ART, CULTURE, MUSIC
issue #8 cheapandplastique.com
ART, CULTURE, MUSIC
creator/curator/designer: Violet Shuraka A GREAT BIG THANKS TO: artists: Kelsey Bennett Raul De Nieves Anne Lass Cameron Michel Heather Morgan Christine Navin Violet Shuraka Joel Tettamanti Paul Wackers Nathan Wasserbauer Vashti Windish Wolfy musicians: H Bird The Melting Ice Caps Mr. Solo The New Royal Family Twin Guns
writers: Heather Morgan Aug Stone Violet Shuraka Nathan Wasserbauer word consultants/editors: Holly Monahan Heather Morgan Andy Shea design consultants: Tonya Douraghy Léa Mazet Marc Rabinowitz
to peruse old issues please go to: www.cheapandplastique.com or visit the cheap & plastique blog: cheapandplastique.wordpress.com for more info or to send goodies please contact violet shuraka at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover image by Heather morgan Sourpuss, oil on canvas, 56” x 42”, 2010
6 Paintings Paul Wackers
12 Photographs Joël Tettamanti
18 Fountain Art Fair Feature
20 Paintings Heather Morgan
22 Photographs Kelsey Bennett
24 Paintings Nathan Wasserbauer
28 Photographs Christine Navin
32 Monster Island Feature
33 Studio Visit—Monster Island Live With Animals Gallery
36 Studio Visit—Monster Island Cameron Michel
40 Studio Visit—Monster Island Raul De Nieves
44 Studio Visit—Monster Island Kayrock Screenprinting
46 Photographs Anne Lass
52 Music Twin Guns
54 Music H Bird
56 Music The Luxembourg Underground
The artiste/painter and all around fabulous lady Mie Olise in her Bushwick studio.
The painter and C + P contributor Heather Morgan in her Bushwick studio.
The painter Paul Brainard in his Williamsburg studio.
Cheap and Plastique Magazine / Violet Shuraka are looking for artists for studio visits. If you are interested in doing a studio visit and having your space shot for the Cheap and Plastique blog please email Miss Shuraka at email@example.com. Please send a link to your work and a short blurb about yourself (no attached jpegs please). The above images are from some 2010 shoots, more pictures can be found online at www.cheapandplastique.wordpress.com, search â€œstudio visit.â€?
LETTER Dear Friends & art lovers, 2011, the year of the rabbit. With that in mind, we are reproducing. Our mission is not to fill the world with additional humans (forfend!), but with art for present company to savor. Welcome to Issue No. 8 of one of Brooklyn’s finest and shiniest art ‘zines, Cheap & Plastique. 8, the sign of infinity. We grasp at the infinite by creating art and recording and replicating it. We cannot guarantee the survival of our ideas against the destructive forces of time and melting ice caps, but we can make each day more passably brilliant, more heroic. This past year, Cheap & Plastique has arrived on the internetz with a brand new blog documenting Miss Shuraka’s wandering through shows and happenings, meeting artists, photo adventuring. A more immediate dose of the Cheap & Plastique. This issue will premiere another Cheap & Plastique first, our debut appearance at the New York Fountain Art Fair. Running concurrent with the spring Armory Show, the Fountain Exhibit highlights the eccentric and the avant garde, show-
casing the work of the some of New York’s most illustrious personages. Not the least of these are Cheap & Plastique’s own Kelsey Bennett, Raul De Nieves, Heather Morgan and Christine Navin. Let this be your souvenir of our time in the Fountain, after all we are none of us gettting any younger. Also in this issue, Cheap & Plastique begins its two-part documentation of the goings-on at Monster Island headquarters, in lovely Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The art complex will most likley close down this October, when they lose their lease. We visit the studios of the artists Cameron Michel, Vashti Windish (both of Live With Animals Gallery), Raul De Nieves, and Wolfy of Kayrock Screenprinting. Look for part two in the upcoming issue! Finally, we have interviewed artists hailing from Switzerland, Berlin, and San Francisco whose work we feel is outstanding, please take a look for yourself. Thank you for your continued support of the arts, Cheap & Plastique and all things fancy!
Cheers, Cheap & Plastique
P.M.A., acrylic, spray paint on panel, 16” x 20”, 2008
ART Q and A with Violet Shuraka
I’m sure Picasso would have been a handful to hang out with. Brancusi seems like a heavy guy. I bet he liked cats. I don’t know who I would like to meet really.
You grew up on the East Coast, went to undergrad in D.C. and then moved to the West Coast to attend graduate school in San Francisco, at SFAI. Do you feel that the change in coast-- landscape, temperature, architecture, etc..., has influenced your work at all? If so, how? I think experiencing all of these different environments just gives me more to draw from. I can’t say exactly how these places have helped to form my work, but it is in there. They are all such different places; the east coast has seasons and everything that comes with that. D.C. was an interesting place and I probably would never have gotten to see all of the art I did, with the National Gallery and the Hirshorn Museum and the Corcoran Gallery of Art where I went to school. They were all free to me and I went there often. Luckily when I was in D.C. it still had a pretty good music scene because other than that I would not call it a great contemporary art city. But I have not been back there in a while and things may have changed. What did you like most about living in San Francisco? How has the transition from sunny California to snowy New York City been? I did really enjoy living in San Francisco; it offered such easy access to so many different landscapes and experiences. It was a nice place to grow and get a firm footing on what I was working on and what direction it needed to go. Ultimately after 9 years there I felt it was time to move on, and so here I am in New York. Luckily for me I left SF and arrived in New York with a heat wave and then got initiated with one of the snowiest winters in recent history. Fun times! I guess if you are going to do it, you should really go for it. Hmmm, but I like it so far. I saw one of your paintings in the Plain Air group show at Cinders Gallery in Williamsburg a few months ago and also noticed that you exhibited at New Image Art in L.A. and the Eleanor Harwood Gallery in San Francisco. Are you affiliated with any other galleries or art collectives in San Francisco or elsewhere? Do you have any shows coming up in the near future? Yes, I’ve worked with both of those galleries and have upcoming shows with both. I will be having my third solo show with Eleanor Harwood, opening in early April 2011. I will be doing another two-person show with New Image Art at the end of this summer (details are still to be figured out). And there are a few other galleries that I have some upcoming projects brewing, Alice Gallery in Brussels and possibly something in Toronto; both in 2012. I will also be having my first Solo show with the gallery I work with here in New York, the Morgan Lehman Gallery, in November. I am really looking forward to it. Then, there are a few other group shows scattered about as well.
Tell me a little about the process of creating a new work. Do you sketch out your ideas by drawing something first? Do you ever work out a composition on a computer before you begin to paint? Sometimes I make some sort of a sketch, but its not anything anyone would be able to discern as the start for most paintings. They are very loose and are more for figuring out placement and general composition stuff. Like how will things move around the image or not. Sometimes more planned out drawings happen beforehand but even those I would say are very crude. Many of my paintings come together and change their minds while I’m working on them. So the first ideas often look nothing like the final piece. Its generally a very fluid process and it seems more frustrating if I have a very definite outcome in mind and don’t allow for any change from that. Usually I just go with it. I tried once to use the computer to map out a painting, but it seemed too different and too removed from the process. For me it really is the making and working though the problems on the surface that are enjoyable to me. The computer drawing seemed too complete. Like, if that is good, why do I want to make a painted version. With all that said, I do make drawings that I see as finished works on their own, but they have never directly turned into paintings. Do you paint mainly with acrylic and spray paint? Why do these mediums appeal to you? Have your paintings always been so colorful? Or is this a new development in your work? I mostly use acrylics and spray paint, I have been thinking about picking up oil paints again. Right now, my studio does not lend itself to using them since I don’t have any windows or proper ventilation. I feel like the colors have always been there, but they were muted and subtle. Over time, as I have gotten more confident with them, I have gone with some stronger palettes. Do you also create sculpture? Would a sculpture ever be used as a model to base a 2-D painting upon? I actually did just make a sculpture. It’s kind of funny you ask. It’s in a group show right now in San Francisco at Noma Gallery. The show is called Control Group. They asked people to work using methods or materials that they had never really explored before. So I figured it was the perfect time to try my hand at it, since I paint sculptural forms all the time. I don’t think I would make sculptures just to use as props in paintings, but I think if I did make more sculptures, they would influence my process.
ART The architectural elements that often show up in your work have a very 60’s feel, a geodesic dome, for example. What interests you about the architecture of this time? Are you influenced by the work of any architects in particular? I think things from that period have a very human feel, or at least the ones that I am drawn to. They feel like they are looking into the future. Not just how it might make its mark in a historical sense, but like a future ruin. As some more classical approaches to buildings do. I also do find a building in general interesting, because pretty much every thing we do day to day is dictated by them; but mostly they are these invisible things we move through or around. For me, buildings are these silent subjects in my work and they become something that the viewer becomes hyper aware of. Some of your work reminds me of the collages of Archigram. The futuristic landscapes that you create cannot exist in reality much like the architectural sketches they made (in the 60’s) for future cities. Have they been an influence on your work at all? That’s pretty cool. I like Archigram a lot. I have never thought of it in my work. But why not?
Artifact, acrylic on panel, 24” x 28”, 2010
I have been thinking a lot about the Internet lately and how it has become so much a part of our daily lives. Do you feel that the Internet is a hindrance or a helpful tool for you as an artist? Does the wealth of information online and its instant availability influence your work at all? The internet is a very complicated thing, endlessly helpful, always distracting and befuddlingly necessary, now that its with us. What inspires you to begin a picture? Everything! I know that sounds cheesy. But, if I notice something walking down the street, or in a book, or in other art, in movies; there is weird stuff everywhere and sometimes you just need to explore that a little bit. Are you a frequent daydreamer? Do you feel that you notice more minute details in your everyday experience, the stuff most people do not see? Do these details make their way into your paintings?
I don’t know, I don’t think I’m a total space cadet. But I don’t know how much other people daydream, so I will abstain from assuming whether or not I dream or notice more than others. But the little things I do notice will end up in paintings for sure at some point. There are rarely (if ever) humans depicted in your paintings. Have you ever painted figures in your landscapes? Is there a reason why your landscapes are void of people? I used to have figures in my paintings, a long time ago. But I kept having a problem figuring out who they were. I did not want the figures in the paintings to be me, or anyone else specific. So now I think that my paintings without figures, but being convincingly inhabitable spaces, allow for more interesting stories to be projected into them. Maybe there is something really happening outside of picture. Almost like theatre stages or film stills, before or after the action has happened, which still leaves the space charged.
Plants, trees, various flora also show up frequently in your work. Even though you live in the city do you find it necessary to escape the city and emerge yourself in nature from time to time? Leaving the city is always great. But a good selection of little buddy potted plants can be just as inspirational. Just to dork out for a minute, when you live with some plants and really care for them, you start to notice some of the really trippy stuff they do. It happens slowly but sometimes they get pretty cool. I have a bromeliad that shot out this crazy flower one time, that just kept shooting out new stages of flowering radness. It was like a very slow three-stage fire work starburst going from pink to orange to purple. And it just happens like its no big deal. But yeah, being out in nature is something I try to do whenever I can, but I also need to be in the city, to know just how great it is out there. What artists would you cite as influences? If you could grab a coffee (or tea or whiskey) with any artist, living or dead, to have a chat about the state of the world, art, kittens, or whatever, who would you choose? One of my first artistic heros was Francis Bacon; those paintings are genius. There were many artistic heros after him. Right now, I have been really into Rousseau and Twombly sculptures and photos. I have been looking at Bruce Weber’s book A House Is Not A Home a lot. Paul Outerbridge’s color photos are pretty great. I am a big fan of Peter Doig and Isa Gensen. I like Aaron Curry’s sculptures a lot. Also lately I’ve been really into the idea of making ceramics, who knows. Really, there are too many to name and they vary greatly. I’m sure Picasso would have been a handful to hang out with. Brancusi seems like a heavy guy.
Hourglass, acrylic on panel, 36” x 30”, 2007
LEFT: Wait for it, acrylic, spray paint on panel, 48” x 60”, 2011; this page: Deep Growth, acrylic on panel, 24” x 24”, 2007
I bet he liked cats. I don’t know who I would like to meet really. Are there any landscape painters that you admire? Not specifically for landscape painting alone. There are plenty of painters I admire just for the way they use paint for what ever situation they choose. Have you been influenced by the work of Frank Stella? More so by his later work; that shit is insane. I don’t know how that stuff works, it seems always on the cusp of collapse… A lot of the artists that are included in this issue of Cheap + Plastique also make music or
are affiliated with musicians... Have you been in bands? Do you currently play music? Do you feel that there is a connection between art and music? Does music influence your work? I have never been in a band, but I tend to gravitate towards musicians socially and I go see live music often. You have created album artwork for Thee Oh Sees. Is the image on the Dog Poison cover something that already existed or did you create it for the band to use? Have you contributed artwork to other musical projects?
