Tag Archives: Interview

Pelican Takes Flight

One of my favorite Chicago bands, Pelican is now on tour in support of their new album Forever Becoming which came out October 15th. They have a ten date tour and one of the places is Atlanta, Ga at The Masquerade where punk band Coliseum will be joining them along for the ride. I got a chance to catch up with Trevor de Brauw before he hit the round to see where his head was at before the tour and to talk about the new album and how it was working with new guitarist Dallas Thomas since Laurent Schroeder-Lebec left the group back in 2012. This will be their fifth full length album which took longer than the the rest of the albums they produced in the past. If you are in Atlanta then be sure to catch them at the Masquerade and if not, you can read the interview below to get a hint of whats to come.

 

Art Nouveau Magazine: This is your first LP in four years since What We All Come to Need… What made it take four years as opposed to two years for the previous albums?

Trevor de Brauw: At the end of 2009 we made a collective decision to stop pursuing the band as a full time enterprise. To keep ourselves afloat we were touring about half the year and scrounging for part time work whenever we weren’t on the road; which was beginning to feel like an untenable arrangement. Rather than crash and burn we figured we needed to take a step back, develop healthy home lives, and find a way to pursue the band as a passion rather than as a career. Larry lives in LA and the rest of us are in Chicago, so it took awhile to figure out a way to move forward with composing material, but after recording the Ataraxia/Taraxis EP in 2011 we developed a routine of recording home demos and sending them back and forth. From there the momentum picked up and the album came together over the course of 2012.

AN: How does this record differ for you from the past albums and EPs?

Trevor: We brought the same seriousness of intent to this album that we brought to the others, but insofar as we’re pursuing the music for its own merits rather than as a career the whole vibe is a little different. As a result I think the performances feel more relaxed and fluid. It’s some of the heaviest, darkest material we’ve written so far, but I think we approach that heaviness with a sense of restraint that might have been harder to muster when we were younger.

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AN: How did you guys come up with the name Forever Becoming for the new LP and how does it describe the album?

Trevor:  The album is about learning to accept one’s mortality and recognizing the beauty of death’s role in the eternal cycle. It’s both literal and figurative – literal in the sense that we all return to the earth from which we came and from which more life then springs; but also in the sense that every chapter in life must have an end for the next chapter to begin. Forever Becoming seemed to sum that up pretty succinctly.

AN: Since Laurent Schroeder-Lebec departed from the band, how has the writing and music creating process changed?

Trevor: Laurent was responsible for a lot of the material, so it was definitely a major change losing his contributions as a writer and a musician. In general we’ve always written in duos and brought ideas to the larger group when we have a coherent song structure to hash out. Somehow over the course of 10 years we’d written in every possible permutation except Bryan and I writing directly together. So this album represents Bryan and I forging a new creative partnership together; it lent the material a familiar sound (since we’ve both been contributing writers for the band), but also a new energy. As in the past when Bryan and I got some song ideas together we’d meet with Larry and hash out final song structures and drum parts. After those sessions Larry would return home to LA and record his parts so we’d have a foundation to build the final song arrangements on top of. It was sort of a slow, meticulous process, but every step felt necessary to the whole.

AN: What energy or or creativity does the new guitarist Dallas Thomas bring to the table and how is it working with him? Did he have any input on the new album?

Trevor: Dallas is an actual musician and knows what he’s doing. He’s detail oriented and has a habit of asking questions about the songs that are thought provoking and usually force me to figure out not just what I’m doing, but why I’m doing it. We recorded nine songs for the final album, eight of which made it on. I think we’d roughly finished seven of them when Dallas joined and he helped finish the last two, The Cliff and The Tundra, and helped tidy up the loose ends in the other tunes.

AN: I know that you’re on tour with Coliseum in support of the new album… How do you feel about the upcoming tour?

Trevor: Excited and trepidations in equal measure. I’m looking forward to the camaraderie of being with friends and the exhilaration of performing, but I am not looking forward to the crushing boredom of spending all day waiting to play, sitting in a van for countless hours, or being separated from my family.

AN: I see that most if not all of your catalog are finally on Spotify… How do you feel about music nowadays and the easy access to your music through such services as Spotify?

Trevor: I have very conflicted feelings about it, quite honestly. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy Spotify and I enjoy having instant access to things I’m even just mildly curious about. But there’s a very specific relationship with music that’s lost when it is not a communion between a physical artifact and the listener – the physicality of that relationship implies a deeper potential investment. I have a whole bevy of records that I didn’t care for when I first listened to them that I went on to have deeply meaningful and intense relationships with. Who knows how many records of that variety I’m discarding now because I give it a cursory listen on Spotify and am not wowed. And to carry that line of thinking our band makes records that are intended to be listened to as a whole and reveal themselves more with repeated listens, so again that physical communion would play an important role. Which is not to say one can’t get that out of listening to us digitally, but I understand the impulse to skip and move on only too well.

AN: If you could do anything else besides music in a non-capitalistic world, what would you do?

Trevor: I’m not good at it, but I’ve always enjoyed interior painting. I find something very soothing and meditative about it. So maybe I could do that if all the people who are actually good at it get busy or something.

 

Jack Preston is on “Replay”

Jack Preston is an Atlanta based emcee who has consistently been sharing his creative gifts with the Interwebs/world for a while now. He recently dropped his latest single called “Replay” on his soundcloud page so I decided it would be a great time to pick his brain and find out more about the man and art.

 

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Art Nouveau Magazine: Who is Jack Preston?
Jack Preston: An Atlanta based emcee, producer, musician, graphic designer and visual artist.

AN: I’ve seen you around in the Atlanta scene before I knew who you were and you seem to stick out because you have a distinct style. How important is style to you?
JP: Style is important in the context of creativity and communication. Style to me is much like an element. If you thought of the elements of creativity like a periodic table of elements, style would be one of the most important elements on the table to me. I enjoy utilizing style to personalize my art and daily expression.

AN: The first time I’ve saw you perform was at the Haiti benefit concert early 2010. How long have you been performing live?
JP: I’ve been performing live since 2004. My first performance felt pretty natural, and it’s been nothing but fun since. The Haiti benefit show was actually the first performance with my band The Dojo in Atlanta.

AN: How do you stay inspired?
JP: Life within itself is inspiring to me. I appreciate dynamics, the highs and lows, and I’m always inspired by the human experience. That’s what most of my art is about.

AN: I know that you are a modern day renaissance man. So when it comes to creating what usually comes first. The art? Lyrics? Or the instrumentation?
JP: It all comes at different times and different rates. I can choose to focus on one craft or another to maximize productivity, but when creativity is in it’s rawest form, I can’t control what comes first. At the end of the day, it’s coming from the same source, so I look at each discipline as different tools in which to help communicate with others.

jack2AN: I consider you to be an independent artist who books your own gigs and creates independently. What do you think is the best part about being indie?
JP: The best part is having control of your image and art. A lot of times, the trade off for having outside support is that you have to surrender control of yourself to them. I enjoy having my full integrity intact as well as being able to get all of the return from my efforts.

AN: What are you currently working on?
JP: I’m releasing a record that I’ve been working on for the past year called End Of The Future which is produced by fellow Dojo homie Jon Bom. I’m also working with The Dojo on an EP follow up to In The Land Of Wanderers. I’m also prepping some instrumental projects and my first mixtape.

AN: Where do you see yourself in five years?
JP: I see myself sustaining an evolving music career, and growing as a person and artist.

AN: A motto you live by?
JP: I’ve always liked the golden rule, treat others like you’d like to be treated. I do my best to adhere to that.

AN: Final thoughts?
JP: Thank you for inviting me for the interview. S/O to all the party people of the world. Much love to you all. You can catch my work at www.jackpres.com and www.thedojocollective.com

Elaine: Saving The World, One EP At A Time

 

Elaine Spence likes to dole out ‘pick me ups’ after a bad day. She can feel your sadness, your happiness, and wants to “save the world.” The 26 year old musician from Atlanta, by way of New York, has been songwriting since eight years old and she doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

In 2010, Elaine transformed her singer-songwriter skills into a full-time career. In the few years since then, Elaine has further developed and toned her sound, learning only to take direction from her harshest critic, herself.

