Ksat - The Secret Issue - Out TODAY by Spirited Magazine

Ksat is an art publication lead by the idea of collaboration & interaction between artists and different forms of art.

They developed a story to accompany the images they were creating and its release tonight - featuring art performances and visuals from over 20 artists - brings art, design, music and other various creatives into play.

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Watch The Secret Issue at Maison du Portuga invite:

Preview Ksat and order this beautiful independent and handmade publication HERE

KSAT
KSAT

Interview // Raul Gonzalez by Spirited Magazine

“I feel like I'm creating the work that I've wanted to create since I was a little boy. And the first influences I had as an artist, were artists who were either in comic books, on tv or in cartoons. And those were works of art that were very accessible to a boy like me who grew up in a place that didn’t have the Museum of Fine Arts or The Institute of Contemporary Art. So the spinner rack at the local 7-11 was my Museum of Fine Arts and I like for my artwork to be very accessible to people who might not have museums in their lives. My work is a true reflection of my love of this art form.”

As soon as I heard this from the mouth of Somerville artist, Raul Gonzalez, I was tempted close my notebook, thank him for his time, and ride off into the sunset. What a perfect summation. Over the course of Raul’s life, from border town to big city, his visual vocabulary has been shaped by a polarizing, yet strangely cohesive array of images, memories, and experiences that imbue his work with a refreshing sense of rawness, honesty and accessibility.

Read Full Interview by Liz Devlin of Flux Boston in Spirited VI  

Interview / / Cash For Your Warhol by Spirited Magazine

 Cash For Your Warhol

Cash For Your Warhol

“My feeling about ideas is, you can’t do an idea so that people will talk about it, or so that you’ll sell a bunch. The ideas are really a form of expression and that’s all there is. And for me, I do these things without regard of the outcome. They may suck, they may be good, but I want to experience the process of putting it out there so that people can respond to it in some way.”

Boston-based conceptual artist and photographer Geoff Hargadon transformed the pervasive Cash for Your House signs of a recession-plagued nation into an internationally recognized prank. The signs fix certain iconic images in the mind, and set the tone for dizzying range and rapid expansion across the country. “I thought it was interesting conceptually, cohesive, I liked the design. I enjoy and appreciate graphic design, so I wanted to have a design that looked kind of ambiguous. I made a bunch and it just kind of caught on. There were things that happened that never crossed my mind would happen.”

Read Full Interview by Amanda Maciel Antunes in Spirited VI  

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Interview // Visual Artist Adam Paladino by Spirited Magazine

Spirited #5 [Noir Generation]
Interview with Adam Paladino
by Amanda Maciel Antunes

 Studio Visit

Studio Visit

Under the influence  of old Hollywood, Goya, and Kollwitz, Adam Paladino rebelled against his difficult youth with a visual explosion of exhilarating drawings, story telling and haunting dreams. He was born and raised in Boston, where he studied printmaking with Master Printer Antonio Frasconi, and graduated from Purchase College School of Visual Arts. Paladino’s work moves from tense and moody to stark and beautiful and we’re delighted to reveal just a fraction of it here.

I love your work and I think you perfectly use light and dark; they are immediate and enduring. How do you start a piece of work? How long does it take for you to complete one?

The  first part of my process is gathering images that inspire the drawing aspect. I would never have the audacity to call myself a photographer, but I can take pictures sufficient enough to help me set up the compositions. I try to set up little scenes like out of a play or stills from a film. When I get to the drawing part, I go nuts. Layers and layers of tone, rich blacks, accents of muted pastel, and the build-up of line!  
I will usually spend anywhere from five to ten days working on several drawings at a time.  Each vary in how long they take to individually produce. In printmaking the process is much longer so I could spend anywhere from a few days to a few years developing pieces visually and conceptually.

And how do you feel when someone approaches you to buy one?

It is nice when people appreciate your work. Particularly, it is nice when someone makes a personal connection to something I’ve done. This Russian violin professor bought a large etching collage of mine. The image featured lots of broken violins aggressively moving through the space. For her it was very personal piece. As I sat in her home having tea and apple cake, she told me that her violin saved her life in a car accident fifty years ago. She brought out the remains of the busted violin and case. It gave me chills.    

Tell me something that inspired you recently.

I have always been inspired by other art forms such as dance and old Hollywood films.
As a child, I was surrounded by such imagery. My grandmother and I watched a lot of films with such Hollywood stars as Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich, and Orson Wells. Getting lost in the moodiness of films like Mildred Pierce and Citizen Kane is still vivid in my mind. As a kid I was exposed to dance, as my mother and I volunteered at theaters in the area and my father was a concert violinist.
Lately, I have  been very inspired by people around me. I feel lucky to live in a city with such a diverse community of artists of so many different trades.   

What do you like most about what you do?

I like being able to lose myself in it. Sometimes it feels almost like being a film director through the progression of pieces I make. I love to tell stories.  And secretly, I really just love making pretty things. However, my version of pretty is a little grittier thank most peoples’. I like having that quality though.