That drawing already existed. John saw it at the opening and he wanted to use it, and of course I let him. I was already a fan of what he was up to. I also have one of my paintings on the cover of a Mick Barr record called ment which was mixed by Tim Dewitt that came out on Brown sound, Gavin Browns label. I made a few 7” covers for a project by Sonny Smith of Sonny and the Sunsets. Those were made for him, but it was the kind of “anything-goes” sort of thing. What could you imagine doing if you did not create art? I’m not sure that I am qualified for anything else. Maybe park ranger could be cool. Or professional camper. Travel writer???????
ART Q and A with Violet Shuraka
Nuuk, Greenland series, c-print, 20 x 25cm, 2010
Nuuk, Greenland series, c-print, 20 x 25cm, 2010
Where do you currently live? I am living in Lausanne, Switzerland. But I grew up in the Jura region, after my childhood in Africa (born in Cameroon, then moved to Lesotho). What do you like most about living in Lausanne? I really enjoy living in Switzerland, it is a very quiet country. Because I travel quite a lot, I do appreciate to come back here and relax. I feel on holiday here, when I travel it is work. Is this where you grew up? No, I grew up in Lesotho and then Jura, in a small village near La Chaux de Fonds called Les Breuleux. You often shoot snowy landscapes. Does living in Lausanne influence the places that you are drawn to as your subject matter in your photography practice? I am very influenced by the things that I saw in my childhood and snow is one of those things.
Did you imagine that you would be an artist/ photographer in adulthood? No, I always wanted to become an alpinist. Then an architect and then a professional snowboarder. Beeing an artist is something odd to me. You said that when you were younger you wanted to be an alpinist. Do you feel that your experience of photographing these remote places is similar to an expedition? Yes, but the mountain is much more difficult to reach. But my equipment sometimes looks like a climber’s! Is the idea of an expedition important to your photographic practice? I like it. But nothing of an expedition is really relevant to my work. Many people are afraid of big cities and the dangers associated with city life. Are you ever fearful when you find yourself so far removed from other humans and urban “civilization” and immersed in Nature?
If you look at my work carefully, I believe that it s very far from a nature thing. It’s more suburbs. How long have you been taking and exhibiting photographs? What drew you to the medium and why did you choose to pursue it seriously? 10 years more or less. My teacher at the art school school showed me a large format camera and I fell in love with it. I don’t know how to use any smaller camera. What type of camera do you shoot with? A digital SLR or a film camera? Toyo 4/5 inch with negative film. Do you use the computer as a tool when creating your photographs? No, but my lab does. Many of your pictures are people-free, which makes them feel somewhat artificial, a bit like abandoned movie sets. Do you prefer to photograph places that are void of people? It’s a coincidence that there is no one where I go.
Davos, Switzerland series, c-print, 20 x 25cm, 2009
Where Is My Giant?, Iceland series, c-print, 20 x 25cm, 208
Davos, Switzerland series, c-print, 20 x 25cm, 2009
The structures in many of your photographs seem unique to the place where you are shooting. What attracts you to these strange, structures? Do you go to a place specifically to seek out architectural oddities that cannot be found in other parts of the world? These objects are everywhere. I feel attracted to them. I have optimized my eyes to find them. Can you get inside of these structures? Are the interiors interesting to you also? Sometimes, but they are mostly closed. I do like the insides of them as well. How do you scout out locations for future photo series? Many different ways. Mostly because of visits to people, friends and family around the world. Do you research places on the internet? No. Do people tell you about places that you may find of interest? Yes, But I always forget to write it down.
Or do you randomly travel somewhere hoping to find something interesting to shoot there? Yes! You have photographed different villages in your Greenland series. How did you first go to Greenland and what makes you continue to make trips there? I went to Greenland to visit my family who were living there for a while. How long do you stay when you travel there? 10-15 days. How do you get around in these empty places? I usually walk. When you are shooting are you usually alone or do you have a guide with you? Mostly alone. But there are places where you need someone. Like in Africa, for example. Is there ever a fear of being attacked by wild animals (polar bears, maybe?) or of offending the native dwellers? Haha! I am more afraid of the human beings
than animals! But I have had some troubles that I prefer to forget... Have you been to NYC or to the US? Do you have any interest in making images in the United States? Iâ€˜d love to. Do you want to invite me? I can book a plane right now! Has the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher influenced you? Of course, as well as loads of others. I hope that I am an inspiration too. What artists do you admire? Contemporary? Past? So many, too many. Any century or epoque. What people / places / things inspire you? Everything / everyone... is an inspiration to me. What could you imagine doing, if you didnâ€™t do what you do? Mmmm, difficult to find a better job. Oh, yes, maybe having a vineyard is another dream. Where can we find your portfolio website? www.tettamanti.ch
North of The The Woods, Japan series, c-print, 20 x 25cm, 2010
North of The The Woods, Japan series, c-print, 20 x 25cm, 2010
North of The The Woods, Japan series, c-print, 20 x 25cm, 2010
Nexaca, Mexico series, c-print, 20 x 25cm, 2007
Assiaat, Greenland series, c-print, 20 x 25cm, 2009
Cheap & Plastique is representing: Heather Morgan Nathan Wasserbauer Christine Navin Kelsey Bennett at the Fountain Art Fair
Heather Morgan, Foxtrot, oil on canvas, 64” x 64”, 2010
Time Honoured Fur, oil on canvas, 72” x 48”, 2010
ART Q and A with NATHAN WASSERBAUER Heather Morgan, painter and bon vivant, completed her B.F.A. in painting at Boston University, making up the “expressionist wing” of the school for the arts and haunting the underground music scene. She received her M.F.A. in painting/ printmaking at Yale University in 1999. Morgan spent five years in East Berlin cultivating fluency in German, exhibiting and publishing work with Karoline Mueller at Ladengalerie, one of Berlin’s oldest galleries and a proponent of representational artists of the former GDR. Morgan was most recently represented by Jack the Pelican Presents in Brooklyn. She currently lives and exhibits in New York.
The subjects of my work are life-at-themargins characters, people whose failings and eccentricities are most visible. Every city has its own scene, its own special poison in the water. In capturing that I hope my work reflects the here and now, wherever I am.
I feel like your subjects are aware that they are being viewed, and that in some of your larger paintings, there is a gathering, not too crowded, that involves some aspect of theater or performance, cabaret, burlesque, and that we are just seeing part of it. Perhaps, a scene from a film? Do the paintings, as a whole or the individual characters depicted therein, have an extended narrative for you in any way (even if you don’t feel obliged to paint the rest of the story)? The performance is identity, the act of being someone, a gender, a construct. The images are cinematic and theatrical to illustrate with splendor the idea that living is theater, a kind of madness. There are extended narratives, whole lifetimes of pain and pleasure. Sometimes I have more specific details in mind that fuel what is depicted, but the viewer is free to concoct their own stories. Describe your time in Germany. How does it influence your work? To what extent does German expressionism play a role, if at all? Do you see yourself in a tradition of painting?... or is that not a necessary consideration in order for you to proceed with your intentions? I was mining Dix (ha ha) and Beckmann long before I moved to Berlin. The Expressionists fired up my interest in painting in the first place, fraught as that work is with tension, an ecstasy of agonies. Living in Berlin brought something
very different to my work. I learned to speak German, I lived in a squat in the former DDR, staying out all night (this was in 1999, before the Euro, before the current tidal wave of Americans). I fully immersed in painting the life of a young Berliner. As hip, sexy and damaged as the city itself. Today I find myself much more interested in beauty than the expressionists were, more in tune with the giddy excess of the Weimar Republic. Beauty being the surest means to strike terror into the heart. “Unflinching yet vulnerable” is how you’ve described the women in your work. Does this speak to fulfillment or longing, some of each? Both. There is a complicated situation suggested here in the emotional availability of these figures. Their aggressive stance barely covers their desperate yearnings. You can have them, but you can’t hurt them. Or is it the other way around? Do you see the people in your paintings as part of a smaller community or is this a larger happening? Could this be Berlin, Paris, London?, or is this a New York City exclusive and it could only happen here… only now? The subjects of my work are life-at-the-margins characters, people whose failings and eccentricities are most visible. Every city has its own scene, its own special poison in the water. In capturing that I hope my work reflects the here and now, wherever I am. Describe a studio day. Models? Lighting, preferred time of day, depending upon the subject? What are your minimum requirements? Do you make drawings, or do you take your ideas straight to the canvas? During the day, awash with sunlight, promise, and the usual existential unease, I like to do small works - figures and objects painted from life. Later in the day, I get ideas for new work, which I might sketch in pen on a scrap of paper or more fully flesh out with a collage. In the evening, I can start to get a bit manic and then I can really start working, no models, not much light. I draw a pretty detailed underpainting to start a painting, often wiping part or the whole thing away several times before it is finished. In that sense, a lot of drawing goes into it. I also do a lot of writing and listening to music, from which I get a lot of ideas. Continued on page 58
Vegas Case, Digital C-print, 18” x 24”, 2007
I feel an affinity towards everyone I photograph. When I photograph a stranger I’m bringing someone with me, whom I’ll never see again. I have a lasting fascination with them.
ART Q and A with heather morgan
Gremlin, Digital C-print, 18” x 24”, 2004
Kelsey Bennett is a photographer, living and working in New York City. Her work takes on many subjects; the ALLURE and escape of a road trip, dreamlike narratives, staying out all night. Present in all of her work is a carefully constructed world and an appealing intimacy with its inhabitants. How do you feel growing up in Manhattan has shaped your work? My first passport photo was taken before the age of one, I did a lot of traveling and I think my capacity for accepting what I’m not used to is vast. I have a daring quality which helps me break the social barriers between myself and the people I photograph. Your friends and acquaintance, an interesting cast, appear frequently in your work. What does it mean to you to portray intimate friends versus strangers? Do you feel differently about the work? I feel an affinity towards everyone I photograph. When I photograph a stranger I’m bringing someone with me, whom I’ll never see again. I have a lasting fascination with them. Tell us about the difference between fleeting contact with subjects vs. in-depth studies, as in the Black Velvet series. Do you find it personally satisfying to develop relationships with the people in your photographs? Taking photos has given me the chance to meet so many people. There is a certain level of comfort I feel—connecting with someone through a lens. In the case of Black Velvet our friendship developed with the art and the art developed with the friendship. If it weren’t for one the other wouldn’t be as strong.
Phone Booth, Digital C-print, 18” x 24”, 2009
You often work in series. Do these ideas for collected photographs occur with a single image or do they emerge over the course of time, taking many photographs and looking at the prints? What is your process for assessing/compiling a body of work? It all depends. Sometimes the concept comes to me first. Other times I take one photograph which sparks my interest and I continue in that specific direction, recently I’ve been enjoying this course because it’s as if the subject is revealing the concept for me. It makes me feel collaborative with the work itself. Compiling a body of work has a lot to do with editing. I’m a quick editor because I believe the eye’s first impression. In your Runaway/Cases exhibition, images and prints were presented on large screens and a case of your travel ephemera was on display. What kinds of ways are you interested in presenting work that goes beyond a traditional framed image on a white wall? Is an interactive element important to you? The people and themes I base my work on reach me in a deep way. Presenting images interactively helps to relay the extent of my experience. Plus, I enjoy putting on a show! You studied music business and have played in bands, you sing and perform. What led you to focus on photography? How do you see yourself combining all of your varied talents? Do you consider yourself (primarily) a photographer? I have been playing music and studying photography from the age of twelve, it’s never been one or the other for me. Whatever medium it may be in, I express myself and that’s how I have a good time living. I think it’s crucial to have a good business sense when it comes to managing one’s own career, especially in our era of artistic collaboration and self-promotion.
Baltimore, Digital C-print, 18” x 24”, 2009
Do you feel that you are living your art? I am either creating something or have one eye on the lookout for more inspiration. I sometimes feel a bit removed from the world, but as soon as I start creating I feel more connected than I ever thought possible. Some of your work implies a narrative. What kind of stories interest you? Stories about people trying to figure themselves out. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Still prowling the streets of NYC with beautiful people? I’ll see myself in ten years. What are you working on now? Can you tell us about any exhibits you have planned? Black Velvet: The Godfather of Soul, is a project I recently finished work on. The photos are of a James Brown impersonator. I want to have a show where he plays the opening. Currently, I am working at a hospital photographing babies on the maternity ward. I sneak my own camera in and I’m developing a series which illustrates the particular worlds and families each baby comes into. Speaking of fleeting subjects, I am seeing hundreds of people on the first day of their lives and then never seeing them again. There is something refreshing in that for me.