Elaine’s new EP,  “All We Need,” exploring her new musical direction, is due out on iTunes at the end of this month.

An infinite journey lies ahead for Elaine. She just hopes that journey includes a collaboration with Lauryn Hill, and a final settling down destination somewhere between Atlanta or Nashville.

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Art Nouveau: What did you listen to growing up?

Elaine: “I was really big into hip-hop, I was a huge tomboy. So I was really big on Biggie, big on Puffy, which he was back then, now he’s Diddy. But big on everything hip-hop. I grew up in New York, so it was just a part of our culture. I think as I grew older I started to marry myself with other types of music, but that was the foundation and just the realism of the rappers back then, their words were just so poetic. I think that had a lot to do with the songwriting I took on. As I matured as a songwriter I took that from hip-hop, a lot of it. You know even though I don’t write anything close to hip-hop, but I think just the cleverness in the writing that I try to include, it comes from hearing that growing up.”

 

AN: Do you still have any of your old songs that you wrote when you were young?

E: “I do and I can sit at a keyboard and still sing them. I’d be so embarrassed to  perform them because they were so raw, and they were really, really emotional songs that probably I’d keep for myself as personal songs. But you never know, one day I might work them into what I do in the future. But I have all of them, notebooks full of them.”

 

AN: How would you describe your sound now?

E: “Right now, I’ve tried so many different things. I think as an artist, I was a songwriter first, so I’ve been writing so many different genres of music for the past couple of years. But right now I really wanted to take a look into myself and find what I wanted to do with this gift I have. The conclusion was I wanted to use it to give this world a message that they can use to make their lives more positive. So this EP that I am coming out with, “All We Need”, is really ballad driven, the songs are traditional, make you feel good and make you feel love, songs. You know, they talk about the human condition, they talk about the things we all can relate to, young, old, all walks of life. So I would say that these songs are true ballads that I think will bring people together, hopefully. Bring this world together.”

AN: How has your music changed since you started? Have your production methods changed?

E: “It’s changed quite a bit. There’s only a few producers that I’ve worked with since I started doing this as a career in 2010, and putting out my first EP. I would say that the thing that changed is just my digging deeper to find my sound. I think when I first began recording, I was just down for anything. I was down for experimenting, and I just wanted to be as extreme as I possibly could be within my capabilities. But now that I’ve matured a little bit, and the years have gone by, I realized that I don’t have to be as extreme, and I can really just be me and be pure, and be honest. The simplicity of just a simple message, that I think anybody can relate to, is what I needed to do. I didn’t need to be too out of the box. I think I’ve arrived at that place and I think that was the major change. Just really stripping down all the extra stuff, with regards to my sound, my portrayal of myself as an artist. Just simplifying everything so that anybody can relate to it.”

 

AN: Where do you draw your inspiration from? Has it been the same source  since you’ve been making music, since you were eight?

E: “I think my inspiration has really stayed the same. I am a really emotional person, I am one of those people who literally can feel the energy of others around me. I feel their sadness, I feel their happiness. I take that on, I try to fix it. I think that’s always been the inspiration for any song that I’ve ever written. It’s trying to fix the problems that I feel other people experience. Even as a child, I feel children are able to see things that adults don’t think they can. You know just seeing how people around me dealt with life  just inspired me to write these songs and hope that I would hopefully ‘save the world.’ Or make people feel better. Or just translate their issues in a way that they maybe can’t. I think that’s what music does. It says the things that we’re not able to say with our own words. So that’s always been my inspiration, just the feeling that I get from the people around me and their life experience, and the human experience. Musically, there’s so many things that I love. From hip-hop, to rock and roll, to R&B, to pop. Its like food, there’s no music that I don’t like. But I think my main inspiration is just humanity. I’ve come to a place as an artist where I’m really honest with that. There’s nothing extra that’s needed in order for me to communicate that in right now through my music.”

 

AN: What was the first concert you went to? What was the last? What is the next one plan on going to?

E: “I usually go to a lot of my friends concerts and their performances in town. The first one I can remember, I have a buddy, his name is Ben Carson. He used to do a lot in Atlanta in 2010, that’s like the first one I can remember. The last concert I went to was Thursday, I went to go see Solange perform, which was amazing. The next one I plan to go to, I actually want to check out this band that I’m really into. I want to check out Mumford & Sons, but they’re touring Europe. I don’t know when they’ll be anywhere close to here, but I’ve been having them on my radar, in terms of like bands I want to go see live.”

 

AN: In making and hearing your own music, what purpose does your music serve for you?

E: “I would say the number one thing is that it gives me something to live for. I mean if I wasn’t writing music, and I wasn’t singing, and I wasn’t creating, I don’t think life for me would really be a happy place. It’s really that thing inside of me that God has called me to do. Even if I don’t sell a million records, I know that I couldn’t really say that I’m living my happiest life if I wasn’t using my gift in someway. Whether its just to have one person hear it and feel OK after a bad day. So I think it’s just the calling that it has inside me and satisfying that is what it does for me.”

 

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AN: What have been your best and worst moments as an artist?

E: “My best moment is right now. Right now I feel like I’m in a place where there’s no judgement. That inner critic that is always listening for what I lack is no longer. I feel like I’m in a place where I know who I am, and I am patient and I respect the journey that I’m on right now as an artist and where it will lead me. I respect the fact that its more giving through my music than getting anything. I’m in my best moment right now because of that. My worst moment? Wow, I would say, you know maybe going to too many extremes musically in order to appease the people, and not listening to what I truly believed was enough. Trying to I guess put on a performance, rather than just be an artist. I don’t know if there’s like one particular moment, but I think it was just a mindset that I had early on that I needed to have some sort of image in order to resonate with people. I would say that was probably the worst place that I could have been as an artist.”

 

AN: You said right now is your best moment. What projects are you working on?

E: “Right now, I’m finishing up an EP. I’ve actually been working on it since last year. It’s called ‘All We Need’, and as I mentioned earlier its really ballad driven. Its those type of songs, like you know when Macy Gray came out with that one track, ‘I Try.’ Those types of songs that the message is so relatable that you can’t deny it. Even though that they might not think the artist is the hottest thing at the time, but its just the message within the writing that people can relate to. That’s the EP that I’m working on, ‘All We Need’, its taken me in a different direction that I’m really, really happy about right now.”

 

AN: Live or studio?

E: “Definitely live. If it were me, I would want to see and hear myself live. Any artist, I would just prefer the experience of seeing their emotions and connecting with the story behind what they do in the studio. So I think live is definitely ‘it.’ Take that with a grain of salt from a person who doesn’t go to many concerts! But in my ideal world, live. I do watch a lot of YouTube clips of live performances, so that must count for something.”

 

Read this interview and more in the 10th issue of Art Nouveau Magazine. Click here to get your copy!

Flying Planes and Talking Paint With David Molesky

I met David Molesky on a flight headed out of San Francisco to Atlanta. Somewhere between ascendance and landing, the two of us got to talking. Although naturally subject to the gloss of travel-laden body heat and far too cramped quarters of the airplane, I managed to acquaint myself with the D.C. native turned San Franciscan that sat next to me. He told me of his years as a painter, sharing anecdotes of the artistic journey and where he found himself situated today. Only when the wheels at last touched the Georgia turf did we cease the conversation. Days later, I found the words exchanged still on my mind. I felt compelled to share their resonance, the personality behind, and the accompanying, captivating body of work he called his own.

Before even seeing his paintings, it was quiet obvious that Molesky was a credible artist. As far as I am concerned, the character of the artist is just as valuable as the art; in his case, neither team seemed to be lacking. He painted as much a verbal picture as he did with that on the canvas. So, when the iPhone was finally pulled out and the paintings themselves were at hand, the enthralling visuals fell not short of my expectations. Matching the actual depiction with his prior descriptions – the raging waters, engulfing fires, busied cities, lone owls, or mystical horses that he had spoken of – all translated with a graceful ease and bountiful brush to the canvas.

