Friday, August 29, 2008

Interview with Gregory Hergert

Pop the corn, pour the drinks and take a seat...BBG is back from summer re-runs! Ladies and Germs we bring you the intriguing and fairly often twisted visual vibrations of Gregory Hergert. We found this smooth paint-slinger while clicking away in the vast pages of Flickr Land. Be warned...these works ain’t for the timid!

INTERVIEWED by Richard Mullins
Okay, let's get the easy stuff out of the way. Where and when were you born into this world and where is your studio located?
While my father was earning his doctorate at Oregon State I was born in 1952. In a rough and tumble logging town at the base of the Olympic mountains I grew up trout fishing, wandering in the woods, and occasionally making artwork. After my father was transferred to NYC I met kids who took art seriously. Currently I have a giant basement studio in Pottstown Pennsylvania. Unfortunately because I'm a packrat,collector,gatherer of the obscure,and chaotic piler sometimes the only place to draw is with a sketch pad on my lap.
Some of the artists we have shown here on Blah Blah Gallery lean more to the commercial illustrator side but I have to say you are firmly on the 'studio' side. (my term for paint-slingers who paint what ever the &$%* they want.) What drives you to snag the brushes and get it down?
Because I wasn't willing to trade freedom for success I've always been on the fringe. I nursed my mom who had Alzheimers until her death last year. Due to the stress, I suffered from a reccuring nightmare,which was watching helplessly as my art was hauled off in a dumpster. Yet,even though I'm on a mission to stay out of the landfill,I cling to the freedom to make whatever I want possibly at the expense of success.
The work of yours that sold me on your stuff was Twister (right.) Great use of greyscale values, smooth rendering and being from Oklahoma originally, tornado imagery gets my attention. The face on the female figure looks specific and generic at the same time. Are your figures based on photos or live models or are they straight out of your 'ole noggin'?
A famous illustrator lived near me in New Jersey and took me under his wing and taught me the tricks of the illustration trade. He photographed with a 4x5 polariod camera,shooting reference pictures for every element in his illustrations. My assignment one week was to find a girl and convince her to let me photo
graph her nude for an illustration. Sweating bullets I asked a girl at my part-time job and much to my surprise she agreed. Trying to be professional I snapped pictures as she stripped and then shot various Playboy style poses. Proudly I brought my photos to my mentor and he looked at them with no real expression,then he said "let me borrow these"...I never saw them again!
You probably get tired of the surrealism comments but it's hard to overlook. Who is your favorite Surrealist artist?
One summer I scrounged through my neighbors trash looking for collage materials. Soon I was learning their darkest secerts and scotch taping them to my drawings like voodoo portraits. Later that Fall the first book about Joseph Cornell was published and I discovered the supreme master, the scrounger,the assembler, and weaver of
mystery from the ordinary. I stacked my drawings,wrapped them with
brown paper, tied them with string, and didn't look at them again for
twenty years.
In 'Navy' you turn a human woman into an octopus or the other way around.
Can you give any inside on what you were thinking when you painted this gem?
The band Madams video production company Mdoll has a stylized octopus logo.They wanted my artwork in their latest video. On the upper east side of Manhattan I would see these rich ladies walking their little dogs and I always enjoyed watching them bend over and scoop up a fresh steaming turd. So in my painting Navy a rich octopus dressed in nautical is out shopping and walking her little cuddlefish which squirts some ink on the hydrant. Since there's women in the band I deleted the steaming turd!
Erotic desire seems to be the gas in the tank on many of the works you posted on Flickr. What aspect of human sexuality most informs your work? (sorry to get all Art Forum on you but enquiring minds want to know.)
Miss Harvey my fifth grade teacher wore tight skirts, pointy pumps, and nylons with seams. One night sitting in my bed,with knowledge gleaned from the Sears catalogue, I drew her removing an article of clothing with each drawing.
What's up with the Witches series? (mostly too X-rated for BBG, hit Gregory’s site to view ) Did you have a run in with one of them Burning Man/Wicker Man witchy chicks or what?
I live in this old mansion in Pennslyvania. The man who built it died in the house two years after it was finished. The previous owner was convinced the house was haunted but I don't believe in the supernatural. Late one night, while alone in the house working in my basement studio I heard someone walk across the hardwood floor of the dining room above me. With my heart racing I grabbed a weapon and crepted upstairs fearing an encounter with a burglar. I checked every room,closet, and hiding space as well as every door and window...nothing! I believe in the power of the imagination to make things real which is the greatest gift of the artist. Witches are my favorite theme in autumn. Feminism hijacked witchcraft and reduced it to a legitimate religion. By hyper-sexualizing witches I'm attempting to restore them to the pantheon of imagination and horror.
You throw religion into the mix at times. Any belief system for you there or is it mainly more petrol for the paint engine?
I was hitchhiking around America when I joined this Christian group called Youth with a Mission. That Spring a bunch of us went to Russia to protest in Red Square their lack of religious freedom.On May Day morning just outside of Moscow a flatbed truck flanked by machine gun toting soldiers blocked the road.They pulled us from our vehicles and linedus up. I stood there imagining being gunned down and stacked on the truck. Eventually a black sedan arrives and out come some KGB types who photographed and interrogated each one of us while demanding to know who was behind this plot to shame the Soviet Union!
'Fish Fry' (right) comes across as old school Low Brow. Are there any artists that you look to for inspiration in the Low Brow cannon?
I'm a huge fan of Glenn Barr. He painted a wayward Betty Rubble as a hooker sitting in a bar...ideas like that are inspirational. Even though his technique is loose he creates convincing original environments for his erotic characters. Recently some books have come out about the truely old school low brow art of Bill Ward. If you love erotic drawing he is fabulous.I own one of his drawings and have borrowed several techniques from it.
I encountered a huge battle fighting the old school feminists in my time at the San Francisco Art Institute (for my use of female figures in the Song of the Snowman series.) They would probably put you in hairy armpit HELL for your stuff! Since your work is often over the top do you ever get angry feminist throwing poop at you?
I illustrated an article for High Times magazine about this new drug which delivered erotic ectasy. So I painted a writhing nude in high heels mounted on spikey steel prods. When the female office staff saw the proofs they mounted a protest and tried to shame the art director to drop my illustration. He told me how ironic it was for people who smoke dope at work and celebrate worldwide anarchy that they would march for censorship!
Great to get to chunk some questions at you, Gregory. BBG and it's global fan-base are looking forward to seeing the super cool stuff you will be putting out in the future!
Even though I cracked the door open just a smidge it's been such an honor to share with the BBG fans! Richard thanks for the great questions.It's been a true pleasure! -END


DeBRiNa PRaTT said...

How wonderful to get a peek inside Greg's mind!

dan may said...

yes, excellent interview... nice to learn more about mr. hergert and his incredible art!

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