Part of being a grown up is realizing that there are wonderful things you cherish from your past, but there are also negative things like fear and aggression we bring from childhood into our adult lives.
ART Q and A with heather morgan
Image photographed by JR Studios Panoramix Coda 1, acrylic on linen, 48” x 120”, 2010
Nathan Wasserbauer is a painter, living and working in Brooklyn, NY. His work comprises vivid geometric abstraction, evocative of architecture, digital transmissions, kinetic spaces. You talk about the excessive consumption of our society and your childhood robot toys and comics being elements in your work. Are robot toys the bright side of that coin? You could say that robots are a starting point. So are dinosaurs and superheroes and all the things you’d expect a kid might draw. We’ve come to a point now where themes from popular culture can be cited as artistic influences. When I was a little kid drawing Godzilla breathing fire, I’d make the sound of the fire while I was drawing it, when it hit the tank I’d do the explosion sound. I even hummed the music from the films. Adults would sit there and be entertained. I love watching kids do stuff like that now that I’m an adult. When you get older and you come to realize what an exploding tank really might entail, you’ve left the starting point.
Part of being a grown up is realizing that there are wonderful things you cherish from your past, but there are also negative things like fear and aggression we bring from childhood into our adult lives. Sometimes we act on these impulses, and it makes you wonder if there really is such a thing as an adult. Considering the dual nature of your themes, do you aspire to uplift or present a dark hidden meaning? I think there is some slapstick in my work, which is a kind of cynical humor and healthy in appropriate doses. If I’ve really done my job well, a viewer might find some mystery there and then their imagination takes the baton. In my opinion, anything that moves a person toward investigation and curiosity has great uplifting potential. You are also a musician and a martial artist. Do these pursuits influence your work? If I’m doing animation there might be some music. Overall these things get me thinking why does that make that tone? What’s the overall structure? Where does it have weight and where does it release? In martial arts you get
a sense of how the human body works, with all its strengths and limitations. There’s certainly an aesthetic tradition with martial arts forms, movements, weapons and such. Your acrylic paintings are very tactile. Tell me about your drawings, which achieve a very different aspect. Do you have different ideas for drawings versus paintings? How do they inform each other? The color and light in the paintings give the objects weight. The light is somewhat internalized so the structure pops out in a bombastic kind of way. Painting is more a summation for me. Drawing, however well I plan it is always an input stage for me. The nature of simple tonality creates more atmospheric effects, light is externalized, and you figure out new vocabulary as you carry on. Eventually, you hope the best bits find a way into the paintings. Tell me about the process of creating your images. Do you begin with drawings? Or do you organize your ideas around color? I begin with drawings on paper. I sort of create components and find ways to collage them together. Once I’ve got something I hadn’t
Black Magic, Silver Point on Black Gesso, 45” x 48”, 2010
Fossil Trophy 1, graphite on paper, 11” x 15”, 2010
expected, I might draw on top of that and add some new component. It’s like inventing grammar for a new language. In regards to color it’s about intensity and proximity. Either process might lead the charge depending on what I’m going after. The digital age is a major theme in your work. What appeals to you about “old school” media such as oil paint and various printing techniques to create your imagery? There is a tradition of alchemy associated with drawing, painting and sculpture that I’m fascinated by. Gesso is ground bone, pigments come from earth, insects, plants and some need to be treated and enhanced through chemistry. When you consider the longevity of these materials, the work that goes into these techniques and that artwork is meant to outlast its creator, it puts things into a very real and constructive perspective. Tell me about the influence of Italian painting on your work. How has your residency in Rome impacted you? I mentioned the materials already. Much of renaissance and baroque painting is meant to memorialize, and/or glorify. The fact that much of the subject matter involves violence, sexuality and such an effort is made to make tragedy beautiful, well, that’s epic! But when you take away the opera of it all, the fact that light and color finds consistency from the renaissance to futurism also gets my attention. Who are some of your favorite painters, living or dead? Last year I was in Italy and really took a look at Filippo Lippi and the things that guy did with layering color are amazing. Here’s a list:
Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Julian Stanczak, Paul Klee, Lucian Freud, John Romita Jr. (he drew Spider-Man and X-Men when I was a kid, and still does.), Mark Rothko, Hieronymus Bosch, Sol Lewitt, Robert Longo, Al Held, James Turrell, and Timothy Hawkinson. Also Herman Melville (Best known for the whale thing, but he wrote Bartleby the Scrivener! Artists who’ve had jobs other than studio work to pay the rent can relate to this.) Do you think that looking at paintings influences you as much as the massive amount of visual information (advertising, movies, internet, etc...) we are exposed to on a daily basis? Your work comments on this “problem”, as well. Are you telegraphing your mental billboard? I think only looking only at art to make art leads to a sort of creative inbreeding. It’s important to me to view paintings and be able to enjoy them outside of my own studio practice. Outside research is pretty crucial. I would say in earlier work there was more telegraphing. Now some material has become less penetrable upon initial investigation. Dave Hickey once told me “You work too hard. Leave some out. Let the viewer do some of the work.” I have heard it said that every painter has one picture that they make over and over and that a good artist has several. Do you think that you have one or more images that you continually reinterpret, reinvent? What are they? There is a lot of stuff that Bernini did that I’m after, from individual sculptures to those grand city plans, architectural projects and colonnades. That spiral movement you find in baroque art or Chinese dragons. A lot of
Fossil Trophy 1, graphite on paper, 11” x 15”, 2010
monumental ancient architecture and ruins come into play. Chinese landscape painting is also something I keep coming back to. The simple architecture of Italy and the American southwest, the way light and color break them down compositionally, when you reduce that to post painterly abstraction, and then multiply it again, you end up with endless possibilities. Think of the roof tiles as just one component. Do you envision yourself remaining in NYC, or will you run off to a villa in Tuscany/cave in South America/Moon settlement someday? If the latter will you take your future phone with you? I enjoy New York City and I feel fortunate to live here. It’s nice to go away for a refresher, but I’m pretty glad to come back here. Life is long though. If I could spend part of the year in Italy and part here in NYC that would be great, but given a choice I’d stick with here for now. If I went to a moon colony I’d hope to take communication. I can’t envision cutting myself off. Tell me about what you are working on now. In the studio now I’m working on vast space compositions, landscape and aerial perspective, and I’m considering the archeology, and in some cases anthropology of the subject. So a whole world with its own language and history could emerge! I suppose this work could be a prequel or sequel to the last body of paintings I’d done. Some of my drawings to be shown at Fountain are taking on the role of artifact, or fossil, or a look at the smaller components of larger compositions. Some drawings are working with different grounds, silverpoint and watercolor, referential to rare or unknown material composition. So stay tuned for some scenic viewing art lovers!
Untitled (Michael), Digital archival print, 16â€? x 20â€?, 2009
ART Q and A with heather morgan
Untitled (Sam), Digital archival print, 16” x 20”, 2009
Christine navin is a photographer and graphic designer, living and working in New York City. You have created a lot of work as “Violet Shuraka.” Who is this mysterious lady and what does she represent to you? Does she allow you to do things that Christine Navin would not? Well, I guess my secret alter ego has been exposed now... thanks internet! Violet Shuraka came to be during the summer of 1995, in San Francisco. I had moved out there temporarily to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, after graduating from college in Boston. My good friend convinced me that San Fran would be the perfect place for me as the temperature was always below 85 degrees and that seemed like a good enough reason to get rid of most of my possessions, hop on a plane, and fly across the country to a city where I knew 2 people, and had only been once before. My friends were attending SFAI and were at school almost every day and many evenings, which left me with A LOT of time on my own. I was pretty much stuck in their place day after day and developed a strange fear of leaving the apartment (I think I may have been somewhat agoraphobic). I spent my days looking through art books and porn magazines. When my friend came home in the evenings we would mix up some fruity cocktails, don some wigs and fancy dresses, and take photographs. We both came up with alter-egos, She was Dianne Pinkwater and I was Violet Shuraka. Since we had absolutely no money and no other friends in the city this seemed like the only thing to do. We were both very into Andy Warhol and always fascinated by the whole Factory scene, so I guess we created our own little factory, it was fun. Somehow over the years Violet Shuraka has stuck, while Dianne Pinkwater may have been left behind in San Fran. Having this alter-ego did help me to do things that I had not been able to do in the past.
Untitled (Kelly), Digital archival print, 16” x 20”, 2010
I had always been super shy and my Violet persona emerged as the more outgoing, crazy, fun lady. When I moved back to Boston, at the end of the summer, I started attending art school at the Mass College of Art to study photography. Almost all of my old friends had moved out of Boston, after finishing undergrad, so once again I found myself in this strange situation of a lot of alone time. This was a chance to reinvent myself. I lived by myself in a small studio apartment and began taking many self-portraits for my projects at school. These portraits were of Violet Shuraka, Christine was in hibernation. As I started to make a new group of friends in Boston, these people all knew me as Violet... I became more outgoing. I started photographing my friends out and about in the city as well as continuing to do loads of self-portraits. Now, 16 years later (whoah!!!!), I still use both names, it sometimes gets confusing (especially to people who don’t really know me) and I am contemplating what I should do about my two personas (sounds a bit schizophrenic, doesn’t it?). Violet and Christine are now very similar, the split personality has sort of merged into one, the shyness has gone away (mostly) and the wild and crazy lady is here to stay. How do you relate your design aesthetic to your “dirty” glamour queens? Do they have elements in common? As mentioned/demonstrated above I may be a bit schizophrenic, at least in my tastes. I appreciate many different aesthetics, sometimes in complete opposition to each other. When designing a piece I prefer it to look clean and modern, although I do also really like the look of things that are insane and messy and layered, things that overwhelm the eyes. Other designers do this sort of work better than me so I do not attempt to design pieces that embrace this aesthetic. When photographing urban landscapes and buildings I tend to focus in on architectural elements and details, the photographs end
Untitled (Brittany), Digital archival print, 16” x 20”, 2010
up looking quite abstract and geometric, with flat planes of color. These images certainly fit in more with my appreciation of the clean and modern, I think, and graphic designers tend to really like these images. As far as the people I choose to photograph, I prefer them to be a bit messy, or “dirty”, as you say. I am certainly more attracted to people who have led interesting lives and want to photograph these people, someone who looks clean cut and perfectly put together does not really interest me. I am attracted to people who might be a bit crazy, certainly a bit rough around the edges, people who are not trying to fit in to “normal” society. I have had pretty good luck finding these people over the years, I am a good judge of character and can usually tell a lot about someone by a first glance. You appear involved in the scene of your figurative pictures, particularly shots of nighttime revelry, which draws the viewer into the situation. The daytime outdoor scenes appear more remote and solitary, achieving an effect of distance. Tell us about your different approaches to these types of imagery. Again, schizophrenia? When I shoot outdoors I am almost always alone and I try very hard not to have people in my pictures. I spend many weekend afternoons wandering around, searching out places to photograph. Sometimes I fear that I will run out of new things to photograph in this neighborhood, as I have lived here for 6 and 1/2 years now but I always prove myself wrong... there are so many interesting details to notice every time you walk out the door and down the street. I sometimes laugh at myself because I wonder if I am the only person who ever notices these little things, like a patch of interestingly colored moss growing on the side of a building or paint chipped away on an apartment building that forms a strange shape, various elements that indicate the passing of time. When someone is with me when I am shooting outdoors I fear that they
ART will be annoyed or bored so I try not to subject anyone to coming on these photo adventures with me. Having another person around also restricts the amount of time I can let my eyes wander and scour the scene for bits that seem worthwhile of documentation. When I shoot people in their apartments or in the little studio I have set up in my space I feel like it is more like a hang out session; we drink wine, we chat, the subject usually dresses up. I always feel closer to a person after I have photographed them, it is a bonding moment for me, I think the subjects probably feel the same way. This sort of photography is definitely intimate. Both approaches are totally different experiences and ways of photographing. I used to prefer shooting people in intimate settings but now I find both approaches equally satisfying. Shooting outside is a relaxing exercise where I can clear my mind, while shooting indoors takes a lot more out of me and requires me to connect with another human. A youthful sort of celebration is present in your work. Do you think you will seek youthful subjects or do you see the work becoming about something else? Can we stay glamorous as we get older, in Shuraka’s world? I do love glamorous people but I do not think that glamour is only associated with youth. I see many older women who look glamorous and exude youthfulness and sex appeal. I feel that the key to being forever young is to continue to lead an interesting life and ignore the fact that one is aging. Once a person has given up on any hopes and dreams they may have had in their youth this is when a person is no longer interesting to me and their appearance changes. I think you can see passion in one’s face, eyes, and hands and this is a big part of what makes one glamorous to me. So, yes, I will continue to photograph you way into your 90’s, Miss Morgan! The women in your pictures tend to be idiosyncratic, rough around the edges (the aforementioned “dirty glamour”). Is that something you look for in your subjects or something you impose upon them in the pictures? Perhaps a bit of both? I talked about this a bit above, I do look for subjects that I find to be interesting looking, I am not particularly interested shooting models or people that are considered beautiful by the masses (or whose beauty is the only appealing thing about them). I do find my subjects attractive though and it is important to me that I am not capturing something staged when I am shooting
them. If the subject does raid my closet and put on something that belongs to me, I feel that they are just channelling a part of them that maybe they didn’t know existed, or maybe exists but they do not have much opportunity to express. I would never want to have a stylist present at a photo shoot. My pictures are definitely not about creating something fake. Your work references stylish moments of the past, particularly the 60’s- Warhol’s Factory and John Waters’ Baltimore scene. Would you rather have been part of those scenes? I would love to have been able to experience both of those scenes first hand but similar scenes happen in every city, every decade, we just don’t know the characters in those scenes as well as we know Warhol and Water’s stars, maybe they are not as enchanting, maybe more so, they most likely do not have as good of a documentarian, I am pretty sure. We have to create own scene or live in our heads. In the past few years, you have developed a strong curatorial sense, seen in your zine and on your art blog. Do you get as much satisfaction as a tastemaker as in producing your own work? Does this speak to the same urge to see more of what you like, out in the world? Has your contact with these artists influenced your work? Tastemaker, HA! I really do enjoy seeing other people’s work, I have always been interested in the history of art and the lives of artists. In high school I always wanted to escape my super small town and seek out other people doing creative things. The books that I read, the music I listened to, and the artists that I knew about at the time all made the idea of living an artistic, bohemian lifestyle seem really appealing to me, it was the type of life that I strived towards. And the places I have lived, London, San Francisco, New York, have all been places known for their art communities. Being in New York now and seeing a lot of art has probably influenced my work a bit, although I am not quite sure how. It has influenced me more in my desire to document the artists and the work they are creating. I started shooting artists in their studios last year and it is a project that I am quite enjoying. I am allowed access to their studios, I get to see their work in progress, and I learn a bit about their process, all which help me to understand the work a bit better. It is also fun just to meet new people who live in my neighborhood, who are inspired, creating, and trying to figure out how to succeed as artists.