 

Telling of long days and mad nights painting in his San Francisco studio, Molesky’s passion feels more like a forever rampant force. With years of painting and traveling behind him, a Berkeley education in Fine Arts and Molecular Cell Biology to boast, and a mass of work that has touched continents and art aficionados worldwide, the breadth of the artist resides as enchanting as the art itself.

 

The rest, I leave to the artist himself to share. Read below as I talk with David Molesky about his art today, his inspiration, and the craft that he can’t seem to contain.

Art Nouveau: How did David Molesky the artist come about? When and where did you plant your artistic roots?

David Molesky: I was a serious but goofy kid.  I sometimes wore a tie and blazer to elementary school.  I cleared out my parent’s coat closet and converted it to my private studio, after squeezing in my toddler-sized desk.

I got into painting in high school.  Me and my friends would hang out and paint together.  The learning curve was the quickest then and I still pretty much paint the same, only I have more tricks up my sleeve.

I went to UC Berkeley for undergrad to give my passions for art and science and equal chance.  Painting won as it always does.  Later I moved up and down the west coast following loves and art and landing in different scenarios by magical chance with one great practitioner of painting after another.

 

AN: What was a particularly defining moment for you?

DM: When I was living on the Big Sur coastline, I fell in love with painting water and this is where I had my first taste of real commercial success.

 

AN: From where do you draw inspiration? 

DM: I draw inspiration from the act of painting and drawing mostly.  Reading also introduces new ideas that I might not have otherwise.  And now the internet, even just my Facebook news stream from my many artist friends packs a punch of interesting ideas.  But I never feel more inspired than when I am in my studio, laying out a new palette, starting a new painting, with music going, good lighting, some warm espresso or matte.  That’s really the best.

AN: How do you formulate and expand on the content of your collections? 

DM: As I am working on a series of paintings, I begin to hone into certain aspects and qualities more than others.  For me, a sun nap on the roof after lunch is often the best time to have dream up a new idea.

 

AN: What are you working on at the moment? 

DM: Finishing the painting Girl with a Dead Raven.  Its going into a show in less than a week.  After that, I’ve got to make some new paintings for a show at the Long Beach Art Museum that will provide a transition to a new body of work with an apocalyptic theme.

 

AN: Who or what is your muse? 

DM: Nature

Indigo Charlie: She’ll Be Vintage One Day

The Beverly Hills sun has decided to take its daily retirement, watching from afar as its once orange glow transitions into a flushed pink haze; it seems as though the city has been placed under a tranced and momentary hush. As the the streets’ inhabitants stroll about, they allow their delicately mellow energy to mimic that of the unwinding sky. Some are making their last purchase at Jimmy Choo, others are grabbing a glass of wine with a significant other, and the select few are even observing the warmth of the day’s close. Whatever the case, it feels as if there is a vibrant energy amongst, a celebration of sorts, of the present phase. The cashiers make their final close; the lovers, their romantic toast; and the silent onlookers, their first step into the eve. The break of day has been attained and the fall of a Beverly Hills night is upon us.

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As the couture-lined streets glisten under the peeping moonlight, I enter the scene. Emerging through the doors of The Farm on Beverly Hills Drive, I find my songstress subject, Indigo Charlie, sitting at a table nearby. She dons a black and white striped, floor-length dress and a mane of untamed brunette curls which rest atop her shoulders. It is glamorous for a work uniform, but not when considering her workplace is the ever-glamorous Giorgio Armani. And it is there from which she has just come.

 

From the get-go, Indigo exudes a boldness about her, an undeniable ambition. Yet, she takes on a humble demeanor that truly is a breath of fresh air. We shake hands and begin to converse about her recent doings: her graduation from FIDM only a few days prior, a new song in the works, and a possible promotion at Giorgio Armani. Mind you, these are not easy tasks to juggle, but Indigo makes it look effortless. Her resume is impressive to say the least, and seeing as this marks only the beginning for this emerging artist, I am naturally intrigued.

 

I ignite my unraveling series of questions with the one I feel most vital: “Was music the inevitable path?” With a “Yes, however…” kind of retort, Indigo elaborates. On her upbringing as the child of a publicist, she speaks on being placed under the wing of her music industry savvy and in-turn, cautious, mother. Seeing as the latter is now Indigo’s manager, one can assume there must have been some kind of compromise along the way. Initially, though, it was she who was guilty of impressing this inherent passion unto Indigo. In “bringing CDs home from Whitney Houston to Pink”, Indigo started pulling the components of each genre with which she resonated and delving into her personal sound. “I knew I had the soul within me”, Indigo says. And that being the intuitive basis seemed to pave a complex path for the artist.

 

Her mother, willing to overcome her initial resistance, has since endured the industry hardships for the sake of her daughter’s dream. With school being the obligatory collateral of a greater goal at hand, Indigo took on a hustler mentality from a young age. In school, she was the overachiever type, participating in cheer-leading and being the leader of various clubs. Channeling her hungry work ethic into her creative, soulful side, she began songwriting in her late teen years. Her first single “Never Change,” was her first attempt at the craft. I ask her what kind of internal space manifested such strong lyrics. She laughs in confessing the track being a product of “pent up hatred towards, like, 16 ex-boyfriends.” The more we talk, the more apparent it becomes that Indigo is a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of artist. Her music is a pure product of herself, and in it, she has nothing to hide. “I am my own biggest competitor,” she admits.

 

Music is her passion; it is the arena in which the songstress feels she has most evolved. From “Never Change” to her most current single “Falling”, such is evident. Although both tracks are true to the Indigo personality, her maturity in sound and concision in lyricism comes through progressively with each release of a track.

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Today, her music is often likened to that of Lykke Li. By the gesture, she “couldn’t be more flattered.” Indigo, like Lykke, illuminates a certain soft femininity that feels crucial these days within the female artist realm. In looking ahead musically, Indigo strives to develop a greater depth to this particular sound in “creating a genre that’s never been heard before… Airy Soul.” The genre, or paradoxical cross-genre rather, would take on the lightness heard by Lana Del Ray and Lykke Li types while exploring the abstract soulfulness of artists like Florence Welch. Despite not feeling as if she has achieved this sound quite yet, her anthology of music videos have sure created the visual.

 

It is here the other vital components of the Indigo Charlie brand, vintage style and a do-it-yourself approach, are able to shine. Each video is a product of collaboration amongst young Los Angeles talent, fashion designer friends with whom she had gone to school, and video directors she had encountered by chance. Within the music videos, her fashionista self complements a beautifully vampy visual with her feminist sound. “Proudly smelling like a 90 year old woman,” Indigo takes pride in the antiquity of her frocks. In her music videos, she is oftentimes draped in vintage jewels and floor-length gowns while narrating a tale of love or reflecting on the mysteries of self: “Can we float forever or are we falling?”

 

Simply being in Indigo’s presence, it is obvious for me to see the only way she has to go is up. Despite the trials and tribulations of ex-boyfriends and industry struggles, Indigo has successfully glossed each over through dynamic song. With a soulful adieu and earnest enterprise, Indigo Charlie stands a powerful force. Today, she is label shopping and putting the finishing touches an ode to her favorite artists, seeming clearly enthusiastic about what’s to come. As Indigo finds herself on the cusp of something big, she closes one chapter and takes a graceful leap into the possibilities of another.

 

As we say our goodbyes, I feel grateful to have witnessed Indigo Charlie at such a vital time in not only her career, but her life. She is obviously much more than a brand name or a freshman artist; she is an ever-creating individual. With her work mentality, creative capacity, and warm presence, she’s got nothing holding her back. Look out for the force that is Indigo Charlie, and remember her name ten, twenty, thirty years from now, for she’ll be vintage one day.

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#WatchThisSpace Find this piece and much more in Art Nouveau’s 9th issue entitled SKIN. Click here to get your copy!

Derek Gores stays afloat in a sea of images

In a sea of images, Derek Gores is making unique pictures that stand completely on their own.  Their blend of abstraction with such interestingly familiar portraits and stills create a dichotomy that really works.  Derek took a minute to sit down with us to talk about his process while getting ready for Miami this year.  If you are out here be sure and stop by to check out the amazing details in his work!

