinations. I have always loved botanical illustrations and the work certainly speaks to that. These sorts of illustrations are typically etched line drawings, which are then hand tinted with watercolor. I actually invert this process by painting first, and then working a very graphic line over top the painting at the end. I think of these paintings as animation cells, they have a lot of movement and violence in them. They are active and animated, rather than static, and the line drawing, an element found in cartoons and graphics, is important to conveying this dynamism. Visual energy is integral to the overall effect of the paintings, they are neither calm nor quietly contemplative. I think of them as capturing the last moments of life, when the plants are literally fighting to exist and are being torn apart. Upon closer inspection, you’ll also see that they contain a lot of secondary iconography. I sometimes include weaponry and other symbolic objects in keeping with the tradition of vanitas, to allude to yet another historical tradition in still life painting. They are syntheses of historical and contemporary visual languages. CS: In “Extinct Botanicals” you reference vintage renderings, as well as species on the “confirmed extinction” list. You did a lot of research for both of these and in some sense, you became both an artist and a botanical researcher at the same time. You mention now that it’s become your life’s work to catalogue these fading species as well as commemorate them. Why do you think this is important? How does it help you resolve the current environmental situation? PG : In the past, botanical artists created archives by painting living specimens as they were discovered. They were able to observe them and render them from life in their studios. Since I am only left with descriptions, my work is to catalogue in reverse and to produce from absence. I reconstruct from research what might have been, what may have been, but cannot capture what was. I now think of my series “Gone” as an archive in reverse. The work is heavy with ghosts, and speaks to something very spectral. I feel it is important because the irreversible nature of loss is a subject that evades direct representation. Exploring these difficult spaces can draw attention to the terrible vulnerability of the world in which we live. To some extent my work is about the impossibility of recovery, but I hope that it incites a desire to preserve. CS: In talking about “Extinct Botanical’s” you say: “Whereas older traditions of botanical art and still life painting involved calm, studio-bound reflections of natural beauty and visual order, a new paradigm seems appropriate in the more fragile condition of the world in the early 21st century. We’re in a state of accelerated change, possibly teetering on some sort of Apocalyptic brink. We naturally feel a sense of anger. The plants I am painting are under assault. They’re being attacked. They’re being blown up.” Do you feel there is a future or hope for the vegetation of the earth or are we already moving too fast to do anything? PG : I am not feeling very optimistic. It is not a very uplifting subject of study. Throughout the course of my research I have learned from scientists and botanists. The general consensus seems to be that unless things change pretty rapidly, 50% of all plant life will be extinct within this century. Since all life depends on plants for survival, this is a pretty scary realization. It’s easy to feel ineffectual as an artist. You’re just alone in your studio painting pictures…there are times when I wonder what difference I can possibly make. CS: What do you think of art as activism? Do you view your work as environmental activism, or more commentary? PG : I make art, so painting is the form my activism takes. This is what I want my work to be about. I don’t want to make pretty pictures of flowers, this is why the work is not easy or docile, it is intended to be violent and contentious, and distressing at times. I want my work to powerfully express my feelings, and fears, with regard to the seriously afflicted state our natural world is in. They are big, colorful, dynamic, and fraught in your face paintings. They are not meant to be quiet, discreet objects.


L TO R, TOP TO BOTTOM: Desmodium canade, 2012, acrylic and ink over Audubon print   Centaurea maculosa, 2012, acrylic and ink over Audubon print   Cirsium arvense, 2012, acrylic and ink over Audubon print  


18


CS: Both botanical and human environments play a big role in much of your work. In your previous series, “No $ Down,” in which you created colored pencil drawings of attractive homes, some had catchy text like “Location Location Location!” Is there any connection between “Gone” and this previous series in terms of how we as humans treat our environment? PG : Well, I was not really thinking about the environment in “No $ Down,” but the suggestion of there being a correlation is certainly a good point. When I was making those drawings, I was thinking about the dream of homeownership, and our covetous desire to own. This fetishistic need to express one’s self through ownership, through class ascension, and societal “belonging” is actively conveyed through the seduction of advertising. The titles were taken from the Los Angeles Times real estate section, as were the images. While the work is not about environmental destruction, it is about the way in which visual language can dictate our consumption, and self-identification. I started that series way before the subprime loan disaster, but now that series seems all the more pertinent following the economic collapse. The desire to own certainly lead to the crisis of an ecosystem, so to speak. CS: If you could remedy one environmental disaster (oil spill, housing crisis etc.) what would it be? PG: I would have to say the world’s population explosion. We are the worst of the invasive species, and the planet is having trouble sustaining our exponential increase. CS: I noticed some of the profits from your work go toward environmental charities, would you like to talk a bit about those? PG: Last year I had an exhibition where a portion of the proceeds went to Lotusland in Santa Barbara. It is an amazing garden and conservatory and their mission statement is focused on plant preservation. They also have the only living extinct plant I have ever seen. Encephalartos woodii, there are only three males left in the world so it can never reproduce. CS: What are some upcoming projects you will be working on? PG: My work will continue to document each plant that becomes a confirmed extinction. It feels like what I must do right now; it’s an ongoing project that sadly will never be at a loss for material. Recently I was preparing for an upcoming exhibition, “Gone,” that will opened September 8th, 2012 at the Edward Cella Gallery in Los Angeles. Which has new work from both series. New work is also being exhibited in a group show “The Confluence of the Birds,” an exhibition by the Cynthia Reeves Gallery in NY and NH. I am also featured in a traveling exhibition “Ignite! The Art of Sustainability” that examines natural and human forces that have shaped the landscape of California. This exhibition will travel CA Museums 2012 through 2015. A new “Invasive Species” painting will also be appearing in the limited edition of Beautiful /Decay.

LEFT: Montanoa hibiscifolia, 2011, acrylic and ink over Audubon print

19


Should Darwin Win? By Jason Stoneking Illustrations by Randy Mora


I’ve always enjoyed thinking of Charles Darwin as some kind of sinister spectre, prowling the nightscape, stalking creatures of inferior genetic adaptability and dragging them off to their gruesome, howling deaths. An antigod incarnate, mercilessly enforcing the laws of evolution on anyone or anything who tries to escape them. This, of course, is horrendously contrary to what most Darwinists actually propose: that the logical stepladder of evolutionary biology is in fact what exists rather than a supernatural battledome full of spectral enforcers with opinions about our behavior. But the way I compose narratives in my head has been so thoroughly inseminated with mythology that I still often choose to imagine him that way. Perhaps I think it unfair that other people should have superheroes patrolling a dreamy night sky where I go unrepresented. In any case, however I do or don’t dream it, I believe that most of what Darwin described is simply happening anyway. I don’t think that he invented or theorized anything so much as he just observed the natural pattern of events. There is a direction in which our reality moves. Genetic mutations are either snuffed out or given rise by their ability to interact effectively with the immutable laws of physics. Sadly for all of us would-be mythological narrators out here, it is not actually required that Mr. Darwin suit up in his lime green spandex trunks and dive from the top rope to defend his findings against gods, devils and other predatory monitors of morality. If Darwin’s observations are accurate, as the overwhelming majority of scientists believe them to be, then the natural laws on which he reported are doing a fine job of enforcing themselves without his assistance. Those laws will forever continue to “win” over their mythological counterparts, taking no notice of whether or not they “should.” The title question demands a moral assessment that bears no relevance in matters that lie completely outside the scope of human control. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t still try to answer it anyway. It’s kind of a sexy challenge. Like asking ourselves whether or not penguins “should” be able to fly. Of course, whatever conclusion we come to won’t have any effect on the slippery, waddling residents of Antarctica, but we will still have the self-aggrandizing, egomaniacal pleasure of casting the net of our own judgment in the direction of something far too grand to ever be caught in it. Like Xerxes, binding and whipping the sea for its insubordination. So, purely for the sake of intellectually irresponsible fun, let’s cast Darwin as the protagonist in a hypothetical myth. Let’s say that he is actually out there, consciously endeavoring to apply his “laws” to the citizens of Earth. Let’s also say, to give a moral tension to our story, that he is rivaled by other supernatural lawgivers who each have their own differing narratives about the nature of existence and are all busy trying to influence the events down here on our little planet so that those events will appear to be governed by their specific sets of truths. It doesn’t even matter who they all are. We can feel free to insert any gods, ghosts, demons, spirits or superheroes that we wish. We can even have our pick of former philosophers, clergymen, and scientists, all looking as they did at their best. This must be kinda like the fun, theological free-for-all that was had by the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Pagans, and other polytheistic/pantheistic pre-JudeoChristian peoples of the world. Ah...memory lane. Ok, now that we’ve created our spectral Darwin avatar, and situated him in a celestial battlefield where the potential righteousness of earthlings hangs in the balance, we can finally get down to the business of asking ourselves whether or not we’re actually rooting for the guy. Remember, we said protagonist, not hero. To decide if he should win, or if we should want him to win, we must first decide whether we think what he stands for is right. One thing that’s attractive about his story is its inherently meritocratic streak. The fittest survive and keep thriving and adapting, heading onward to participate in the future. So if you’re fortunate enough to be one of the fittest, then your genes will be selected to stick around. Whereas, if you’re mutating in a way that is somehow detrimental to the survival of those genes, then you will be gradually weeded out. A species whose members adapt successfully will have a longer run of existence. Simply put, those who do the best job of interacting with their environment will get to continue doing so. Now you can’t say that’s not fair or just. In many religious narratives however, the good people of the other faiths are left out of the equation altogether. If you’re not worshipping the right superhero when your number gets called, then it doesn’t matter how good LEFT: Biological, 2009, Digital Collage


a person you are or how conducive your behavior has been to the advancement of your species. Doing everything you’re supposed to do isn’t good enough on its own. You have to put the right label on it during your lifetime or, when judgment day comes, it’s up yours. I can’t say that I find that particularly evenhanded. Especially considering that most religions hold up the threat of some kind of punishment for those who land (even inadvertently) on the wrong side of the belief system at the end of their lives. If you get on the bad side of a deity or a church organization, you could be lined up for hell, or purgatory, or endless returns to your mortal suffering in a parade of different bodies but if you run afoul of Darwin, the worst thing that can really happen to you is that you cease to exist (which was going to happen anyway) and that there won’t be more people made out of your ingredients in the future (but you’re not going to be around to see that so it doesn’t even have to concern you). Another enticing element of the Darwinian worldview is that its future is here on Earth. The genes of the animals who succeed will stay here and continue to thrive, and their process of interaction with nature and the laws of physics will continue to improve, which means that this world will continually have positive developments to look forward to. Contrarily, in most religious accounts, there is no future for the species on this planet. We are all leaving soon and many of us won’t like where we’re headed. The best we can hope for is to move on to somewhere better than here. Even the reincarnation people, who plan to be here more than anyone else, are aiming to eventually earn the right to stop reincarnating. I suppose Satan does make a case for earthly pleasures, but he does so cynically, at the expense of any hope for anything so sappy as goodness or redemption. So Darwin is one of the few superheroes out there (if not the only one) advertising that we can actually make progress by staying here on Earth. It appeals to me to think that bodies and minds, and even sentience itself, are evolving to interact with reality in new and better ways. It gives me a genuine hope that someday it will all get better on some level, even if the path is sometimes counterintuitive. Nevertheless, I can also see how that outlook wouldn’t necessarily appeal to everyone. Maybe some of us are more afraid than others to be judged by the gods, but we’re probably all afraid of being judged by Darwin. We don’t even really know which of our traits we should be playing up to win his approval. At least gods tend to come with a convenient handbook, outlining how they prefer to be appeased. But any handbook on the worship of Darwin is bound to leave a few questions gapingly unanswered. Is it all just about sex? And is sex always just about procreation? Is there nothing more noble (or more interesting) for us to do than acquire stockpiles of food and defend them against other animals? Damn it, Charles! We want meaning! More often we see unsettling evidence that Charles might not agree with us about what is meaningful. We have to wonder how he could favor the cockroaches while coldly disregarding the adorable giant panda. At least, with gods and spirits, we are free to imagine that they agree with our sentimental aesthetic preferences. When the cute furry things start dying off around us, we can assume that it’s our own fault for interfering ineptly with the grand immaculate plan. The people in Darwin’s corner, however, are stuck bemoaning the unsettling awareness that anything they find beautiful might be exterminated at any moment for its inability to adapt. I’d like to think that human perception, our beliefs and morals, are also adapting to their environment, streamlining, becoming more conducive to their own advancement over time. I imagine that some of our ideas and perspectives are better suited for future spreading than others. I hold out hope that we can gradually become less attached to some of our dogma, and that the human mind will eventually be capable of something much more profound than what it’s presently up to. Maybe we shouldn’t be rooting for any of our current gods, devils or biologists to win. Maybe none of them has set their sights far enough ahead yet. We might be moving toward some deeper understanding of our circumstance than either religion or contemporary science can provide. Perhaps someday, through teamwork and charity, we can even improve on Darwin’s sometimes brutal take on the nature of survival. For now, I guess I’ll still take his version of events over most of the others I’ve heard. I like the fact that his system favors those who behave in a way that’s good for us all in the long run. Even if it’s not good for us all right now. And even if most of us don’t know what’s in our own best interests. RIGHT: Gulliver’s Sins, 2011, Digital Collage


23


24


ADAM VOID

By Bradley Tsalyuk

BRADLEY TSALYUK: Where are you from and how did you end up in New York? ADAM VOID: I was raised in Columbia, South Carolina on a steady diet of rebellion, oppressive politics, lazy rivers, and hardcore punk. At the age of seventeen, I escaped to the coastal city of Charleston to study philosophy, political science, and graffiti. After graduation and an unsuccessful attempt to move to Northern Europe, I got on a Greyhound to New York with my bike, a hundred and fifty dollars and a job at a copy shop. I had hoped to immerse myself in New York’s legendary graffiti scene, and I did. BT: You work across the board in many different environments, from galleries to public spaces. What is your ideal space and why? AV: The location of a work of art directly affects the audience that it will interact with. I seek to communicate with a wide variety of audiences, and as a result, all spaces are ideal. The wall of a gas station bathroom and the printed word are equally as important to my work as the walls of a gallery or an institution. BT: As I look through your work I see references to the Occupy movement. What do you feel is the relationship between protesting and street art? AV: I use both protest and street art to exercise my right to freedom of expression and public use of public space. I also see both acts as a form of direct action: non-mediated actions that either knowingly violate law or work within the system in order to produce social change. BT: How do you think graffiti alters public space or elicits change? AV: Graffiti is a visual manifestation of the citizens’ dialogue. Historically, graffiti was a conversation in public space directed toward the public at large. In recent times, graffiti has been turned into an inward conversation where style and medium have overtaken the message. Now, I think we are seeing forward thinking. Artists utilize new mediums and techniques along with an understandable message to conduct a more open conversation. BT: The evolution of human communication is immense. Where would you place graffiti historically, as a contemporary creation or part of a primal urge? AV: Graffiti as an act of public expression satisfies a primal creative urge. Since the late 1960’s, graffiti has lost its message in the quest for fame and ego satisfaction. I am confident that the commodification of graffiti culture will not bring an ultimate suppression of meaning in a practice that is so closely linked with revolution. BT: What are some differences you’ve noticed in graffiti scenes across the country? AV: I think what is more striking is an overall similarity in graffiti styles across the country. Magazines, freight trains, and the Internet have brought once regional styles to worldwide access. Nomadic graffiti writers travel from city to LEFT: Eternal Flame, 2012, casters, crab trap, dirt, live flowers, plastic flowers, subway railing, wood


city spreading, along with their name, innovative styles, methods, and placement. We are living in an exciting time for graffiti where writers are challenging acceptance with obscurity, refinement with rawness, and text with image. BT: E-mailing, instant messaging, and texting have transformed language. Is your work a form of reaction to the virtualization of human contact? AV: Personally, I have difficulty communicating on the phone and do not partake in texting or instant messaging. In fact, one of my initial attractions to graffiti was that my work could be separated from who I am as a person. I did not have to speak directly to anyone or perform in front of any audience, but I still had an urge to communicate. I instead use the wall, the zine and the work of art as mediums for communication. BT: You use and photograph found signage. In your graffiti there are many symbols. Is there a code to decipher in your markings or is it a critique of the cornucopia of visual imagery? AV: The use of found signage in my work refers to the beauty and personality inherit in handmade text. The abstracted letterforms and symbolic references in my graffiti font acknowledge the letterform as a symbol while continuing the mutations that began with “wild style” and have continued through contemporary artists such as Kid Anthrax, Bloke, Faro, and the Brazilian “Pixacao” writers. BT: What do you look forward to in the future? AV: I recently moved to Asheville, North Carolina with hopes to continue my research of contemporary nomadic cultures, folk traditions, freight trains, and the current state of the Native American. I want to live in a place that fosters creativity and allows for peace of mind that is necessary to move forward and progress.

BELOW: Waiting, 2012, club, concrete, jump rope, metal, rat trap, rope, shoes, wood RIGHT: Held Captive, 2011, collage, drawing, glass etch, vinyl letters on paper

26


27


NATHAN VERNAU BY CAROLYN SUPINKA

CAROLYN SUPINKA: Where are you currently living?    NATHAN VERNAU: I live in Chicago, although I am a native Wisconsinite. CS: What are some of the materials you use in your work. NV: The materials I use are primarily paper, colored pencil, and graphite—there are also occasions when I use string, tape, ink, and googly eyes. I use so many Prismacolor pencils that I should look into sponsorship with them. CS: In your artist statement, you say that the element of text allows you to create a “visual conversation” between yourself and the viewer, and draws upon multiple meanings. Do you think that it is important for your work to be open to interpretation? NV: Yes. I find that even when I’m being relatively transparent or blatant in a specific piece, people will still end up in different directions than I intend. People are going to see what they want in the end, and I think that’s the point. I may have a very personal point to make in a piece, but I don’t want to spell everything out for people. Certain elements will be understood by viewers and that’s where they start their own contribution to the conversation of the work. A personal experience becomes

28

one that is shared, and often times relatable, and from there a discussion can form. CS: Many of the characters in your recent work lack faces, or have paper bags over their heads. What does facelessness mean to you? NV: No matter what they look like I still think of any figure as me. However, the “bag head” man began as a more extroverted version of myself—someone who can get away with things that I would be afraid to do or express, and someone who could remain anonymous. There is also an idea of showing the manifestation of “personal demons” or some of the more manic states of frustration, confusion, and exhaustion in a distorted, physical form. There’s also another explanation at times, which is a bit embarrassing, but it’s the truth: sometimes I just get sick of drawing myself—especially my face. When your focus is based on self-portraiture, I think that can be expected. But that really does make sense with what I do. My work ends up being a visual journal of sorts, so when I get to that point it ends up expressing a lot of what I’m thinking at the moment. It’s good for me to remove myself at times, and drawing myself as a bag head, a cyclops, or a furry-faced monster can be a relief. It’s also been a good exercise of coming up with new characters for the work; they start to interact with each other. In the beginning it may have been four or five figures of me flailing around, now there’s a variety of personas mingling, conversing, and fighting for attention. So, I think facelessness


covers a lot of things. Being bored or sick of myself, showing sides of myself I may not otherwise feel comfortable with in reality, or masking myself for reasons still unknown. Even at 31, I’m still trying to figure myself out. CS: Certain works contain no text in the image itself. However, the title seems to operate similar to the way the title of a poem can operate: as part of the poem itself. How do you create the titles of your work? NV: That’s a great point. Many of the titles are extremely important parts of the drawings. They end up leading people in one direction or another, whether they read the title before or after they view the piece. More recently though, I’ve been sticking to either the text in the work or a specific action involved as the title. I have this problem at times: I’ll have a long, poetic title that’s difficult to remember while there’s a short word or phrase in text. People remember that, usually, and often I do, too. I’ll have to go into my computer files to find out what the original title is. So, for the most part lately if a piece has text in it, that’s going to be the title. It’s not a rule, but for now it works out well. The tricky part to titling is if a drawing doesn’t have text in it. I don’t count something as finished until I have a title and that is usually the last think I do—and it can really be something that can stress me out. A title not only has to make sense to the work, but also to the specific time I’ve made it. It just keeps getting harder is a good example of that. I stared at that drawing for probably an hour before I thought of that phrase. The difficulty in giving a name to something seemed appropriate and seemed to conjure up more than a few connotations to feelings both emotionally and physically. CS: In several pieces, you literally guide the viewer’s gaze by including small red arrows throughout the imagery. In works such as Release, the text seems to summarize the action within the scene like the title of a story. What are the functions of these elements to you?