I like using the C + P blog as a way to record what I have seen in Chelsea. I also use it as a tool to expose the artists that I meet and whose work I admire who may not be know by a larger audience yet. Hopefully someone, somewhere is reading it! You spend a lot of time touring Chelsea. The experience is often a mixed bag. Do you learn as much from what you hate as what you like? Who are some contemporary artists who have provoked a strong reaction in either direction? I do try to go to Chelsea once a month, sometimes this is difficult because of all of the other going ons in my life (and because I work a 9 – 5 job). If I see 5 artists that I really like on a Saturday I feel particularly pleased. I am sometimes amazed at some of the work that makes it onto the walls of a gallery but I do understand that everyone has their own tastes, including me, so even if I completely hate something, someone else must find it worthwhile for it to be displayed, I understand and appreciate this. I do feel that contemporary artists should be aware of what is being shown, what the trends are, either by going gallery hopping every once and awhile or subscribing to some art mags. From year to year I do see shifts in the types of work being shown in Chelsea (and elsewhere) and although this would not influence me to change what I am doing in my art practice it sometimes does raise my hopes a wee bit! (oh, photography is sooooooo HOT this year!) It is harder for me to remember artists that I did not particularly like since there are so many... but hate is such a strong word. One gallery that I do really like going to (which isn’t even in Chelsea) is Canada, in Chinatown. I have fallen in love with a few artists there, Rosson Crow for one, who I think is just amazing, and I also really like Katherine Bernhardt’s paintings. Joe Bradley though, not such a fan... something about his work irks and irritates me, which I know he probably wants to do... but who knows maybe someday I will change my mind, I have before. Tell us about your future plans—next stop world domination? I am going to continue taking pictures of peoples and places and hopefully figure out a way to work less at a “real” job and dedicate more time to art adventuring and Cheap & Plastique-ing. I would love to produce 2 more printed issues of Cheap & Plastique in the next year. And I would also love to curate an actual art show somewhere in Brooklyn (or London or Berlin or anywhere really), sometime in the near future! Any leads?
Untitled, Digital archival prints, dimensions vary, 2009-2011
Cheap & Plastique visits Monster Island for a tour of Live With Animals Gallery and Kayrock Screenprinting, and also gets to peek into the studios of: Cameron Michel Vashti Windish Raul De Nieves Images ÂŠ Violet Shuraka
Live With Animals Gallery Q and A with Violet Shuraka
wanted artists to have the freedom to get back to sort of a pure state, without any pressures from us or from society. We wanted to be a venue for free expression. V: We opened the gallery in hopes to provide a space for everyone, not focusing on the money making industry that is the modern art world but to house creativity in all mediums for creativity’s sake.
Cameron, Tania, and Vashti sitting on the floor of Live With Animals Gallery
How long have you run Live With Animals Gallery? T: Live With Animals was started in 2004 by Vashti Windish, Cameron Michel, Bonnie Pipkin and Tania Ryalls. We had several shows in 2004/2005, before closing our doors to create a communal studio space. We emerged as a gallery again in 2006, and have been a venue for artists ever since. Who is involved in the administration of the gallery? And what are each of your duties? T: In the early days, we all worked together to physically build out the space (Cameron can build just about anything), and develop the gallery into the space we envisioned. Several years ago, Bonnie left the gallery to dedicate her time to ‘Step Right Up’, a not-for-profit that provides free arts workshops in New York City’s public schools. These days, Cameron and Vashti are the presence of the gallery, dealing with all day to day matters. It is not only the gallery that they run, but also the home of the studios where they work, not to mention a place where our friends and colleagues enjoy spending time. Cameron, Vashti and Tania work collaboratively to select artists, prepare for shows and run the gallery while shows are in progress.
Tell me a bit about the history of your name. I have had many arguments with friends over the pronunciation over the years—and now I know the truth! T: Choosing a name was tough. We went with Live with Animals (pronounced liv with animals). It is from a Walt Whitman poem— I think I could turn and live with the animals, they are so placid and self contained; I stand and look at them long and long. They do not sweat and whine about their condition; They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins; They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God; Not one is dissatisfied-not one is demented with the mania of owning things; Not one kneels to another, nor his kind that lived thousands of years ago; Not one is responsible or industrious over the whole earth.” I think it represents what we wanted from the gallery. We did not want to get wrapped up in the sort of mania that is sometimes associated with galleries that have a profit motive. We
You told me a bit about the process of setting up shows. It seems pretty democratic, decided upon by all three of you. How far in advance do you schedule shows? How often do you accept outside proposals from people that you do not know personally? T: We strike a balance between organization and flexibility. When we sit down and discuss the show schedule, we generally have a one year horizon. We have worked with international artists, including a gallery swap with Yautepec Galley in Mexico City, and these shows are set in stone months in advance. Others are in flux. We realize the scarcity of space in New York versus the number of talented artists, and so we try and keep the space alive at all times. We have pulled together shows and performances within a few weeks or even a few days upon notice of a cancellation or a lag between shows (which happens from time to time). We also try to incorporate performance and live music while our art shows are up (to the extent that they are synergistic). While we are blessed a very talented group of friends and growing network of artists with whom we are acquainted, we have always been open to proposals from people we do not know personally. As our network grows, it seems that even strangers are connected through friends. Most artists who have shown at Live with Animals have been recommended to us, but there have been occasions where this was not the case. V: It is pretty democratic. We usually do around 8 months to a year in advance. We are very lucky to have a bounty of amazing friends and acquaintances that we have worked with, but there are definitely shows that have come about from chance meetings or online submissions. What made you want to embark on such an ambitious project as operating a non-profit, artist-run gallery? Had you ever been involved in running/coordionating a project like LWA before? T: For years, prior to moving to New York, Vashti was organizing and curating art shows in Atlanta. When Vashti and Cameron moved to New York, Vashti and I teamed up to organize a group art show, Another One Night Stand, in 2003. It was a one night show of art, film, music and performance that was held in a rented space. It was clear, after that show, that what we needed was space.
Images © Violet Shuraka, Cameron Michel Counter clockwise, from left to right: Vashti Windish’s white paper dresses, a Raul De Nieves piece on a chair in the gallery, still from Cameron Michel and Vashti Windish’s Symbiosis in Exotica exhibit, puppets from Panacea Theriac’s Center of the Earth exhibit, and Vashti’s colorful costumes from MayPole performance.
Erik Zajaceskowski, then of Mighty Robot, now of Secret Project Robot, was the man who had that space, when Monster Island was started the following year. V: I don’t what we were thinking! Just kidding, really I had worked on a curatorial project called Art Attack in Atlanta before moving to New York. They were one night only multi media events that usually included more than 30 artists. I loved it and kinda got my hopes up about having an art space someday. I definitely didn’t think that way upon moving here, because it seemed so over-saturated with galleries. I had some pressuring by a great friend of mine Maya Hardinge, and by Eric Z who runs Secret Project Robot next door to us. He found the building right after Cameron and I had returned from a summer in LA. I was totally broke and totally not in a position to take a rotting raw space over, but he kept telling me get some people together and just do it, and when Cameron, Tania, and Bonnie Pipkin (Original Member) got excited about it, we just did it! Do you find it rewarding to show & expose other people’s artwork to the world/ Williamsburg? (I assume YES, or else why would you do it?) T: That is what it is all about! It is an honor to be part of the process, and so rewarding to help facilitate a successful show.
V: Haha! Yes! Someone should be doing it! Its been a really great learning experience that has brought so many people and projects together, including ones of our own. It really makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside to think about all the times we have had here and all amazing shows we have gotten to produce. Do each of you have a favorite art show that has been staged at LWA? Or a memory of a particularly grand time at the gallery that stands out in your mind? What is the craziest thing you ever remember happening in the space? T: There are too many memories to count! There are certainly crazy memories from the start when the gallery was a construction zone. There were times when we were hosing down beams with bleach to kill mold, wearing plastic bags on our heads, with electrical wires precariously dangling. There were crazy parties and police raids. Now, we are a bit more civilized. We love so many of the artists, it perhaps too difficult to call favourites. V: Oh man, I could give you a million responses to this question! It’s really hard to pick a favorite art show, there have been so many amazing ones! Stand outs would of course be Raul de Nieves, Micki Pellerano, Panacea Theriac, Sarah Gates, Christopher Duffy. Some of the best times have been at Monster Island Block Party, our annual open studio and music fest. I think
because its a time when everyone in the building has a chance to hang out with each other and appreciate the greatness of all that is produced here. Practicing music here is also one of my favorite things, its great to have a revolving visual when you are creating music! Craziest thing ever? Someone (I won’t name names) trying to strangle a DJ then pulling the plug on the entire sound system because they wouldn’t play Grateful Dead. How has Live with Animals been involved with Williamsburg Fashion Weekend & the Monster Island Block Party? Vashti, were the paper dresses that you designed exhibited as part of Fashion Weekend? Or another performance/ installation at the gallery? V: Ya, we were involved with the very first one. The colorful costumes were from “MayPole” which was a performance art piece I did in with Raul. Our friend Alice Cohen did the amazing soundtrack and Cameron did eerie lights, it was amazing. Vashti, have there been other fashion-related events connected to/occurring within the gallery? V: I did have people wearing the white costumes in “Symbiosis in Exotica”, but other than some photo shoots, not really. We have had hundreds of people snapping photos in front of the gallery for years! I’m always seeing it in fashion magazines. When we discussed the idea that LWA would not last forever (in the present MI space) you
Image © Violet Shuraka
Micki Pellerano exhibition in gallery space
seemed like you already had accepted this as fact and did not seem too saddened by the reality that LWA would probably not be there in a year’s time... Do you feel that LWA will continue to exist once the Monster Island lease is over and everyone is asked to move? Can you see another iteration of LWA existing somewhere else in Brooklyn (or Manhattan)? V: Well, we are really sad, but also excited at the possibilities the future holds. Its not that great to lose something you have literally bled, sweat and cried over, but you have to accept the fact that nothing is permanent too. We will keep creating, and whether or not we have a new home, we will try to keep our community alive in a different form. You were included in an exhibit about alternative art spaces at Exit Art last year. are there any non-profit alternative art spaces in NY, existing presently or long ago, that you feel a certain kinship with ? What about other alternative art spaces in other cities? In your travels (on tour with bands, etc...) I assume you have been exposed to some places that have a similar objective to Live With Animals... perhaps? Have you been to Okay Mountain in Austin? Do you feel that they are doing a similar thing as LWA? V: Ya, Okay Mountain is awesome, I don’t really know enough to say if they are similar or not... We really like Secret Project Robot of course,
and Cinders... Yautepec in Mexico City is rad, Showcave in LA is a really great space as well. There is a cool spot in Hot Springs, Arkansas as well but the name escapes me right now! Do you ever work with/collaborate with any local spaces, art or music venues? V: We have done alot of things with Glasslands, both artistic and performance based. Also we love to play at Death by Audio, its really great to have so many like-minded spaces in the same 5 block strip. What is your favorite place in the city to see art ? How do you feel about Chelsea as a place to see artwork? Do you find yourselves going to Chelsea/LES frequently on art viewing adventures? V: The streets! I also like PS1...really I don’t get out much because there is always too much to do with the gallery, music or art... Chelsea is fine to see artwork I suppose, but when I do get out, I am more impressed with LES galleries. Vashti, you and Cameron both have studio spaces in the building... Do your bands (Golden Triangle and K-Holes) also practice in the space? Do you spend most of your time at Monster Island toiling away or are there other projects/jobs that you are involved with that require your presence elsewhere? V: Just K-holes practice here... we spend a lotta time here, but we also have day jobs to attend.