Art Nouveau: You are in Florida right?  Do your surroundings play much of a roll in the images you create?

Derek Gores: I’m sure somehow… I’m in the unique spot on the planet where humans reached out to the moon and could also go to the beach. There’s a combo of problem solving and patient daydreaming around all the time that gives me new fuel.

AN: I have heard you say like to see how far you can deconstruct your subject.  Can you talk about your process some?  Do you sketch your work out or work spontaneously?

DG: I do some wet drawing work that starts from abstraction and sometimes becomes an object, often figurative or spacial. However In the collage work I work it backwards, from a photo reference in a space I breathed, and then I do start with a simple sketch with a sharpie marker usually and then layer in the abstraction of the pieces of paper. I am after the essence of a real figure, often hinting at elapsed time perhaps, but I build the figure out of opposites. I like using linear, sharp, man-made elements you wouldn’t think of as art, like a schematic or a map for example, so that the life and the space you find is that much more surprising when it hits.

AN: Have you always worked loosely or is this a theme in your work?

DG: I was super tight as an 18 year old, but once I saw the end of that particular path I’ve loved anything that can distract or get in the way of that kind of accuracy. Water, using two hands, all sorts of outside influences, collaborations with the subjects, etc.

 

 

AN: It seems like this push towards abstraction is what allows your viewers to insert there own interpretation?

DG: True, I love ambiguous spaces and all kids of references in the recycled elements, so that viewers can use their own memories as they interact. The spacial play I would say comes especially from Franz Kline’s abstractions, and the Klimt/Schiele play with flattening spaces as a way to make their figures pulse out at you.

AN: What have you been pursuing in your most recent work?

DG: Two things especially. Lately I’ve been playing with transparency in the pieces, where shadows see through to another space. Also, this year I have played with a more involved narrative, even if it isn’t clear what’s happening. I’d say my subject has become the study of ‘fierceness’- the admiration of a strong individual woman whose beauty is the result of her choices and actions and lifestyle. The first several I’d say showed a weight in her eyes, and my most recent show the fun of living.

AN: I know you aren’t crazy about the word ‘collage’, what else have you been calling it lately?

DG: Cleverness, Advanced Scrapbooking, and it gets a little cooler with some European influence, see look: ‘cøllage’

AN: I know you have been really busy lately, what shows or projects do you have coming up?

DG: Select Fair at Art Basel Miami! Huge! and next big awesomeness is a show in the Spring at Thinkspace Gallery in Los Angeles. And another in Barcelona. Details on the way…

AN: That will be awesome, are there any artists or galleries you are looking forward to seeing at Art Basel?
DG: I must locate Hush. My other favorites: Christopher Maslow, David Burton, Jeff Filipski. Check ‘m out!

Every Hour, Every Breath has Come to This
48″ x 48″ collage on canvas
Cleverness du Chat
48″ x 48″ collage on canvas

Miss Jck Dvy gets Raw and Straightforward

Motherhood can bring out the best in any woman. Because in an instant your life is altered. Los Angeles based singer/songwriter Jck Dvy already had her plate full as one half of Indie Pop duo J*DaVeY. So naturally adding a son to the mix was bound to shake up things. Now with an added boost of confidence Jck is ready to take on the world again. We recently crawled all over Jck’s skin to talk motherhood, the inevitable return of J*DaVeY and her three part EP series LO-F!?. 

Art Nouveau: First off, congratulations on being a new mother. How did do you think that energy influenced your new project L0-F!?

Jck Dvy: My son definitely influences my every drive to create & share my gift with the World. He has helped me realize my purpose, so now nothing goes undone. If I think it I can realize it. L0-F! is me completely taking the reigns & fully realizing my purpose as an artist; to create selflessly and share. I feel like I’ve hoarded a lot of ideas, possibly due to a lack of self-confidence. Motherhood has boosted my confidence as not only an artist, but a woman as well.

 

AN: Your new project has a very distinct sound. What›s Jack Davey’s sonic aesthetic and how does it differ from J*DaVeY’s?

JD: Jck Dvy’s sonic aesthetic is really raw & straightforward. J*DaVeY is raw in a different way, a little more complex with lush soundscapes & movements. I love that both sounds are different; it’s a nice change of pace.

 

AN: What’s the meaning behind the title LO- F!?

JD:  L0-F! as in low fidelity. It›s kind of ironic since i did record the music onto my old powerbook in the oldest version of GarageBand, which is a digital recording format, but the lowest quality digital format. There’s music that sounds so over polished that it’s lacking soul. I’d rather it sound shitty & be full of soul than sound stoic. The drums are programmed, but not to a metronome so the tempos are all over the place. The ideas poured through me & i cut them in one take, and that was that. Low fidelity isn’t just the sound quality, but the attitude. DIY, raw, & sincere.

AN: Your son is almost a year old now. Do you play him your music?

JD: Of course, he’s been hearing my music since he was in the womb; I toured for eight months of my pregnancy with J*DaVeY so he heard it almost every night. Now when we›re riding in the car & he gets fussy all i have to do is play Side B & he instantly chills out. that›s pretty groovy!

 

AN: As a mother and musician has it been tough adjusting to the balance? How was your life before you were a mother? What’s your new life like now?

JD: …my boyfriend, Joey (who produced Side B) and I, we balance being working musicians with parenthood pretty well. There’s always music being made in our house which is super inspiring. Life before was wild & uncompromising, so of course that has changed with being a mother. Working harder, playing less.

 

AN: You’re releasing this project in three parts. What’s the significance of three?

JD: Well initially it was only Side A & Side B. I separated those two because they are two sepa- rate acts of the same play. Side B was actually recorded first, and the material was so good I didn’t want to just release it on it’s own & run the risk of people missing it. I recorded Side A as an appetizer for the main course. The D’Lux edition is the entire meal: appetizer, main course, & the dessert (3 bonus songs).

 

AN: As a J*DaVeY fan I’d be silly not to ask, what’s next for the band?

JD: We’re in the super beginning stages of recording a project called GRVT, but really we’re taking a little hiatus while Brooke tours with Miguel to focus on building our independent art imprint iLLaV8r.

 

#WatchThisSpace Find this piece and much more in Art Nouveau’s 9th issue entitled SKIN. Click here to get your copy!

 

Midnight in Los Angeles: Getting Honest & Clean with Kevin Michael

In Woody Allen’s film, Midnight in Paris, a character says how there’s no such thing as bad literature as long as the prose are clean and honest. I drenched my notebooks in bleach and conciseness, but the lack of honesty wasn’t as easily remedied. I needed a subject to be honest with me and I hadn’t had a clue who that could be. Just like most dilemmas seem to do, my dilemma worked itself out with a bit of idle waiting and mandatory work. The idle waiting consisted of a lot of cigarette smoking and thinking of something that I could produce in my writing that was clean and honest. The mandatory work was the fact that I was enlisted to talk to one of the greatest voices of our generation, in my opinion, Kevin Michael for the cover story of Art Nouveau’s Skin issue.

Unbeknownst to Kevin Michael, he was under a tremendous amount of pressure. I didn’t just want him to give me clean and honest answers to my questions, but I wanted him to inspire me to write the most honest thing I have ever written. So, naturally, I wanted to delve into the darkest part of anyone’s lifetime; their childhood. “I didn’t grow up in a household with many rules. My father was kind of a ghetto celebrity. As a kid you don’t know any better.” Little Kevin Michael was being snuck into bars and hidden behind speakers that towered over him that left him born into not just rock ‘n roll, but the lifestyle accompanied with it thanks to his father who is a musician. He was never totally drowned into the deviant lifestyle Drew Barrymore-style, but it did leave him longing for something peculiar, especially upon artistic types. “In hindsight, I wish I had more discipline and structure.”