NV: They are definitely a part of the world of the image— everything has a purpose if it’s in the composition. The arrows end up giving balance to a composition. With regards to Release, that ends up tying in closely with your previous question about titles, and it definitely summarizes the action to a certain extent, which I think happens a lot when the title of a drawing is taken from the text within it. Release wound up being something that felt very natuaral to include in that piece. I keep words or phrases jotted down in my sketch book and they sometimes sit around for a while before winding up in something. It isn’t easy to just stick something in a drawing for the sake of adding text—if it fits, it fits. If not, I don’t bother. It’s a bit intuitive that way. CS: Your color scheme is very dynamic. Talk about how you arrived at such bright colors.  NV: I started out using very little color. I was primarily using pinks and blues at the end of undergrad heading into grad school. Much of my early work was centered on traditional masculine roles or gender stereotypes and I wanted to limit the color palette while primarily using graphite or charcoal illustrations. As I progressed into using more colored pencils, I expanded on the variety in pinks and blues (darker, lighter, redder, etc). That led to 29


30


31


32


using new colored paper and trying to figure out what colored pencils reacted best with specific colored paper. In grad school I worked with a painter, Derrick Buisch, who uses a lot of “headache colors” in his paintings. This phrase stuck in my head. What I liked about this was how jarring it could be to just physically look at them—the colors created an almost 3D effect and were very vibrant. You have to start looking at them out of the corner of your eye. I also think of color in terms of music. It’s the catchy hook of a song that reels you in, and helps set the mood of the piece. I wound up getting a bit too comfortable using primarily reds and blues and not straying too far from that familiar palette. In an effort to change things up and progress I started expanding and I’ve found the brighter, the better. After splurging on some art supplies I set out to make some small color study drawings to see what pencils went well with certain papers. It has led to a lot of ideas and I’m excited to use colors I was once reluctant to use. CS: Have any other text-based artists influenced your work?  If so, who are they? NV: My mom read a lot of picture books to me when I was little, and in my teenage years I read a lot of comics, so I think that’s where a lot of the text-based influence comes from. Where the Wild Things Are, Calvin & Hobbes, and X-Men were some of my earliest introductions to art, and even after studying through my undergraduate and graduate degrees I still see a lot of these early influences in my work.

PAGE 28: Try, 2010, Color pencil And paper on paper PAGE 29: B-R-E-A-K, 2011, Color pencil And paper on paper PAGE 30-31: Layers, 2012, Color pencil, paper, And string on paper LEFT: It just keeps getting harder, 2012, Color pencil, graphite, paper,And string on paper ABOVE: Release, 2012, Color pencil, graphite, paper, tape, ink, And googly eyes on paper

33


34


ALLISON SOMMERS The 22 Magazine: You talk about growing up with an abundance of pets. What were some of the animals you kept? Allison Sommers: We always seemed to have our own little menagerie, from multiple dogs and cats to birds and crabs and all sorts of lizards. I’m not sure why my folks indulged me (an only child, perhaps,) but I’m certainly glad they did. I think that living with animals radically changes the way you treat others of all ilk. The 22: You’ve got a really interesting educational background. Starting with a B.A. in History, focusing on early medieval England. I kind of laughed a little with delight when I read this because it seemed so random but also completely explanatory for some of your work. Tell me a little about how you ended up studying history, particularly medieval history. AS: The short answer is that I’m a dyed-in-the-wool dork. I was always a bit of a pretentious romantic as a child, playing at being this or that royalty or clergy, studying fencing, reading books of hours and The Decameron years before I could understand what Boccaccio meant by “putting the devil into hell.” Late in high school, I came into a deep obsession with plague and a very strange crush on a certain 16th century corpulent monk of some importance, and once I went to college, I couldn’t sign up for enough history courses to satisfy my thirst. Actually, the short answer should be, I really have no idea other than some sort of secret predilection. Towards leggings and bawdiness, perhaps.  The 22: When did you start painting and why or how?  AS: Drawing and painting have always been there with me; the starting point was, perhaps, a good grasp of handeye coordination. I was always lucky to be amply supplied with most anything I wanted to make art ever since I was small. The 22: When did you move to NY? AS: I’ve been in the city a couple of years now. I just couldn’t see any other place I’d rather be, both for art and personality’s sake. I might not have come from here, but it fits like a glove.  The 22: You talk about a fascination with meat, vegetation, birds, and beast. Has your interest in history influenced your paintings? AS: Perhaps even more than the beasts and meats of Schlaraffenland stories (on which, admittedly, I based a solo show), the most lasting influence of my studies has been that of the church and its stories and motifs. Certainly not a new font from which to drink as a painter, and perhaps a strange one as a militant nonbeliever, but for some reason I continue to be marvelously inspired by biblical stories and tropes (and the way in which artists have explored them in the past.) Prevalent medieval motifs such as Totentanz and the saints continue to show up in my work. The 22: Are you a full time painter now or do you still pursue history?  AS: I supplement my painting with a bread gig in dog walking. I still read books, if that counts as pursuing history.  The 22: Do any of your pieces represent historical stories?  AS: I’m working on historical religious themes (there’s a very large Saint Stephen on my desk at the moment) often more than specific historical stories. I’ll have to do a Marat one day, I think. LEFT: TINNITUS, 2012,gouache, watercolor pencil, and graphite on watercolor

35


ABOVE: BoG BITER, 2012, GRAPHITE ON PAPER BELOW: Sola Dosis Facit Venenum, 2012, gouache, watercolor pencil, and blood on Paper

RIGHT: DOGS OF WAR, 2012, gouache on Arches


37


The 22: Why gouache? Do you ever use other mediums?  AS: Gouache is just so beautiful and punchy and delicious to me. I’ve been working a lot in graphite lately, though. I’m finally teaching myself to render, since I sort of skipped over that part. The 22: Tell me about the inspiration for the matchbox and tin pieces?  AS: Aside from being an excellent excuse to buy tiny vintage paper things on eBay…Seriously, though, I am working on ideas of encapsulation and concealment of a work and trying to work out exactly how I want art in my life. I like the idea of these tiny boxes—play sets almost—where the work is discovered, and handled, and damaged. I am trying to find ways of liberating my work from being framed and glassed-in, which increasingly feels sterile. It appeals to the library and collection-maker in me, as well, these tiny things which have inner secrets and can be stacked nearly anonymously with no hint as to their contents. The 22: In your bio you say your work is “intentionally vague, both conceptually and morally.” Do you think it’s important to leave room for interpretation in your work? AS: It’s extremely important. I can’t claim to be the interpreter of the image for any viewer. It’s not a matter of mystery or concealment (although those appeal to me) as much as the impossibility of actually communicating anything to someone. The 22: You have an ongoing affinity for hedgehogs. What appeals to you about these animals?  AS: They are such strange little beasts, with sometimes revolting habits. What’s not to love?

LEFT: lamb, 2012, graphite on paper 39


ANGELINE GRAGASIN


AN INTERVIEW WITH ANGELINE GRAGASIN BY BRADLEY TSALYUK BRADLEY TSALYUK: Your bio is more revealing then most and you had a unique childhood where you profess to have “spent a lot of time on the internet.” Can you tell me a little about this time in your life? ANGELINE GRAGASIN: I spent a lot of time on the Internet because I wasn’t allowed to leave the house. My mother was very strict. I didn’t grow up doing the kinds of things other kids got to do—go on adventures, play outside, climb trees, go to the movies. The only time I could go over to someone else’s house was to study. So I watched a lot of TV and spent a lot of time talking to friends on the phone. When we got the Internet, it was like a godsend. It was liberating to be connected to the rest of the world, which I knew existed, but not from direct experience. BT: What drew you to theater and film? Who inspired you at an early age? AG: I went to a K-12 school with a really excellent fine and performing arts program. I was heavily involved in all of the arts, but I was especially drawn to theater in particular because I saw it was a way of escaping my mundane teenage suburban life, which I would have otherwise been destined to spend under house arrest whenever I wasn’t in school. At least by participating in theater—and a bunch of other extracurriculars—I could find a way to experience things, socialize, learn to express myself in a healthy way. The funny thing is, living in Racine, Wisconsin, I never saw any theater as a kid—except for a couple touring Broadway musicals here and here, which in retrospect were totally mediocre and might as well not even count as a legitimate theatrical experience. I was very underexposed considering how dedicated I was to the craft at such a young age. Which is why, when I got to college, I became really fascinated by Shakespeare and Sophocles, Chekhov and Ibsen, and later discovered clown, mask, mime, and other forms of international dance and theater. Grotowski, Kantor, Lecoq, and Barba to name a few. I even dabbled in performance art for a hot minute. How embarrassing! But I don’t regret it. All these things led me to where I am now. As far as film goes, I basically grew up watching films. I collected as many classic Hollywood and foreign films as I could on VHS and would search for images of vintage movie posters online and print them out and paste them all over my folders and notebooks, and the inside of my locker at school. I was such a film nerd, even then. Although I never once considered a career as a filmmaker it because it seemed so far removed reality as I knew it then. However now it seems perfectly natural and logical that I became one. You just never know. BT: You studied many forms of theater and dance including Butoh, Tae Kwon Do and more. How do you think this connection to the physical affects your mental and artistic process? AG: My training as an actor has given me so many inexplicable skills as not only a filmmaker, but as a human in general. It’s taught me to read and respond to body language, and studying divergent forms has broadened my understanding of how the mind and body can be connected or disconnected depending on the circumstances. I feel very well equipped to communicate with anyone under any circumstances. Learning to control your body is one of the most powerful things you can learn. BT: You also mentioned waiting six months after buying your camera to film. What was the first thing you filmed with it? AG: The first thing I filmed was a video for my friend Derek Erdman, who is a painter. He was moving from Chicago to Seattle and he asked me to produce his farewell exhibition. Derek has a great sense of humor and is very sweet and forgiving, and I’d known him for so long that I was comfortable taking risks and making mistakes in front of him. So I created a promo video for him as an excuse to finally learn to use the Canon 5DmkII. Before that I had only ever used a consumer video camcorder. BT: Your filming locations range from Downtown LA to the forests of Topanga. What landscapes inspire you most?


W

AT

CH T HE A N I M A All IMAGES from The Animals, 2011

LS


WATCH MAN V. CANDY MACHINE

43


AG: I recently relocated to the bay area and I absolutely love it here. Only six weeks in and already I’m convinced that Oakland is America’s best-kept secret. LA is inspiring to me insofar as the weather is amazing and it affords me access to resources and collaborators I wouldn’t otherwise have access to living somewhere else, say Albuquerque, or Chicago (two places I lived before moving to LA). The reason for this is obvious—LA is the epicenter of the American film industry. But I also left for a reason. I am most inspired by the majesty and mystery of natural landscapes. The pastoral is a fetish of mine. I am 100% certain this desire was cultivated in direct opposition to my upbringing. Climbing mountains or swimming in the ocean was something I could only read about in books, or see in the movies. I’m still catching up with the rest of history and humanity. BT: What inspired Man v. Candy Machine? What are your feelings on instant cyber gratification? How do you think the internet has evolved since you first started using it? AG: Man v. Candy Machine was written by Jonathon Anthony, who is a very brilliant writer. He sent the script to me when we first met in 2007, and I immediately fell in love with it and him. We spent many years developing ways of producing the script—very nearly produced it as a play—until we decided to translate it to video. I won’t speak on behalf of Johnny as far as his inspiration as a writer is concerned. But as a director, as far as style goes, I was inspired by stuff like online advertising, glitch art, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and TAMALA 2010: A Punk Cat In Space. Weird stuff, psychedelic stuff, digital gunk. I think instant gratification is dangerous, both online and IRL. But that doesn’t mean I don’t desire or respond to it just like everyone else. The Internet has grown bigger and better since I first started using it, that’s for sure. BT: About halfway in the video Man v. Candy Machine, MAN yells “I love technology! I’m Forever Freeeee...!.” The rest of the exchange between man and machine seems less optimistic. Is this how you feel about the future of the relationship between humans and technology? AG: Not necessarily. Halfway through Plato’s Republic, Plato says poets should be expelled from The Republic. However he closes his argument and the entire book with an excerpt of poetry. Does this support or refute his original claim? It’s important to consider the intentions behind these kinds of contradictions. They lead to richer, more complex understandings of narratives, especially when put into historical context. BT: Some of your documentary pieces are a series called “The Ecstasy of Decay” and deal with the process of burial. Can you tell me a little about these pieces and The Order of the Good Death? What are your thoughts on death’s role in our society and how to it fits in a cyber age when it is more often approached on a screen then in real life? AG: The Order of the Good Death was founded in January of 2011 by Caitlin Doughty, a mortician and writer living in LA. The Order is about making death a part of your life. That means committing to staring down your death fears—whether it be your own death, the death of those you love, the pain of dying, the afterlife (or lack thereof), grief, corpses, bodily decomposition, or all of the above. Accepting that death itself is natural, but the death anxiety and terror of modern culture are not. I think it’s important to think about death not only to be prepared for it, but so that you can better appreciate life. BT: The Animals strangely tells the story of fear and love (perhaps)? Tell me a little about your inspiration for this piece? AG: The Animals was more an exercise in collaboration and an experiment with new filmmaking techniques than I had previously used on past work—less a fully developed meditation on any particular concept. Writer Caitlin Doughty, Production Designer Meredith Ries, and Producer Rachel Wolther and I all collaborated on the story, which continued to evolve throughout the production of the film. I tried be as inclusive as possible with regards to constructing the narrative, which is how and why certain themes are present. For example, Caitlin is a working mortician, and wanted to explore ideas about death and dying—that’s where that stuff comes from. Meanwhile, Meredith was very interested 44


in exploring a character’s relationship to food as an expression, or extension, of that character—that’s why food features so prominently in the film. I tried to honor my collaborators’ own personal interests and inspiration as much as possible, as the whole purpose of the project was first and foremost to make a film PERIOD, given the usual limitations plus a little more pressure to produce something of a slightly more professional quality than my previous work. BT: There are many open to interpretation moments in The Animals but two that spring to mind are smashing the plates while the man is eating (and the sloppy food scenes in general), as well as the twins. Can you talk about either of these elements or any others and what they mean to you in the film? AG: A lot of the imagery in the film references some other artwork or experience—the references are too many to count, and probably too obscure to be of interest. For example, my idea for the twins was that I wanted them to serve as hyper-realistic protrusions of reality. I tried to steer clear from stereotypical cinematic twin references—eg. The Shining—opting instead to borrow qualities from other, weirder pairs of twins like Marie I and Marie II (from Vera Chytilová’s 1966 film Sedmikrásky) and Humpty Dumpty. Their costuming was a direct reference to a photograph by a friend of mine, Self-Portrait in the Red Rose Dress by photographer Emma Bee Bernstein (1985 - 2008). Lots of little references here and there influenced the direction of the film and have significant meaning beyond aesthetics that only I and possibly only one or two collaborators know about. BT: From your introduction online and your work I get a sense of your DIY attitude. What advice can you give to other artists starting out in a tough economy? AG: Don’t look down. BT: What are you working on currently? AG: I am currently working on two documentary webseries, and two narrative feature scripts, as well as countless other little things here and there. I have a lot of new work coming out in 2013. I’m also working on learning Spanish, getting my black belt in Kuk Sool Won, and mastering the art of cooking with anchovies. It’s really a revelation when you learn to make your own Caesar salad dressing from scratch.

WATCH THE ECSTASY OF DECAY

45


THE ARTIST’S STATEMENTS

BY JEFF TIGCHELAAR COLLAGES BY CLESS


The Event This is the event you won’t want to miss. If you only ever attend one event, you’ll want that event to be this. When we say the event, we mean The Event, with a capital T and a capital E. When we say the event, we actually mean THE EVENT, with all the letters capitalized. Or maybe just all the letters in “the,” to emphasize that this is going to be the event, with “the” pronounced the long-e way. THE event you will definitely want to go to, and bring all your family and friends to, and talk about a lot beforehand, although you’ll definitely be talking about it afterward, too! This will be THE event where in thirty or forty years, or maybe fifty or sixty, depending on how old you are currently, you are playing shuffleboard in Central Florida and you say to your friend, “My friend.” And your friend says, “Yes, old friend.” And you say, “My friend?” And your friend says, “Yes, old friend. I heard you. Go ahead.” And you say, “Do you remember, old friend?” and your friend will say, “Oh: I remember.” And that is all you and your friend will say or need to say, because in both of your heads you will be thinking the words “THE event,” and still seeing all they stand for.

LEFT: Desde el primer instante supe que no podía perderte, 2007, handmade collage on CARDBOARD


I Am Interested in Beauty I am interested in beauty. I am interested, especially, in the beauty of the female form. I am interested specifically in the beauty of women as it pertains to how they appear to the human eye when they are wearing no clothes. I am particularly and exclusively interested in examining the beauty of women between the ages of 18 and 29 (give or take) in terms of the beauty they present when not wearing any clothing. I am very interested in the relations between an absence of apparel on the person of the woman, and the effect of that absence on the artist – and, of course, his audience. Suffice it to say, I find the women I work with today just as beautiful, young, and naked as the women I worked with, say, 50 or 60 years ago. And probably even more so.

48


What, to You, Is Art? What, to you, is art? Don’t answer that just yet. Allow me to tell you, in part, what art is to me. Picture a bird. Your favorite bird. The kind your kindly granddad used to watch with binoculars from his big bay window before telling you stories of his charmed and difficult boyhood, a tear-glint in the corner of his eye. Picture that bird, now grown old, yet still radiant and light of bone, leading a group of younger birds – her children! her grandchildren! her little great-grandbirds! – leading that timid flock toward water, that it might drink of life’s nectar. Picture the innocent family of fowl, full of purpose, graceful in flight. Now picture a great green World War One cannon, its once-horizontal shaft now at 20 degrees. Thirty. Now forty. Fifty – now sixty! And look how the soldiers are laughing! It seems there’s been a lull in the war. The young men are lonely and bored. Why, they want nothing more than to obliterate some birds! But now, picture me: raising my arms, but never my voice, and gently yet firmly saying: “No. Stop. You must not. You must not shoot that flock from the sky. You must not be ones who destroy beauty. Lower that Howitzer, boys. Beauty lies in the letting go! Beauty rests in setting free.” What is art – indeed, what is life – my friends, if not…restraint!