I also really love to cook, so I like to be in my kitchen when I get a moment. Vashti, I know that you are headed to New Orleans for a short break from NY life tomorrow. Are you escaping New York for any particular reason? Will you use this time to explore creative endeavors? Are there any spaces in New Orleans doing a similar thing to LWA? Will you be collaborating with any of these places during your sojourn? V: Well, yeah there are a lot of reasons! But mostly to create work for our upcoming show at The Front Gallery and to curate a show at Good Children Gallery which are both great spaces! New Orleans is an amazingly creative city and there are wonderful artists and musicians there. My favorite space is the Spellcaster Lodge, which is an underwater dance club below the residence and art studio of Quintron and Miss Pussycat. What shows do we have to look forward to at LWA in the near future? V: We have a packed year of wonderful shows! Our next couple shows will be Andy Curtin in March, a group drawing show in April, an installation with Sara Gates in May, plus many musical performances. We plan on going out with a huge bang come this October! Just check www.livewithanimals.org or www.livewithanimalsgallery.blogspot.com for current events and photos or join our mailing list or facebook page!
Images ÂŠ Violet Shuraka
cameron michel Q and A with Violet Shuraka
Cameron Michel IS AN ARTIST WORKING IN WILLIAMSBURG, BROOKLYN. You share a studio with Raul De Nieves, do you ever collaborate on pieces? Do you feel that working in such close proximity to one another (and in a somewhat small space) influences each other at all? Even though your work is quite different I do feel that there is (maybe) a similarity in the the process of making your work-- obsessiveness, layering, accumulation. Raul and I haven’t really collaborated on any individual pieces, but I would say that we collaborate more or less on ideas that involve our processes. We’ve been sharing a studio for around 3 years, so we’ve seen each other just about every day within that time and anyone that you communicate with on a regular basis is going to be an influence on you. He is an inspiring person in my life and is someone that I feel I can relate to when approaching art. We might be a little crazy. Do you ever feel that working on a piece is therapeutic for you? Definitely. I don’t really understand what I’m
doing, but I do know that it makes me feel better and much happier. It teaches me that you don’t have to know how to do anything, but if you just do something a positive outcome will occur. Action seeks good fortune. As far as process goes could you describe a typical experience of making a collage piece? Do you sketch an idea (either on the computer or by hand) before you start building the collage? Do you curate the elements that you want to collage first or do you continue to add random things as the piece progresses? Or is it a bit of both? Usually I’ll find random images from my camera, found photos, books, etc and work with what I’ve got. I used to print all my material in the darkroom when I worked at a University in Manhattan. That was great, but I’m switching it up now. I’ve always made the collages by looking at a blank canvas in front of me and just putting one piece on at a time until it is covered. There isn’t really a game plan. I like to kinda just shut off and let myself go on auto-pilot. I’m not really concerned with what photos I’m working with because the photos are just color and texture to me.
Do you usually work in a large scale or do you also make smaller mixed media pieces? I’ll work on various sizes. Do you utilize a copy machine (or laser printer) when creating the elements of the collage, to create the mirror-images that so many of your pieces feature? I haven’t used any copy machines yet, but have some fun things coming up in the future that will involve large scale photo copies. I’ll get multiple images usually by printing them in the darkroom. The mirror thing is in the past for me now. I can’t stand it when people make mirror images in photoshop. It seems really cheap and easy. I like mirror images that are constructed like the the anatomy of living species. When each side appears the same, but is totally different. Do you usually work on board? Is each collage a stand alone piece or are they generally created to work together more like an installation? Sometimes they stand alone and sometimes they are part of a bigger world.
Image © Violet Shuraka
Your collages have a highly reflective surface quality. Do you paint onto the collages? Use resin? Is the shiny surface a result of whatever substance you use to hold the collaged elements together or are you consciously creating this plastic-y surface texture? There will be paint, taxidermy, glitter and resins added to the works usually. I’m not a big fan of glass on pieces, but anything goes. Your work also frequently includes found objects. How does an object find its way onto the canvas? Again, is it planned or at some moment does it just occur to you to add a pearl necklace or a resin coated leaf to the work? I guess anything that goes into the pieces just finds their way there because it makes sense to me for it to be there. If I had a million dollars there would be much more interesting things floating around on them. I’ve been leaning towards science lately and soon will be working with a few scientists using really different materials. Materials that are truly mutating. What are your favorite materials to work with? I’ve basically worked mostly with hardware / art store type materials, but I would say that my most favoriate materials to work with are living species. That is something that I could possibly be able to talk about down the road.
Collage enables one to create juxtapositions that do not occur in the natural world, is this what attracted you to the medium? Ya, that is part of it. The photograph as art has always been tough for me to accept. I’ve always looked at the photograph like it is just a push of a button and what ever is in front of that lens you get. When I took photos when I was younger I would always try to paint with light and shoot about 16 shots per negative. It has always failed for me. I need to investigate what I’m doing for more than a second of time. Who needs to paint if you can make a better image with a camera? So I look at photos as if it is paint. Where/when do your ideas for a piece take form? In dreams? Are they psychedelicallyinduced? Are these places conjured in your subconscious? Are the places that you create in your collages places where you would like to exist? Places where you might like to escape to? I’m not really sure where the ideas come from, but when I look around things look like them. They are symbols to me. Do the pieces tell a story? Is there a narrative? Definitely. Every element feels like a symbol that references something else. They are not literal, but sometimes they tell me stuff that I
didn’t know at the time. It makes more sense to me much later. Nobody could possibly know what they mean unless I went through the piece with them. Since they are made up with my own symbols then it must look like gibberish. Did you go to art school? If yes, for photography? Painting? Illustration? None of the above? How long have you been making collages? Has your artwork always looked similar to how it looks presently? I didn’t go to any art school, but I took a photo class in High School and a few art history classes at a school in Atlanta. I worked mixing chemicals at Parsons University for a few years. I wouldn’t say that Parson’s photo department could be considered an art school though. I would go to lectures at Yale and SIARC (Los Angeles) because anybody could sit in. You could walk around and see whats going on in their studios when nobody was around. Who would you say your influences are? Artistic and otherwise? What inspires you on a daily basis? My biggest influences are my friends. I’ve always thought that If the people around me are truly inspiring, interesting and capable of love then I’ll be ok. I get really inspired when I meet someone that is a true badass on their own
Images © Violet Shuraka, except studio view, bottom left
terms, who can understand that the things we do can be beautiful and important to culture and not for the self. I know that you and Vashti collaborated on the cloud installation at Glasslands Gallery last year (which is still up) do you often work together on artistic endeavors (in addition to making music together and running the gallery Live With Animals)? Yep, we usually work on everything together. Have you produced any other large scale installations like the one that you did at Glasslands? Is this sort of work something that you might be interested in doing more of in the future? We’ve done some pretty large installations outside of that one. We have some large scale stuff in the works for later this year. Are there other artistes in the Monster Island building that you work with? You showed me a mask that you had made that was used in a Micki Pellerano performance piece? How of-
ten do you two collaborate? Do you also work on music for Micki’s performance pieces? Running a space in Monster Island you find yourself working with a lot of other artist in the building and artists visiting the building. It is great and creates a healthy dialogue. I met Micki when I was 18 in Florida and he is a very inspiring friend of mine. I’ve worked on various films, performances and art shows of Micki’s. What can you imagine doing if you were not an artiste/musician? How long have you been making music and creating art? Do you feel that your music influences your art and your art influences your music? Any thoughts on this musician/artist connection? I think I’d be a scientist or a mental patient. I’ve been the patient, so if the art thing goes away I’ll try the science. No, I don’t think that my music influences my art and I don’t think that my art influences my music. Different pants.
I read in another interview (online) that Crass album art collages influenced you to begin making art... is this true? Do you still listen to Crass? Do you see them as an influence on both your art and music? lifestyle? I got into the idea of Crass when I was fifteen and I romanticized that idea of making art and music in a collaborative way with a message that means a little more than personal gain in a misinformed society. The week I started making collages the Crass art came to NYC and in person it is full of color and beautiful. It looks all punk because they had to photo-copy that stuff to get it out cheap and fast. Even though I don’t consciously prescribe to what they had going on I’m sure it is somewhere walking around in my body. Tell me one thing about Cameron and Vashti that not many people know! Cameron is a girl and Vashti is a boy.
Images © Violet Shuraka
RAUL DE NIEVES Q and A with Violet Shuraka
RAUL DE NIEVES is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. He creates installations, sculptural objects, paintings, performance pieces and is the founder of a band/performance troupe called try cry try. As the frontman, Raul comes off as a cross between crispin glover (at his most
strange) and a more handsome, WAY less nasty, gg allin. Raul’s try cry try performances themselves remind me of what a technicolor, glitter-filled, re-interpretation of a vienna actionist “action” might LOOK LIKE. One of the first times I ever noticed Raul was when I was locking up my bicycle outside of
Glasslands Gallery before a Golden Triangle show, he was covered in red body paint, from head to toe, wearing a monochromatic red outfit, also dismounting his bike. At this precise moment I decided that I needed to know more about this man! Over the years every time I have seen Raul out on the town he has amazed me with crazy get ups and intense performances.
Images © Violet Shuraka
A lot of your work seems to not only be about creating paintings or objects but also about creating specific environments in which to view them. Are these two aspects of the work developed interdependently or does one idea come to you first, therefore influencing the latter? How important are the objects and the surrounding environment to one another in your installation work? Or, do you even make a distinction between the two? The work comes first of and grows into the form of installation, allowing the viewer to become part of the work and experience. There also seems to be a distinct interplay between geometric and organic elements in your work. Often times the linear geometric patterns seem to lead into or frame the organic forms before the two become intermingled. Can you talk a bit about the role or interplay of these two aesthetics and how you hope they function together in the work? I find geometric forms organic, lines and circles are a play on one another. Is an element of absurdity or non-functionality important in the sculptural objects and installations you create? For instance, creating an object in the form of a shoe that cannot actually be worn as a shoe. Absurdity is a way of looking at life. A shoe is a simple design turned into aesthetics. Most of my shoes come from obsessing over their design, allowing myself to make unwearable shoes helps me overcome the fear of finding the best shoes, not in my size. Allowing myself to make wearable shoes give me the pleasure of desire fulfilled. How long have you been incorporating found shoes into your work? And how did the platform shoe, in particular, end up finding its way into your work? The first time I incorporated shoes was when I walked out the door, height is everything! How about beads? When did you start using them? Are the beads in your sculptures
special beads or do you buy them at the bead store down the road? I first started taking suitcases of beads back from New Orleans and incorporating those into my work. Now, if the need arises, I do buy beads from bead stores online. What attracts you to beads as a sculptural material? When using beads to build an object, the object slowly transforms into a huge piece of plastic and this appeals to me. How much of a role, if any, does fashion play in your object-based work or performances? How about in your daily life? Fashion is a way of life and I love living a fashionable one. As I mentioned above I have always been intrigued by your dressing to impress (or perhaps dressing to frighten small children) on nights that I have seen you around town. One outfit that sticks in my mind consisted of a leopard print leotard, purple tights, with the amazing (and pretty damn original) accessory of a pregnant belly, somehow, ingeniously tucked into your very form-fitting clothing. When you wear these “creative” outfits do you feel like you are performing? Do you often dress like this, even when not going to art-related events? Do you consider dressing up (in extreme outfits) to just be part of who you are? To me its a daily form of self expression.