It feels like there’s a narrative to your pictures – do you have a story for each one? Where do your ideas usually come from? 

Absolutely! My work is primarily narrative. The works all tell a story in their own  way. They are mostly based on life experience, dream, and memory.  Art is also a way of expressing myself about tough issues I am dealing with. Whether revisiting childhood memories of my father aggressively playing the violin in a manic frenzy or creating a figure that reflects the solace of being a gay man in a dangerous world, my imagery strives to tell stories that work together to create one big narrative. The visual language or style lends itself  to telling the story in a provocative way. There is a sense of despair yet grandeur in the figurative aspects, vacant environments, and moody lights and darks.

Have you been insane before? Have you been in insane situations?

Absolutely! There was a period in my life where I was so absorbed into grotesque styles of living, that I completely lost my grip on reality. I almost lost everything due to this. I’ve also dealt with chronic pain my entire life due to a series of orthopedic issues. Having surgeries and chunks of time of not being able to walk have definitely taken me to some dark places. I was insane during many of those times. I’ve been insane with lovers and in interacting in other relationships as well.

 self-portrait

self-portrait

To read the rest of this piece, purchase the digital or print edition

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TWO-FACE VALUE BY VELA PHELAN by Spirited Magazine

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Paper currency or national banknotes usually have legal tender status and are accepted at face value without discounting. National banknotes of Western countries have a history of backing in gold or silver and sometimes both; however, most of today’s national banknotes have no backing in precious metals or commodities and have value only by fiat. Fiat money is money that derives its value from government regulation or law: the initial value of fiat money is established by government decree. The term derives from the Latin fiat (“let it be done”, “it shall be”) . Fiat money’s value is unrelated to the value of any physical quantity.

TWO-FACE VALUE projects the real physical value of fiat money in its truest form. The art, historical content, symbolism of a countries values and heroes is what adorns all paper currency around the world. That art gives fiat money its only physical value. It is said that we accept currency at a face value yet it has two sides. Two faces. The physical form itself displays the deceit and contradictory values of this economy. Gold is gold, silver is silver and diamonds are diamonds but fiat currency is only a historical document of art from the worlds countries and governments.

TWO-FACE VALUE is a live 2 hour mixed video containing over 150 samples of fiat currency by unnamed artists from all over the world and spanning from 1101ad to 2008.

[TWO-FACE VALUE by Vela Phelan is a site-specific installation for our Money Issue Event at Fourth Wall Projects July 29th 8pm - RSVP HERE]

A Play: Projection by Spirited Magazine

Spirited #5 [Noir Generation]
by Allison Vanouse
Illustrations by Amanda Maciel Antunes

PROJECTION
A short play for three people and a film.

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The action takes place simultaneous or responding to the classic film noir THE MALTESE FALCON, which plays sometimes with sound, sometimes silently, and is sometimes left in still image. It could work on a laptop, on multiple television sets, and/or a large screen suspended behind the action. At some moments, actors respond to the dialogue in the movie. This is indicated by offset dialogue in the script. Apart from these interjections, you ought to imagine the film as a constant presence as you read—it is another character onstage. Placement & use of the footage is up to the designer, but it should all be from THE MALTESE FALCON, or its original trailer footage.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:

SAM – a sort of reincarnation of Dashiell Hammet’s Samuel Spade, brought to life in a 20-something with devil-may-care preoccupations through the immortal magic of cinema & its effect on self-perception. He is self-consciously tough, sharp, and smart – often at the expense of his own happiness – with almost irritating, affected 1940s speech patterns.

THE GIRL – A sort of self-conscious inhabiteuse of the femme fatale trope, she is perhaps more innocent and deep than she wants to tell anybody, and also more easily wounded. Caddy Compson is a good touchstone, if you’ve read The Sound & the Fury.

EFFIE – A David Lynchian image; Effie is a spectral secretary of Bogart’s era. You can think of her as a slightly aged Lee Patrick, called into being by Sam’s tough guy manner, and forced to witness his mistakes. Her scene with Sam at the end of the play was the original, scripted ending of THE MALTESE FALCON, but was omitted in production in favor of Bogart’s snappy line, “the, uh, stuff that dreams are made of”. Perhaps Effie relives this wrenching, unfulfilled scene again and again. She is a surreal contrapuntal to the naturalism of the rest of the play – the other two characters operate in a nervous, high-strung kind of time. Time for her is more, shall we say, glacial.

There is a bed, a desk chair with wheels, a couple of desk lamps (on the floor), tobacco & papers & matches & maybe some cheap cigars. Disarray. All of the light should come from the prop lights and the film — our world here is fairly dark.

House lights go out. Film is playing. Over this,

THE GIRL enters, almost silently. SAM notices. She, feeling his gaze, undresses coquettishly, and goes to tackle him,

SAM
Lay off, will you, I’m watching something

She tries again, maybe more self-consciously bothering him, sits on his back or pokes him with her feet, or or or.