49

LEFT: Untitled (Collage 14 Mayo 2006), 2006, handmade collage on paper


LEFT: veintisiete, 2012, handmade collage on paper TOP: Serás Aclamado Como Un Héroe - El Mundo Nunca Me considerará Un Héroe (Hache), 2006, handmade collage on cardboard BOTTOM: Le Copy, 2007, handmade collage on paper


BRADLEY EHRSAM THE 22 MAGAZINE: First off, tell me a little about how you ended up in New Jersey and how you got started making this type of art? BRADLEY EHRSAM: We ended up in New Jersey by chance. I moved to New York in December 2010 when my wife and I became engaged and looked at many different locations all over NYC and NJ to establish my studio and welding shop. I was up late one night looking online at studios and came across the new space and vision for Mana Contemporary. After my first visit I knew that it was the right place. As for how I started making this type of art, I went to school for business with a soccer scholarship. In my sophomore year I took a woodworking class and added fine arts to my degree. After graduating, I then went to motorcycle mechanics school. That was all it took and my career and passion for art and design and creating sculpture and functional art began. THE 22: You’ve got sort of two very distinct projects I noticed. One involves your great eye for design with the furniture and bicycle pieces. The others are really delicate, abstract Sharpie pieces. Can you talk about both of these series and the role they play for you artistically? BE: I was running a fabrication shop doing everything from sanding hardwood floors and sheet rocking to architectural metal pieces. I then started small run furniture lines, some incorporating motorcycle parts (motorcycles being another passion of mine) into the furniture and my artwork. I built a biker lounge that traveled with Harley Davidson across the country.  I would do that by day and then get home at night still feeling and wanting to be creative so I pulled out my high school art supplies and started my paintings. The tricycles started as a welcome to the family for my brother-in-law and are inspired by some part of my life experiences. The first 30 paintings you saw told the story of my life in Minneapolis. I love both and the tranquility they give to me. THE 22: Your work is incredibly playful and fun, where do you get your ideas? BE: My ideas come from my childhood upbringing, love of life, nature and, of course, motorcycles. I get my ideas from everything I see and experience. The tricycles are innocent and playful and a way to express thoughts and feelings about what I see happening in the world around me and my own personal life. I am really inspired and enjoy when people come up and tell me how a certain trike reminds them of a great memory in their life, first car, plowing a field, sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck, being a race car driver, first date… THE 22: Many of your Sharpie pieces look like wood grain or vegetation. What inspires these pieces?  BE: They are inspired by what I want to convey in the piece and also inspired by the piece itself and the unique characteristics and flaws that wood has. There are always aspects of the wood that I am working on that I want to leave as is and create around it.  THE 22: Do you find it ironic to draw wood grain on wood?  BE: I don’t. The wood grain is inspirational. Sometimes bleached out and re-added. Sometimes I work directly with it. The message that I want to convey dictates how I use the piece of wood that I am working on.

LEFT: 13, 2007, mixed media


RIGHT: caught in the cross fire, 2009, mixed media BELOW: elvis, 2008, child’s bike with motorcycle parts

ABOVE: leviathan, 2007, mixed media LEFT: bens map, 2004, mixed media OPPOSITE PAGE TOP: wisdom, 2004, mixed media OPPOSITE PAGE BOTTOM: decloaking, 2007, mixed media


THE 22: I was really impressed by the gloss coating you got and how beautiful the Sharpie colors (known for fading) were preserved. Can you tell the story of how you got that perfect gloss coating?  BE: A friend of mine sprayed the pieces and I worked directly with Golden Paint. We actually spoke with an engineer who develops the products on a conference call and told him exactly what medium I was using and he told us the exact product to use to preserve.


CHARLOTTE GREENWOOD THE 22 MAGAZINE: So you have a pretty long artistic history but first tell me a little about your parents shoe shop? CHARLOTTE GREENWOOD: My parents started a business in the late 70’s selling quality Italian shoes and leather goods. It started at home in our lounge and then grew from there. There were always big cardboard boxes and shoe boxes around the house, at delivery time, and my sister and I used to make them into streets and cities. They were a source of endless fun and creativity. So simple! No video games or computers back then, just our endless imagination to keep us occupied. THE 22: You created designs for magazines when you were 8 and you had shows of landscape work of your early travels? CG: I remember drawing a poster of The Da Vinci Shop, at the age of about 8. When I was older my Mom had kept it , and framed it and it was on the wall when they opened their high street shop. From then on I used to design their publicity for magazines and such. But at the age of 8, I doubt that I even knew what advertising was all about! I used to travel a lot around Europe when I was younger and I had a collection of landscape paintings that I exhibited in my parents shop too. So from an early age I have been used to sharing my work in a public environment. Then at 16 I was lucky enough to have my work selected for an exhibition at the Richmond Hill Gallery, in southwest London, U.K., which I don’t think is there anymore. It was a group show around the theme of the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament. I had three paintings in gouache on paper, of Pat Cash, Ivan Lendl, and Martina Navratilova in that show. When Pat Cash won Wimbledon that year, I sold the one of him, so that was a bonus. THE 22: Tell me a little about your art experience in London? When did you decide to move to sculpture from painting? CG: At the beginning of my “adventures” as an artist, I had always only been a painter, and it was in the early 90s when I made the progression from painting to sculpture. I had just started my bachelors degree in painting, at Chelsea College of Art and Design, in London, and my work started becoming more and more textural. To the point where I really started to feel limited by the two dimensional surface, and I wanted to allow myself the freedom to be fully self expressed as an artist, and discover what I had to discover, with as much freedom as possible. I also thought to myself, I only have 4 years of this, with free access to the workshops and technicians etc, so I better make use of it all and gather as many practical skills as I can to be able to make the transition from this “luxurious” environment where everything I need is at my disposal, to “real life” where I will have to pay for it all. I decided that I wanted to be in the sculpture department, and I think there was only one place left at the time. I had to make a new application to be accepted into the sculpture department, and there were no guarantees that I would get accepted as there were other outside applicants also going for the place but, being the risk-taker that I am, I took the chance, and I got accepted. It was through my specialization in sculpture at art college that I developed the basic practical skill set that I needed to get on in film and television. With regards to my “art experience” in London, well after college, I didn’t really know what to do. In my naive early 20s, I was pretty disappointed with the “Art World” as it was in the 1990s. Conceptualism was getting into its prime with the YBAs (Young British Artists) being the “in” crowd. Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, became household names. Throughout art college I was certain that Conceptualism was superficiality at its best, and didn’t display any degree of technical skill by the artist, and that it was the perfect example of “the emperor’s new clothes.” I didn’t want to be a part of it because it went largely contrary to my moral values of being authentic to who I am, and I was not “that!” In hindsight, I was clearly not quite understanding something. Some twenty odd years later, after working in all manner of jobs and travelling a large part of the world, I realize that no matter what business you choose to work in, the bull***t, that I thought was exclusive to the art world, is always there; the gossip, the backstabbing, the competition for attention, etc. People just want to survive and they will do whatever they can to do so. That’s not wrong, it just is how things are. The common denominator that unites everything though, is people. So now, in my more mature skin, I see things differently. I have grown to love it, and I now actually really appreciate RIGHT: THE LOSS OF INNOCENCE, 2009, OIL ON CANVAS


57


58


59

59


what Conceptualism stands for, and what some of the key artists of that time, have done for art history. I see it as a big game, and I play in it every day. It’s so much more fun to see it that way. I became “at peace” with how I saw the art world, through working for 16 years in the Film and Television business, which, like the art business is cut-throat, and intense. After moving to Canada to “re-design” my life, I got to a point in 2008, after having contemplated the idea of going back to fine art for a while, that it was now or never. I had started to feel that my creativity was never allowed to be fully expressed working as a lab rat, a sculptor, or a special effects makeup artist in the workshop and on set. It was so rare that I was given free reign on any design work, as that is all done in the art department. So it was either get into the art department, or go back to fine art. I decided to go back to fine art because even in the art department you design around someone else’s ideas. So after a lucrative contract in Toronto on a year and a half run of work there, I came back to Montreal with a full bank account. So I took a year off and used all that money to create the series “The Paradox of Consumerism in the Age of New Baroque.” A series of big paintings. I went back to paintings for practical reasons mostly. I didn’t have the space to make sculpture and the materials are too toxic for a home space. Oil painting can be bad enough. Also the issue of storage was a serious one to consider. I was moving house a lot until last year. It was in February this year that I finally participated in the Parallax Art Fair in the heart of Chelsea, London. It was the first time I had an art exhibition since 1994. So it was a big deal for me, and will now be more of a frequent feature in my yearly plans. And so my London art experience is starting to evolve again. THE 22: How were you “discovered” by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop? CG: I heard about the Creature Shop through someone I was working with at a company called Artem who at the time did mostly TV commercials. I was at the end of my first contract there, and realized that I didn’t have anymore work lined up and no contact database to speak of. So I asked around the other freelancers for tips on other companies I might find some work at. That’s how it works usually, word of mouth. So then I called up Hensons and asked to speak to the contact name I had been given. It ended up in an interview and I went to see the shop. It was a long bike ride! Thats one thing I remember about it, 18 miles I think, each way. It took a few visits and phone calls for me to receive a phone call to go and work there. I was invited to work on a theater production they did of Dr. Doolittle. It was a lot of fun. I remember from the first interview though, them saying to me “your paintings are so beautiful, you should be a painter, what do you want to work in the film business for?” My reply was always “I’ll go back to that when I’m older, but right now I need to earn money and pay my rent.” So I guess I’m older now, and I’m still paying my rent! It’s not only through working in the film business though. It was a real privilege working there. It was a huge workshop and the people I worked with were always so talented. I learnt a lot from them. I used to talk with everybody. I found it so fascinating working there. All these different people, doing different jobs for the same creature or the same film. And then working on set and watching the puppeteers make the creature come to life. Priceless experience. Hard work, but it didn’t seem like it because I was doing something I loved to do. It was cool to go to work everyday and see the display cases in the lobby and around the building of all the old characters they made there, including Kermit. It was a beautiful old building right by the canals at Camden Lock in London. Massive windows everywhere and creaking old floors. I remember sleeping on the big sofas in the kitchen sometimes after an all-nighter on some crazy deadlines. It was sad when I heard it was closed down in 2005 I think, or there abouts. It really brought home how much the business has changed now, especially that part of it. My generation of technicians saw the business go digital. A lot of people went out of business, and I remember it being a sore topic of discussion with many of the talented animatronics designers and fabricators I met there. I know two of them live in Canada now, in Vancouver. It’s part of life though. Things will always evolve and transform, that’s the only constant in life. It’s taught me not to get too attached to things or even people, and really appreciate them when they are around. The thing is to evolve with what is evolving and keep up with it all...otherwise you risk to get left behind! THE 22: Tell me about your work in television and movies? CG: For a few years at the beginning of my career, I was a lab technician, mold maker, and a painter. I was then working at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop in London (before it closed down) and there I was mostly a painter and a fabricator. I used to paint creature skins that were made of foam latex or silicone. They were skins that went over the top of PAGE 58-59: The Rancid Feast, 2009, Oil on Canvas


animatronic creatures or puppets. I was “art-finishing coordinator” (that means in charge of the paint finishing of the creatures) for them on Five Children And It, which is a feature in a similar style as Harry Potter. Then I went onto Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone, working in the creature department, and I was a silicone lab technician and a painter. I would run silicone molds all day making the Goblin head masks for all the actors in the Gringot’s Bank scene. Also I would run the large scale Hagrid faces and hands. I also painted some of these things. After that, I went on to work in the model-making department on the same film as a miniatures sculptor. I had to sculpt the 1/5th scale picture frames to go in the model of the moving staircase. After that I went on to do a series of movies with the same company and I became their key painter/ finisher and model sculptor. I would head up the paint finishing team and had to design the paint look of the models that were built, and delegate the sculpting work to the others on my team. Often this was for stonework and detailing on castles, and on Ella Enchanted there was a lot of brick work to paint. There was also a model elf village which had a lot of wooden textures to paint. So that meant that I worked out the method of creating the textures and faux finishes, and the color order (which colors go on in which order). Then I had to teach that to the team of painters who were helping. I went onto do various jobs from armor fabrication on Kingdom of Heaven, where I was mostly a mold maker churning out fiberglass helmets and also a paint finisher, for the body armor parts. On Troy I was an assistant graphic designer, which meant that I worked with the chief graphic designer on the sets painting the mural decorations onto the columns and walls. I worked for Millenium FX , with Neill Gorton, which is now a leading make-up fx shop in the U.K., on Doctor Who. I was a senior sculptor there for a couple of years. I did sculpting, mold making, fabrication of prosthetics and also some painting on Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, I was a sculptor, and worked on the chocolate river set sculpting parts of the riverbanks. Then I moved to Canada in 2005. In Toronto I mostly got sculpting work, and became the key sculptor for a company who did a lot of creature work and commercials. In Vancouver I was a sculptor for X-Men 3 for the make-up fx department. In Toronto again I was working as a senior make-up artist on the pilot of Fringe at FX Smith, also a leading make-up FX studio on the east coast. He did all the X-men original designs back in the day amongst loads of other amazing stuff. Then in Montreal I have been make-up artist and sculptor /mold maker on different productions. Last year it was on Mirror Mirror, and War Bodies a zombie movie where I was a make-up artist for Maestro FX, working with Adrien Morot, very talented make-up fx artist and designer. I’ve had the opportunity and fortune to have worked with many fantastically talented artists in the film and TV business. Its been a humbling and inspiring time. THE 22: What has been the most challenging television project? What has been the most rewarding? And why for both? CG: That’s a tough one to answer! I would say that there are a few that had tough elements to them. Two spring to mind. Making the pilot show for Fringe was very challenging. It was so in a good way. We had the luxury of having some valuable research and development time at the beginning of the project, as what we ended up doing hadn’t been done before. We had to design a prosthetic to give the effect of a skin disease that made human skin turn transparent. So the challenge was to keep the prosthetic pieces as thin and true to the human form as possible, whilst creating the illusion of the interior of the human body. So we had to also create a transparent thickness on the exterior of the actor to create the illusion of depth. We ended up using a tattoo transfer method combined with sculpted silicone reusable prosthetic pieces, which then got covered with transparent gel once they were applied to the actor’s body. I think there were around 50 separate prosthetic pieces for the complete effect. It was very intricate and involved a team of 4 special makeup artists to complete the application on the actor, who had to lie still for a few hours every time we applied the makeup. Then visual effects took what we created one step further, and digitally introduced interior body textures. They deepened our muscle structures and digitally inserted moving organs and a beating heart. The other job that stands out, is Five Children And It, that I worked on with Hensons, not long before I came to Canada. The challenge here was to make a prosthetic foam creature skin resilient to salty sea air. Salt breaks down the skin and also corrodes the animatronics underneath. So we came up with a way of siliconizing the skin through impregnating it with silicone, which was infused using special solvents. The other part of this project that was challenging was puppeteering on set underneath the table where the puppet was set up so we would not be seen by the camera. There were five adults under there, all with radio controls. I would say that was definitely on of the most hilarious set experiences I have had over my career. So that would also qualify it for being rewarding too! I think the more challenging a job, in general when the result is achieved, for me that is very rewarding. Its the part of being on that journey of not 61


knowing how to do something at the outset and going on an adventure to find the way that brings the desired result. That’s what I like. For me that is what I do everyday as and artist. Go into the unknown and create things. That’s rewarding! It gives rise to accomplishment and inspiration. THE 22: You eventually decided to go back to painting and to establish a studio? Why did you make this choice? Are you a full time painter now? CG: In spring 2008 I decided to make my focus more on fine art and I stopped working in film and TV for a couple of years. It happened to coincide with an extremely sparse period of work for the entertainment business, as a result of strikes and tax break adjustments. So there were not many films being made for a while in Montreal.The reason for my choice to go back into the fine arts after so long, was because I wasn’t in an environment where the full potential of my creativity could be expressed. When I work in film and TV, I am a technician, and I work in a team where my work is changed and sometimes cut all together, and it does not belong to me. I consider myself a service to the production, where my decision making capacity is decidedly less than working as a fine artist and designing my own projects. My intention was to fully explore my creativity and really find out who I am through that process, and share what I have to offer with the world, and inspire people as a representation of creativity. I cannot do that working on movies. In the years leading up to my decision, I felt stunted and that I had reached a ceiling. So it was up to me to create a life that was one that allowed me to reach my full potential and grow. I am not yet a full-time painter. Every year I get closer to that status. I am sewing the seeds and every year, I find that I am painting more and more. I’m a very patient and determined person, so I know that I can make that happen. THE 22: One of your most interesting series is “The Paradox of Consumerism in the Age of New Baroque.” Tell me a little about how you create these paintings, and what they are meant to convey? CG: It took me two years to know how to paint them in the way that I did. I did a lot of research into the Flemish masters technique and the techniques of the Baroque period. There is a lot to know and its a very involved and disciplined way of painting. I watched videos, read books and websites, and picked a few peoples brains about all I could find on the subject in a short timeframe. I learnt a lot from painting those paintings in that style. The experience taught me about the importance of self-discipline, about time management, about process, and patience. Having done those paintings also showed me how much my technique had improved from having worked in the film and TV business for so long, and this was a reflection of how much more mature my “way of seeing and observation” had now become. I feel a sense of accomplishment, having completed them, having soldiered on through quite a few tears of frustration and exhaustion over that period working night after night to get them completed for the final exhibition in December 2009. Living that whole experience has certainly taken my painting to another level. They are a representation of my vision of how our society works. They are a discussion around how the machine of greed and consumerism works. On another level, they are a reflection of how human beings can be in Western societies. I feel that one of the biggest weaknesses of the human condition is greed. It is a byproduct of our programmed nature to survive. In a world where a big part of society have more than they need to survive, there is surplus. This cultivates an environment for greed to grow. My paintings are a discussion about how the machine of our society functions and is reflected in the urban environment that we create around us. They are illustrations of how we are born into all of this with a choice of either taking responsibility for what we have been born into and making it work, or choosing to live in denial and distraction. Both choices are impactful in different ways. These images are my vision of what I have experienced from being born in London and growing up in a massive urban metropolis. Most of my life has been lived in cities and the urban environment and what I find striking is that we are all important in keeping this machine going. That is the main point underlying The Rancid Feast. Despite the intricacies of what is actually in the painting, what is important to me in the conversation between the painting and the public, is that everything is so fragile, temporary and in constant evolution. Everything in the painting is supported by something else in the painting. If one element is taken away, the whole thing falls down and becomes dysfunctional. The dichotomy of life and death. Everything might seem so secure to us in our everyday lives, but realistically, it is so fragile. I chose to paint in this was because Baroque is characterised by drama, excess, exaggeration. I see this to be very present in our world today. I wanted to convey what I had to say 62


about today’s world, in a new context which was somewhat removed from how it might normally be seen. So creating a discourse about greed and consumerism in a Baroque-esque style, to me was a more mysterious or curious way to present it. Rather than just turning the audience away, with shock-value, I wanted to present them with something that was striking and beautiful but with a further look is actually depicting something that isn’t so beautiful as it might have appeared to be at the first encounter. As far as being politically correct, my paintings are not about obese people. They are about the greed prevalent in human nature. There is a distinct difference between these two things. One is personal, and the other is universal. I chose to personify the greed present in human nature, in a universal sense by painting obese people. To me though, they have evolved further than people. They are more creatures to me. This series is not complete, and I intend on painting more obese creatures around this subject. It’s a way of accepting the presence of greed, and knowing what to do with it. THE 22: Can you tell me the story of how you first got this work shown? (How it got into the gallery, that is.) CG: Well, after having moved house three times during the production of this series, I finally found a bit of stability for a year when I was living with my husband in the east end of Montreal. I remember having a discussion with him one morning about how to get my work seen, and to find artistic representation. He was so supportive of me and what I am aiming to accomplish through my art creation, and the projects that I do, that he said “I’m sure that if I go downtown and visit all the galleries, and show them your portfolio, that we can find someone who will want to exhibit your work, or at least give us some advice. You can stay home and carry on painting.” So that was that, off he went in his Sunday best and did exactly that. In the late afternoon, he came back and told me his story, which went like this: After having been to a fair few galleries and not really getting much feedback, he went into the AKA Gallery which used to be on Cresent street. This is where he met Kat Coric, who was working there at the time. He explained how he has a wife who is a painter, who is currently looking for artistic representation or any advice regarding promotion of her work and approaching galleries. He said “I totally believe in her, I have her portfolio here if you could spare a few minutes to look through it, or if you might have some advise for her.” It was at this point that Ms. Coric melted inside. She had just come out of a long marriage which had ended badly, just a few days prior, and here was this guy standing for his wife and showing her artwork around town, saying how much he believed in her. That was it. She took a look through my portfolio and gave some tips to change a few things about the presentation, and to change some things about the business card I had designed, and gave her own card to my husband. Over the next week I made the changes that had been suggested and my husband then made a follow-up call to Ms. Coric, and told her of the changes. She was impressed, and said to stay in touch if we had any more questions, but that she couldn’t exhibit my work in the AKA Gallery because I was dedicated to one artist only. So about a month went by and I still hadn’t found any work, or any representation, and nothing had really changed. So I found Ms. Coric’s card again and gave her a call, thinking I had nothing to lose. It ended up in a meeting with her, where I explained my whole story and where I was with everything in my life at t hat time. We made an agreement, and she agreed to take me on and teach me what I needed to know to get started on my journey as an artist in Montreal. We ended up working together for the best part of two years. Ms. Coric helped to put me on the map in Montreal by organizing a private viewing of my new paintings at the end of 2009. She introduced me to people and found me a few portrait commissions, and did what she could to help me on my way. She has a healthy art collection of her own, and she also represents a small selection of artists from Montreal. It was a question of right place right time for my encounter with Kat Coric, and I learnt a lot from the experience. Through her I met Jean Fortin, the owner of Gallery D. Jean has been following my progress for the past 2-3 years and finally, the time was right early this year when I contacted him with the interest of having a show at his gallery. He said yes, and we set to work and planned a date. So my first solo exhibition in a public gallery will be at Gallery D, from September 26th-October 29th 2012. It’s been a bit of a long time coming, and this is the first step into a much bigger game. One thing is certain though, without the help and support of some wonderful people around me who believed in me, I would not be where I am today. So I thank everyone who has helped me and contributed to what I’m doing so far. THE 22: In a radio interview you talk a little about philanthropy as a new fad. Do you think philanthropy in art is important? 63