Does your Mexican heritage influence the style of your work? Yes, my work is a life experience and my heritage is one to be treasured. I have seen you performing in a Ryan Trecartin video piece. How did this collaboration come about? Are you friends? What other artists do you collaborate with? I met Ryan on Friendster long ago, we were pen pals. We met once when I came to New York and since then we have collaborated on several works, he is one to be amazed by. Does working in the Monster Island building influence you? Is it inspirational to be around so many young and creative people on a daily basis? How did you end up in this space? Were you friends with Cameron and Vashti before they established the Live With Animals Gallery? Moster island is a pool full of amazement, it breaches music, art, and life. Vasthi, Cameron, and I came to meet in San Francisco, at the Painted Bird, on that same visit I met Micki Pellerano and they invited me to come to New York. They have since given me the best experience life can give one. Have you shown at other NYC galleries in addition to Live With Animals? Where else have you shown in the U.S and abroad? I show with Newman Popiashvili New York and have had shows around Europe, Mexico and the U.S.A.
Do you feel that art = life? Outside of the box, yes.
Is making art therapeutic for you? Yes.
As far as influences go, which artistes, living or dead, do you feel a kinship/bond with? JOY (aka Jason Fritz Michael) & Friend Ship, best ever!
Can you tell me a little about your performance art in the band try cry try? Yes. We put on shows themed around various topics such Hollywood, reading a letter written to a friend, etc.... We are dramatic. We also make a mess and could possibly get an audience member dirty.
Your work reminds me a bit of Yayoi Kusama’s art, with the obsessive patterning and accumulation of objects. Has she influenced you at all? Are you a fan of her work? I love her! Woman power!
What can you imagine doing if you were not an artist? Being an artist.
Image ÂŠ Violet Shuraka
Image © Violet Shuraka
Wolfy hard at work
kayrock screenprinting Q and A with Violet Shuraka
I did a studio visit with Wolfy (aka Jef Scharf) at Kayrock Screenprinting, a business that he co-founded and runs with a partner called Kayrock (nicknamed after the business). Kayrock HQ takes up a majority of the 2nd floor of the Monster Island arts building. Wolfy was preparing some prints of monster heads for a mural at the Scope Art Fair on the night I was there, after the official business operations of the day closed down, he was also helping the nice ladies from Talk Normal screen merchandise (t-shirts, onesies, and some tote bags) with a logo/image created for them by Miss Kim Gordon, while Kid Millions (of Oneida) was hanging out, cutting record covers for his side project, Man Forever, in order to print the record cover, Learned Helplessness in Rats-Rock Drummer. It seems that Wolfy often does favors for his friends in local bands, assisting them with their poster, packaging, & merch needs. Kayrock also employs a lot of Brooklyn musicians to produce Kayrock’s commercial printing assignments during the work week. Whilst hanging around the studio space, following Wolfy around, I certainly got the impression that he really enjoys what he does and also loves being involved with the Williamsburg art and music communities. He also seems to really love the art of silkscreen printing. What he and Kayrock have established as a business is pretty damn impressive. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing that people, at all hours of the night, are creating stuff and doing interesting things in their spaces in the Monster Island building. The building that you occupy on Kent Ave. is now surrounded by towering condo buildings, someone claimed (online) that Monster Island occupied “the only block in that section of Brooklyn that has NOT been rezoned for high-rise condominiums.” Is this true? Can we count on cool shit happening on Kent for years to come? Has Monster Island received any sort of protection because it houses nonprofit art spaces and small businesses? Monster Island is not protected from redevelopment in any way. There is a lease that expires in the next year or so which protects the tenants for the moment. It is, I believe, zoned for light
industrial and most likely will be transformed into something that will provide shopping opportunities to the neighboring residents. Is there anything that you miss most about the old Williamsburg, before these ugly condos made Kent look less like a dirty boulevard in a closed down manufacturing town? The city has been built on change and growth. It has always welcomed the new and different into the philosophy and fabric of the everyday and eternal in ways that seem extreme and sad to those that have weathered it long enough to see those changes more clearly and directly. Char-
lie Ahearn has a nice take on the whole idea of missing the old Times Square and how to approach the new. There are some relationships with specific people and places that I miss. How long has the Kayrock studio been part of Monster Island? Did you guys help to establish MI as an arts mecca? Do you help to organize the Monster Island block party that happens every summer? Do you often collaborate with the other artists that reside in the MI building? Kayrock Inc. is one of the founding tenants of Monster Island. Everyone that is in the building or ever been a part of it has helped establish
Images © Violet Shuraka
what the building represents. The yearly block party is a celebration of that. Secret Project Robot has always been the biggest reason that the block party happens and everyone else in the building helps out as best they can to realize the event. I have always enjoyed making the occasional map for the event and playing music at it. How much of the work done at Kayrock is commercial work for clients versus more art related printing (artists editions, books, zines, etc)? Do you prefer working on one type of project over another? The work we do has always been a reluctant marriage of contract work and artistic endeavors. The percentages always change with many different factors but we always try to balance them out and make time and room for everyone who works in and around the shop to use it freely for their own purpose. I have always preferred the art editions and printing the designs we create over contract work. The work we do for others has often challenged us in ways that have bettered us as printers and artists. Some of the artists we have printed for are directly responsible for inspiring me to be. I know that you print A LOT of band posters, are most of these posters for bands you personally know or is a lot of the business generated because of you & Kayrock’s reputation as screenprinting geniuses? It varies, most of the best work we have done has been for bands that have allowed us the freedom to create something that responds to their work. I think word of mouth and sight has always aided us in working with new and different people.
How did so many musician types end up working at Kayrock? Are they working off insane printing debt after convincing you to float them for too many posters? I think I met Kid from Oneida and I am pretty sure OJ from Golden Triangle (and other bands) works at Kayrock? Yes? Are the Talk Normal gals now indentured servants, after their t-shirt printing extravaganza? Wow, that question just makes us sound bad! No person that has ever worked for us or we have worked for is indebted to us fiscally. We have always allowed and encouraged the people that work in the shop to pursue their creativity. If that means making due with a short staff while they are touring, then so be it. The people working the other night are excited and adept enough to facilitate the manufacture of their goods. They do it as much to save a dollar here and there as to hang out with the others that lurk around the shop at night. Some of the advantages afforded people who work on the contract side of the business are free posters for their bands, a room for some of their bands to practice and record, and that is after they even get paid for the day.
It is news to me that any position is coveted and the only real qualification is persistence.
What other rock celebrities spend 9 – 5 with you guys? How does one get a coveted position at Kayrock? What are the top 3 qualifications for employment by Kayrock Screenprinting? Our paid staff is currently: Zach Lehrhoff (ExModels, Knyfe Hyts), Orlando James San Felipe (X-ray Eyeballs, Golden Triange), Christeen Francis (These Days), some guy from Red Dawn II, and another from Night Station.
Can you imagine doing anything else as a job? Cat photographer
What sort of work do you produce for yourself? I know that you are a printer of arty zines. Do you also make Wolfy art prints? How long have you been drawing for? You can check our website and my blog for deets on some stuff we are up to. It feels pretty varied and lengthy to get into. I have been drawing for over forty years and tracing for longer. You are also in a band, Red Dawn II, and used to be in the band Roxy Pain. You use a room at the Kayrock HQ as your practice space… How does music inform your art practice (music and screenprinting really do seem to go hand in hand– the other silkcreeners I have featured in my blog are also in many bands and have practice spaces in their studios!) Any thoughts on this musician/screenprinter connection? I think that many musicians and artists gravitate toward silk screen because it is a simple and easy process to create multiples. Once one does it there is an immediate lure toward more complex equations because the medium facilitates it. Music is very much like that too.
Tell me one thing about Wolfy that not many people know! The only compact discs I have in my apartment are: Leslie Gore, Greatest Hits The Doors, Soft Parade Talk Normal, Sugarland
Untitled #07, 2009
ART Q and A with Violet Shuraka
Untitled, Lissabon, 80 x 98cm 2009
Where do you currently live? Berlin, Germany. What do you like most about living in Berlin? Least? Is this where you grew up? I have lived in Berlin for three years now. I like the atmosphere, the architecture and urban planning of the the city which—mainly because of it`s history—makes the city unique. In winter Berlin gets pretty ugly, but then again, most places do... Is Berlin still the bustling, creative, inexpensive city that it has been portrayed to be in the arts media over the last 10 years? Definitely. It is one of the few capitals where one is able to have a high life quality without needing a lot of money. How long have you been taking and exhibiting photographs? What drew you to the medium and why did you choose to pursue it seriously? As a teenager I attended a darkroom course. The work with photography immediately fascinated me and has done ever since.
Untitled, Praia das Maçãs, 60 x 74cm 2009
Untitled, Chicago, 80 x 99cm. 2007
Milwaukee Avenue 06, Chicago, 35 x 43cm 2005
Untitled, Chicago, 60 x 76cm, 2005
What type of camera do you shoot with? A digital SLR or a film camera? I most often use a medium format film camera. Do you use the computer as a tool when creating your photographs? Do you ever use Photoshop as an editing tool when finalizing a body of work? I scan my negatives and sometimes adjust a few things if it makes the image stronger. Your work has been described as the documentation of “non-places.” What draws you to photograph subject matter that cannot necessarily be linked to a particular time and place? To me these places work well as “stages” for situations happening in them. One can easily use them as projections for ones own memory or experience. Yet I am curious to see if in the future we will be able to link these places to a specific time, maybe we are just not able to see it yet, as we are in the middle of it. A lot of your pictures are people-free, which makes them feel somewhat artificial and a bit
odd. Do you prefer to photograph places that are void of humans? It depends on the project, but mostly I prefer a combination of both. Do you find yourself drawn to places that seem mysterious, where strange things might be happening behind a closed door or around a foggy bend? I do like to enter unknown and odd places, photography helps to access them. When you do photograph people in the city they are often tiny amongst large architectural structures and unaware that they are being photographed. Are you commenting on human’s relationship to their architectural surroundings (how architecture dwarfs human scale) and the way architecture influences ones daily experience? My project Geography of Nowhere was definitely about this: conflicts of functionalism and individual development, the association with nature, the concourse of construction and vastness and, last but not least, to human interaction.
How do you scout out locations for photo series? Do you research places on the internet? Or do you randomly travel somewhere with the hope of finding something interesting to shoot there? I search for places on the internet, if i am looking for specific sites as in my project about landscape erosions. If I am not looking for a specific place I let chance bring me to the right place, sometimes it works. What artists do you admire? I like the works of Beate Gütschow, Taryn Simon, Sophie Calle, Edward Hopper, Gordon MattaClark amongst many others... What people / places / things inspire you? I am sure that you can sense that when looking at my images... What could you imagine doing, if you didn’t do what you do? I will think about that when I stop doing what I do, which will most probably never happen. Where can we find your portfolio website? www.annelass.de
Untitled, Berlin, 60 x 62cm 2009
Milwaukee Avenue 29, 35 x 43cm Chicago, 2005
Untitled, Praia das Maçãs, 80 x 99cm ,2009
Untitled #02, 2010
Twin Guns Q and A with Violet Shuraka
Where can we find some Twin Guns music? www.myspace.com/twingunsmusic and on facebook Who are the band members? And what do each of you play? Andrea Sicco—guitar and vocals Jim Chandler—drums and background vocals How did you meet and decide to form Twin Guns? Was the band formed in NYC? How long has Twin Guns existed? Jim: We had known each other from around town. Andrea placed an ad looking for a drummer, and I answered it. That was about 3 years ago. We started as a band called My Happy Gun, but then when we lost our bass player, we just decided to continue as a two piece. Who came up with your band name? How did you decide that you should be a two-piece? Andrea: I came up with the name. Twin Guns seemed appropriate as a name for a few reasons, but it is also a homage to the spaghettiwestern movie genre and B-Movie imagery.