SAM
Fuck off! Come on, angel, gimme a second.

Giving up, she turns to the audience. Putting on a pair of Groucho-Marx-style glasses. She speaks to the audience.

THE GIRL
I need a man.

I need a man good-looking enough to pick up a dame who has a sense of class, but he’s got to be tough enough to swap punches with a power shovel. I need a guy who can act like a bar lizard and backchat like Fred Allen, only better, and get hit on the head with a beer truck and think some cutie in the leg-line topped him with a breadstick.

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He is behind his cheap office desk, back to the window. His jaw is long and bony, his chin a jutting V under the more flexible V of his mouth. Thickish brows rising upward from twin creases above a hooked nose. His dark hair grows to a point on his forehead. He looks rather pleasantly like Satan. He is rolling a cigarette. He does not look up. He is barefoot in checked pajamas sitting on the side of his bed. He pours a drink, drinks it standing, pours another. His face is stupid in its calmness. The room is in complete darkness save for a pale rectangle that is the window. A dark sedan is parked directly in front of the entrance. He looks at me with eyes that glitter between narrow lids. He leaves me standing in the center of the floor looking after him with dazed blue eyes.

SAM
Ah. So Ryan Gosling?

THE GIRL
You’ll do, in a pinch.

SAM
Yeah, well, I don’t come out well on video.

THE GIRL
Sure you do. On film anyway. Everybody looks cheap in video.

SAM
I don’t like the way I look in color.

THE GIRL
Hm. Well, the world is in color, so I get that for free. Black & white is more dreamlike, more timeless. You’re like an uh, a stylistic alternative.

Beat – she’s doing something self-demonstrating

SAM
You’re not exactly the sort of person you pretend to be, are you?

THE GIRL
How do you mean?

SAM
Just like that.

THE GIRL
Well. I am a liar. I’ve always been a liar.

SAM
And that’s double deception. Refusing to presume that your opponent is an idiot, you incorporate a default level of skepticism, an impulse to automatically disbelieve everything. whoever must be deceived in order for the plot to proceed is already suspected of being suspicious, thus leaving the deceiver with only one option: telling the truth.

THE GIRL
Well, as a criminal in a world full of criminals, I can only assume that my opponent will assume I am lying, and if I indeed lie, any skeptic will immediately see through the deception; second, on the other hand, if I presume that my opponent is a sucker and go about my business without trying to deceive anyone, you will surely surprise me by being smarter than you appear; and finally, since neither of these techniques will work, the only viable strategy is to point the finger back at myself, but in a veiled way, deliberately forcing you to see the illusion, but allowing you to see through it, effectively snaring the skeptic in his own circular reasoning.

SAM
Well, you know angel, if one’s opponent is inclined to believe that you are going to lie, then one possible recourse in deception (indeed perhaps one’s best recourse) is to tell the truth, thus leading your opponent in the wrong direction.

THE GIRL In Groucho Marx impression
This man looks like an idiot and acts like an idiot–but this should in no way deceive you: he IS an idiot!  Laughter
I love you.

She waits for a response, but there is none. He turns from her, or fucks up his rolly.

THE GIRL
I have so much love for you I’d like to wear it out to dinner.

SAM
Oh yeah? What’s it look like?

THE GIRL
Shiny. Black as coal.

SAM
Ha

THE GIRL
The muscles holding your smile stand out like walls.

SAM
The better to hang your picture on, angel

THE GIRL
I think
Love’s better than logic.

SAM
Ha
Softer anyway. Til you’re up against the wall.

THE GIRL
The better to hang my picture on. The muscles-

SAM
Shh. He’s playing the movie.

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To read the rest of this piece, purchase the digital or print edition

Interview // Visual Artist Eryn Tomlinson by Spirited Magazine

Spirited #4 [Plastic City]
Interview with Eryn Tomlinson
by Meggie Sullivan

I first saw Eryn Tomlinson’s work on an iPhone screen.
“Look, it’s you in a painting”, said my friend Liana pulling the screen to my face. She had snapped a shot of a painting from the Rhode Island School of Design’s (RISD) senior art show, thankfully catching the artist’s name below. Feeling curious and impressed, my mission to learn more began with a phone call to Eryn’s Denver home. Thank you, Internet.

“Hello?” a seemingly shy and young voice answered the phone. But as our conversation progressed, a heard wisdom and experience debunked my first impression. Like her words, Eryn’s work reveals maturity. Reflecting controlled balance, energy, and a deep understanding of color, the canvases arise from her meditations. Each piece starts at a central point, developing in spontaneous freehand and almost perfect symmetry. As observers, the product is our visual meditation as well. This is art’s most elusive aim, yet now achieved.
 