Kevin’s house was filled with music, but even houses filled with music can’t take responsibility for Kevin’s miraculous-like gift. Kevin’s voice is capable of doing gymnastic-like summersaults between a deep funky, raspy tone to a falsetto that could inspire dogs to cry and redirect butterflies off their course. That voice landed Kevin Michael his first stab at fame being positioned as neo-soul’s mullatto-next-door with a very big voice. “I never received any training. I hope to when I go out on the road. I have been told I have a five octave range. I wasn’t raised in the church, though I love gospel music. I listened and mimicked.” One piece of vocal training he did receive was in the form of advice. “I received some of the greatest pieces of advice which was ‘Kevin, the best thing you can do for yourself is sing every single day.” And since the age of twelve, Kevin has pushed from his diaphragm and manipulated his voice to compete with angels every single day.

Since Kevin Michael’s emergence at the ripe age of twenty, he has gone under a total artistic overhaul. When artists go under this kind of makeover, it’s hard to tell if it’s due to marketing or more of an intrinsic need to change. So, in my quest for honesty, I decided to ask about this transformation. “All I can really say is it’s me growing up and maturing. My taste kind of changed. My knowledge of music has grown quite a bit. When I first I had a deal, I was a singer. I was a young kid. I was twenty. I was so gassed that I was about to be on. I didn’t have any thought other than I get to sing now.” Then, once he was pushed into the limelight, a different set of realities set in for the crooner. “Once your music is out, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. That person took ten or fifteen dollars to buy your CD.” Then, voila, Mr. Michael had a clear vision and a new set of standards once he realized his art wasn’t really his own. “Great artists have messages, they stand for something. They change the world around them. The piece of the world they got to touch, they have a piece of that. That clicked for me. From this point on, if it’s not artistic, pushing boundaries, if it’s not propelling us forward, if it’s not something people can talk about, I’m not interested in it anymore.” A powerful revelation? Yes. A clean and honest detailing about where Kevin Michael, and maybe more importantly, Kevin Michael’s state of mind about his art is? Hell yes.

It became clear that Kevin Michael had spoken the most honest thing he could ever say to me, and it wasn’t a surprise that it was centered on his music. Kevin Michael is equipped with hair so high that is rivals the Empire State building, a voice as majestic and dynamic as a traveling elephant, and ideas and sounds bubbling in his head as sweet to listen to as it is provocative and innovative. More importantly, Kevin Michael isn’t a groomed marketing machine, he’s honest. Most important, Kevin Michael is on a quest to find his niche in this world, so he can change it. “I believe there’s an end of an era coming. I’ve been getting into the higher self, the soul. The part of you that you may not know exists. I’m trying to feed people in baby steps.”

Because I always think I can top myself, even in the search for bloody brutal honesty, I wanted to know what disappointed Kevin. “The internet is a double-edge sword. It gives a platform to anyone. The good part is the internet is giving anyone shine, but the bad part is the internet is giving anyone shine. Right now, there are more young people population-wise than older people […] We’re the gatekeepers of art.”

My mission was accomplished, so my line of questioning became less concise and sillier. I asked about his ‘fro and if he ever hides items in it. He reveals in a moment scrubbed with truth and Lysol that he doesn’t actually hide anything in his hair, but he does hide his hair when he wants to hide himself. He uses his hair as a part of his stage act. Even more interesting, he hides his hair when he wants to gain some kind of normality and anonymity.

I questioned him about the one thing he’d like for God to not find out if the rapture were to come tomorrow. His answer was quick and to the point: “My porn collection.” Alas, even trying to change the world calls for a break and some recreational time.

Kevin and I’s conversation dwindled and transformed from being a Q&A and more into a conversation where we discussed art, people we might have in common, and plans for 2013. As we were speaking, my brain did some multitasking and I could feel the most honest thing I’ve ever thought to write emerge. The thought was: Even if the world was perfect, I’d still want to change it. I didn’t have the guts to ask Kevin Michael if he sometimes felt like he was on a quest to change the world just to say he changed it, and not necessarily to fix it. I suppose that’s what follow-up interviews are for.

You can read this talk with Kevin Michael and more in the latest issue of Art Nouveau Magazine. Click here to get your copy of Issue 9: SKIN.

Let Me Set The TONE

UK based urban pulp iconographer and Art Nouveau cover artist TONE kicked off his solo exhibition at Dock St Market recently (Nov 1). He was kind enough to give us a few words about his bright and graphic inspired works of art.

Art Nouveau: You go by the name TONE, tell me about the origins of the name?
TONE: Basically as my name is Anthony/Tony i needed something crisp, so i went for TONE to use on the streets for my paste-ups and spray-ups.

AN: How old are you?
TONE: I am 26 year old boy who is starting to slowly look around 40 due to my early morning rises and late night creative bursts. My face can tell many yarns.

AN: Tell me about your background in the arts.
TONE: My background in the arts started off when i was very young… i was enthralled with Manga, especially Street Fighter and Akira, so i spent my days playing Nintendo and Sega, collecting comic books, redrawing characters and creating my own. As i progressed and got older i went to college for 2 years and gained a BTEC in graphic design, everything i learned in the ‘art scene’ is self taught through trial and error. Then my art took a more mature angle and i created zine covers, online blog art and t-shirts for the football/soccer casuals market, using violence, Adidas footwear and football hooliganism as a main theme. I decided i needed to break away from that scene to pursue my changing interests where spray paint, street art, collage and more media came to my attention and i decided to get my hands dirty. During this time, i was in contact with a few celebrities regarding promo work… namely ‘Real Goodfella‘ Henry Hill (RIP), actor Jeremy London and front man of Hollywood rockers The Icarus Line, Joe Cardamone. I also had alot of time unleashing my street art in NYC, Chicago, Paris and various cities across the UK.

AN: Tell me about your process of creating work.
TONE: The process to create my work is pretty simple… i won’t go into mega detail, but all i need is a Sharpie, Paper, PVA Glue, Brushes, Spray Cans, Comic Books, a keen eye and a headful of crazy ideas. I start out by sketching out my idea using shapes and words, i then draw out the character in illustrator using a mouse (bad for the wrist) and play about with the whole idea using different colour pallets to create the sort of aesthetic i have in my mind, the background work is the fun part, as i scour old comic books, flyers, posters, cd booklets, magazines for interesting imagery and slap it all down onto canvas or board to photograph to use digitally in reproduction prints. On many occasion the whole canvas is covered with awesome graphics, where i will then stencil an image and spray paint onto it to create a one-off piece. As of now…. each piece of art i create is closely attached to my feelings, merging powerful images and heartfelt songs lyrics in dedication to my 16 month old daughter Eden Loren Thornton.

AN: How has comic book art inspired you?
TONE: Comic art has been a major player in all of my work, from growing up reading British classics such as the Beano and Dandy, to X-Men, Spider Man, Lobo and Street Fighter to more classic works such as, Romanc Comics and Ghost World. They all have kept me doing what i enjoy, all i have to do is pick up and comic and ideas will be flowing for my next piece. Music is also a key aspect in my work, citing many Black Flag, Pearl Jam, Blind Melon, The Smiths and whatever else is curdling my emotional cauldron.

AN: What fuels you more: Street art work or work made for galleries?
TONE: Easy… street art! always will be! The thought of having a whole town/city as a blank canvas to work is magnificent, not hiding the fact it is deemed as vandalism, this pushes me more to get out there and find great spots to see how long my work will stay up, the adrenaline and planning that goes into a late night mission is what it is all about, the fact that civilians and art lovers have street art available to them on a daily basis makes me happy knowing we live in an era where creative types like ourselves can vent our emotions on the worlds canvas, it is always a challenge which i thrive on.

AN: How important is your skin, or visual aesthetic to your style of work?
TONE: It shouldn’t really be as important as it is to me but it is… i j’adore tattoos and tattoo artwork from artists such as Mario Desa, Joseph Ari Aloi and Mike Giant. When people see me and notice my tattoos it strikes up a conversation, whether it be friends or total strangers, it is always good to talk. Each tattoo i have holds it’s own story from my past and everyday they remind me of the things i have done, and this pushes me to do more. On the visual aesthetic side to things… again this is an important aspect, if you want to command respect in your area you have to look the part, there’s nothing wrong with feeling comfortable, yet dapper in this thing of ours.