Being a two-piece seems kind of iconic. Jim: It seemed too hard to find a third member who shared our vision and our influences. We were on the exact same page, and we figured that two people on the same page could be more powerful than three who might have different ideas of what they wanted the band to be like. Do Twin Guns have a band philosophy? Jim: Well, if so, it’s kind of an unspoken one. We basically just want to make the music that we like and that we miss because not many people are playing what we want to hear these days. And we want to present it right—with a stage presence that matches the mood of the music that we’re making. Andrea: ‘Less is more’ is as close as we get to a band philosophy... Musically we are aiming on bringing something else into the picture, though it’s hard to say what exactly, but it’s one exciting path to go on. There is something very celebratory into the whole experience. How would you describe your sound? Reverb-drenched & dark.
Andrea, I have noticed when I have seen you play that you have many effects pedals. Do you have a favorite? If so, what makes it your favorite, what is special about the quality of sound that it achieves? I’m going through a constant elimination process (as far as the quantity of employed guitar effect pedals) but my constant has been this one sixties japanese fuzz box, which has been often used in biker soundtracks and the like. This, I should say, is my favorite, and it gets used when the music needs to get (or give) a hard-on. Otherwise, I essentially like to get a clean sound, and keep the guitar from sounding too artificial or processed, and like to get a warm tone through a small tube booster pedal, and that’s pretty much it. Then I always make sure the amp reverb is turned up. I make sure my guitar sounds wet and exciting (or excited). You both live in NYC now, does living in NYC influence your sound? Jim: Well, I would say that our sound is a very “urban” sound. We’re definitely not writing songs about combing the beach for chicks.
Images © Violet Shuraka Left: Jim Chandler; right: Andrea Sicco
I would say that our sound is a very “urban” sound. We’re definitely not writing songs about combing the beach for chicks. Andrea: NYC has definitely influenced a lot of our music, in different ways; we are exposed to many different things, all the time. Yes, you can call it a urban sound, but the spaciousness that some of our music suggest (maybe a reflection of the landscape of our respective homelands) creates a sort of mystical vibe. Then again, we have songs about urban psychosis and subway killers as well. Where are you all from originally? Andrea is from Tuscany and Jim hails from Colorado. What other bands in NYC do you enjoy playing live with? Jim: Oh...lots. Any band that plays good, honest, real rock-n-roll. Andrea: Also enjoying artists and bands that bring something creative to the music and performance. Sometimes too often we see bands that, aside from being good players, lack of certain redeeming qualities... something that makes one stand out. Like for instance, real songs. And interesting singers.
What are your favorite venues to play in NYC? The Church in Bushwick is really great (and where we recorded our album). We had a great time at Party Xpo as well. Basically Brooklyn is where we have our best shows.
Are any of these bands an inspiration for Twin Guns music? Well yeah, the old stuff is. We dig lots of 60’s garage, rockabilly and surf music as well as 70’s New York grime.
Have you played outside of NYC? Do people seem to enjoy what you are doing? We have not played outside of NY yet. And yes, we’ve gotten a great response so far. It’s been really fun and inspiring.
Has art or film influenced your band at all? Oh yeah. Andrea especially is really into cinema and art.
What inspires Twin Guns to write songs and play shows? Jim: Expression. Andrea: We are huge music fans in general, and we get inspired by what we love. We are distilling previous forms of rock and roll music into our own healing potion. What music are you listening to currently? Old: Suicide, Scott Walker New: The Soft Moon Local: The Electric Mess, The Above, A Place to Bury Strangers, Crystal Stilts, Frankie Rose and The Outs, and lots of others...
Are any members of the band visual artists? Aside from the music-making, Andrea is also a visual artist, a painter and a graphic designer. It’s the weekend, are you staying in or going out? Jim’s working- Andrea’s on the prowl!
Aug Stone and Kate Dornan of H Bird play a game of liquor chess
H Bird Q and A with Violet Shuraka
Where can we find out about H Bird on the internet? The best place I think would be our Corporate Records page - www.corporaterecords.co.uk/ artists/H+Bird - where you can listen to all the songs. There are also Facebook and Myspace pages. As well as some free demos up at last.fm. Is H Bird a band in the traditional sense or is it an Aug Stone project with a cast of supporting musicians? Who are the collaborators/band members? What does everyone play? We’re a band. Once Kasia moved to L.A. we stopped playing live as it would be different. But I like to think the spirit of H Bird lives on. I play guitar, some of the synths, and do most of the programming. Kate Dornan sings. And Kasia Middleton plays keyboards and sings backing, and lead on Fancy Cover. Are members currently in other bands as well? Kate plays in the excellent 18 Carat Love Affair and Martin White’s Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra. Kasia composes music for film out in L.A. I have a few other projects going - Eiscafe, The Soft Close-Ups, AUNTIE, Lullaby Oscillator.
How did H Bird come into existence? How long have you been making music under the H Bird moniker? Was the band formed in London? I’d always wanted to have a band like this. In fact Sean Drinkwater (Lifestyle, Freezepop) and I had been talking about doing a project like this back in 2000, but things with Lifestyle kinda took over. Basically a really great female-fronted pop band. I’ve always loved Saint Etienne, 60s girl groups, Dusty Springfield and also Curve and Siouxsie, who perhaps aren’t so identifiable here but I did have them in mind. I had moved to London in 2003 for a few months and sometime in late autumn I was walking down the Portobello Road and I saw these 2 really cool polka-dotted teacups, one green and blue, the other red, pink and orange. When I got back to my flat, the first thing I put on was Dusty Springfield’s Stay Awhile. And I thought, “I wanna start a band that sounds like this afternoon.” And I started writing songs for it. Then in 2005 when I moved back to London more permanently, I decided I really wanted to make this happen. I had talked to Kate about maybe writing some songs together but I had no idea she could sing at the time. You don’t expect someone who is proficient at every
instrument to also have a great voice. But I went to a Scarlet’s Well gig at Water Rats, she played keyboards in the band but she sang lead on one song and I just thought she’d be perfect for what I wanted to do. I gave her the Pink Lights demo to learn at a Luke Haines gig at The ICA later that summer and she came over and sang on that and some others. We started recording everything properly with Ian Catt (Saint Etienne’s producer) in the spring of 2006. How would you describe your sound? I have described it like this on the internet: “Silver stars still visible through the morning long after you should’ve gone to bed. The sounds, loves, & drinks of last night still flowing through your heart, twinkling in your eyes. You sit staring out the window, into the softened clouds, thinking…nothing much at all really. But in that nothing much there’s everything. A bluebird strikes up a song you’ve heard a girl group do before, do better, the last sips of tepid tea rush golden past your lips as you push in your seat, draw the blinds, and prepare to reenter the world of your dreams.” And trakmarx.com once described it “like Kenickie fronting Belle & Sebastian”, which I quite like.
What other bands in London do you enjoy playing live with? We were actually very lucky in that we got to play with a lot of great bands. At our final show, Mr Solo and Eddie Argos performed as ‘The Green’, covering each other’s songs together. And John Moore even joined them on drums for one song. I heard someone say after that this was the first time he’d been behind a drum kit since he was in The Jesus & Mary Chain. That was a fantastic night. The Green dedicated Art Brut’s Move To L.A. to Kasia as she was about to do just that. We played with Luxembourg, Pipas, Scarlet’s Well, Lucky Soul...The single release party for Pink Lights & Champagne was just an amazing evening. We did it cabaret style with bands having 10 minute slots and then H Bird playing a full set at the end. Everybody did something special - Harvey Williams played, David Shah did his first solo gig, Martin White & Jamie Manners covered Are Friends Electric? with just vocals and accordian, Dickon Edwards and Charley Stone played the 10 minute Fosca song File Under Forsaken. What is the bands’ stance on enormous hats? H Bird fully supports enormous hats in whatever way we can! In fact, beginning with our 3rd gig, we always encouraged people to come wearing hats. What music are you listening to currently? Old: Funkadelic’s first album and Cosmic Slop, Guided By Voices, David Devant & His Spirit Wife, John Frusciante, Martin Newell New: Pris, The Indelicates, Shrag, the latest Divine Comedy, Anna Calvi Local: Pris, The Indelicates, Shrag Are any of these bands an inspiration for H Bird?
Hmm, perhaps some of the stuff off Cosmic Slop, like You Can’t Miss What You Can’t Measure and No Compute. I’d say the main inspirations behind H Bird’s music are Saint Etienne, Dusty Springfield, Yaz(oo), the él Records stuff... All of which I still listen to regularly, but perhaps not in the last week or so. Literature obviously influences what you are doing / writing... Could you talk about the song Fancies and Goodnights in particular? I assume it is named after the Collier short story of the same title. His stories explore the logic of lunacy, presenting the most fantastical occurrences as commonplace fact, he not only tickles the fancy, but tests our nerve, making us wonder just how deep and firmly placed are the foundations of the (seemingly) real world. I’m a bit ashamed to admit I haven’t actually read the Collier short story though I did buy the book. I saw it in The Regent Bookshop on Parkway in Camden, which has sadly since closed down. I thought that was such a fantastic title that I immediately wrote it down and went back a few days later to get the book. It’s still sitting in my to-read pile. But the way you describe it sounds excellent, just like something I would like, so perhaps I should get to it sooner rather than later. If H-Bird is still making music in 2020 and were asked to play a private show consisting solely of cover songs for the royal family (‘to cheer them up’), what songs would the set open and close with? For some reason, I think opening with The Misfits’ Astro Zombies would be a good idea. I’ve always loved that song and have often been tempted
Images © Maria Jefferis
Sometime in late autumn I was walking down the Portobello Road and I saw these 2 really cool polka-dotted teacups, one green and blue, the other red, pink, and orange. When I got back to my flat, the first thing I put on was Dusty Springfield’s Stay Awhile. And I thought, I wanna start a band that sounds like this afternoon.
to do a synthpop cover of it. I don’t know if that might “cheer them up” but closing with Boney M’s Rasputin, well, how could that not? Has art or film influenced your band at all? Yes, definitely. I’ve always thought that a work of art creates a world all its own. Maybe its not so much influence these days as being drawn to something that resonates with how you think and feel about things. But there have very definitely been instances of influence as well, such as when I discovered él Records. I was so taken in by the artwork that I spent $30 on 2 records I had never even heard of and it opened me up to this whole new world of pop music. Mike Alway always took such care with his record sleeves, I think even in one case in the 80s when the vinyl hadn’t come back from being pressed yet, he just sent the single sleeve to a journalist to review (ed.– this is awesome!). And él really did create this fantastic pop world all its own on each release. That kind of thinking definitely had an influence on making the record. I’ve always been quite taken too with how “pop” some of the French New Wave was, I’ve always loved some of the visual techniques, especially what Godard was doing. A lot of people have compared your music to the French Revolution. Why? Probably, misguidedly, because of our love of cake. And the fact that 17, 8 & 9 are our collective lucky numbers. It’s the weekend, are you staying in or going out? I am on my way to a Mr. Solo gig then to Nuisance, a Britpop night in Camden, in about an hour. I also plan to go record shopping, to a vintage fair, and to the pub this weekend.