M: How’s it going out in Denver? Is the Midwest summer treating you well?
E:   I’ve been working at a kids’ art camp for the summer and painting whenever I can. I love being around kids because they’re so creative. After I get a paycheck I’m like ‘What, I get a paycheck? This was too much fun.’  I could see myself teaching in the future for sure. I’ve also been trying to get my portfolio together and applying to this residency called Anderson Ranch.
  
M: How did RISD grab your allegiance?
E: When I first visited, I went to the Nature Lab where they have all sorts of dead animals and bones and things to draw. I liked the colonial feel of Providence; everyone is really dedicated to what they do. At the other [art] schools they’re a little too laid back and unfocused. 
 
M: At what age did you pick up a paintbrush? And at what age did you declare ‘I’m an artist?’
E: My mom is an artist. She’s a painter and teaches art, and took me to her classes when I was little. That got me going creatively from the start. My dad is a writer. They’re always working on stuff and I thought that was normal. I was always doing projects. Growing up I never thought I would end up going to school for art, or becoming an artist as a career. I wanted to be a fashion designer in high school.

M: What are your thoughts on the state statement that ‘Fashion is art’?
E: I’m very influence by a lot of designers: Alexander McQueen, the digital prints of Basso and Brooke. I certainly believe in that statement. Wash colors right now are part of this generation and neon or digital. It’s all connected.

M: Tell me about the process of making your pieces.
E: I start out with a palette idea; I never know what it’s going to look like. If I’m doing a symmetrical piece I measure the center and side points but not everything is always perfect. I only use my hand – I don’t use a ruler on most of the lines because I want the process to be completely organic. I start at the center and work my way out or start at the end and go to the center. It’s very much like the process of sacred geometry. The painting turns out to be like a crystal or a pyramid as I go along.
 
M: What is your greatest inspiration?
E: The design of nature is my number one source – it’s incredibly symmetrical. Also, all other artists and creative people are very inspiring. I’m inspired by ancient architecture; it’s symmetrical but also organic. I enjoy Buddhist and Native American art.

M: How do you feed your creative process? How do you keep things fresh?
E: It’s become a part of my daily routine at this point. It’s like going to yoga class – doing a little of it everyday. The more I do, the more creative I feel and more satisfying it feels. My new rule is once I start I have to finish it. Consistency is really important. If I make something crappy I have to finish it.
  
M: Are you religious?
E: I don’t like to be defined by one thing – I read a lot about different religions. There are different things I take from each of them. I like the idea of everyone having their own religion. I don’t think there’s any one way to do things or to believe. I believe in energy and that what you think and how you act makes a huge difference in the world. I live by that. I believe in being positive. I’m into cult things – and hippie things.
 
M: Do you have a mentor in your life?
E: There are so many people, my parents are my mentors, my sisters. Lately, I’ve been fascinated by two female artists. Emma Kunz is one; when my teacher told me about her I thought I was her reincarnation. She’s inspiring because she was also a healer. Frida Kahlo has also always been inspiring. I am really inspired by anyone who keeps doing what they like to do even if they don’t get any success in their lifetime. They do it because they want to.
 
M: Are you good at math? Your paintings show abstract symmetry, but symmetry nonetheless.
 E: I wish I were good at geometry. In high school I barely passed any math classes.
 
M: How do others describe you art?
E: I have heard a variety of descriptions about my artwork. One of my classmates at RISD said they should be inside of a meditation room, another person said they reminded him of computer screen-savers, and another one of my classmates said they looked like laser-light shows at a rave. But I think generally most people always comment on the artificial light that the color creates, the geometry, and I always get the question of ‘why do you make them symmetrical?’ That is something I am still trying to answer for myself.
It is nice to know that most people enjoy looking at them, and don’t feel the need to immediately ask: What are your sources? Why do you draw geometry? What are they about? I want people to ask these questions, but I also just want them to have an experience with the environment of the paintings before they think too hard about them.  

M: How do you call your style to a blind person?
E: I would describe it as if they could imagine a spiritual energy- as an ambient sound. Maybe they could touch something in nature. I did take some video at RISD – I would like to make more videos that are sound based. 
 
M: If no one could say no to you, what would you be up to? 
E: Ideally I would like to have an art show or solo show coming up – New York would be great. I’d also like to simply be happy. I want to get my own house, I want a cat, I want to be able to paint everyday and have a job and still be able to go out with friends.
 
M: How much is one of your paintings and where should I put in my house?
E: I’ve sold one piece at $400 which is pretty good for now. There are about five of my pieces still in Providence. They’re in the “New Contemporary Show “ at Galmen Gallery – thankfully I don’t have to pay to ship them. They are all around $400- one’s on panel are at $500.
I want people to put them in their homes or simply make their personal space more enjoyable.
 
M: What kind of satisfaction do you get from your art? What kind of satisfaction do you want me to get?
E: To me it’s about the meditative zone. It’s satisfying to make things that are symmetrical. I once read that symmetrical pictures are supposed to have a calming affect on the brain. Your brain just likes to see it. It makes me happy when others say looking at them is calming, it’s why I make them.

