Interview by Richard Mullins for the January 2008 edition of Blah Blah Gallery
Along with a heavy dose of Pop Culture, there is a great deal of personal expression and opinion conveyed in your paintings. What are some of the cultural observations that have informed your work's content?
I’ve always been intrigued how mass media reflects, molds and manipulates our cultural consciousness. I’ve always wondered why there’s more death and tragedy in Disney cartoon’s, than in standard horror flick’s? Why does Spielberg make stronger propaganda films than Leni Riefenstahl? Isn’t it bizarre how children’s marketing is based on “nagging”, to bilk billions of parental dollars a year? I believe that the brainwashing of society by cultural media is purely intentional. This is why I take my responsibility of being a visual artist with a grain of salt. I use my “voice”, to often parody how freedoms are challenged, not just for corporate profit, but also by our own hands. I get a real kick out of painting people who make misguided choices, because everyone can definitely relate!
When you submitted your work to Blah Blah Gallery at first glance we assumed you were another anti-American, anti-Christian artist (like much of the old-guard Juxtapoz gang, Ron English etc...) You surprised us when you said you were actually a serious, believing Christian (like myself and Gregg Griffin.) How do you feel about holding such beliefs sacred in an art scene that is brutally hostile to us?
I could care less about what an artist believes. What is of utmost importance is what they’re producing. I see art and life, as “garbage in – garbage out”. With what an artist feeds there heads and hearts becomes enchanted onto their canvas. I love art so passionately, that I would take a bullet for it. I’ve always martyred my existence to Jesus, wife, child and all living things. I’ve been courageously marching through a laughable life riddled with utter failure, but my “art life” has been blessed with embracing support and unbelievable positivity. I must be right where God wants me to be.
Robert Williams has called Juxtapoz Magazine a return to well-crafted works of art. Slick, polished technique seems to be of upmost importance in your work. How do you feel about the looser work of sloppy,"bad-painters" like myself?
I believe that there’s more technical skill in a loose painting, for its spirit is vibrantly confident and blatantly knowledgeable. I can only paint tight, because I’m uptight! My greatest nightmare is having the viewer walk away with a cold, unemotional attitude. So, my twisted logic dictates that, even if the subject matter isn’t selling, they’re bound to buy into the funky details. After bugging out on painterly detail, I always vow, “The next one will be a fast, simple light-hearted romp.” Then when the next piece starts, the monster morphs into another eye-straining epic.
After the seductive quality of your paintings the dense layers of symbolism are the next wave to strike the viewer. I tend to think "Okay, I get it, wait...maybe not...what exactly is going on here?" Does it bother you that your work's message may send scrambled signals?
At the risk of sounding bohemian, or buffoonish, I really only care if the painting “Looks Cool”. As long as there’s no cheap nudity or gratuitous violence, I figure anything goes. If the viewer is looking for insight into moral character and ethical wisdom, I’ll kindly direct them toward the wonderful works of Norman Rockwell and Bob Ross. My “Sweet Blindness” piece features a humorous orgy of flesh, drugs and alcohol. The interpretation is intentionally ambiguous because it’s smart to refrain from preaching and pragmatism. Does the viewer want to really know that I was born into a family of abusive alcoholism? Maybe, but I respect them enough to leave the visual clues when intrigued enough to dig deeper. A whisper is a thousand times more powerful than a scream. So why shout?
You created a great painting containing a Japanese rising sun, skulls, a white rabbit and a crying girl on a tricycle starting to submerge into a pool of blood...can you describe what is going on in The Giving
The statement revolves around the loss of innocence. The grappling children face when they have to acknowledge death and growing up. The blood being a “river of life” symbol of transition and cleansing. The Japanese motif wasn’t symbolically specific, for these realities are cross-culturally universal. I just dig oriental design and beauty.
Another piece I enjoy but have no clue as to the meaning is, All of Them Witches. Other than some very nice celebrity portraits what is up with this one?
This piece was created exclusively as an open job application, into the lowbrow movement. I had my first group show in 2006, amongst “boat and lighthouse” painters. I knew of the pop surrealist movement, and with minimal research I discovered technically painted cartoons. I immediately knew that I had “found my calling”, and that I needed to gain respectability. So, in the process of creating this piece, I basically retaught myself how to paint professionally. I studied color theory, because I hadn’t a clue what “complimentary” color meant. The subject matter is a nudge to the National Enquirer, and to the lowbrow movement itself. I see maybe 20 visionary’s, swimming in a sea of copycats. I wanted this piece to be a marketing tool to gain viability as a unique “voice”, and thankfully it worked.
In an article written about your work it mentions that you are "bringing back the original sprit of Lowbrow." By this I guess they mean a spirit of a tight, realistic-style representation, anti-American culture that is heavy on sarcasm, low on the positive (or much of anything upbeat or wholesome?) Is this something you are trying to achieve?
I have no clue who actually penned that article, but I like it! Not only is it twisted enough to elevate my talent as a harbinger of change; it’s worded like it isn’t convinced of its own hype. The irony is that I am not a politician, preacher or alarmist. I’m just a fun-loving father, who possesses above-average artistic skills. My only agenda is hard work.
Any future projects in the pipeline for your fans to know about?
I’ll be doing some things with Thinkspace in 2008, and focusing on group shows. What I really want right now is to graciously give thanks to you and Greg for the wonderful opportunity to be a part of Blah Blah Gallery.