CG: Yes, I was talking with Le Chronique du Conseil, a local radio show and group of young driven artists who support and report on what’s happening around town in the Montreal arts scene. For me it is important to give back to the community, and to the world. I enjoy supporting causes which are doing something to help people in whichever way. I feel that I am fortunate to have the life I have. I worked patiently to create it, and I want to make sure that I can help as many people around me have a life they love and that they are inspired to live in everyday. Whether it be helping a charity or organization that already exists by donating a portion of sales I make in an exhibition, or through a project or initiative I have invented; it’s the giving back that is important. If there is no connectivity in the world and people don’t work together and help each other, things will never reach their full potential. THE 22: You talk a little about working with toxic chemicals in special effects and how it went against your personal credos. Can you tell me a little about this experience? CG: Yes, I like to think of myself as an environmentally conscious and environmentally friendly person. I do what I can but I’m not perfect! I haven’t owned a car for over 7 years, I ride a bicycle everywhere, and use public transport. With that in mind, working in Special Effects for 16 years now, has put my opinions in check and made me really ask myself what I’m doing, and if I should keep doing it. Well, it seems that I’m going to carry on for a while! I like the variation in the work, and the intensity of the deadlines, and on the whole the crews I have worked with are full of awesome people. In a typical special effects workshop, we will use casting plastics, fiberglass, resins, polyurethanes, various expanding foams and prosthetic foam, MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard), polystyrene, welding, paint, acetone, methyl-hydrate. Most places have some kind of ventilation system, and most people use respirators and protective clothing when working with these products. Sometimes there have been cases where a company I worked for brought in a specialist to educate us in toxic materials and how to safely store stuff and what to write on containers etc. All workshops I’ve been through, have at some point had the health and safety officers come in and do checks, so it is somewhat regulated. Things get trickier when building large sets which have to be built in sometimes very old factory buildings where those ventilation systems were non-existent. So then its down to production to pay for the right ventilation to be installed, and that doesn’t always happen, and for the workers to be conscious of the others around them. It comes with the territory really to have contact with these products and materials, and their by-products. In the end its my choice to work in this business, so its my own responsibility to protect myself whenever I can. Working with these materials used to bother me a lot. I seem to have become more accepting of what I see to be the wrongs of the world. It leaves me in a more peaceful mental space, where I can be more effective and lead by example in my own projects, if I so choose. When you work on a big Hollywood production, the number of people involved is immense. I’m a technician in this environment and not an independent artist. So there are a lot of other people to consider. The timelines we have to deal with are crazy, and so if a technician starts piping up about not wasting so much material, or using so much plastic and throwing away recycling in the regular garbage, it will most likely fall on deaf ears. To make any sort of change in the way a special effects workshop is run, with regards to being environmentally friendly, would require a major overhaul of the materials we use to create the illusions we make and the environments our audiences flock to the cinema to see. The impact would be huge! Its an interesting question. So if anyone wants to take that on as a project, I’d be interested to see where it will end up! THE 22: What are you currently working on? CG: I am currently working as a sculptor in the construction department building details of the sets, on a feature production called White House Down, by director Roland Emmerich. I am preparing new artwork for my solo show at Galerie D, which opens in September, and I am running a project called “Carry Your Message,” which is a community art project that I started at the end of last year.

64


NICK LAMIA WRITTEN BY BRADLEY TSALYUK

BRADLEY TSALYUK: You grew up in California? How did a place where natural beauty and urban sprawl collide affect you? NICK LAMIA: The question places “natural beauty” and “urban sprawl” in opposition to one another. I consider societal infrastructure, including sprawl, part of nature, and find it can be visually beautiful as a phenomenon although I am opposed to it as a plan for living. It’s far too inefficient and expensive to succeed in the long term. Wind farms are an example of a part of societal infrastructure that I consider both beautiful AND good. The ones I’ve seen are gorgeous, they are testaments to human ingenuity and I think will provide part of the answer to the energy challenge we face. As far as how urban sprawl and natural beauty have affected me and influenced my imagery, it is a combination of having grown up in both urban and rural situations. I’m interested in the overlap of nature with society and the possibility of a symbiotic existence. I can’t help but think my fascination with that is rooted in the geography I experienced as a kid. My family lived in Southern California, until I was 10. After that, we moved to Chevy Chase, Maryland, a suburb of Washington D.C. I went from spending most of my time outdoors—at the beach, playing soccer and baseball and going on hiking trips in the Sierra—to spending more time inside. I continued to play sports, but activities like reading (The Lord of the Rings, Vietnam War novels and books about sailing or being shipwrecked were my favorites), building model airplanes, playing video games (Zaxxon for ColecoVision, woot!) and painting Dungeons and Dragons figurines became more prevalent. This change had to do both with the East Coast climate and also with my somewhat more urban existence in D.C. The most important aspect of the move from west to east though, was the increased time my family spent in rural Maine, home to my mother’s family. My grandfather started as a lumberjack and graduated second in his high school class, following close on the heels of his future wife, my grandmother, who beat him out of the top spot. He ended up going to medical school and became a surgeon. She started a candy business and later spoiled all her grandchildren with her signature But-

ter Crunch and blueberry pie. Later, they started one of the first aquaculture farms in southern Maine where they grew oysters. That was in the 1970’s, before aquaculture had the traction it has today so they were too far ahead of the curve to make any money. Nonetheless, when I go to the Grand Central Oyster Bar in Manhattan and find oysters raised in Pemaquid, I always get a pang of pride knowing that it was my grandfather who first envisioned what the area could produce.

BT: You received your B.A. in Environmental Science from UC Berkeley in 1994 and then studied at the New York Studio School for painting in 1996. What led you to this shift from science to painting? NL: Scientists are geeks; artists are cool geeks. Smirk. I view my transition from science to art as more a shift in emphasis than one between disciplines. Curiosity and attention to detail are fundamental in both practices, the main difference being that scientific results are generally quantifiable whereas artwork is subjective. Though my young sons will cite the fact that I consistently “can’t find them” when I’m scrambling to get them dressed and they’re hiding in my bed, in the same spots they chose the previous three mornings as evidence to the contrary, I’d like to think my observational skills remain sharp. I certainly remain as curious about the world around me as ever and despite a shortage of naturalistic imagery in my current oeuvre, all of my artwork is rooted in observation. Attention to reality is truly what fuels my work. Since I was six or seven years old, I’ve always kept a sketchbook. Later, when I studied biology, chemistry and physics, I had lab notebooks in which I documented experiments and dissections. My diagrams of things like plant stem cross-sections and fruit fly anatomy became as interesting to me for their visual impact as for the quantitative information they contained. That conflation of science and art got me thinking more seriously about the visual arts as a life pursuit. The shift came during the two years I spent living in Yosemite National Park, after I graduated from college. I spent much of that time in wilderness, something I hadn’t ever expected to do. Even up until a week 65


66


before I moved to El Portal, (a hamlet just outside the park on Highway 140) I had been seriously considering a career in environmental law. But an opportunity to teach at the Yosemite Institute presented itself and I couldn’t pass it up. I planned to spend six months teaching ecology and geology in the mountains and then return to D.C. to take a position I’d been offered at a large law firm. But once I got to Yosemite and had a real taste of the Sierra, I was like a terrier with a chew toy…I couldn’t let go. The choice to live in Yosemite, and to stay for a couple years, was instinctive and not what most of my friends and family expected of me. It sounds cheesy, but my time in the Sierra was incredibly inspirational and beneficial to my sense of self and even to my soul. Such fulfillment based on a gut decision taught me to listen to intuition. That led to another unexpected decision: to concentrate all my energy on my artwork. BT: Are there links for you between the two investigative practices of science and art? NL: Absolutely. Of course they’re not the same thing, but aside from most science being empirical and quantifiable while artwork is usually subjective, there are many parallels. Foremost is that both are based on observation. As I mentioned, attention to detail and study of reality are at the heart of what I do; the same is true for my sister Katja and her husband, who are both scientists. Further, in both practices the most important judgment of one’s work comes through peer review. They each involve a search for undiscovered territory (and thus also failed attempts and dead-ends) and both practices are about pushing the limits of what I think of as the “knowledge horizon,” the boundary between human knowledge and the unknown. Imagine a fire burning in a field. It casts a circle of light within which objects and events are visible and knowable, yet outside the light objects and events can’t be observed even though they do exist. At the margin between light and dark is the “knowledge horizon.” It is the purpose of science and art to add fuel to the fire, to widen the circle of light and with it the expanse of human thought. Of course the real common ground between science and art is that practitioners of each are outlier freaks around whom “normal” people become uncomfortable! Think about the last teen-centric movie you saw, and tell me it didn’t include a short-sleeve-button-down wearing four-eyed science kid, as well as a black-clad, tormented artist, both of whom caused a fight-or-flight response among the cheerleader posse. This may be a pipe dream, but I sometimes feel I slipped through the cracks and somehow had the good

fortune to end up an exception to both archetypes. I got to study science AND play sports, I wear black, but not to the exclusion of other colors, and though I never dated a cheerleader (poor me!), my girlfriend in college was the younger sister of a Rose Queen, my sister Jenna played Poppy Downes on “Strangers with Candy” and I’m ever thankful to be married to a woman many people probably slated to end up with a hedge fund quarterback! BT: When and how did installation begin to play a role in your practice? NL: In 2004 I participated in the Triangle Artist’s Workshop, a two-week residency in Brooklyn, for which I’d planned to do a book project. About two weeks before the workshop was to start, I found a bunch of really great driftwood on a trip to Maine. It wasn’t the typical smooth, conventionally beautiful driftwood; it was beaten-up flotsam from old boats and docks, riddled with holes from Teredo worms, crawling with sand-fleas and smelly. I found it irresistible. I borrowed my sister Mignon’s car (she didn’t know about the stink or fleas) and hauled a load of the wood to New York, where it ended up at Triangle with me and became the foundation for the first installation project I ever did. The workshop was in a mostly vacant industrial building with just a few tenants, including a furniture restorer. He let me pillage his scrap pile for the small, but gorgeous, chunks of mahogany, maple, walnut and oak it contained. The installation was largely about the juxtaposition of these immaculate blocks of wood with the shards of old piers and rotten pilings, which were equally beautiful but in a different way. The book project didn’t happen, but those two weeks opened the world of installation to me and still fuel my projects. BT: Is there an element of play for you in the construction of these installations? NL: A few years before he died, Andrew Forge visited my studio. He taught me to pay close attention to the language I use to describe my artistic intent. While I do have fun constructing installations and I look forward to making more, I don’t view it as play. “Play,” as it is often used in exhibition press releases and in the context of artworks in general, has become a pet peeve of mine. Uptight I know, but true nonetheless! I understand the value of play, and I enjoy playing, but I can’t get past the fact that, applied to professional studio activity, the word implies of a lack of seriousness or focus on the part of the artist. I’m aware that the colorful appearance of some of what I do is inher67


ently light hearted, but the concepts I’m exploring have an underlying gravity whose importance would be diminished if I presented the installations as playthings. The colorfulness of the installation components is dialed up for the interactive pieces so that they are more inviting. Perhaps this aspect of the work does make the word appropriate as far as viewers are concerned. If they decide to “play” with the installations, that is fine with me. But when I construct them, I am not playing. I think of it more as drawing with objects…rather than with a pen or pencil. The object is a mark and I am placing it, with intent, just the same as if I were deciding where to place a mark on a page. BT: You recently participated in the Wave Hill Winter Workspace Residency. What was your experience there?  NL: Wave Hill is terrific. I had a great time, and a productive one as well. I did a bunch of naturalistic drawings of objects I encountered in and around the grounds: Pinecones, birds’ nests, dead flies from the windowsills and bees. (They keep four or five hives in boxes on the grounds.) I spent six weeks at Wave Hill working alongside four other resident artists. As my time there drew to a close, I felt totally recharged and ready to get back into my own studio to continue with more abstract imagery. For me, some of the most important things at Wave Hill are the trees. They’re gorgeous and the variety is amazing. At the tail end of my residency I witnessed the felling of a diseased 150-year-old Copper Beech. It was an incredible three-day process, and they very generously allowed me to take a couple rounds from one of the large limbs. (I couldn’t even move the enormous rounds from the trunk!) I ended up incorporating that wood in a subsequent installation called “Coppice” at Jason McCoy Gallery in Manhattan. I’d encourage anyone to visit Wave Hill, and, if you’re an artist who gets chosen to participate in one of their programs, definitely make the time to commit yourself to it. BT: The forms you create could be perceived as both cellular and cartographical. What is the relationship of the micro and the macro in your work? NL: I’m interested in imagery that can be perceived as either miniscule or cosmic or both, perhaps because these extremes of scale signify the limits of human knowledge and the edge of consciousness. I’m fascinated by mimicry among natural structures of different scales such as cancer cells and cities, or algal blooms and nebulae, but 68

such similarities are probably circumstantial. There is no underlying message I’m trying to convey by combining the two except perhaps that our own existence is the same way: it is everything to us and yet, simultaneously, it is insignificant; we are dust. From here it would be easy to slip into nihilism, but I prefer to believe that although in the grand scheme of things my actions and existence are inconsequential, my day-to-day experience will be better if I am mindful of my actions, so they do matter on a personal level. BT: In an artist statement you mention your interest in “unifying nature and society “ and that society and nature are “complementary parts of a single system and though we may never fully understand their juncture, we must integrate them to thrive as a species.” Is part of our difficulty as a species to create this integration a result of our limited vision? A lack of the macro perspective? NL: This is the real question, isn’t it? I wish I felt more qualified to comment with confidence on our “difficulty as a species;” that is a huge topic. But as far as my meaning in the statement you cited, yes, our society is near-sighted. We are taught from an early age that newer is better and convenience is king. The Dead Kennedy’s compilation title “Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death” comes to mind, except in reality it’s more like “Give Me Convenience AND Death,” because the two are served together. We have both on our societal plate, but we’ve covered death with a lettuce leaf so we can ignore it while enjoying the convenience of our factory-farmed burgers. The scary reality is that if we polish off the burgers without taking any bites of what’s under the lettuce, that’s all we’ll have to pass along to the kids’ table, and they will be hard-pressed to make a meal of it. This is why education regarding the true costs of convenience is so important, especially among young people who will be the ones ultimately footing the bill. Edward O. Wilson is an inspirational figure for me. I recently went to a panel discussion during which he spoke about the importance of science education in this country. One of his main points (with which I agree) was that it is important to teach young people about nature through experiential learning. They are the ones who will be forced to deal with the environmental problems created largely within the past 150 years and they can only get so much from books. One of the things you can’t get from books, which I think my generation and my parents’ generation lacks, is a visceral connection to the natural world. This disconnect makes us ignorant of, or allows us to ignore, the true costs of societal activities. When we burn a gallon


PAGE 63: Bristlecone, 2004, Oil on canvas LEFT: Cressi Sub (DETAIL), 2004, oil on canvas ABOVE: untitled, 2012, OIL on Canvas

ABOVE: Coppice (detail), 2012, site specific installation at Jason McCoy Gallery, New York ABOVE RIGHT: untitled (tree), 2009, oil on canvas RIGHT: untitled (structure) (DETAIL), 2011, oil on canvas PAGE 70: untitled (DETAIL), 2012, oil on canvas PAGE 71: Swedish Pimple (Midnight Shingle Dumper), 2004, oil on canvas

69


of gasoline there is a cost beyond the $4 we paid at the pump; when we toss a disposable razor in the garbage, it’s not the end of the story on that hunk of plastic and steel. John Muir said when you try to pull something out of the Universe, you find it is connected to everything else. It’s a truism, but as a society we’ve lost sight of its importance. We must begin to think on a larger scale, both geographically and chronologically, in order to mitigate the impacts of our actions on other parts of the natural world. The Lakota Sioux belief that we borrow the Earth from our progeny seven generations into the future is a good example of thinking on a different scale. It was the inspiration for my piece “Cities for our Kids’ Kids’ Kids’ Kids’ Kids’ Kids’ Kids” at Artspace in New Haven. Seven “Kids” for seven generations. I also emphasized “kids” because it was the first installation project I did where viewers were meant to redesign the piece by moving parts around according to their own aesthetic. I thought kids would be more apt to participate, which ended up being true. At the opening there were three or four children who broke the ice and started moving some of the blocks around… it wasn’t until after that that the adults jumped in. Many adults also need to be prodded into joining the discussion on how to renovate society to be less damaging. Perhaps that’s because it smarts to admit that unless we change our relationship with other parts of nature, we are goners. Human industry is effecting changes to the global environment at a rate and on a scale that outpaces our (and other species’) ability to evolve and adapt to such changes. Unabated, our actions will make the Earth inhospitable to us, not to life, but to human life, at least in a form we could recognize. It’s not a question of whether or not we are “nice” to nature. Morality is beside the point. Nature is bigger than we are and will continue with or without us. For us to remain a part of the picture we need an awakening on the scale of the Copernican Revolution, when it became widely understood that the Earth rotates around the Sun rather than the other way around. Humans are not the center of the Universe, we don’t have to keep everything running and we should be thankful we don’t have that responsibility—however, if we want to continue as a species, we DO have the responsibility of finding a way to accomplish it or we will push ourselves to the extreme periphery and become part of the historical record, out of the picture altogether. BT: In your artworks you offer a kind of utopian vision coded within fragments and diagrams. Do you envision a future where the symbiosis is actualized? 70

NL: Utopia would be nice, but we are imperfect creatures; it is implausible we could build an ideal, perfect place. The best we can hope for is symbiosis, an evolving working relationship between parties. Unfortunately, the current relationship between society and nature is more accurately classified as parasitic. The fragmentary and diagrammatic elements you mention, as well as the combination of organic and geometric elements in my imagery, symbolize a positive growing together of society and nature, which I believe is necessary if our species is to have a bright future. BT: Have you seen or found evidence that this symbiosis is already occurring? NL: Sure, there are signs that some people have begun to achieve a more sustainable future and certainly there are people working to improve the situation. There seems to be a resurgence of a kind of “back to the land” mentality evidenced by growth in the numbers of small farms, and even urban gardens, for example. Generally though, this is on a small scale. To achieve sustainability on a societal or global scale, there remains an enormous amount of education and effort to come. For example, most of us are complicit in the irresponsible practices our society depends upon because we are ignorant of the practices themselves and their effects. That’s the reason I’m so interested in talking about these issues.