Eryn Tomlinson

Interview // Visual Artist Heather Morgan by Spirited Magazine

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Spirited #3 [Archive: Museum of Innocents]

Interview with Heather Morgan

by Amanda Dugay Forrester

Once in a great while I see a gal at a party I must get introduced to. Sometimes she’s the loud one, or the one hogging the karaoke mic. Sometimes she’s the mysterious one wearing a costume and flirting with all the boys. This time she was the one I heard was wild and silly and a fantastic New York City girl who paints. Heather Morgan’s work is stark and seductive, her subjects reek of sensuality yet somehow also of innocence, and are often as she puts it “in the midst of a manic celebration– in the face of death.” Isn’t that what we’re all doing, both inside and outside of art—celebrating the mere fact we are still breathing and able to celebrate both life’s decadences and miseries? I had the distinct privilege to sit down with Ms. Morgan and pick her brain about her life and work.

A. I’d love to hear a bit about your background and your childhood.

H. I moved around a lot as a kid, finally settling in Jersey City. I struggled with isolation because my parents were very strict and frankly, very cruel. I lived very much inside my own head since I was often retreating internally from miserable circumstances.

A. Do you think the suffering and isolation you felt back then finds it way into your work?

H. That kind of upbringing definitely informs my work. I am very much interested in how struggle empowers us, and how our frailties make us beautiful.

A. Did you always love art when you were a kid? What did you want to be when you ‘grew up?’

H. I loved to draw when I was a kid. I had a distinct fantasy about life as a painter, a painter as one who could weave something compelling out of suffering. I did not have a particular vocation in mind, but I wanted to use my brains to escape and achieve brilliance at something. I focused in school on the sciences and dreamt of carrying my teddy bear around at Oxford like Lord Sebastian Flyte in “Brideshead Revisited.”

A. What were you like back then? What were your interests? Are any of them still the same?

H. I was a pretty moody kid. Sometimes I would scream and pound my head in the floor because I could not understand the sadness I felt. My favorite things were playing with Barbie, roller-skating, and reading voraciously. I still love to read and to shape-shift my identity through fashion, but I’m afraid roller-skating has fallen by the wayside.

What do you think led you to painting? Have you worked in other mediums?

H. I wanted to study painting because of romantic ideas about the life of a painter– swanning around the city drunk, with prostitutes and various miscreants, creating myself, being independent. Things that I think bear a very indirect relationship to the actual practice of painting. I also enjoy writing a great deal, and have done some photography and acting. I love collaborating with artists in all areas.

A. I get struck by just how frail many of the subjects in your paintings seem, and yet there is this fire in their eyes too—this fierceness or power. I love that contrast. What would you say are the underlying themes of your work?

H. My work depicts mainly women in the performance of their identity, their gender. They are in the midst of a manic celebration in the face of death, the essential dilemma of living as conscious, existence-craving beings.

A. So, painting is what gets you out of bed in the morning?

H. I have a very hard time getting out of bed in the morning. I have a terrible habit of at first cursing the day before properly seizing it.

A. I’m the same way. I bet it’s because we stay up way too late wandering the streets! Ha. What do you think your art does for you?

H. I began studying and practicing art as a way to feel as though I had something worth living for. It still works, so I am very dedicated to it. Art making offers much more to me now than just a lifeline, it is the language for creating and reinventing myself.

A. How would you describe your paintings to someone who was blind?

H. I would punch them in the face and then try to make out with them. But that would be very, very wrong.

A. What is your take on or your relationship with color? I am in love with the bold colors in your paintings, especially all the reds and pinks.

H. I look for color everywhere and exaggerate it. I operate most fluently in the warm range, with pinks and reds and yellows all setting a scene of ardor and defiance.

A. I find your paintings to be sexy and yet somewhat disturbing at the same time. Would you agree?

H. My work can be appreciated as sexy. I find beauty to be no small feat. But more than a momentary glance will tell you that a dark heart beats within, that these figures are rather deranged, icons that embody struggle.

A. Also, I notice you paint mostly women, did that start intentionally or did it evolve from something else?

H. I am interested in embodying the most appealing qualities of both genders- beauty, strength and frailty. I often imbue my female figures with characteristics seen as typically masculine, even if they retain a feminine appearance. The men I paint tend to be somewhat androgynous. I am interested in how we perform the perceptions of who we are, including our genders. I think I mainly paint women because I happen to be one.

I heard through the grapevine that once upon a time you lived in Germany. What was that like? Did that experience find its way into your paintings?

I lived in Berlin for four years after finishing grad school. This was before the Euro was built, and before the art scene was so red hot there. I was there to learn German and live in a squat in the former East. My work there portrayed the life of a young Berliner, as hip and damaged as the city itself.

Are there any places you’d like to travel to that you haven’t visited yet?