AN: What’s next for you?
TONE: I have a whole new ball park opened up to me as I have relocated to the city, so more project space is available, contacts and opportunities. I am in the early stages of planning an exhibition at Dock St Market in Leeds, UK which will showcase my latest offerings to the public, i have issue 1 of my zine ‘FAKEIZM’ available at Quimby’s, Chicago, and then hopefully getting back into the swing of things with my clothing label co CEO Tom Beattie, as we hope to push it to full on global effect. The world is my oyster… anything can happen.

AN: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
TONE: Think i’ve pretty much covered everything there. I just want to say though… I’m doing all this for Eden.

 

#WatchThisSpace Find this editorial and much more in Art Nouveau’s 9th issue entitled SKIN. Click here to get your copy!

Amon Tobin marches to the Post-Dubstep beat of his own drum

It’s alive, folks.

Yes, vagueness is not only intended in the introduction of this article, it is a vital part of the subject matter as well as a definitive factor in the exploration of said subject. In complete disregard to several digital media outlets (especially those who seem to pander to merciless capitalism for the sake of being unjustly critical), I want to talk to you about a man, a vision, and an album. These three indisputable nouns effectively intersect within a particularly special artistic presentation—this is not to be disputed—but after encountering all three elements on separate levels, with separate interactions, I felt it necessary to examine said experiences in the order in which I came upon such encounters.

OK. So here we go. My beloved editor sent out an email—not totally unlike previous emails—asking our staff of writers to examine that which defines the artistic vision of Amon Tobin within his alter ego Two Fingers. Tobin’s first venture into the realm of Two Fingers involved renowned British drum and bass producer DoubleClick, the result being the incomparable Instrumentals album, boasting a delicate balance between selective ambiance and forcefully rhythmic and profound sound structures. According to Tobin, his Two Fingers projects isn’t a departure from his voluminous, decade-spanning solo work; rather it is something that’s “about trying to explore the outer reaches of sound, it’s more like a release valve: short simple tracks that do one thing well and then end.”

Two Fingers is less of a traditional side project as it instead takes the form of a formidably significant parallel music experience rather than a departure from Tobin’s eclectic experience with jazz-infused electronica. In turn, Stunt Rhythms is “just about having fun, pulling tricks with beats and bass. Part of that is showing off,” Tobin notes. Though personally I experienced a somewhat darker and intrinsically morbid collection of sounds and rhythms than those on Two Fingers’ debut Instrumentals, Tobin aptly defends such a shift as one that “is not a change of style,” but rather defines it as “something that runs parallel to [his] own work and has done for as long as [he] can remember in one form or another.”

For those who have read my writing—especially when it comes to music—I have a bit of a reputation for feeling the need to see the best in everything that comes across my desk. Do I see it as a weakness? Never. My belief is that music writing should be informative but not overly critical, and that I have difficulty expressing such criticism in the form of alphanumeric grades or scores or what have you. It’s simply not fair to assign such absolution to anyone’s artistic vision. But if I had to, I would gladly slap an A+ on the cover of this album. Tobin’s visceral identification with the material he has produced is sublime. He calls this album a “love letter to hip-hop,” a genre that I personally questioned as a suitable candidate for such romanticism, especially in the modern age. “My relationship with hip hop is too disenfranchised to make any such claims,” says Mr. Tobin. “Hip-hop for me was my early teens growing up in a shitty town with not much to look forward to…It brought us together because it didn’t cost much money to get a piece of lino and a boom box. The energy we had was put towards practice to improve our moves.”

Those familiar with Tobin’s impressive catalog—stemming from his early days operating under the moniker Cujo, up to his more modern contributions under his given name and the newish Two Fingers project—recognize an astounding attention to detail in weaving together jazz, ambiance and electronic music together. Such magnanimous diligence matched with an encyclopedic breadth of knowledge and intuition is the only logical way that something like Stunt Rhythms has the possibility to be born. Much like Instrumentals, the tracks on Stunt Rhythms rely only upon themselves. It’s this playful yet mildly prolific boyish charm that carries the album as a whole, as each track boldly holds its own amongst the blissful integrated cacophony the album as a whole presents itself as, yet refrains in establishing itself as such. The tracks are meant to be fun and experimental, and unlike many albums that are released nowadays, Stunt Rhythms has no agenda. It is what it is: a collection of stellar, rhythmic, wonderfully structured electronic pieces that carry no whiff of pretension. It’s pure, unadulterated, entertaining sound, and what’s wrong with that?

There are so many people out there trying to prove something or say something or invoke emotion—and I am in no way discrediting this type of movement—but with Stunt Rhythms, Amon Tobin’s Two Fingers deigns to celebrate sound rather than over-analyze it. “It’s a learning process like any other,” Tobin says, reflecting on his creative process over the years. It’s “gradual, full of failings and corrections and hopefully some progress.” Maybe said progress lies within a proverbial surrender to sound, something that seems almost taboo in the sphere of modern music.

We might be thinking too much about music (like I am one to talk, being a music writer). The livelihood of acts like Two Fingers relies on esoteric experiences with sound, and while listening to an album like Stunt Rhythms may not immediately awaken aural necessities within us, it’s a step. It’s something to recognize as simplistic yet groundbreaking. It is there to aide in forwarding our transition from merely hearing or listening to music to truly experiencing it. I may be totally off the wall here, but this is the kind of music that we need to recognize as significant. Amon Tobin has a vision. He is giving us something to build upon; to give us the ability to find an experiential musical identity. And he is doing it with short-lived, exciting rhythms and chord progressions. Modest as he may be, the man is a genius. Not since the ambient recordings of Brian Eno has someone explored sound in such a way. Later in life I can look back on this album knowing that within it I heard something new. Something outside the norm. And it was wonderful and alive.

Fish Tacos and Tranquillity in Chaos: an interview with N.Y. artist Zofia Bogusz

There’s a good chance that as you read this Zofia Bogusz is in the sweet reverie of her artistic mental zone, six hours deep into today’s meticulous process of painting beautiful woman, raging seas, cute bunnies, and macabre fish bones onto a single canvass of hand-cut natural wood. No ordinary canvass, mind you. Zofia doesn’t use ordinary canvasses; they’re too boring. The tenacious chaos of New York City growls away outside her window, but she’s unfazed, not distracted by anything except maybe the call of some fish tacos. Or maybe she’s surfing.

“Pisces”

 

Art Nouveau: How do you like living in New York, coming from Poland. What was the transition like?
Zofia Bogusz: I came here when I was ten. I thought I lived in a city when I was in Poland, and I find know it was more like a provincial town. New York is like no other city, I feel like it should be its own country sometimes. It’s very different. It’s wild and busy, and there’s a lot of energy here. It can get to you, because there’s so much stimulation, but I think that anybody can find themselves [sic] here.

AN: The art scene in New York is diverse, to say the least. Where you do you fit in?
ZF: There’s a lot of artists here—and a lot of different artists—so you have to find where you belong. I don’t know yet where I belong. A lot of my work is so West Coast in theme.

AN: You’ve done a couple shows on the West Coast…
ZF: I’ve done two shows in California, one in San Francisco recently.

AN: Visual artists more than almost any others experiment—inevitably to perfection—with different mediums. Why did you choose wood?
ZF: I experimented with a lot of different surfaces, but chose wood ultimately because I started off as a draftsman, I love to draw, and I was very technical and meticulous. Drawing on wood is like drawing on paper, except it’s a harder surface; the texture of the canvas doesn’t allow for a very meticulous drawing. I also like the color. White is just so sterile-looking and the wood grain adds a natural abstraction to the pieces, something free-flowing; it’s a nice contrast to what I do, which is really controlled.

I can only imagine that painting on wood, for all it’s benefits, has it’s setbacks, like not being able to reproduce copies of your art without clear cutting a small forest. Can you reproduce your stuff? Oh, yeah! I do what I call minis: I make a print of the painting, and then take a composite on wood that’s also hand cut. For example, I have the fish board (“Surf”) series that has a very unique shape… it made no sense to have a print on paper, so I have prints that are nine inches long, the same shape as the original, cut out and put on top [of the cut composite]. You literally have a miniature of the painting.