71


SARAH BOOTHROYD BY BRADLEY TSALYUK

BRADLEY Tsalyuk: How did you begin making sound art? SARAH BOOTHROYD: + taking several years of voice and piano lessons + singing in choirs as a kid and in bands as a teenager + discovering the magic of digital audio editing through producing radio work + deciding one afternoon to stay in a room until I had produced my first work of “sound art” BT: Your works have been broadcast in several countries. What does it mean for you to have your sound pieces transmitted all over the world? SB: It’s pleasant to daydream about my compositions having a life of their own, traveling to cities that I would like to visit in person some day—my little audio jet-setters touring ears in over two dozen countries. This international exposure is mostly thanks to the ease with which digital data is beamed around the planet these days, as well as the considerable time I spend finding venues for my work. BT: The history of radio is fascinating and extremely significant in relation to everything from military technology to television, and your works are accessible online. Do you think your work will change with shifts in distribution technology? SB: Yes, my present practice with audio work is entirely contingent upon current technology, and my work will continue to evolve (in content, format, and distribution method) as technology changes. In general, I think new tools—technological and otherwise—always suggest new forms of artwork. For example, I usually layer between 20 and 40 digital audio tracks in any given sound artwork. I think it would be near impossible—or at least result in bleeding fingertips—to create such complex multi-layered compositions through the old physical method of cutting and splicing tape. So in a sense it’s thanks to multitrack digital audio editing that my style of audio work even exists. In terms of distribution technology specifically, the advent of podcasting has certainly expanded my reach beyond the conventional 72

terrestrial radio audience, although I do enjoy working with broadcasters whenever I have the opportunity. In addition, instead of relying on a record label to reach fans, I can also distribute my work directly to listeners through Bandcamp, as well as to multiple broadcasters through PRX. BT: When I think of the archiving of history I think of artifacts, architecture, photos, and film/video. Sound is just as equally physically present, but what for you sets it apart from these material objects? SB: Artifacts, architecture, photography and film all have a strong visual component. Sight is one of our strongest senses—we experience the world based largely on information we receive through our eyes. So what happens when you provide sound alone to an intensely visual creature? Well, that creature invents the “missing’” images with their own imagination. In other words, the audience daydreams their way through the audio work within the theater of their own mind. And this is primarily why I’m drawn toward sound art. It demands participation on the part of the audience in a way that visual-based media typically does not. For me, sound art is 1% sound and 99% imagination. BT: In the future where do you see your work going? SB: My medium has always been extra large. Before sound art grabbed the reins of my artistic life, I enjoyed creating several other species of art: drawings, paintings, sculptures, costumes, films, etcetera. I tend to make art out of anything within reach. My ultimate goal is to combine my many artistic leanings into one creatively satisfying (and hopefully financially sustainable) method that makes best use of my passions, talents, skills and experience. In the meantime, while I continue to be focused primarily on sound art, I’d like to collaborate more with other artists in new contexts. Some examples: I’d like to design sound for film, I’d like to produce sound installations to accompany visual art exhibitions, and I’d like to create audio interpretations of written works. The possibilities are endless, and I look forward to the seeing what’s around the next corner for me.


LISTEN SEX AND DEATH RABBLE ROUSERS ALL IN TIME


74


AFTERWARD

By Michael Bazzett One hundred and twelve years from now, the scattered tribes made their way north. They skirted the hulks of eaten cities, the weed-shattered pavements long since turned to gullies. Stories came down from the poles: instructions and diagrams said to be there, things considered essential human knowledge, belief in an island beyond Norway housing archives of crop seed. They’d heard repetitions of syllables: appetite, equilibrium, and again and again a musical term: harmony, as a sort of warning. The stories circled back on themselves, ending always with the same words: Time itself will end, but you cannot ask what that means. Cities were rust and danger. Little looked as it once did. It grew warm. Kudzu came north. Nothing evolved to eat it. Ruins covered in fibrous vines, speared with ailanthus. Cellars filled with algae bloom, then silted in. The land swarmed green, but barren. Hungry cattle near the coast waded into marshland, and sharks, grown large and abundant, swam upriver to feed,

LEFT: Nick LAmia, untitled, 2010, mixed media on paper

the water thick with muscle. Coral crept northward too, leaving ghosted reefs in warm water, showing bone-white through mats of slime. Re-acquaintance with rain, heat and vigilance changed the remaining clans. Language grew simpler. Even with scavenged books & the desperate teaching the confounded, words were lost. On hillsides, camps flickered with the sooty flame of rags stuffed into cans. Then darkness. Things scavenged, not made. The rarity of children. It was understood that what was buried, persists.


AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL BAZZETT by Carolyn Supinka Carolyn Supinka: Your bio on the Literary Bohemian says you spent the last year with your family in the mountains of central Mexico. Why did you move there?   MICHAEL BAZZETT: We’ve been back a few years now, actually. I took a sabbatical from teaching, and we moved there mostly so we could write (my wife writes fiction). We actually drove down in our little red station wagon (the kids were 4 and 7). The road trip alone was a Russian novel. CS: You have also lived in Paris, Dakar, and Minneapolis.  Do you have a “home base,” or is traveling part of your life?  MB: Minneapolis is home for now. CS: How does traveling influence your work?  MB: I would say traveling influences my work in the sense that I look to literature to take me places I can’t go in a car. I want to be transported—and sometimes relocating my physical self gives me fresh eyes and helps spark that other, deeper sort of transportation. CS: You have a very distinctive voice in your poetry, and sometimes you become a character yourself. What do you think about having a “voice” as a poet? MB: It’s all a poet has, ultimately. If you want the reader to inhabit the poem, then I suppose you’ve got to do the same. CS: Your poems are very narrative.  Can you talk about your use of storytelling, and its role in your work? MB: Yes, stories. I like them. The innate architecture of the form offers a lot of scaffolding to play against, and I enjoy the unexpected. I mostly write to see where the poem is going to go. If the poem is a dog nosing down the alleyway, the narrative structure is the grid that ordained the path, or the asphalt of the alley itself. CS: Do you write fiction as well? MB: Occasionally, yes. CS: When you sit down to write, do you know beforehand if something will become a poem or prose?  MB: It’s hard to say. I work in a fairly intuitive fashion, as I’m inclined to think my imagination is smarter than I am. I would say I tend to write in prose when I’m hoping for utter transparency, as it announces fewer formal maneuvers for a reader. CS: A lot of your poetry is formatted in a more prose-like manner as well, such as your poem Old Man:  “His coat comes off, exposing sagging flesh. He has a slightly dented chest and roping white arms that circle back, his long fingers searching the hollow between his shoulder blades. He probes the folded place where his wings are furled.”

Because of this, I’m very curious about your reading style—how do you read your poetry aloud?  76


MB: Mostly I just try to read slowly and avoid the pitfalls of the portentous “poet voice” that rises in intonation at the end of every line. I try to trust the poem and disappear into it. It’s an odd thing to invest many hours arranging a particular group of words into a particular order and then spend all of 47 seconds delivering the goods to an audience in a voice that’s never as good as the one in your head. CS: You are also a teacher for high school students. How do you introduce poetry to your students? MB: This may be more than you bargained for, but I’ve actually written an essay on that very topic that appeared in Teachers & Writers Collaborative. The short answer is that I try to keep it visceral and playful. I want them to have some sense of what poetry feels like, as much as anything. CS: Does teaching influence your writing at all? Have you had any great teachers? MB: The patience and persistence of teaching high school students has probably been one of my greatest teachers. I have also been blessed to have a number of great teachers, however, who can pull off the paradoxical trick of influencing students to become more fully themselves. CS: Do you have any projects that you are working on that you would like to share? MB: I’m just finishing an English verse version of the Mayan epic & creation myth, the Popol Vuh, translated from the K’iché. Fascinating work. I also have a few chapbooks coming out in 2013, from Barge Press and Burning River. CS: Thinking of any new places to travel to? MB: I think I’d like to give troll-hunting in Norway a try.

77


JIM FORD THE 22 MAGAZINE: Tell me a little about your artistic history. You seem to have a lot of experience in typography, how did you get started in that? JIM FORD: Well, I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. Right after high school, I spent a month in Italy taking it all in, which kind of reconfirmed that “this is what I was meant to do.” Typography and type design specifically was an interest that developed in college. When I was riding the trains and buses to and from school, I read Frederic Goudy’s chapbook where he compiled all of his notes and the stories behind his 100-something typeface designs. I was very moved by that, I admired his prolific career and character, and most of all, his independence—the way he made things happen by inventing his own means and methods. Goudy was an individual and an underdog, and his legacy was very admirable to me. I’ve always developed skills by teaching myself in practice and wanting to master things. I never wanted to be lumped in with “graphic designers.” Type set me apart, and it was a strong force toward the end of school. I had my eye on the prize a year or two before I graduated, so I went out and got what I was after immediately. THE 22: What was your main focus in school? When did you move into collage art? JF: At first, I thought I was going to be an ad man, so I studied and worked in that field for the first couple of years. When I decided that I wanted to be a type designer and wanted a more colorful portfolio, I switched to graphic design. Advertising simply wasn’t visual enough, it’s salesmanship, and I wasn’t in art and design just for a nice paycheck. My interest in collage art developed slowly over the years. It was born from my musical activities and interest in hardcore punk and such…but I wasn’t really serious about it until I started working as a poster artist and getting my feet wet in that scene. THE 22: What appeals to you about collage or even assemblage that you don’t find in other mediums? JF: Hmm, well I like the speed and spontaneity of it, and since I learned about art history, the pioneering German Dadaists, Marcel Duchamp’s musings, and also Robert Rauschenberg were very influential. Duchamp was the real deal, an anti-artist who challenged the establishment of art and changed the game in doing so—made people think differently, which I respect. Assemblage came later, after exploiting collage art for a while, it was naturally the next step. I’m constantly trying to one-up myself and continue moving. So, I needed a break from collage—or to explore a different approach—the two mediums seemed very relative, so I gave it a shot. I cannot stress enough how difficult it is for me to continually do the same thing, and I know a lot of people have built successful careers that way, but it’s not for me. THE 22: You also do a lot of poster and design work. Any favorites from you or others? JF: Did a lot of posters. It’s more of an occasional thing now. There are so many great artists and illustrators (and printers, which I am not) in the poster scene, it’s hard to narrow down or pick a favorite poster. My favorite poster that I’ve made, however, is the first edition for Cobra Skulls at Beat Kitchen. I call it my flagship, because if I was working a personal style and sticking to it, that would be the exemplar. THE 22: Tell me a little about Rebeletter Studios, how that came to fruition and where it’s headed?

LEFT: METALLIC DEATH II, 2012, Collage ON PAPER

79


JF: Rebeletter…the name was one of a dozen ideas that developed as a backup plan. I had worked strictly as a type designer and lettering artist for 5 or 6 years at Ascender—it was very black and white, the job was corporate, and I had ideas and aspirations which were deemed subversive to the business and my colleagues. I got burned out with the black and white routine, so when I left, it was time to breathe color into my career. Where it’s headed, I can’t tell you, but there’s not a whole lot that I won’t try. THE 22: What are some of the design projects you have or are currently working on? JF: Well, because of my expertise in type design, I’ve been an independent contractor for Ascender, which is now merged into Monotype. There’s no question that type has been the breadwinner. I have a pretty tight understanding with type director Steve Matteson, we were like a tag team, the drawing department if you will. The design projects I’ve done under the Rebeletter hood are pretty random, so I won’t go into that. I’ll design just about anything, but websites are not my forté. THE 22: Tell me a little about how you and Helen met and decided to form Rebeletter? JF: Like I touched on before, Rebeletter was a backup plan to my type career which I had to act on, as a means of living. It was frightening at first to have everything on my shoulders, to make something out of nothing, but I thought about it a lot and was enthusiastic about pursuing dreams. My relationship with Helen was purely of romantic nature at first, but after some time living with her and having her at my side when I was trying to develop as an artist…she kinda just fell into place. She was my biggest supporter and confidante. Eventually we got engaged and decided that partnering up might be a good idea. She has gifts that I do not possess, so I always wanted her on my team. In more ways than one. THE 22: You have a great interest in vintage objects, particularly LPs. Tell me a little about how that started and where your “Stereovisions” series is headed? JF: Vintage is a dirty marketing buzzword, a trendy word for “antiquity” and I’m guilty of using it. It’s more so history that is, and always has been, fascinating to me. That started as a kid. “Stereovisions” comes from my fantasy and obsession with album covers and music. When you realize you’re not in the position to make a career in music, the next best thing is making the artwork! I’m not one to wait around to be asked, I need to prove that I’m worthy because there aren’t that many opportunities in the Midwest and I dream big. I keep telling bands, “give me a 12-inch format to work with!” but most don’t have the budget for it. “Stereovisions” was an answer to that frustration, a design solution for an artistic venture, and is currently headed toward 36 pieces. It may go further, we’ll see. THE 22: Your work seems to straddle the line between Surrealist, Dada, and Cubist. Is this intentional? Do those movements appeal to you in any way? JF: Absolutely. You hit the nail on the head there. The first few decades of the last century was a Golden Era of art, in my opinion. After Pop Art, not a whole lot stands out to me. So much was born in the early 20th century. It was a period of challenging and changing the establishment, and through studies and obsession, personal development, I just relate to those movements in art. Not to say I don’t think about what’s ahead, but I despise most things about the present world. My dream car is a time machine! You become cynical over time, through experiencing the pains and drudgery of life, ya know? I started early, so I’ve always had a big non-conforming middle finger for society and the ways of the world. THE 22: What’s next for you both design wise and artistically?

80


PAGE 81-82: ALL WORK FROM “Stereovisions” series photographed by Helen Lysen

JF: That’s a question I wish I could answer concisely. Probably education, because as self-absorbed as I may seem, I found that sharing and helping to guide people makes me feel really good. I’m doing as much as I can independently, trying to be patient for doors to open, but I’m also searching. Currently influencing my work is an obsession with mythology, astrology and symbolic storytelling and such; it’s my way of feeling connected with the universe and understanding human conditions. I will say it: most artists are in some way or another crude, self-serving and egotistical; that is important, albeit ugly at a glance, but I’m no different. So I can’t thank you enough for the ink! I worry that people confuse ambition with arrogance, but the people who know me personally can distinguish the difference here. And Eric Burdon said it best, “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good…” 82


MmGjH MfHCRimF THE 22 MAGAZINE: First off, let’s get some history, where are you from? How did you end up in NY? MEGAN MONCRIEF: I grew up in Monroe, Louisiana. I’ve been playing music since I was two. I had a wonderful piano teacher, a lady named Mrs. Stewart, who taught me chords out of the hymnal but also gave me a lot of freedom and constantly encouraged me to compose. I came to New York to go to school, thinking I was going to be a journalist or something, but ended up teaching piano myself. It’s an awesomely fulfilling job. I started out playing organ and synth stuff in bands, which was always a little frustrating; I wanted to make this music that was a lot more abstract. I was recording that stuff at home, and it was kind of a secret project that I didn’t show anyone. Then I started booking art shows in this little storefront, and met more and more people working in directions that weren’t too far off, and I realized that there might be places I could do this—at least that it would be possible to create them. THE 22: Tell me a little about the ukelin that you play? MM: A lot of people call it exotic, which is pretty funny. The ukelin’s origins are foggy, but it’s basically from New Jersey and was distributed by shady door to door salesmen during the Depression. It’s a 32-stringed monster, meant to be half-bowed, half-plucked. There’s a website run by a guy named Bob Buzas who’s done tons of research about the instrument’s history. I came across his site when I was in college, absentmindedly reading some article about weird instruments on the internet late at night, and bought one off eBay for thirty bucks. The intended method of playing is pretty hard to pull off; there are a handful of folk musicians out there who can shred, but I do mean a handful; probably fewer than ten. I like playing an instrument with no canon, where you can’t really take lessons—you’re forced to figure it out by experimenting. I mic it with piezo pickups, and manipulate the feedback; I often use it as a percussion instrument, and sing into the sound hole, which makes this huge weird echo from all the sympathetic strings. People have said it looks like I’m chewing on it. THE 22: What are you trying to convey in your music? What is your moment of perfection? MM: The moment of perfection comes when I’m playing and I totally forget where I am, who I am, what I’m doing. I’m an extremely scattered and anxious person, by nature, and sound is the only form of meditation that’s ever worked. I think my primary goal is reaching that state, and hopefully bringing the person hearing it along, even a little bit. THE 22: What do you use to create your sounds and how do you use them? MM: Contact mics on Chinese medicine balls; a promotional voice recorder toy from the movie Saw II (hacked by my friend Kristen, of the band Warcries, at one of Casperelectronic’s workshops); a really simple little homemade synth I built, based off of a quad oscillator kit; kitchen knives, broken cymbals, screwdrivers. My loop pedal, a Electro-Harmonix 2880, is my baby. I have a little synth called a Pocket Piano, made by a company called Critter and Guitari in Philadelphia, and I’ve been using that a lot lately. I also use this weird thing I picked up when I saw it in the window of this Hasidic discount store; it claims to be Vietnamese temple percussion, but I haven’t been able to positively identify it yet. THE 22: What is your dream instrument and what does it sound like? MM: I’d eventually like to create some sort of bastardization of the ukelin—something a little deeper and sturdier, maybe with geared tuners like a guitar rather than autoharp-style pegs. I retune a lot, depending on what kind of set I’m planning to play. The wood is really old, and a few of my strings won’t even hold a note anymore. Maybe sharping levers, like a harp, would work—either way, it’d be a lot of hardware, but there’s got to be some way to make it work. I’d also love


the chance to put gamelan pieces inside of a grand piano again someday. I did it once. I feel like I can’t say where, because we sort of got in trouble and I don’t want to incriminate my co-conspirator in a public forum, but it’s on a record we put out. It made these crazy percussive clangs and rattles. I’d love to mic it next time and run it through some effects. THE 22: What inspired this album and are there more in the future? MM: I’ve got two things coming out in the immediate future; one solo release on Fabrica, and a split with my friend CS Luxem. I’ve just started recording stuff for the next one, which will be out on a new label called Boo, started by my friends Kate and Wes, or Thermos Unigarde and Champagne Sequins. THE 22: Part of the album project was to send everyone a cassette tape of the work correct? Why did you decide to do this? MM: There’s a broad cassette community out there; tape trading’s pretty common in experimental circles. I love cassettes as pocket-sized art objects; inexpensive to produce, very spray-paintable. The first cassette run of “Secular Geometry” was hand-painted and stenciled and dubbed on my deck at home; the next few things I have coming out are pro-dubbed and printed, but I’ll probably do another handmade one after that. I started recording onto cassette, recently; I used to record everything digitally, but this summer I bought a Tascam recorder off my friend Drew—who runs a fantastic tape label called Solid Melts, while we’re on the subject—and I don’t know why I haven’t been using one all along; I like the immediacy of that recording process, and the general sound of it. THE 22: You also happen to be a co-curator of the “Ladies of Experimental Music,” a loose collective in NY. Tell me a little about this project and what the goal is with it. MM: LoXM was the brainchild of my friend Kate. She started this Facebook group as a means of meeting like-minded female musicians to collaborate with, and it snowballed into a regular series. “Experimental” is kind of a catch-all term, and eclecticism has been one of the strengths of those shows. I know so many women doing great work in the circles I run in—psych, noise, drone, concrete stuff—and I think they usually do build up the respect they deserve, but there are still plenty of nights when you’ll go to certain shows and feel like one of four women in a boys’ locker room. I like hanging out in that locker room, but I feel like a diversity of perspective leads to more interesting work, in general—it’s often a very, very white and hetero scene, and I’d love to see a shift there, too. I remember sitting at a show one night and overhearing one of my friends say “Yeah, dude! There’s starting to be girls here.” I loved hearing that. Everyone wins, right?