I really want to go to Asia: Japan, China, and India. This gives me a heavy heart in light of all the devastation in Japan.

Tell me about your typical day in the studio. How often do you go there? How about a typical day when you aren’t working on art? What’s your life in NYC like?

I work in an office during the day. I go straight to the studio in the evenings, stopping for some cheap food on the way. I stay there until about 10 or 11. If I don’t get in there at least three nights in the week, I come in on the weekend as well. I am lured away from the studio some evenings by art openings, rock shows, and occasional fancy dinners. I hope I am living the art life, running around in crazy outfits and hairdos to parties and openings, biking at 4am in stupid shoes when no one else is around, dragging myself out of bed anyway for photo shoots and studio time.

Can you name some of the artists you admire or ones who have influenced your work?

It is pretty evident from my work that I have looked a lot at the German Expressionists (Otto Dix and Max Beckmann) and also Alice Neel and John Currin. But today I find I am most influenced by the music I am listening to, as well as my collaborations with friends.

How about naming some films/bands/writers who inspire you or whom you just adore?

I am inspired by David Bowie, Jim Jarmusch, and Jarvis Cocker. I love Oscar Wilde, Baudelaire, Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole. I love Morrissey and the Arcade Fire. Dorothy Parker and Jane Austen.

Can you tell me about the nun paintings? They’re my favorites I think.

I am fascinated by the habit. There is a curious effect achieved by masking some portion of the body, and highlighting others. The starkness and graphical quality of the black and white adds another visual layer. I was not raised with any religion so I look at the habit purely visually, mysterious and with erotic potential. This is why I painted half dressed “nuns”. I also enjoy subverting religious symbolism, turning an icon of repression into an object of freedom of sexual enjoyment.

You’re very much into fashion, as evidenced by the many photos I’ve seen of you– do you find your art affects your fashion choices or vice versa?

Both. Sometimes I am keying the scenes in the paintings to something I am interested in, and sometimes I am following them.

When are you wild and when are you calm and focused?

I am always calm and focused when I am working, though I can sometimes be giddy late at night. Wildness is saved for the streets and bars and living rooms.

What did you learn in the last 10 years of your life, you only could have learned during that time?

In the last ten years I have perceived time moving more rapidly, as each day becomes a smaller portion of the whole. This has taught me to view my crises as temporary, my troubles not insurmountable. It is still hard for me to see this at times, but it was absolutely impossible when I was younger and every moment comprised the whole world to me.

Where do you hope to be in the next decade?

I am doing everything I want to be doing in life, though I would like to work less and travel more, ideally. So, I really just hope for dull things like more money and fewer worries.

Lastly, what is it you hope people will get from your work?

I desire my work to provide an experience of the beauty and terror of existence. This should be ultimately uplifting.

Thank you Heather, you are awesome. I am so glad we got to discuss your beautiful paintings in more detail.

Thanks darling, you are welcome in my studio any time!

Interview // Visual Artist Zachary Johnson by Spirited Magazine

Spirited #2 [Full Archive: Cloak and Dagger]
Interview with Zachary Johnson
by Amanda Maciel Antunes

Zach

I first met artist Zachary Johnson a few years ago at Joe’s Pub in New York City before his band The Cinematic Underground took the stage. I had to look straight up to meet his gaze as the six foot forever thin man lit a cigarette through fingerless gloves. He smiled as I asked for a light, melting my intimidation and cementing my admiration.
Zach left Colorado for a NYC film school, fell in love with the city and a girl, and began drawing in Moleskine journals. He recently displayed a show called The Lonely Cities, highlighting favorite views from favorite spots. He has also been working with design studio The Made Shop drawing passages of the Bible for a new book. His garage studio in Denver is overtaken by his ode to David Lynch’s movies, whiskey, and cigarettes. I was thrilled that I got the chance to chat about his transition to painting, the challenges of originality, getting a manager, and where he must live before he dies.
Deceptively simple, aggressively frank, and incessantly jarring, the work of the Rockies born artist strikes deep nerves in all that have the chance to see it.

Your entire family has always been very involved and working together in the Arts, but when have you decided to do this?

Yeah, well Nathan and my cousin Rian, when we were young were always making movies with all of the cousins that we would be cast in. I think I played a villain when I was like, five. Yeah, well I went to acting school after high school, just a two year conservatory in New York where you get a certificate of completion. So I have my certificate of completion in dramatic arts. But I drew a lot as a kid, just whatever. I used to draw the old movie posters for Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford movies. And so that was really my start. Drawing old movie posters from the 80’s. Not that old. And then in New York though, in acting school, in my second year there is when I started drawing in the moleskines and focusing on that more.

Why moleskines? I know you use them a lot.