Image © Steve Brummell
The Melting Ice Caps
The Luxembourg Underground
By Aug Stone
Back in 2009, a zine asked me to write something on the music scene in London. I used the opportunity to interview some of my favourite musical personalities at the time. They also happen to still be among my favourites as I write this today in 2011. Unfortunately, the zine went on a somewhat permanent hiatus shortly thereafter. Thankfully, Cheap & Plastique has offered to put the interviews up on the C + P blog so my efforts were not for naught. But the story itself starts long before that... On April 29, 2005 I headed to Come Out 2 Nite at the Purple Turtle in Camden to check out a band I’d heard quite a few people raving about recently. It was an exciting time—in the past week I’d discovered The Long Blondes and The Pipettes, as well as renewed my interest in The Real Tuesday Weld. The name Luxembourg had been coming up frequently lately, usually accompanied by the question “Is it about a boy or a girl? I honestly can’t tell”, said of their excellent single-that-never-was Close-Cropped (even the “three-day stubble” line didn’t quite clarify the issue). The medium-sized club was full and the atmosphere was eagerly expectant, jovial even. By the third song, the electro-rock stormer, Success Is Never Enough, I had made my way up to the front, completely sold. And by the end of the first chorus of the comical yet heartwrenching (I Need) A Little Bit More (Than You Can Give Me), I had found my new favourite band and one of the best songs of all-time, this even before I knew its title contained two
sets of parentheses. I bought their collection of work-to-date, Best Kept Secret, (which they were adamant was NOT their debut album) and the What The Housewives Don’t Tell You single (containing the b-side Close-Cropped) and proceeded to go see them live almost once a week until the end of the year. A year that culminated in the release of one of the best statement-of-intent songs I’ve ever heard, Luxembourg Versus Great Britain. I would tell anyone who would listen they were “the greatest band in the world”, and describe them, rather too simply, as “Suede meets Pulp”. The intelligent lyrics encompassing joy, sadness, and often both at the same time accompanied by a beautiful voice (David Shah) and supercatchy synths (Alex Potterill) a la Pulp with the brilliant guitar work (Rob Britton) and rock solid rhythm section (Jon Bacon, bass & Steve Brummell, drums) of Suede. Or as they put it, “pop noir”. When I moved back to the U.S. for a bit, I urged anyone traveling to London to go see them. One visiting friend even attended the gig at The Metro that Morrissey came to. And there’s The Smiths comparisons as well, though personally I’ve always thought there is more to David’s lyrics than Morrissey’s, and consider him a better singer. Roll on 2006 and the release of the debut album, Front, which also sees Jon playing his last gigs with the band. Two singles from the album—We Only Stayed Together For The Kids and Sick of DIY—preceded the full-length release in October. Visually, their records always looked great as well. Sick of DIY being one of my favourite ever
single sleeves—curtains slightly blown open as faint light falls on a lovely splash of colour in an otherwise grey sitting room; a lot like life really. And let’s not forget the Blue Skies Up: Welcome To The New Pop Revolution compilation from Lux’s own Dogbox record label featuring the majestic pop of their Not My Number, a song both bitter and sweet, led by an instantly catchy synth line. The 16-track compilation also featured Swimmer One’s We Only Make Music For Ourselves, Morton Valence’s The Kiss, The Bleeding Hearts’ Stars (soon to change their name to Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring), Bed Scenes by Robots In Disguise as well as many others. Front, when it arrived, offered the four previous singles, a handful of tracks we hadn’t heard before, and, thankfully, recent live favourites, Faint Praise, the achingly beautiful Mishandled, and the gorgeous Relief. After Jon’s departure (you can download his last gig for free on the band’s last.fm page, along with all their releases), in stepped International Man-Of-Rock and author of the official Suede biography, Love & Poison, David Barnett, to take over the bass duties. His live debut came at London’s Bull & Gate in March 2007 when Luxembourg played a secret gig as “The Exhibitionists” (three video clips from the gig can be seen on YouTube) The band was eager to perform new material and their set quickly filled with the magnificent pop of Radio, The Beast In The Jungle, Steady Pressure and the perfection of London Is Blue. A collection of “Deleted Scenes From An Unfinished Sequel”
Images © Caroline Richards New Royal Family’s David Barnett, New Royal Family’s Rob Britton, Mikey Georgeson
is available at their last.fm page. Entitled Last Holiday Before Divorce, the phrase came to Rob, somewhat presciently, in a dream. It contains all of the above plus such dreamy melancholy as I’m A Phantom and 8 more. But by the end of the year it seemed like things were winding down for Luxembourg, and in early 2008, heartbreakingly for us die-hard fans, they called it a day. But the one big consolation, as is often pointed out, is that there are now five very talented people continuing to make music in at least as many projects. Alex Potterill fronts the very glam Jonny Cola & The A-Grades. Their insanely catchy debut album, In Debt, is available for free download on the Corporate Records site. As is the brand new e.p., The Strike, from David Shah’s The Melting Ice Caps and many more songs are up for free at themeltingicecaps.co.uk (but more on Mr. Shah in a bit). Rob released a lovely solo album, Found Wanting, in 2008 that can be found for free at his last.fm page. He now plays guitar in 8-piece indie-popsters, Brontosaurus Chorus. Steve plays drums in The Melting Ice Caps live band as well as for Rebecca Jade. I could gush on and on about Luxembourg and what they meant to me—incredible, well-written pop songs played with the right combination of intense feeling and humour—but I should get on with why I’m writing all this in the first place, cycling nicely back to those interviews I did, and the last member of Luxembourg to catch up with, David Barnett. The fun all began with 2006’s romp-aroundthe-capital video for Anyone Fancy A Chocolate Digestive? by David’s The New Royal Family, a project formed to finally give an airing to songs he wrote as a teenager. And incredibly catchy and fun they are. Chocolate Digestive was released as one side of a 7” in 2007 with Keith TOTP’s classic I Hate Your Band on the flipside, and quickly became a live favourite. But nothing could’ve prepared us for what would become the song of 2008—I.W.I.S.H.I.W.A.S.G.A.Y.. Not being one
to shock easily, I was simply stunned when the opening line of “Beat me with your penis...” came through my speakers. Clocking in at a whopping 1 minute and 3 seconds, David doesn’t even really consider it a song proper, just a realization that one has much better nights out at gay clubs than at straight clubs. 2009 saw a 3 track e.p. with accompanying video for The New Royal Family Rules O.K., complete with its own dance. Disappointingly the band called it a day at the riotous gig for David’s birthday in 2010. But he’s back with something new, The Famous Cocks, who, while not an Adam & The Ants cover band, have only performed Adam & The Ants songs live thus far. And David will also be featured with my new project, Eiscafe, on our collaboration Slag To Love. Harking back to 2006 again, July 28th to be exact, I had made my way down to The Windmill in Brixton to see my beloved Luxembourg once again. It was a magical summer evening about to become even more so. I had heard quite a bit about David Devant & His Spirit Wife, the band attracted a rabidly devotional following, but I had never actually heard them yet, despite their having been around since the early 90’s. I never quite knew what to make of the name, “were they a goth band?”, but once I found out none of them were actually named David Devant and that that appellation belonged to a Victorian magician whose bag of tricks involved conjuring a spirit wife, well, it “made one wonder”. This is a phrase often associated with Mikey Georgeson, known also as The Vessel in DD&HSW (where he acts as a conduit for the spirit of Mr. Devant to come through some of the most amazing pop songs you’d ever want to hear) and Mr. Solo when he’s on his own or fronting a band of the same name. (To add to the confusion of names, it turns out it might not even have been Devant, but instead Maskelyne, who performed the trick of the Spirit Wife). Mr. Solo happened to be headlining the
evening (I believe The Indelicates were also on the bill but had to cancel as perhaps the world wasn’t yet ready for what would’ve truly been the best line-up ever) and as soon he began, I knew this was music I had been wanting to hear for a very very long time. As the Numanesque synths of Home Sick Home kicked in, Mr. Solo stood there in front of a screen showing the accompanying video, resplendent in sparkly black catsuit, silver boots, thick black eye makeup, and eye-catching quiff. It was a glorious pop moment. I rushed home to buy everything I could by the man, who I have come to regard as one of our greatest living songwriters. The best description of Mr. Georgeson’s music I have seen comes from a 1996 interview in the NME. Speaking of Devant, Mikey says, “Somewhere around 1973, pop could have gone somewhere else. And I think that we are at the end of one of those corridors that has been neglected.” For me, the music has always been difficult to describe, both familiar and strange, like a song you’ve always known but not yet knew you knew it, continually, pleasantly, surprising. There’s the Bowie influence, sure, as well as a lot of glam in both music and presentation (though perhaps there is no difference between the two), but as far as what it actually sounds like, I find it hard to pinpoint. Classic, timeless pop songs played with all the magic and enthusiasm of rock. The debut Devant album, Work, Lovelife, Miscellaneous is a perfect record, as is the follow-up Shiney On The Inside, continuing the magical glamorous journey through darker territory. The videos for the singles are also a treat—Cookie and Pimlico especially. And Mikey always surprises and delights with his lyrics, one of my personal favourites being the chorus of Parallel Universe– “Is there really only one Big Bang? Is there only one Kool & The Gang?” As Mr. Solo he has released two near-perfect records thus Continued on page 58
Images © Violet Shuraka
Heather Morgan in her Bushwick studio
Continued from page 23, Heather Morgan If you could do a big group portrait and could choose whomever you wanted to include, who might be there? People living, dead, famous or not, writers, artists, acrobats, politicians, engineers… They’d all set up in whatever setting you needed to create what you wanted, and say right, go to it! (or you could travel to them if you like). I would have loved to have painted David Bowie during his Berlin years or as Ziggy, Jarvis Cocker at the height of Pulp vanity, and a slightly older and jaded Marlene Dietrich in her seamed stockings. But I was not there in that moment with those people. I am here, these kinds of characters are all around and I am painting them. Do the people in your paintings gradually change over time, along with you? Have you made the work partially autobiographical? I am curious about that myself, as in some ways I have changed very little. Still the same overgrown lady child, wild leanings and love of messy hair. Of course, we all inch toward decrepitude and I look forward to including that in some of my figures. You do a Heather Morgan Self-Portrait every year. How long has the annual self -portrait tradition existed? Do you think ahead with each year to what kind of self-portrait that will be, or is it less formal than that? It is an entrenched classic of two years. I am interested in what pattern may emerge. Over the course of last year, I found myself talking about it quite a bit in advance, but that was probably just a clever ruse to get people to buy me birthday presents.
The women in your paintings search for enjoyment despite world strife. Do you see them as grateful to be alive and therefore celebrating?,.. or have they grown indifferent? Are they just telling us to relax a little?... These ladies are terribly ungrateful for whatever gifts they may have, life itself can be such a punishment sometimes, and indifference is the worst symptom of that. But they extend a heartfelt and daring “fuck you” to death and really, thereby, embrace the whole thing. Who can relax when there is life to be lived? Talk a bit about what brought you to this body of work, and perhaps give us some hints about what we might see next? I have been circling the drain of these themes for my entire life as a painter. I am always looking for new ways to express them, which has led me to some different ways of working, including some very fruitful collaborations with writers, photographers, and other sources of inspiration. I am of an exploratory mind about the present work, and so I have no preconceived idea about where it is going.
Continued from page 57, The Luxembourg Underground far. 2006’s All Will Be Revealed exploring a more synth-pop vein and Wonders Never Cease being my favourite record of 2009, featuring the stunning Astrology and Yellow Jelly Babies. Mikey is also constantly adding to a collection of Demonstration Songs that one can download for free from Corporate Records. And you can check out his very interesting blog at mrsolo.info.
And last but certainly not least, I had the chance to interview David Shah about The Melting Ice Caps. I first saw David perform on his own at the single release party for my band H Bird. The audience was blown away by his never-before-heard solo material, Hard To Get and Don’t Say A Word, and greatly enjoyed his cover of Kirsty MacColl’s We’ll Never Pass This Way Again. After Luxembourg broke up, those two songs would make up the first Ice Caps’ single, the former produced by Lux’s Alex Potterill and the later co-produced with myself. On themeltingicecaps.co.uk now, there have been 6 further singles, an EP, 8 other songs and a split single with The Soft Close-Ups. The Soft Close-Ups being David and myself. Having always been an admirer of David’s wonderful voice and lyrics, it has been a great honour to work with him. All The Soft Close-Ups songs thus far are also offered for free at last.fm. Having begun as a one-man project, The Melting Ice Caps now feature a full live band, who also play on the The Strike EP. Ice Caps videos have started to make an appearance too—the cute Mise En Scene as well as Pavlovian Boy and Oh Brother from the new EP. And no overview of the Ice Caps would be complete without mention of the essential pop listening that is the gorgeously bittersweet Selfish Bachelor. For the interviews with David Barnett, Mr. Solo, and David Shah please visit cheapandplastique. wordpress.com. Here you’ll also find a list of links to almost all their projects, with free music aplenty. As well as links to other excellent London bands such as The Indelicates, Keith TOTP & His Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band (often featuring Eddie Argos, Luke Haines, John Moore and up to 20 or so others), The 18 Carat Love Affair, Paisley & Charlie, The Vichy Goverment, Black Daniel and others.
Live With Animals Gallery/Monster Island Building
Artist contacts Mie Olise www.olise.dk
Nathan Wasserbauer www.nwasserbauer.com
Heather Morgan www.starboy.org
Live With Animals Gallery www.livewithanimals.org
Paul Brainard www.paulbrainard.com
Cameron Michel www.cameronmichel.blogspot.com
Paul Wackers www.paulwackers.com
Raul De Nieves www.npgallery.com/artists/denieves-selected-works.html
JoĂŤl Tettamanti www.tettamanti.ch
Kayrock Screenprinting kayrock.org
Kelsey Bennett www.kelseybennett.com
Anne Lass www.annelass.de
Christine Navin www.plastiquepeople.com