THE MOON REVERSED we don’t have time for a hypothesis, science is fleeting

ABOVE: PAPER SCULPTURE BY MEGAN MONCRIEF


THE 22 MAGAZINE: So first off let’s talk a little bit about your histories. Can you each tell me a little about your musical backgrounds and how you eventually met and formed Iron Dog? STUART POPEJOY: Sarah and I formed Iron Dog when we realized our improvisations had this moody, unique, heavy character— the name refers to us both being born in the year of the “metal dog”—and it also reflects a particular character of our musical relationship. Around 1990 we had a group that, while it wasn’t improv, it had a similar cross-genre sensibility, so when we started playing together again around 2005 we really wanted to make the sound happen again, but this time with improvisation. My background starts with piano training at 6, and then guitar, bass and drums in the school-of-rock model. In high school I started really focusing on electric bass in a small-group jazz setting, but I was also involved in synthesizer work—a lot of the synth work I do now still reflects interests and directions I developed way back then. Later I drifted away from combo jazz, and got more into heavy rock, on guitar as well as bass. Coming back to improv and new music has been interesting, which partially started with Iron Dog. I also restarted my classical piano studies, and began serious investigations into composition, leading to my current focus on algorithmic compositions. SARAH BERNSTEIN: I started piano at age 5, and switched to violin at 7 or 8. Most of my early music training was based on what was available in the public schools, and luckily for me, the schools had a lot to offer then—orchestra, chamber music, music theory, choir, and at times private lessons. I began composing chamber pieces in theory class, while writing “rock” songs on my own time. I got into jazz and improvisation, picking up LPs and taking workshops. After high school, I attended four undergraduate programs with some drop-out time in between before getting a bachelor’s degree from the California Institute of the Arts. Cal Arts was a great place for my wide interests, I was overjoyed to land there after struggling with more traditional music departments. When I moved to New York, I decided to further pursue jazz studies in the context of a getting a master’s degree at CUNY Queens college. My primary teacher was the very special Sir Roland Hanna. Around that time I played in a Charanga band (Afro-Cuban/Caribbean music) amongst other ensembles. For many years I had quite a range of gigs—from salsa to flamenco to pop bands to classical to jazz. I still do a lot of different work, but now I focus most on composition and my original projects. I met Stuart in 1988 through music, so we go way back. We lost touch at a certain point, met again in 2003 and started playing together seriously in 2005, in the context of Iron Dog. Andrew joined the group in 2009 and his sound has been a crucial addition. The three of us collectively influence and create the current direction of the band. ANDREW DRURY: I started music in the 6th grade band on Bainbridge Island, Washington, near Seattle, and in about 9th grade I started taking the ferry boat into Seattle on Saturday mornings for drum lessons with Dave Coleman Sr. He’d make me cassettes and tell me about interesting performances coming through town and through him I encountered something so powerful it became my lens on the world. Also I listened to the radio every night to sports, CBS “Radio Mystery Theater,” and to whatever interesting thing I could find, one of which was a grassroots community radio station called KRAB on which I heard Ed Blackwell for the first time. Later when I learned that Ed Blackwell taught at Wesleyan University, I went there and studied with him for a few years. The other thing early in my musical development was that we had a piano in our house and I would sit at it, picking out familiar melodies, improvising modally, trying to copy sounds I was hearing from Jack DeJohnette, Keith Jarrett, Monk and Mal Waldron. Over time I developed my own idiosyncratic relationship with the piano that gave me a foundation later when I started composing. I approached the piano and composition as a drummer, I listened widely, and I was fortunate to begin composing without a lot of pedagogical baggage. I moved to New York from Seattle in 1998 and I met Sarah and Stuart after I’d been in New York quite a while, maybe in 2008. I can’t remember how Iron Dog formed. But I think it was before Iron Dog that they invited me to play solo drums at their wedding.

85


THE 22: Iron Dog is such an interesting mix, as it seems to bring together three prominent elements, algorithmic preciseness, improv/avantgarde, and classical. What do you think each of you brings to the project and how do the elements work together or sometimes don’t? AD: I agree that those three elements are near the core of Iron Dog but I think all three of us are pretty involved in all three of them, and maybe our ability to each access all of them at any time is a big part of what makes Iron Dog bark. But really I haven’t stepped back to think analytically about Iron Dog—I think maybe the thing I enjoy most about it is that, in my mind anyway, it’s really about Sarah, Stuart, and Andrew, and just being ourselves and doing what we are capable of doing together. SP: We’re all improvisers, and we all have backgrounds in jazz and rock, so I think there’s a lot of common ground to start from. Also we’re all very into sound and texture. The differences have never stood in our way at all, or posed any kind of obstacle, whereas the overarching challenges (to keep one’s energy focused, to stay in control of one’s instruments, to keep listening to each other) are always there.

TOP: photo BY Peter Gannushkin MIDDLE: photo BY Reuben Radding BELOW: LEFT: INTERACTIVE ALBUM ROCK COVER RIGHT: FIELD RECORDINGS I COVER

SB: I agree that the disparate elements are inside each of us more than between us. A lot of times it is not possible to determine who is making what sound. The groove might be the violin, the melody might be the bass or the bowed cymbals. THE 22: What is the main goal for each of you in music? SP: I want music to “take a stand” one way or another, so if it’s a trance-like, minimalist drone, or a big structural narrative-like arc, the main thing for me is that it have very definite character. If people like it, that’s all the better, but I’d rather someone hate it than be indifferent. AD: The main thing going on for me is that I’m involved in a process (music making) that I’ve devoted to since I was about 13 years old, and what I’m really thinking about when I sit at the


drums whether it’s Iron Dog or anyone else is whatever issues happen to be present for me on that path at that moment. I don’t think about what I want people to hear at all, I’m just trying to do my best and to continue and contribute to the amazing, ancient traditions I feel I’m part of. SB: It is interesting to me to find out what others hear when they listen to us. Friends in the audience have offered some great feedback like, “that’s Space-Fuck music,” or “Iron Dog’s dark sonic overtaking of the world.” THE 22: Sarah you also work with Satoshi Takeishi. Tell me a little about that project and what sort of musical venture it is for you? SB: Unearthish is the name of my duo with Satoshi. This work started as a solo project, and I still perform it that way as well. These compositions, for voice/violin/electronic processing/percussion, differ from what I do with Iron Dog in that the pieces are short, precise, defined compositions with limited improvisation, whereas Iron Dog’s music is completely improvised. When I first played with Satoshi in another context, it struck me that his vast musical background and unique sensibilities would be a great fit for the Unearthish pieces, both rhythmically and sonically. Also, he shares my interest in words, how they pull and shape the music, and increase the conceptual aspect of the work. This fall we’ll perform at Roulette in Brooklyn as part of the Vital Vox Festival on Oct 29. AD: I have to give some props to Satoshi. He’s an excellent and musical drummer, exquisite listener, and major innovator of the drum set, reinventing it with his own configuration. Very original and someone I admire a lot. THE 22: Sarah you also grew up in San Francisco. How long were you there and has there been any difference in musical experiences between NY and San Francisco?

Listen to: Extempore I

Listen to: ANTHEM

Listen to: PAIN GLORIOUS

Listen to: IS IT FOR BREAKING?

SB: I was born in San Francisco, lived there through childhood, except for a few years when I was out of the country. I grew up in a neighborhood called Ingleside, which most people haven’t heard of, and where it is perpetually foggy. After high school I was in and out of town for some years, then I moved to New York in 1996. I felt strongly connected to SF growing up, the surrounding nature, the general state of creativity, flow, mix of people, political engagement. Now I think a lot about the area’s unique nature and climate, I guess that is what is most location-specific. As for music and art, my experiences there were formative 87


and amazing, though I didn’t stay in town long enough to develop lasting projects. People often ask if I came to NY for music. I stumble over this question because I’m not sure where the separation is (between music and life), but in fact, I was drawn to New York the place, music included. Once I moved here I became a happier person, so for me it was a good choice. THE 22: Sarah when did you start working with spoken word and poetry in your work? SB: I started writing poetry intensely in high school, I also wrote lyrics to sing solo and in bands. I was inspired/influenced at that time by people like Patti Smith, Jim Carroll, Kerouac, Burroughs. I saw the movie Poetry In Motion at the Roxie Cinema in the late 80’s, and it introduced me to a lot of great poets in performance, some with music or other sound. Pretty much as soon as I began free-improvising on the violin as a teenager, I also incorporated poetry and spoken word. Later, as I pursued music formally through college and beyond, I mainly set aside the words. I would occasionally get involved in a project singing, speaking, writing, but then I’d switch gears again and focus on my goals as an instrumentalist. In the last several years I’ve finally been able to keep the spotlight on a more unified vision—words, voice, violin, composition. THE 22: I recently saw your chamber works project debut. It was somewhat different, perhaps more playful than your other work. Can you tell us a little about this project? SB: The Chamber Project consists of pieces for acoustic instruments which I’ve been composing for a while. These are through-composed pieces as well as works combining composition and improvisation. The concert you went to was very inspiring for me. The skill set required for performing this work is wide-ranging, from classical to jazz to free improvisation. Nine of my favorite musicians participated, bringing all of these skills and sensitivities, plus incredible chemistry. I’m glad you heard it as playful. I’m sure that is because we were having so much fun! Composing this music is actually not a new departure for me, though performing it as a cohesive event is new. I hope we can do more soon, as well as record. THE 22: Stuart, you work with a variety of folks but you’re works seems more electronic/rock based. When you think about your musical style what clearly comes to mind? How would you describe it? SP: Yes, recently I’ve come to accept I’m an electronic musician…but it was a struggle at one point when I was doing a lot of jazz and wasn’t really accepted because I insisted on playing electric (fretless) bass. People were into my sound and my approach but then I wouldn’t get the call, while more boring players on acoustic bass were working all the time. This created a bit of a schism for me, where “serious” music was acoustic. Happily I’ve since become familiar with all the wonderful intersections between so-called “classical” music, electronics, computers, electric instruments, improv, acoustic players who sound electronic…I was certainly ignorant of these things before, but I also feel like we live in an exciting time where so many barriers have fallen, so that great, creative musicians can really express with any tool that fits the bill. Recently I’ve returned to this idea of aggressive, rock-informed improv, mainly because it’s very natural to me. My metal band, Bassoon, has really been more an outlet for compositional ideas, whereas Iron Dog and other projects have allowed me to find an improvisational voice in the electric space. THE 22: For those who might not know what SuperCollider is can you tell us a little about it and your work on it? SP: SuperCollider is a really amazing computer-based environment for sound synthesis, similar to the more wellknown laptop workhorse Max/MSP. SC has a harder learning curve since it’s a programming language only, no buttons or graphics to help you out like Max. But it sounds amazing and has some really interesting concepts, both from a synthesis point of view as well as programming languages. I don’t use SC in Iron Dog; however, I use a hardware synthesizer keyboard, a Nord Modular G2x. It’s similar in that it’s an open environment—you actually program it on the computer. “Modular” refers to the fact that it has no inherent structure, you assemble modules in the computer and connect them with virtual wires. Just like an old monstrous Moog or Serge with all the wires, except this doesn’t 88


weigh 100 pounds, it remembers different setups, and it stays in tune! Plus it’s NOT a laptop—once it’s on stage it’s a synth, which is much better to perform with, and it doesn’t crash. There’s kind of a dialog between all of my electronic or computer-based approaches, be it SuperCollider, the Nord, or my compositional software in Java. Ideas born in one will end up on another. For instance, I put a lot of work into generating melodic ideas and chord progressions with a method employing the modulo-difference of intervals in a melody, wrote a few compositions with this. Later I programmed it into the Nord, to generate melodic material on the fly for live improv. THE 22: What appeals to you about the process of processing music through machines? SP: It’s an avenue for experimentation, similar to using effects boxes on a guitar (or violin). On one hand you can get into the theory or the physics of it, which is fascinating, but you can also just plug things in differently and see how it sounds, get surprised and inspired that way. There’s a formal element to it that interests me of course. Xenakis called his book about algorithmic composition “Formalized Music,” and for me there’s something attractive in a conceptual sense about writing a composition based on ideas about how notes and rhythms interact, instead of just “using your ear.” THE 22: Andrew, I was interested to see some of your pieces were inspired by Robert Smithson. Tell me a little about your outdoor solos and the experience of playing music outdoors as opposed to in a venue? AD: Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s I was doing a series of drum solos in outdoor settings, all over the western US, and photographing them. I called them “Earth Solos,” and they fused my medium (drumming) with my interests in environmental destruction, geography, and the legacy of colonialism. Smithson’s piece “Six Mirror Displacements” (described in The Writings of Robert Smithson) excited me when I encountered it. Growing up in the western US, for me the landscape and nature were a constant presence, a source of awe, mystery, beauty, and inspiration. People’s relationship to the environment is very different than in New York. When I moved to the East Coast to pursue music and college, I found I missed this tremendously. Reading Smithson was liberating to me—he could do his art anywhere. It made me wonder what my art could mean if I did it in unconventional spaces, if I treated space as an element of performance to be manipulated. I became involved in performance art and environmental theater and tried to do projects in Alaska’s northern slope, my street theater piece in Central America, and other things. Smithson and Richard Schechner, the author of Environmental Theater, made me aware of the conventions that are assumed in jazz performance spaces, and I have messed with those periodically, too—putting decorations all around the audience, manipulating lighting, giving performers costumes. All of this is powerful stuff. THE 22: Andrew, what appeals to you about the improvisational nature of music? Do you like music to surprise you? AD: I should say I’m both a composer and an improviser, and that I love composing and playing composed music but my understanding of music is primarily rooted in my (limited) knowledge of West African music and spiritual practices in which one prepares oneself, and then if things work out, a god descends and possesses or mounts you, and you then experience time and space in a different way and become capable of performing superhuman deeds. I think both improvisation and composition are means of attaining a heightened state of being, and within that surprise is useful. Overused though, surprise ceases to be surprising. Surprise probably shakes us to a more primal level of perception too, and puts us in touch with our senses in a vital way (sort of a Surrealist goal I think)—a fine thing in an increasingly virtual, unphysical, passive society. I have to say too that part of the appeal of improvisation is practical—you just do it, you don’t have to pay other musicians, spend a lot of time writing out parts and rehearsing, etc. THE 22: Tell me a little about your work in Nicaragua and Guatemala, and in other social situations. What does drumming or music bring to a tense situation that other things cannot? AD: This is a whole other part of my life and career. I’ve been teaching drumming in prisons, schools, homeless shelters, battered women’s shelters, museums, Indian reservations, and other places since about 1989. I was out of college and 89


needed money and by chance a job that I landed needed me to teach (and drive a bus, but the bus driving didn’t stick). I came to realize that as a drummer, i.e. someone fluent in the language of African-diasporic rhythm, I possessed a special tool to communicate with a vast portion of humanity in the current era in which African diasporic rhythm is global and very important to many people. Drumming is technically simple in terms of sound production—no expensive equipment, no intonation or embouchure issues, no special way to hold a bow. It’s a non-verbal form of communication that instantaneously connects powerfully to groups of people who have little or no prior “formal” music experience. People LOVE drumming. At one point while traveling in Nicaragua I got invited by an Argentinian NGO called “Fundacion Entre Volcanes” to do workshops and performances in small villages on Isla Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua. We would ride around in the back of a pickup truck from village to village and hook up with youth organizations. We were spending a day and a night in each village, giving drumming workshops and being hosted by local people who we never would have met otherwise. It all went great—participants seemed to have a blast—and we had a blast meeting people, seeing how they lived, and talking. My Spanish teacher from a remote and amazing Mayan town high in the mountains called Todos Santos Cuchumatan, took us to an even more remote place in Guatemala called San Sebastian Cuchumatan. San Sebastian was on an unbelievably steep mountainside above Huehuetenango, a two hour hike from the nearest road. There was this whole village on this mountainside and I did music workshops there for about a week. I spoke Spanish but the younger kids didn’t so our communication was mainly through music, gesture, and a strong mutual desire to do something together. At night we slept on top of the desks in the one room school. THE 22: Tell me a little about your 1993 street piece? AD: My girlfriend (who I eventually married) and I wanted to get out of the U.S. at the time of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ 1492 voyage, a bad economic recession, and following the 1991 US/Iraq war. The war was the first time as an adult that I’d witnessed the U.S. political/military machine mobilize and unleash fury on a foreign population, and I was really bummed by how marginalized the voices of protest were, and how easily so much of the U.S. population devoured the blatant jingoism, self-righteousness, xenophobia, racism, and all the things that comprised the propaganda. We wanted to connect on a personal level with other people living all over the spectrum of Americas at the 500 year mark of this world changing event and see how people were doing. So we did a 25 minute wordless theater piece in about 25 public locations in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico. The piece was our way to feel like we were not just consuming and taking during our travels but also giving something we considered unique to us—our art—to the people and places we visited. THE 22: Back to Iron Dog, the group, “Interactive Album Rock” is your 2nd album? “Field Recordings,” the first? SP: Yes.“Field Recordings 1” is all live, whereas “Interactive Album Rock” is a studio recording and the first with Andrew. THE 22: “Field Recordings 1” was pretty heavy, and “Interactive Album Rock” seems to rely a little more only ambient, semi-hypnotic, more electronic sounds. What were you musical goals on these albums? SB: “Field Recordings 1” is a good representation of the Iron Dog duo-vibe and the early days of the band. “Interactive Album Rock” introduces a lot more text, synthesizer, and Andrew on drums. So the sonic pallet grew exponentially, bringing more ambient possibilities and other complexities of direction. Another major difference is “Field Recordings 1” is a sampling of live shows, whereas we recorded our second album in one studio session, one day up at Jamie Saft’s studio in the Catskills. So presumably IAR captures a more specific moment in time. Meanwhile, we’re starting to compile more recordings of live shows, which we’ll likely release as “Field Recordings 11” . SP: I think the progression is to incorporate more elements into the music. The new CD also has more all-out improv, blowing-style stuff than the first, and there’s also the text, so I feel like there’s a lot more to hear. The first album documents back when we were strictly bass and violin (and drums on a few tracks). Interestingly, I think it was easier to 90


achieve the heavy sound without drums; if Andrew started laying down big Black Sabbath beats I think we’d get dragged off into a stoner-rock dungeon and never return… THE 22: Tell me a little about some of the instruments you guys use in Iron Dog? SP: Andrew’s probably the most inventive in this area. My bass is using a fairly straightforward set of effects: ringmodulation, distortion, filter, and echo. The Nord is of course completely open so I can wire in any number of effects; I feel like the most unique thing there is a lot of the sounds “play themselves” while I’m free to improvise more on the bass. Sarah gets some pretty wild sounds out of her rig! AD: I played my drum set and had some gongs, including Sarah and Stuart’s big (maybe 30” diameter) gong. I put things on the drum heads to change their sounds—mute their resonance, make them buzz, raise the pitch of the drum frequencies. I put clamps and strings of bells on cymbals. I drum with plastic chopsticks. I also used my extended techniques—things involving friction, air pressure, bowing, pressure points on the drum membranes. I scrape the drum head with slivers of bamboo while pressing bells on the head to make set of sounds. Bow a metal dustpan or a sheet of thin aluminum. A lot of these things let me do what I usually can’t do as a drummer—sustain tones and work with pitch. This lets me interact with the other instruments in profoundly different ways. Many reviewers are unaware these sounds come from the drums. If you’re not familiar with the sounds and you’re just listening and not seeing what I’m doing you wouldn’t know they were from drums.