Moleskines probably because they’re really portable and easy. I had taken some painting classes in high school and I wasn’t very good at paint and colors. So part of it was just to keep it black and white until I felt like I had kind of exhausted what I could do with pen and needed to add color to get what I was trying to capture. But a lot of it started just because they were small and portable. So I could just move around New York and sit down somewhere and get a cup of coffee and just draw. I found that it was fun working with limitations of just pen, paper, and you know, and see what I could come up with within those limitations.

And plus, a Moleskine is such a beautiful book, it’s almost the perfect simple book that you need in your bag.

Yeah, I first found it when I was living in the YMCA in midtown, and I was going to this Barnes & Noble that was near me, and I saw them, and they were what, the ‘Moleskine of Hemingway?’ Is that how they advertise it? That sounded pretty fucking cool. It was nice, and simple, and black, and portable…

And you can just stack them up on the windowsill and you’ve got your library of art.

Now that I’ve been working more in paintings and oils and stuff lately. It’s a big fucking mess, canvases everywhere and paint, it’s stressing me out.

And what about the show that you just had..Lonely Cities? Is that the name?

Yeah, The Lonely Cities.

Explain that show to me. Why the name and why did you draw all those cities? I think there were five cities involved?

Actually there were more cities than that involved, we just chose some of them to go on the poster, and then when we were putting it together we realized there were a few that were missing, like Pittsburg and Belgrade. But the lonely cities all started with New York. I moved back and forth to New York about six times in the last eight years? So I kind of move to New York for a little while and then it tries to kill me, and so I go home, or I go to Chicago. Or I lived in Boston when the Cinematic Underground was touring, but it all started with just drawing New York. I don’t know, New York is an incredible, amazing town, and I love it and I hate it and I just drew it all the time. It feels like there’s a lot of, I don’t know, stories in that town. And it has a certain mood, it has a certain magical quality.

That’s exactly how I feel. When I go to New York, I just feel invincible.

Yeah, I think that’s how I felt the first time I went to New York. I went when I was sixteen and still in high school for a summer acting program and it was unlike anywhere I’d ever been. You know, I was young and fell in love with the city, and fell in love with a girl. I think the thing about New York that I found, is that it can almost magnify whatever you’re feeling. And so, if you’re doing well, it’s the best place you can be, and if you’re not doing well it’s a really lonely place to be.

It sounds like a drug. A drug can do that to you as well, it magnifies your feelings.

A drug, drugs and booze, vices. We can include New York as a vice.

That’s a good way to put it. New York as a vice. I actually received a text at 3:30am from a couple of friends saying “You have to move to New York.” And I just, I don’t know. I said ‘yes’ because it was 3:30 and I was half asleep. I’ve considered it, it’s just, Boston has been good for me. It’s been really good, so I can’t get out of here right now.

Boston, I liked Boston, Boston is definitely different. I feel like each city that I’ve been in for any substantial amount of time has its own personality. A lot of the drawings were done in Boston as well, just taking the red line around to, you know, Harvard Square, or wandering around drunk at night.

Sounds about right. If you could live anywhere, in any of the cities, where would you live?

Brazil!

Ha ha, you’d go with Brazil? Well…

I don’t know, Hawaii. Or New York.

Really, Hawaii?

Someday. My plan is to move to Hawaii and paint dolphins and some point. Hawaii is a good place. I don’t know if I could actually live there, but it’s the happiest place I’ve found.
I don’t know about where I’d like to live. I mean, maybe New York again, but I’m really enjoying Colorado right now, and a lot of my best friends and family are here. And it’s a nice community of people in different artistic fields who can come together and comment on each others’ work and help each other out. Like Chris Kuehl, Chris and I do a lot of work together, or, well not a lot, but I go along on his photo shoots and drink coffee. But it’s fun.

I think that’s important. It doesn’t really matter where you are if you can find that community that can bring support and inspiration, and influences you as an artist. I don’t know if there’s a place necessarily that you can be happy, but if there’s a community you can be happy.

Exactly, and I’m starting to feel these days that what is more important to me is that community.

I mean, the reason we leave anywhere is because we haven’t found that community.

Yeah, and the grass is always greener. If you have people around that you really respect and love, and there is work you respect and love. It’s a tough business making stuff when you’re young, so it’s good to have people around. I think it sharpens what everybody’s doing, like, if everybody’s good and has different specializations – I don’t know if that’s a word…

I don’t know either, don’t ask me.

…but, specializations.

You’re asking a person who makes up words.

Shakespeare made up words.

Okay, well, I’m no Shakespeare.

When I think of you I think of William Shakespeare. The Tempest, specifically, I think it describes you. I haven’t read The Tempest, I don’t know what I’m talking about

[laughs]

Do you feel that when they say artists do their best work when they are depressed or having to struggle with life, do you see yourself in that situation?