 

“the adventures of salt water taffy”

 

AN: What’s it like being a surfer in New York, and an artist, as well.
ZF: You really have to work hard at both. New York is such a competitive city in general; there are so many people and everyone’s here for the purpose to make it in something. With surfing, too, you have to want it…but it’s fun. Surfing provides a little bit of peace in this crazy city; it’s very tranquil and definitely calms me down. Art is the same way for me: very peaceful and meditative, and it gives me all-around good vibes.

AN: Can you describe what a productive few hours of painting is like for you? What happens when you’re in your studio doing your thing?
ZF: A productive day for me is when I just sit and paint for ten hours straight—or more, if I can. Sometimes, usually during the middle of a painting, I hate it, because it’s neither the beginning nor the finished product, and it’s not where I want it to be and I’m cursing at it… but I’ve learned to trust myself to figure it out.

AN: Many of your subjects resemble the models from all the magazines—the Vogues, the Victoria Secrets, the Sports Illustrated. But you bring in these jarring, frightful, even morbid backgrounds to juxtapose them. Can you tell me about that?
ZF: A lot of the faces are fashion models, actually. I like their faces because of their facial structure. I did a lot of study work in college with anatomy, so I’m really into shapes and the shadows that their faces make under certain lighting, they’re very dramatic, I feel. [The subjects] are a mush of heads and bodies; sometimes I’ll use parts of my own body. So, it’s not necessarily one model, but a collage.

And then the other imagery is symbolic; some have more meaning than others. Picis… there was not much deep thought behind that one, more imagery that I had in mind that I wanted to express in a painting: very bold and very graphic. I’ve used this skeleton motif a lot.

 

“The Republic”

 

AN: Do you create stories for your subjects? Do you create characters and beings and personalities for some of them?
ZF: I think the girls take on their own personalities once they’re painted. Before I start painting one, I kind of have a feel for how I want her to look and maybe how I want people to feel when they look at her… maybe they’re kind of confident, maybe a little lost. It’s open to interpretation.

AN: And what about the rabbits! Do these other motifs come naturally to you or are they things that play on your mind for a while until you decide to incorporate them?
ZF: They come naturally. Usually it’s something from my personal life that has meaning. I try not to force any of my work, because then it has no love behind it.

AN: I love your play with food. [School of Fish Tacos] is certainly one of my favorites.
ZF: I love fish tacos.

And so do I. And Zofia loves The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and so do I. And surfing and cassette mix tapes of 90’s music, and so do I. It turns out a we share a few common bonds, so our conversation (for, indeed any chance of this being an interview was lost right off the bat) shies further from formality as we naturally digress into personal opinions of pop culture, front short-lived surfer parlance while discussing waves and wipe-outs and favorite surfers (hers is Jeremy Flores because “well, you know… he’s pretty good-looking.”), and discuss the contrasting presence of a Fabio Cannavaro’s portrait amongst the mélanges of various supermodels (“He’s cute.”). I start to see a trend developing in the area of sports and have to tease her about it lightheartedly.

It’s a relief to find and artist—not just art—that you can relate to in this world of artistic pretensions. If you’re in New York City sometime before November, be sure to swing by the Chelsea Eye Art Gallery to check out Zofia Bogusz’s solo exhibition.

 

“by land and sea”

“Rabbit Stew”

Heartbroken Ghetto Frida

Out on bail, fresh out of jail, and California dreamin’ Ghetto Frida is back. The controversial artist agreed to another exclusive interview with El Rio on the condition that he pay her bail. Join us as El Rio catches up with Ghetto Frida and discovers the real reason she became “Ghetto.”

Art Nouveau: What’s good Ghetto Frida? What did the cops get you for this time?

Ghetto Frida: Aw shit, I’m not going to even lie, I was faded as fuck. I was rocking the 40 oz. and off a fistful of thizz pills. Tina Modotti dared my ass to take Diego’s car and ghostride it down Crenshaw. I was dancing next to the whip when the police popped up behind me and put their hands on me. I started swinging and dropped one of them before they maced me and put me in cuffs. I think there was a COPS camera crew with them.

AN: Let’s get down to business. When did you decide to start calling yourself Ghetto Frida? What was the turning point?

GF: I was in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Diego and I have some pieces in their permanent collection. I was watching this young kid who was looking at one of my paintings, I walked up to him and asked him who his favorite artist was. He said, “My favorite artist? 50 Cent is my favorite artist.” When I asked him why he replied, “When he was in the ghetto, 50 Cent was shot 9 times and survived!”

This kid didn’t know who I was but he knew 50 Cent ‘cause he had been shot 9 times. I thought to myself. “Being shot ain’t shit, the pain of my streetcar accident is on a whole other level. Why doesn’t he know who I am?” I knew I had to do something to make myself relevant, to change my image, and reconnect with the people. I’ve been steady mobbin’ ever since.

AN: Not everyone has supported your transition into Ghetto Frida. Matthew Barney was very outspoken in criticizing you for the move.

GF: And look what happened to him. Me and Trotsky rolled onto the set of the latest Cremaster movie and broke him off a piece of my response. I handed out one of the illest chin checks you’ll ever see that day; it was sick. I felt a little bad because the dude obviously couldn’t scrap, but you know the name of the game when you call out Ghetto Frida, I’m fo’ real.

AN: How do you define your ghettoness? You tend to handle your biz on the violent tip, why not call yourself Gangster Frida?

GF: Being gangster is about what you do for money and I don’t do this shit for money. On the real, I’ve gotten offers to create my own clothing line, my own shoe line, but I don’t get down like that. I’m tired of these so-called street artists making $80.00 t-shirts and claiming that they’re still down with the block. The streets is poor and it ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none. Those fools need to sit the fuck down and get their shit straight before I revoke their ghetto passes. You have your own line of shirts from Upper Playground, shoes by Reebok, or a limited edition vinyl toy from Japan? That ain’t shit to me. Ghetto Frida’s not jockin’ no clothing companies, gallery owners, or art dealers. You want that noise? Go hit up the latest issue of Juxtapoz and see who’s on their nutsack this month.

 

 

AN: Damn! Get out the pooper scooper because Ghetto Frida is talkin’ shit!

GF: That’s right, talkin’ that shit ‘cause I back it up! Ain’t no other artist that’s true to the game like Ghetto Frida. So how can I take money from my peoples like that?

AN: But what if your fans want to show that they’re down with you? Why not make some shirts or kicks?

GF: You wanna be down with Ghetto Frida? Take your ass to the gallery and peep my shit. I’m not down with capitalism but I’m making money. My shit sells ‘cause it’s banging.

AN: All right Ghetto Frida, good looking out. I’ll catch you on the next episode.

GF: Thanks for payin’ my bail. Just remember, when it comes to Ghetto Frida, you either ride with me or you collide with me. Look at me, there’s no Jacob on my wrist because that’s not what I’m about, but I will find time to knock your favorite artist out. You know how I do.

Gritty Passion: Georgia Anne Muldrow As Real As It Gets

Illustration by Donald Ely

Georgia Anne Muldrow is an old soul, screaming a message that is unwavering and unavoidable. “It’s about getting through what’s trying to come through me,” she stated and all for good reason. Just coming off a tour on the west coast (where she was born and now resides), and recently releasing her newest album Seeds, Georgia began our conversation saying, “it was wonderful seeing that kind of love and support by your own people.”

A statement, not meant to exclude or impede on other races, Georgia’s pride and adoration for being a black woman, is what makes her music all the more tangible and filled with soul. An affection that dates back to her childhood, when asked what inspires her she simply stated, “my love of music…true rhythm and blues…the old people in the church type of music.” Growing up in a household of musicians, she explained that, “because I had older parents I was exposed to a lot more music [like] Luther Vandross, Ike and Tina Turner, Isley Brothers, Rock and Roll.” Speaking about how her lyrics, “come from everything around me and everything I see,” Georgia’s pure intentions to speak about a purposeful message quickly became authentic not only in the lyrics she sang, but also in the words she spoke.