SB: I process my violin with patches which I’ve programmed on the Boss GT8, and I process my voice with various settings on a delay/reverb pedal. My main focus vocally is spoken word, but I do add tone content and vocal improvisation at times. I’m looking into expanding my vocal effects, and also having Stuart process my voice through the synth. THE 22: Sarah, many of your words sort of almost tell the stories of folks and a lot of them see to be poems almost about the folly of human misunderstanding or communication, as well as questions about our ability to be prepared for what’s to come (is it for breaking?) What to you is the story behind this work? SB: I think the word-side serves as a way to express that which is psychologically complicated, or otherwise resides precariously between reality and its various opposites. Often life’s darker moments, but not exclusively. Though I might have written a poem for a certain reason or with a certain meaning, when it comes time to perform it, just as with a musical piece, I bring to the text my present concerns and emotional state. The reader or audience I assume is doing the same. Plus the band influences which direction I go with the words. So the meanings are somewhat flexible and improvisational. For me, the process of writing words is similar to composing music, though the impetus might be different. In both cases, I play with the original inspired elements and find shapes, form, development. The 22: What do you guys see in the future for Iron Dog? Any current exciting projects? SP: We’re always wanting to do more with multimedia, specifically video, to create more of a “happening,” enhance the psychedelic elements that way. We’re at the Tank in Manhattan October 18 as part of a multimedia series, and our CD Release Concert is November 10 at JACK, a new venue for the arts in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Look out for that!

91


92


JOSEPH DALEY

THE 22 MAGAZINE: You are a self proclaimed “sideman” who has played with some amazing bands, but in 2011 you released your first solo (composed) album? JOSEPH DALEY: Yes, this is the initial documentation of my work as a composer. My experience as a sideman was very instrumental to the success of my debut CD project. The knowledge that I gained working with such great musicians as Sam Rivers, Charlie Haden, Muhal Richard Abrams, and others provided an ideal blueprint for me to use as a model. THE 22: Your first album was quite incredible. When did you decide to start composing this work? JD: I have been composing music since I was very young and try to write a bit every day. It may be a short sketch, extensive development of a musical idea that I have been contemplating or an orchestration of a project in development. I am constantly reworking my compositions as I develop musically. I am very meticulous with the development of my craft. Unfortunately, the opportunity to record a project kept eluding me. Finally, I made the decision to save the money and produce the project myself. I wanted to use a large ensemble of musicians that I have worked with over the years, so the logistics took a while to put in place. THE 22: The title of “The Seven Deadly Sins” is kind of a self-explanatory title but tell us a little about the back story of why you chose this as your material?  JD: The material was chosen as I became familiar with the paintings of my good friend Wade Schuman whom I met while performing with Hazmat Modine. Wade created a series of paintings based on the concept of the seven deadly sins that I thought was quite an intriguing outline for a suite of music. I also researched the historic evolution of the seven deadly sins in relationship to works created by other artists and musicians who were inspired by the concept. THE 22: You grew up in Harlem correct? How did this effect or even create your music sensibilities as a kid? Did you grow up with music?  JD: I was born in Harlem and spent my early years there but actually grew up on the lower East Side of Manhattan in the La Guardia Housing projects, a real melting pot of global culture. My parents loved music so it was a part of our daily existence. We also attended church on a regular basis which enhanced my early love for music. THE 22: In high school you were more involved with the Latin music scene, do you feel this has influenced your work? What kind of places were you playing in high school?  JD: I attended Music and Art High School which was located on Convent Ave in Harlem. There I met many musicians with very diversified backgrounds. But my initial introduction to Latin music came through my interaction with musicians on the lower east side of Manhattan which was a hot bed for Latin music with the opening of many social clubs LEFT: JOSEPH DALEY, PHOTO BY JEFF BURNS


that featured dancing and live music. I eventually was asked to join the Monquito Santamaria Orchestra, Monquito who is the son of Mongo Santamaria was playing venues in such historic places as the Corso Ballroom, Red Garter, Hunts Point Place, Saint George Hotel plus an occasional trip to Puerto Rico. Unfortunately we never had the opportunity to go to Cuba because of the political climate of the times. A historical document of the times is the CD “Live at the Red Garter,” which featured many of the musicians that were on the scene such as Ray Barretto, Joe Batan, Willie Colon, Larry Harlow, Jonny Pacheco, Mongo and Moquito Santamaria and many others. The Red Garter is also where Symphony Syd would broadcast live on Monday evening during the latter part of his career. The impact of this music still has a strong influence on me. THE 22: Do you feel there were drawbacks or advantages you had being in NY as a young adult?  JD: Growing up in New York provided many opportunities for creative growth and expression. One is surrounded by musicians playing and creating music on a very high caliber that has influenced musical trends globally. One example is the loft-jazz movement, where such artists as Sam Rivers had an international influence on new developments in jazz during the 1970s. THE 22: You were at the MacDowell Colony; tell us a little about your time there. JD: My time at the MacDowell Colony was a life changing experience for me. The opportunity to work on a creative project without any distractions allowed me to focus on composing “The Seven Deadly Sins” with unlimited attention to each detail. The creative process is similar across all disciplines. The MacDowell fellows were encouraged to discuss their projects during dinner; those conversations had a major impact on the way I worked during my time at the colony. I was able to draw creative inspiration from fellows working in the fields of architecture, literature, history, art, and creative writing. The cross pollination of disciplines had a positive influence on my work. THE 22: What instruments do you play and what is unique or appeals to you about each of them?  JD: The tuba, euphonium, and trombone are the main instruments I play. I love the sound of brass instruments in those ranges; I believe they have a spiritual quality similar to the human voice. I have had my greatest opportunities to make history while playing the tuba. Unique groundbreaking projects with Sam Rivers, Taj Mahal, Howard Johnson, Gil Evans, Jason Hwang, Charlie Haden, and Bill Cole provided a platform for the tuba that I loved and embraced. The tuba was given a prestigious solo and ensemble role that I found inspiring and challenging. THE 22: You’ve also done a good amount of teaching? JD: I taught music in the New York and New Jersey public schools for over 30 years. Teaching others is the best way to learn, as you explain concepts to others they become more crystallized in you mind. THE 22: You now play with Wade Schumann in Hazmat Modine. Tell us a little about that musical experience. JD: Hazmat Modine develops its repertoire from a world music platform. We utilize the sounds and rhythms of the world in the arrangement of our music. Modern technology has given us the ability to study and interact with musicians globally which is producing a new age of musical hybridism. The most successful ensembles incorporate musical ideas that they find interesting regardless of the source. Hazmat Modine has had great success with this approach. We have collaborated with the Tuvan throat singers of Huun Huur Tu, Gangbe Brass band from Benin Africa, Kronos String Quartet, Natalie Merchant and others in pursuit of an all-embracing sound. THE 22: One of the songs on “The Seven Deadly Sins” was specifically written for your brother who was a victim of a botched health care system. Can you talk a little about this piece? 94


JD: I wrote a suite for my brother Winston that is a musical narrative of his life in America. “The Ballade of the Fallen African Warrior” was written to honor his memory and to celebrate his achievements. I believe that under a more compassionate health care system he would still be alive. I come from a very loving family and his loss at such an early age was devastating. THE 22: The album you are working on now focuses on virtues and I hear it’s string based. Can you tell us a little about the project? JD: After completing “The Seven Deadly Sins” project I sought to do a contrasting project to showcase my skills as a composer. I chose to work with a contrasting subject matter and instrumentation. I used the instrumentation as a color palette similar to a visual artist. String ensemble writing in the jazz idiom can be a difficult pursuit; my success on this project is due to the wonderful and creative musicians who I was blessed to have on this date led by violinist concertmaster Curtis Stewart. THE 22: With albums like “The Seven Deadly Sins” and on about virtues, the question does arise, is morality an important part of your music or who you are? JD: It is important to have guidelines on how to fruitfully live your life. The seven deadly sins have historically provided an excellent guideline of behavioral traits that should be avoided. The virtues proposed assets that should be embraced. I come from a deeply religious family where living a virtuous life was encouraged. I must say that it is an important part of everything I do. THE 22: Where are you working on now? JD: I am in the research and development stages of my next project as a composer. I have written compositions for brass, percussion, woodwinds and strings; the logical next step is combining them all in a composition for symphony orchestra. The orchestra has been a major color palette for composers for generations. It presents many challenges that I am preparing myself to undertake. I have been working with the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute in developing my skills for this project. I have had to pleasure of coaching and feedback sessions with mentor composers George Lewis, Alvin Singleton, Nicole Mitchell, Anthony Davis, Anne LeBaron, James Newton, Paul Chihara, and Derek Bermel during a one week intensive at The Herb Alpert School of Music on the ULCA campus in mid-August of 2012. It was an enlightening experience which provided me with new insights and skills to employ on the symphony orchestra project.

BELOW: Hazmat Modine, Photo Robert Palumbo, Design Wade Schuman


TO N E ST LI

“PRIDE” FR

OM

SE VE

LEFT: RECORDING THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS, PHOTO BY JEFF BURNS BELOW: THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS CD Cover, Photo, Bryan Whitney, Design, Anna Roz

96

N

AD E D

SINS Y L


LI ST L TO R: JOSEPH DALEY CONDUCTING Alfred Patterson ON Trombone Stephen Haynes ON TRUMPET Onaje Allan Gumbs on Piano (ALL PHOTOS BY JEFF BURNS)

EN

TO

IL UM “H

ITY” FROM VIRTURES


J.J. CROMER THE 22 MAGAZINE: First off, I had no idea you were named after Audubon. Does his work appeal to you? J.J. Cromer: Audubon’s work was always around in my home growing up. My mother is a long-time bird watcher. We always did yearly Audubon bird counts. (Both she and my father were science teachers in secondary schools.) On our coffee table we had big books of Audubon reproductions. We also had a stuffed Roseate Spoonbill in the living room, which I would studiously compare to Audubon’s image. Who knows how much arsenic I inhaled examining that spoonbill. As a kid I would copy and trace his drawings all the time. I loved the natural world. I also loved cartoons and monsters, so more times than not I was mashing up Charles Schulz, or famous monsters of filmland, with Audubon. There’s no direct influence these days, though I am a fan of Walton Ford. Occasionally I do cut up Audubon reproductions for collage elements. I’ve glued down quite a few Passenger Pigeons. THE 22: You are a librarian by training, correct? JJC: Yes. I’ve been a children’s librarian, as well as a reference librarian. I’ve worked in public and academic libraries. THE 22: How would you describe the mood of your paintings? JJC: I think the mood of my artwork is more playful than not. When I work as a librarian I have to provide clear information, unambiguous answers. Patrons generally don’t want the Oracle of Delphi sitting behind the reference desk. As an artist I’d much rather communicate playfully, with a laugh, through questions and ambiguity and confusion. THE 22: You mention that you feel your work is intuitive and you like it best when your mind is elsewhere while drawing? Is it in some ways a meditative state for you?  JJC: I’ve got my go-to media and stacks of paper, but I definitely favor mistakes over technical skill, improvisation over routine. I listen to music or audiobooks while I draw. I’ve been listening to a lot of crime fiction recently: Henning Mankell, Benjamin Black, Ruth Rendell, Ian Rankin, Tana French are current favorites. I find stories are good at keeping the resident mental faultfinder occupied. Solving a murder is generally more important than looking over my shoulder and condemning my art efforts. So as I draw I’m doing both: I’m worried about Kurt Wallander’s health and the case, as well as laughing and mucking about in my psyche. It is strangely meditative. Time zooms by, and pieces stack up. THE 22: Which pieces use your childhood stamp collection for collage material?  JJC: Most. Recently I’ve been buying stamps too, big topical collections: one hundred airplanes, two hundred cats, one thousand boats… THE 22: Your “Asterik Men” are based on Piltdown or Nebraska man, a major paleontological hoax. Tell me a little about what this story meant to you and how it inspired your work. 


99


JJC: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a big fan of all things Fortean, sideshow, conspiratorial, spooky. Regarding Asterisk Man I guess I liked the idea of this fleshy stick figure factoring into human evolution somehow. As you can see I didn’t get the science gene from my parents. In my next life though I’d like to be a scientist. A cryptozoologist! On a side note: the Piltdown Man memorial stone in East Essex looks like an Asterisk Man enshrouded. Or a penis enshrouded, one or the other. I did hear that an Asterisk tooth was recently discovered under a rock in Yunnan province. THE 22: What do numbers represent if anything in your work?  JJC: Numbers are strong, confident characters who occasionally crash the party. I don’t understand them. I just think they’re attractive and I’m happy to have them around. During the last couple years, every time I use numbers and phrases in my work it’s always with my father in mind. I started using them shortly after he moved into a retirement home. He quit teaching for a couple years to be a sign painter (this was in the 1980s). He took manila folders and drew out alphabets and numbers and punctuation marks, and made stencils. He was very precise, creating all kinds of fonts, styles, sizes. When it was time for the retirement home he was going to throw it all away. I took it home instead. My wife and I try to visit him once or twice a month. She’s extraordinarily generous and positive towards him, and he usually reciprocates. My relationship with him is difficult. The stencils make it a little less difficult. Regarding the phrases, one thing my father and I both shared, at least when I was a child, was a love of neologisms and related nonsense. He was skilled at interjecting quick, barely observable nonsense into conversations. It was quick enough to always momentarily bewilder whoever was listening. He also did a lot of amateur clowning. As a child I often accompanied him. He painted me up, put a wig and funny clothes on me, and I either carried around this one-man-band contraption or I rode around on my Big Wheel honking a horn. In my memory, he was often this trickster character. I guess I hope my art, particularly the ones with my father in mind, has a little of that same trickster attitude. THE 22: Do you think it’s possible for artists to over think their work? How much “thinking” versus “feeling” goes into your pieces?  JJC: Feeling is probably more important to me. As an artist I think I’m creating this giant shaggy dog story. I’m moving as quickly as I can from piece to piece, not worrying at all about end punctuation. I do often look back at old drawings to find loose threads, dropped ideas, but each piece always springs from the one just before. I also cut up a lot of old drawings to reconfigure into new work. Otherwise I need to keep moving forward, to keep making marks. All in all it’s really just about the pleasure of drawing, chasing that shaggy dog. And I like watching work pile up around me. Art making is personally meaningful, and it’s a lot of fun. I’m very happy when someone else likes what I’m doing. I appreciate all the opportunities to show my work, and I’ve met a lot of wonderful people through my work, but I’m not driven to think about what might please an audience. Drawing for me is creating a world, mapping it, and losing myself in it, all at the same time. Maybe I’ll look back one of these days and see some clearly defined oeuvre. Or a big mess, I don’t know. I do know I can’t imagine not drawing. It’s vital; it helps me move through the world. Regarding other artists: I defer to the critics. THE 22: What’s are your tool or tools of trade? Ink? Paint?  JJC: I work mostly with ink, colored pencils, acrylics, and collage on paper. THE 22: You’re highly connected to nature and live in a rural area correct? How does this influence you or your art?  JJC: Yes, we are happily deep in the boonies! My wife Mary is an environmental attorney focusing on coal mining issues. She works for a small nonprofit called Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, based in Whitesburg, Kentucky. They serve individuals and groups adversely affected by the industry. She often works collaboratively with other nonprofits like Sierra Club and Waterkeeper Alliance. We live on a small farm in central Appalachia, in Pound, Virginia. We try to raise as much food as we can; every year we grow more and more. Central Appalachia is one of the most 100


PAGE 99: Up and Over, 2011, mixed media on illustration board TOP LEFT: A Word in His Shaggy Ear, 2012, mixed media on paper RIGHT LEFT: She Brought Her Own Ball, 2012, mixed media on paper ABOVE: It Passed Out of Sight, Moving South , 2011, mixed media on three sheets of paper


102


103


ABOVE: Empty Contents As Soon As Opened, 2011, mixed media on illustration board PAGE 102-103: An Intuitionist Stronghold II, 2011, mixed media on paper


biologically diverse places on the planet. I’ve been told we have more varieties of trees on our farm than are native to the entire United Kingdom. Up on a ridge near our farm though we can look one way and it’s beautiful and lush and we can look the other way and it’s completely mined and homogeneously scrubby. (Reclamation usually means minimal contouring and then covering the mined land with some monoculture like autumn olive, which is non-native and highly invasive.) Our farm didn’t have water for fifteen years. It had to be trucked in weekly, bottled water for drinking, a cistern for all other uses. Mining had sunk the wells. Occasionally our house shakes from blasting at a mountaintop removal mine a mile or so away. The economy around here is predominately resource extraction (timber and coal). Environmental concerns related to these practices are inextricable from social justice concerns. “Friends of Coal” stickers are everywhere, on businesses and cars and trucks. It’s a very poor area, and coal isn’t doing very well. It’s nearly depleted and what’s left is hard to get to, often requiring the removal of mountaintops to get to very thin layers (filling valleys and poisoning water in the process). A recent report indicates very high rates of cancer near such mining sites. These issues are definitely important to us. I admire a lot of propagandistic art. Sue Coe is amazing. But I can’t do it. I can’t create art that overtly addresses political, social, and economic issues. I’ve tried and failed. Central Appalachia definitely needs a Sue Coe. I think I’ve got a good, solid liberal worldview. I believe this is reflected in my work, but it’s rarely the focus. It’s more a pervading spirit. My drive as an artist is more oneiric than propagandistic, more “psychonaut” than activist. THE 22: How do you like raising bees?  JJC: It’s a lot of fun. Mary and I are new beekeepers. We have four hives, all of them currently healthy and happy. Knock on wood. Our bee mentor, by the way, is Frank Taylor. He’s an actor, longtime beekeeper, and all-round nice guy. He’s been in a lot of movies and television shows, probably most notably as the outsider artist in Junebug. Currently he’s working on a television show for the Sundance Channel called Rectify. Frank just helped us extract some honey, our first batch. Three gallons or so. It’s very exciting. THE 22: How do you feel when people call your work “folk” or “outsider” art?  JJC: Generally positive, but they’re not labels I apply to myself. I don’t have formal art training, so “self-taught” is probably the best fit. Otherwise, I don’t think about it that much. Having said that, I do love the work of many artists who are also identified (at least by the market they usually show up in) as “folk” or “outsider” or “self-taught.” Mose Tolliver, Howard Finster, Malcolm Mckesson, Nellie Mae Rowe, Albert Louden, Charlie Lucas, Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Christine Sefolosha, Minnie Evans, Domenico Zindato, Mary Smith, the list could go on and on. Incredible. THE 22: If you could only draw one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?  JJC: Probably one of my Asterisk. I reckon there are countless ways to draw it: short and tattooed; gangly with a fat head; thick-thighed; monochromatic; multi-colored; and so on. As well as countless ways to group them. I guess it’s a little like a writer just wanting to write the letter “A” over and over again, each time a little different. Is that a strange drive? I don’t know, but I could do it. An Asterisk alone could keep me happily occupied for years.