I mean, I think it’s funny, I think they naturally have that sort of the starving, depressed artist is coming out with good stuff, when they’re on the edge or on the brink. I think when I was younger, when I was eighteen or whatever, moving around New York, I was pretty depressed, and art is a nice way, because … I think there is something to it. I don’t know how much I trust it, or if it’s a very sustainable or sustaining way to work, but a lot of it started there. You know, like, you’re depressed, so you sit there and write a song. Or you write a story, or you draw, you try to get your feelings out in a manageable way where you can deal with them, and they’re not just completely out of your control. So I find it’s helpful, because you can examine your feelings, and you’re not just at the whim of your feelings. But I think it’s bad to try to stay in that state or to conjure it up, or to rely on it. To work when you’re feeling down just doesn’t seem great. It’s the sort of thing where I feel the natural draw towards that, and so I try to fight against it. So, now when I work, you know, when I was working on the Bible, I would get coffee and work. But there are still nights, you know, when I grab a bottle of whisky and see what happens. It’s a funny thing…

Zachary Johnson drawing

I think it makes you more vulnerable, and you express yourself.

Or more honest maybe. Yeah, that’s actually a really good point. Because you do get more vulnerable, and honesty can come from when you’re just feeling bad and you don’t care and it’s not about trying to impress people or sway people, you can kind of just look at things how they appear to you.

Yeah that’s true, because personally, I don’t know, I do that to punish myself. Reva (poet & common friend) said once that sometimes, you think that you’re trying to prove something that is already proven, like you are trying to prove yourself to yourself as an artist.

Yeah, not all the time. And I think that’s how it’s become for me because I’m not beyond, you now, feeling bad, and work is a really good way to deal with that. I guess I don’t think it’s the best way to live, but I do paint a lot when I’m depressed, regardless of what I think of it.

I also have a quote, “Modern art is what happens when painters stop looking at girls and persuade themselves that they have a better idea.”

Yeah, I know that quote. I  love it. I think it’s hilarious and succinct way to say that modern art is largely bullshit. You know, the female form, and just the human form, the male form as well, go back as time-tested muses, and they’re beautiful. The naked human body is a beautiful thing, and modern art gets so message-oriented. It’s all this horse-shit about artists putting all their feeling on the page, which, who gives a shit. You know? Make something that looks good. Yeah, Zak Smith, who is this artist who illustrated Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, and he did a drawing for every page of the book, which is seven hundred and something pages, anyway, he’s amazing, and he’s got some really funny things to say about fine art and modern art, and how it’s become this snobby, trying to be smarter than everybody thing, and often looks just terrible. And ‘illustrator’ has kind of become a bad word in the art community, as if it’s somehow less good than somebody throwing shit on a canvas and putting it up for exorbitant amounts of money. So anyway, that quote says that much funnier and more succinctly.
I think you’d like him. I really like him. He’s a funny writer and has really clear ideas about what art is and what it isn’t and his thing is that it should look good. It’s nice reading him, because that’s how I’ve felt for years, is that it doesn’t need to have a paragraph explaining the meaning of it, it should look good.
And I wouldn’t blanket all modern art as bad, I think with any kind of movement in art there are some people who are really good and they know what they’re doing and they’re doing it for a reason. The thing with modern art is that I think it becomes a bit harder to tell what’s good and what’s not because anyone can do it, I suppose it.

I think it all depends whether you have a good or bad experience. Films, as in many different art forms, are inspiring in general, sometimes we love it so much we want to be a part of it, but we’re not necessarily great at it. Your paintings feel very cinematic to me though, it does make you feel inside a story, someone’s life. Do you feel that your love for movies have influenced your paintings in a way?

Marke (brother) and I have been working on this double project and we get a lot of our cues from David Lynch’s movies. I love films and books and that’s kind of what inspires me. But with art, for example, when I was younger I drew when felt inspired or depressed and now I have to get shit done and you have deadlines. The inspiration is not always there. A lot of it you just have to start. I think Hemingway always made himself write four hours a day. I think that’s a good discipline. You just have to dedicate yourself for a good amount of hours each day.

David Lynch? Is it coming out soon?

The paintings of Davis Lynch frames, I think I said coming soon on Tumblr, which means in the next 25 years. [laughs]
The feelings and every frame in his movies is just so fucking gorgeous. I think it’d be fun to just go through his movies and pick 20 screen shots and interpret them.

That’s exactly what Spirited is all about, find a theme and a different media and interpret as a whole new experience. You interpret the original to make it original.

There’s this thing about originality, everyone wants what they do to be wholly original. And that’s a really daunting way to approach work that you’ll be this complete individual. I much prefer to tip my head in gratitude to other people that are doing really well. And the whole idea that this is all built on people’s shoulders that come before us… I think that’s actually freeing. Thom Yorke was talking about the album OK Computer, and said they were basically trying to make Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew and they couldn’t do it, so that’s what they came up with.

That’s a great way to put it.

You don’t want to rip people off but I find that once it goes through your own individual filter, things change and you come up with your own perspective.

Absolutely. Now, you get to answer your most important question [laughs] Cloak or Dagger?

Cloak, probably. But they go nicely together, don’t they?