Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How long have you been a practicing artist and where did it all begin?
I’ve been painting for 6 years, 3 of which have been out of school. I originally went to school to play baseball and was taking art and design courses with no exact future in mind, but after the first year decided to quit baseball and focus on school. While switching majors to studio art I realized I wouldn’t have the chance to enroll in a painting class until I was a junior, so I started painting on my own. And those were some really bad paintings. That’s the inconsequential, but true, account of how it began for me.
Your work is full of characters and narratives, could you talk about where these narratives come from and what made you paint about them?
Yes. I’ll talk about the Pink Man because he’s sort of been the catalyst for the narratives over the last year and a half. It started out as just wanting to see how a cartoonish figure would get along with a realistic or art historical figure, or just a desire to have these clashing ways of painting. But he ended up being a narrative prompt and I continued to paint him, and the answer to, “how would a cartoonish figure get along with a realistic or art historical figure?”, ended up being, in the case of the pink man, not well (behaviorally)/ he’s going to fuck with them!
And so then I had this great bad guy. He messed with the other characters, he duped and tricked and gave the runaround to. And even sometimes dragooned them, deviously wearing masks of their friends or themselves. Anyhow, in making the Pink Man a recurring character, which I should mention are actually Pink Men, many other characters continued to reappear as well and it has become this ongoing battle, this ongoing giving the runaround to the other. It was easy to tell good from evil in the first few paintings, with the Pink Man being a jerk and an overall bummer to be around, but the more interactions the Pink Men had with the Realies (is guess I what I’m going to call them) the foggier the distinction became between who’s good and who’s bad. Perhaps to the point where I don’t know anymore if the Pink Men are indeed the bad guys, or I guess I don’t know if they are the worst guys.
So to answer the last part, I’m painting them to continue to find out what’s going to happen and to continue building the world these characters are in. Will the Man Whose Turning Green indeed turn completely green? What’s the most popular television show there? Does light act the same way as it does here and also, is time messed up there? What’s the deal with the Sad Trippy Smilies? Who will win in the battle between the Pink Men and The Realies? And where is Jacoby Sanders?
(Man’s voice excitedly exclaiming)
Man’s voice: FIND OUT NEXT TIME! ON, T- (cut off).
Like how Faulkner continued to set narratives in his fictional county, Yoknapatawpha.
You present your paintings with objects that are depicted in the work. How do you feel this changes the dynamics of the painting?
Well for one thing, I feel it adds an element of levity and playfulness that compounds the humor in the actual paintings— one could maybe even classify it as enjoyable or maybe, dare I say it, fun? But yeah, I see the objects/ 3D paintings functioning ostensibly as evidence of the painting’s events; as primary sources proving that these things happened and making the fiction more complex. I really think the paintings with the objects act analogously to a well-known episode of The Twilight Zone. It’s the one where the guy sees a monster on the plane’s wing and people think he’s crazy, which he eventually accepts as the truth, except at the end of the episode we see a panel of the wing has been pried up, presumably by the monster.
So we’re left thinking about this event that we know better than to believe (the speed of the plane alone foils it, I mean he’s like walking around up there on that wing… and they definitely don’t introduce a deus ex machina like sticky boots, and where would a monster get sticky boots anyway? I mean slimy feet MAYBE, but sticky boots??) yet we’re presented evidence that suggests, well, you never know.
Also, I’ve been reading Infinite Jest and I’ve been thinking about how David Foster Wallace uses footnotes. In that he uses a device that is primarily used in non-fiction and roots it within his fiction, creating a really wonderful complexity and fullness. I feel that the artifacts have a similar effect, because artifacts are usually preserved and shown as evidence or documentation of some real thing, while these objects assume that role but in the interest of fiction. In the interest of the paintings’ events and circumstances.
What is your process, how do you start a new piece of work?
I’ll usually have an idea of a gesture or a character or a particular place going into a new painting. If the painting is smaller, it may end up being fairly close to the original idea because you run into your possibilities quickly with small paintings. But with bigger work it’s just a jumping off point, after which, responses to previous moves and decisions, dictate the next moves and decisions as well as where the painting eventually ends up.
What do you hope the viewer gains/reacts from looking at your work?
A big part of why I make these narratives is influenced by wonderful experiences I’ve had with certain novels and films. So I really hope viewers can have the kind of experience that, say, Mulholland Drive gave to me. Which isn’t to say that I hope it’s like actually watching Mulholland Drive and then having people say, “Hey this isn’t Mulholland Drive”. I want it to be a fun experience, but I want it to be challenging and sort of confusing. And I don’t want answers and endings to be forthcoming.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine?
I have coffee in the morning and take care of emails or applications or whatever else. Followed by some time to read, but if I’m stressed or worried then no reading. Then I mix paint or just get painting depending on what the circumstances are, and I usually do that until 7pm, or I guess in between 6pm and 8pm. I also work nights at a bar, which I do more often or less often depending on how much I absolutely have to.
How do you go about naming your work?
I usually just sit with it for a while and try to give it a title that doesn’t distract the narrative. Since there is a lot happening in them already, austerity is best, just something to sort of brace them.
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
I was really excited to see that Tynan Kerr and Andie Mazorol have a show coming up in NY. Their work was what made me want to start painting and I already know their new work will blow us all away, cant wait to see it. Jordan Kasey is like a master of light, her work has been on my mind. Joan Cornella’s hilarious cartoons. I’ve been looking at a lot of medieval paintings especially Giotto. But in general, the way the painters during that time dealt with perspective and how warped some of the work ends up, as well as scale distortions, there’s something continually curious about them. And, oddly, a couple Raphael paintings and a couple Masaccio paintings.
What does the future hold for you as an artist? Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
There’sis a shirt that I painted on a character that’s advertising a show called The Hand Soap Opera, it’s suppose to be this show that’s popular in this world and was inspired by a Wheel of Fortune ‘before and after’ puzzle. Anyway, I painted a physical iteration of the shirt and also wrote a script for one episode of The Hand Soap Opera, which I’m hoping to shoot later this summer. I’ll stop there, but I’m excited for it. I also received a Jerome Foundation fellowship this year and will have a show with the four other awesome recipients at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design this fall.
Publishing date of this interview 24/06/16