105


106


NICOLE GORDON THE 22 MAGAZINE: You studied in both Italy and Michigan, correct? Can you tell me a little about how you ended up in both of these places? NICOLE GORDON: When I chose to study art at the University of Michigan, I was looking for an art school experience encapsulated within a university setting. I was looking for a well-rounded educational experience, but at the same time, I wanted my primary focus to be art. I found a few universities, both large and small, that had stellar academics as well as art schools with good reputations. While there, I knew that I wanted to study abroad in Italy because of the country’s rich artistic and cultural heritage. I think that my interest in art history really came out of this experience.  THE 22: Many of your works have a sort of uncanny reality quality to them, looking like video games or online environments. This is really prominent in your “Asylum” series. Can you tell me a little about this series and the impetus behind it?  NG: To be honest, video games and online environments have never been an inspiration to me. The title for the show, “Asylum,” was chosen because it represents how a single environment can simultaneously be a loony bin and also a treasured sanctuary and safe house. The work incorporates art historical elements that have inspired me over the past decade, mashed up with playful imagery that represents my life as it is now (mother to now 3 year old twin boys). The large paintings are the central works from which the entire exhibit unfolds.  There is a combination of imagery ranging from a hunting lodge complete with wood paneled walls and mounted trophy head to a decadent scene of inlaid marble flooring, gilded frames with detailed murals. The murals contain imagery inspired from the last decade of my work, ranging from Persian miniatures, North American totems, and Flemish tapestries. The trophies represent parts of personal history that an individual may want to memorialize or in some ways relive. In the overstuffed chair in one of the paintings sits a lonely penguin, surrounded by paintings of himself, yet in the end, left in isolated thought. This isolation can be seen as a sanctuary at times, and at other moments can lead to utter insanity. This was the first body of work that was completed after my children were born and so there was an unmistakable shift in inspiration behind this work.  THE 22: You work is also really heavy on totems and symbolic figures (the weebles, Renaissance, and religious figures). What role do these figures play in your work? What significance do they have to you? NG: My work draws on imagery from numerous historical references from Western European genre paintings to Persian miniature paintings, as well as scenes from contemporary life. I intentionally reuse images that, regardless of their original context, speak across time and space. Artists such as sixteenth-century painters Pieter Bruegel and Hieronymus Bosch, whose work often explored the strengths and weaknesses of humankind, inspire me. Juxtaposing iconography sampled from Bruegel and Bosch’s work with contemporary imagery establishes a framework for me to explore the complexities of human nature and to illustrate the consistency of the flaws and weaknesses of the human condition throughout history. LEFT: Goodbye Cruel World - I’m Off to Join the Circus, 2008, oil on 4 panels


THE 22: Some of your works are based on the seven deadly sins or religious stories. What role does religion or mythology play in your life or work? Why the seven deadly sins? NG: As mentioned before, I have been very influenced by the work of Bruegel. At one point I became interested in his “Seven Deadly Sins” series and thought it would be a good challenge for me to focus on a single subject matter for an entire series of paintings, which I had never really done before. I wanted to translate Bruegel’s series into one that really reflected imagery  and issues of a modern setting. I thought it could be a good exercise to focus on one aspect of “contemporary sin” and chose to explore each of Bruegel’s sins as a metaphor for environmental destruction. Each of the painting titles is an acronym for the sin it depicts. Each title contains a city that can be linked with sinful behavior of sorts.   THE 22: You sort of switch between some sculptural elements and painting. Do you feel sculpture and painting are a force to be combined or are they stronger when they are separated? NG: Incorporating sculpture into my work has definitely been a learning process for me. When I originally began working in sculptural medium, I was creating installations that echoed the two-dimensional imagery from my paintings into three-dimensional form. This allowed the viewer to physically enter into the narrative of the artwork and I was playing with the idea of eroding traditional boundaries between painting and sculpture. In my more recent work I have begun to create sculptures that don’t rely as heavily on the interaction with the paintings. I find the new process gives me more flexibility to create more unique sculptural pieces that don’t rely so heavily on specific imagery from the paintings. THE 22: I don’t think you would disagree that some of the work is a bit apocalyptic (in only the best way). Do you think it’s curtains in 2012? NG: I would say that my work reminds us of our flaws, but encourages us to overcome them. I attempt to create work that while dark and rather apocalyptic in many ways also incorporates ornate touches and decorative elements that serve to balance the somber and more serious imagery. These devices offer beautiful moments that happen alongside the often destructive ones and are meant to reflect hope and the possibility for change.

LEFT: GREED, 2006, charcoal and pencil on mylar RIGHT: Absolutely Curtains, 2009, oil on 4 canvases

108


109


TOP FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Against Nola God’s Enduring Rage, 2007, Oil on canvas Congregation, 2003, mixed media on 4 panels South LA’s Overpass to Hell, 2007, oil on CANVAS FLOOD, 2012, Charcoal and pencil on mylar

BOTTOM FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Flora: Left Behind, 2003, Mixed media on four panels Beauty Rest, 2006, oil on 4 panels Bedrock, 2008, oil on 2 canvases


112


RICKY ALLMAN THE 22 MAGAZINE: You mention that you were raised in a conservative church (Mormon in Utah, correct?) and “filled your life with church meetings” instead of cool and exciting things. Tell me a little about that experience? And your decision to reverse? RICKY ALLMAN: The whole process took more than five years to make sense of who I was as a person and what I believed and didn’t believe.  I was indoctrinated from the time I was born to devote my entire life to the Mormon Church and didn’t even have the tools to question it. There are any number of thought stopping techniques successfully employed by the church to prevent you from even questioning. So around the time I turned 30, after years of thought and research, and with the help of my brother (who went through the same process) and a few friends, I finally gained enough knowledge and confidence to resign from the church and now I feel it’s one of my greatest accomplishments in life.   THE 22: You attended MassArt and R.I.S.D., tell me how your experiences there effected you both as a person and an artist? Any defining moments?  RA: I loved my time at both schools. My daughter was born while I was at MassArt and my son was born while I was at R.I.S.D. so I worked very hard and socialized very little. I regret not being able to socialize more but I also learned so much during those years. At MassArt, I was very naive and started going to museums for the first time and was exposed to some great visiting artists.  While I was there I started working with apocalyptic landscape ideas

that carried on throughout grad school and has shaped my work now. At R.I.S.D., I was pushed very hard both conceptually and formally and I’m still trying to use all of the lessons I learned there. THE 22: Before both these schools it seems undeniable that you were probably displaying some real artistic talent. Can you tell me a little about early art experiences?   RA: In 5th grade, a friend of mine loved Garfield and my other friend and I loved The Simpsons. So, to prove the superiority of our cartoon preference we drew dozens, maybe even a hundred, parody movie posters in which Bart Simpson kills Garfield in some gruesome fashion related to the movie being parodied. We then bound all the drawings and presented them to our Garfield loving friend. I always liked to draw but didn’t take art seriously until college (I think I took one art class in high school) and I realized how much I enjoyed drawing classes and then I decided to see if I liked the painting classes too.  THE 22: You also went to England on a mission as a Mormon. Tell me a little about this experience?  RA: Imagine living in one of the most historically and culturally rich countries in the world and instead of enjoying any of that you walk around in the rain for 2 years, 80 hrs/wk, knocking on doors, pissing people off and having them tell you how much they hate you. That’s what it was like.

113


114


115


THE 22: Was polygamy ever a part of your Mormon experience? RA: I was never part of any of the fundamentalist polygamist groups (although they were all around me growing up in Utah).  However, the mainstream Mormon church has quite a few fundamentalist roots and ideas still propagated today. They believe polygamy is essential in the afterlife but do not currently practice it.  Most people can’t be expected to know the differences between the Mormon sects so I used to get asked frequently if I had more than one wife. THE 22: There is a quote from Carl Sagan that you mention: “The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.” Is your work a pretty story or are you facing down death and kneeling at its magnificence?  RA: I think that is probably more of a personal approach I take to life rather than an underpinning for my paintings. I think that as wonderful as life and this world is, it’s also important to be pragmatic and to be reminded of our own mortality from time to time—not only our personal mortality but to consider the potential we have to destroy our landscape and our cities and countries. THE 22: In an interview you did for Curbs and Stoops they say “Allman’s recent work is pop­u­lated by bursts of joy­ ful con­fetti and neon swirls, rich with benign presence.” What do feel these swirls and colors represent? Are they benign to you? Or do they play a role of action?  RA: When I was struggling the most with the Mormon Church and wanting to leave but not knowing how, I was making these paintings that had swirling chaos inside of churches, these images were coming out fairly intuitively. I really liked the imagery though, and later I began taking off the steeples of the church and using these cubes of swirling color. I repurposed the cubes as a concentrated area of hope and optimism rooted in reason and science as opposed to the faith and mythology of my previous belief system.   

116

THE 22: In another of your interviews you mention, “I am a sucker for a spectacle and complicated space.” Why?    RA: I think it’s just the way my mind works for some reason. I like to have lots of things happening in my field of vision and survey large spaces with a lot of activity and compare and contrast and make links with what I see and what I think about. For example, I never cared much for Ellsworth Kelly’s work until I saw a huge show of his at LACMA and I could look at 30 pieces at a time. When I could look at them all at once, it just made more sense to me and I enjoyed the work way more. THE 22: Many of your pieces look almost like factories, in desolate landscapes. Do you have any history with factories? Or industrial buildings?  RA: I do, I grew up in Orem, UT just up the street from a large steel factory called Geneva Steel (which has since been packed up and moved to China). Some days the pollution from the factory was so bad we couldn’t go out for recess. I am fascinated with the transformation of the landscape into our lives as we know them, and how that will take shape in the future. That transformation comes to a head in our mines and our factories, of which I have quite a few ambivalent feelings about. THE 22: I also wonder if you’ve dealt at all with Pennsylvania Hex signs and/or polish paper cuts? I see some tendencies in that direction. Do you ever try to specifically use symbolic or recognizable elements in your work for any specific reason?     RA: I don’t have any relationship to those specifically but I do love symmetry, near symmetry, and things that appear ritualistic, symbolic, sacred, and sinister. I like taking secular elements and repurposing them.  I love these types of signs that have obscured or layered meaning that are innocent or even inspiring to those in the know but can also seem threatening or nefarious to outsiders. I used to use more recognizable Mormon symbols but now I attempt to make my own signs and symbols out of smaller elements. THE 22: You also say: “Especially lately after listening to TED talks I feel pretty confident that humans are wise enough and clever enough to innovate new ways to overcome these immense environmental and political problems we now face.”


Anyone in particular who inspired you?   RA: So many! Peter Diamindis: “Abundance is our Future” is one talk that comes to mind right away. Drew Berry, Bjarke Ingels, Rachel Armstrong, Michael Pawlyn, and Carlo Ratti are others. There are dozens and dozens more. THE 22: Tell me a little about your process of painting. I read there’s a lot of layering and taping and some quick drying. How did you arrive at this technique?    RA: I guess it’s something that has kind of evolved over the years. There are no hard rules and formulas I stick to, but in general I start with at least five layers of gesso, sanded and smoothed, then I paint a loose painterly ground followed by many layers of gel medium sanded and smoothed. Then I start loosely blocking in large areas of the composition, then taping off some of the large structures and responding to what I put down. I spend the bulk of the time taping and painting hard edge structures. When it gets too tight then I start getting more painterly and loose. I usually wait until the end to paint in the fine lines and tiny details. Most of it is pretty intuitive and I don’t have any plans, I am usually just reacting to the last color or structure or mark I made. THE 22: You are working in Kansas City now, correct? Did the school suffer at all from budget cutting that went on a while back in KC?  RA: Kansas City is an amazing city for artists. There are lots of cheap studios, space, galleries, museums, and multiple arts organizations giving out grants and studio space. I’ve never been in art community quite like this one. The University has had its share of budget cuts, we’ve had to delay or suspend hiring faculty and other disappointments. Although I don’t think it’s been nearly as bad here as it has been in many other states.  However, they have always been very supportive of me and my work and given me tremendous support through time, travel, and grants. THE 22: What are you currently working on and what’s coming up?    RA: I just got back from Scotland where I was in a show at Edinburgh Printmakers, I have group shows coming up in Portland, Paris, Arkansas, Utah, New Hampshire and a solo show in Kansas City.  I will be painting and drawing working on those, but I’ve got a few installation and video ideas I’m starting get into, so we will see what happens there.

PAGE 112: Still and Here, 2011, acrylic on canvas 114-115: Annunciate/Repudiate, 2011, acrylic on canvas ABOVE TOP: Free, 2011, acrylic on canvas ABOVE BOTTOM: The Least, 2011, acrylic on canvas

117


LEFT: Shelved, 2011, acrylic on canvas BELOW : Apocalyzer Redux, 2011, acrylic on canvas RIGHT: Here Still, 2011, acrylic on canvas

118


119


PARADISE SONG

by Gerardo Mena

I saw a street corner crow braving the weight of a midnight-thick city. He wore a white single-breast tux coat with a three-button notch, his matching satin top hat resting upright upon the concrete for coins. Between his beak and breast, that soft puff of feather, he chinned his violin violently, drawing the horse hair bow slow over the aching strings. From his maw he sang glassy-eyed as he peddled to passersby: take these broken wings and learn to fly

IMAGE: Vinca difformis, 2011, acrylic and ink over Audubon print  

I looked down at my trembling hands and noticed bits of guitar underneath my fingernails. I mouthed to laugh but only song came out. Shrill. Sweet, at times, gathering itself upon my tongue, leaping from my throat, that passage of projection that falls into the thorax, a child down a well, that chamber built for deep hum, housing beating breathing organs and wet pleurae. Slick, like honesty, or daring: a fantastical black bird in the dead of night.


AN INTERVIEW WITH GERARDO MENA

WRITTEN BY CAROLYN SUPINKA

CAROLYN SUPINKA: Where did you grow up, and what was your childhood like? Did you read or write poetry before your experiences in the war? GERARDO MENA: Well, as a small child, my biological father abandoned my mother, younger brother, and I, and we were dirt poor living in the seedier parts of southern California for a few years. My mom worked hard, married a decent man the second go-around, and when I turned eight we moved to Missouri for a fresh start. From then on I was lucky enough to enjoy a middle class upbringing. As far as poetry before the war, I was never really into it growing up. In high school I never looked forward to creative writing. I always wrote differently than other students and had teachers that didn’t appreciate my style, with one even telling my mother during a parent teacher conference, “He’ll never make it as a writer. He doesn’t have the talent,” which is interesting because I had no ambition to become a writer and her comment was completely unprovoked. Also, now that I’m on the other end as a high school English teacher, I am more confused than ever about her comment because no matter how bad of a day, or how frustrating a batch of students may be, I would never discourage any of them to try and do anything they wanted to with their lives. And I would definitely not try and set limitations to parents on the potential of their children. CS: Can you talk about your decision to enlist? GM: My decision to enlist was fairly simple. I loved my country. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. And I was completely unsure of what I was capable of, which is the reason I tried out for Spec Ops. CS: What do you think of the term “war poet”? What does it mean to you, other than (obviously) that you have been through a war? GM: The term “war poet” is an honor and a responsibility that I take very seriously. To be a war poet is to become a voice for others. I’m not just writing for myself, or for vets that have lived through similar experiences, because I think that’s not enough. I try to write my poems and prose in a way that speaks to the average American that has forgotten about our wars, to show them that there are still men and women fighting and dying in the mud overseas. In fact, another Reconnaissance Marine, Justin Hansen, just died a few days ago in combat. Remember him as a great and caring man. CS: On your website, you say that after your service, you surrounded yourself with music and poetry at the University of Missouri as a way of dealing with the events you experienced in the war. Is poetry therapeutic, or healing to you? GM: Poetry was very therapeutic for me. It allowed me to view different perspectives of major events that shook my world, which resulted in me having a greater understanding of why things happened the way they did. CS: What do you think of art as therapy? GM: I love the idea of art as therapy. But the question then becomes is art your saving grace, or the reason you’re going crazy? Either way, I think the world needs more creative, unique, eccentric artists to help make life interesting and beautiful. CS: Did you write poetry while you were stationed in Iraq, or did you just start to write once you returned to the US?

122


GM: I didn’t even know what poetry was until I started attending college at the University of Missouri and took a creative writing class on a whim. I had a teacher that become a mentor, and is still a great friend of mine. He told me my voice was important and that getting it out into the world was going to be extremely difficult and full of critics that “don’t get it,” and people that love saying “no.” But all I could see was a lovely new challenge and I haven’t looked back since. CS: On the Veterans Affairs website “Vantage Point,” you offer suggestions for soldiers who have returned home and have started college. One suggestion you make, for all soldiers, is to take a creative writing course. Can you speak to the importance of sharing the experience all soldiers have lived through? GM: I always promote taking a creative writing course when possible, not so that everyone becomes a writer, but because developing a unique voice and being able to express one’s self confidently is one of the most liberating and satisfying experiences. I also believe that the more you share your stories, the more you widen people’s eyes to the fact that not everyone is the same, and the world is beautiful for that. CS: Another suggestion you make is to reach out to other veterans and continue to build friendships. Have you made friendships with other poets? How has this affected your writing? GM: I have made some great friendships by reaching out. Brian Turner was the first one to motivate me to start writing my war poems when I saw him at an AWP conference several years ago. It didn’t take much. He just said, “we need your voice,” and that was all I needed to hear. We still trade e-mails every now and then. Also, since starting my website and making it easier for people to find me, I’ve had some great and inspiring conversations with other poets about literature that would not have taken place had I, or them, not reached out into “the void” that is the Internet. CS: In your poem “So I Was a Coffin,” which won first prize in the 2010 War Poetry Contest, you write about a soldier who tries to be many things that he is ordered to be, but finally ends up being buried with his fallen comrade as a coffin. This poem was very moving. Could you talk a little about this poem? GM: It’s sort of about losing yourself as you try to become all these things for other people. I hope this doesn’t disappoint too many folks, but I have no idea where this poem came from. It wasn’t mapped out or planned ahead. I was driving home one day and I texted it to myself on my phone in a brief flash of creativity and loved it, and have never really sat down and tried to figure out its meaning beyond the fact that it rings true for so many vets. And while I used my friend Kyle’s name, I think it stands for all vets that gave their lives. CS: What advice can you give to those soldiers struggling to adjust to civilian life? GM: My advice is: It gets better. It gets better. It gets better. No matter who you are life is going to kick you in the teeth at some point. Accept help from friends and family and other people that have been in your situation, dust yourself off, and then try and pay it forward every single day for the rest of your life in the hopes that when you die, someone will say, “that was a good man (or woman).”

123


About The

22 Magazine

22 is an online magazine based out of Brooklyn, NY. The 22 features 22 contributors each issue. The magazine’s mission is to publish art, music, and writing as integrated structures that play off each other and enhance the whole. We are looking for intriguing art, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, video, music, animation, and more. The restrictions are few and the work is chosen by the creators or a visiting guest editor/curator. Many of our issues revolve around themes which will be posted in advance of each issue. Our staff is currently volunteer based and we are always looking for great people. Please check out our jobs page if you are interested in volunteering for the 22.

VISIT OUR WEBSITE www.the22magazine.com

VISIT OUR BLOG http://the22magazine.wordpress.com/

NETWORK http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-22-Magazine/138959862781232 http://twitter.com/#!/The22Magazine

SUBMISSIONS http://www.the22magazine.com/Pages/submissions

GET INVOLVED http://www.the22magazine.com/Pages/currentprojects http://www.the22magazine.com/Pages/jobs


126


127


Š The 22 Magazine 2012 www.the22magazine.com


The 22 Magazine: Volume 3/III/Three