Georgia was one of those every blue moon experiences and within the first five minutes of our conversation I had convinced myself we had known one another for years or even in another life. The warm vibe she naturally embodied had deeply resonated within me. Possessing a clear sense of self with a deliberate message, Georgia insisted on making her music intentions clear. “I’m doing what is required of me, speaking about what is really important and about what needs to be exposed, because none of this is new…it is part of my responsibility…[my] obligation.” She defined this through her lyric influence, explaining her purpose was to be the voice for those people who, “live real lives…I want to bring something to the table that has concern for children, mothers, fathers… people who don’t have time for foolishness.”

Giving homage to those who came before her, Georgia’s humility permeated throughout the conversation. She expounded by stating how, “this was happening before I was born… people that came before… didn’t have to know me to care… they were doing it because they believed it was a part of their obligation, understanding that their was a generation that was coming after them… just like there is a generation that is coming after us.” A notion that a lot of people consider, but never truly embrace as an idea strong enough to influence their actions, Georgia’s entire aura revolved around the belief in what she identified as the “greater whole.”

A concept that is ubiquitous in her music, Georgia stressed the need to, “set it up for the next generation.” A notion that can lead to ambiguous opinions and beliefs, her brilliance was proven (if you didn’t already know) in her poetic break down, which went like this:

“As the earth gets older it becomes harder to zone out that white noise, and get in touch with the kind of reality that opens our minds to what is really going on in the earth. The bombing of cities, the starving children, the struggles that are in life that no one wants to talk about, but is pervasive throughout the everyday life of millions of people…ordinary people…people need to realize that if they just close their eyelids you’re at genesis… you are perceiving kali.”

Pause for one moment and let that absorb. Wait for it…. Let your mind understand the implications of that statement, really thinking about what she is saying.

And for those that don’t know Kali, she was so kind to rap about that as well:

“Kali Yuga (a song on her newest album Seeds, which everyone should cop, if you truly believe in feeding your mind’s spirit)…is a double entendre.” The first is, Kali Yuga known as the fourth and present age of the world (in Hindu belief), full of conflict and sin. The second component known as Kali Ma is explained by Georgia as “the goddess, which is the medicine for this time of so much white noise.” An entendre that must co-exist to remain relevant, her lyrics explanation that, “man is temporary, his logic is insane…but kali is forever the home of light unchanged,” challenges the foundation of societies beliefs (driven by consumption and superficialities), while simultaneously addressing the sole idea that Kali (inhabited by humans and the Goddess) endures only in the presence of one another. (Did you catch it? If not I’ll wait, while you re-read).

“It’s in the forefront of my mind, people that live these simple lives but are dealing with the craziest challenges”. Instantly, my mind raced to her lyrics “children going hungry,” a harsh reality Georgia explains, “it doesn’t take a lot of thought… when you are in a flow of being open to your surroundings… people are so blinded by what they have been programmed to understand.”

Her statements were so fluid it was startling. She asked me, “what are we trying to do” (which I hated to admit to myself as a rhetorical question). We sat silent on the phone for a couple seconds, only to let the painful, honest truth come out instantaneously. We, “poison our minds…consuming a shallow reality that isn’t truly real.” She went on to expose every component of our superficial world, from what we define as beauty, to our need to separate ourselves from one another (which she rebuttals in her song Calabash, asking why do we kill each other, when we are all the same). Even addressing the “stigmas blackness gets” within our society (accepted by every race, not excluding black people), Georgia exposed the problems in what she defined as Kneecap Jelly (Also, a single on her album “Seeds”). Defined as a “hesitation [and] punking out,” it baffled me how much the notion relates to our society. She exposed how no one wants to hear about real things, cause lets face it no one cares about anything but celebrity gossip right?

Going further into the notion of blackploitation, in Georgia’s Petey Wheatstraw song, she identifies the irony in society’s fascination of black culture that encourages the stereotypes, negative connotations, and belief of what blackness represents. She explained how, “black signified the evil, and white defined the purity of the world.” An idea that invades our everyday lives in magazines, movies, and advertisements, Georgia went back to the idea of an obscure, distorted reality that has been deemed worthy in society. She went on to passionately state how, “black aint dirty… blackness is the door to your potential… blackness is the goddess of creation and the goodness that is the beginning of creation.”

With that being said, I had to know what her opinion was on consciousness. I asked, and she so poetically replied:

“It is not my job to define consciousness, my job is to refine my consciousness, and I’m not sure as to all that it is because it is so much… consciousness is shared, it’s like the eye of the fly… My conscious is part of a greater whole… it’s a mating call to your reality…where your thoughts are is where you are going to be… your consciousness is everything about who you are, the DNA of what you represent from the way you think, to the way you talk, to the way you dress, to the way you express yourself…it’s like that song, you are everything and everything is you…that is the soul and core of it all and it is undeniable… it is kinetic synthesis straight from Africa and that’s everything.”

She went on to further explain consciousness as, “the God part, it’s God’s eyeball, being perceived, and people have to understand there is no perception outside of God’s eyeball…when you accept that you do not define consciousness, and become open to the fact the true perception is God’s perception you can see and understand more things and unify that eyeball… when you try to separate yourself rather than unify… that’s your ego… you can’t look at yourself as different…when you allow your ego to get in the way, there’s a lot that can go wrong.” She explained how you must “unite with your experience…unifying your whole life experience.”

Ideas that are ubiquitous throughout her music, Georgia was able to establish a genuine humanity that she embraced as being a part of the human experience. She spoke about, realizing that your greatest mistakes, are the biggest things you needed to learn.” A crippling idea if not embraced as being inevitable as human beings, Georgia spoke in a way that made her vulnerable, but all the more respected in my eyes. She was honest, sincere, and uninhibited. Finally, Georgia addressed a cure for this inevitability, and the cure was “to get in touch with the negative space…get acquainted with the great unknown” and to stop being “afraid to say you don’t know.” Easier said than done, it is definitely a concept worth fighting for and challenging yourself to work towards as a constantly growing being.

Leaving the conversation with a new-found revelation to conscious music and embracing the idea of becoming one with the universe (as cliché as that sounds), you have to wonder; maybe Georgia Anne Muldrow is really onto something. A groove that not everyone can vibe with or learn to accept, you’d been an idiot not to want to listen to how she translates these complex ideas into impenetrable sounds that stimulate your mind, body, and soul. A viscosity that brings us back to the motherland of good music, she walks to a beat that can be described by her own lyrics, “fresh from the earth pure indeed, fresh from the earth pure in mind, fresh from the earth pure in heart,” can you dig it?

 

This article appears in the Nu Africa issue of Art Nouveau. Get your copy of issue 8 here.

Nurture Nature so Products of the Environment Will be as Good as their Creators

What often happens when different worlds collide is a misplaced case of panic, chaos and calamity. Said parties often work in spite of each other, crazed for attention and yearning for validation. What if everyone worked in harmony to satisfy the healthy competition that comes hand in hand with success? While that obviously isnʼt going to happen anytime soon, because this is America after all, there is at least some hope left for cohesive unity between those in the art world.

Hionas Gallery in New York City, owned and operated by Peter and Maria Hionas, is just over a year old and is already making a name for itself. Hionas is a space that features artists from all walks of life who represent a myriad of mediums to showcase their works in month long solo exhibits. As of July 2012, 12 talented artists have shown at Hionas and on July 11, 2012 the gallery held their first year commemorative show, Year One. The exhibit features new work by each of the artists who have shown in the last year, creating an interesting mix of artists and the alluring blend of their exquisite creations. This past week I caught up with three artists who have shown at Hionas Gallery. The eclectic mix included Mr. Kaves, the self proclaimed renaissance man who made his New York solo exhibit debut at Hionas Gallery in 2011, Burton Machen the bicoastal photographer who often lets the streets do the talking for his photos, and Karlos Cárcamo an ex-break dancer with a penchant for abstraction. These artists use entirely different mediums and have varying views on life, but their works capture the spirit of the urban culture, a culture all too familiar to many yet understood by few.

Street art and urban culture are hard concepts to grapple, Iʼm pretty sure I still canʼt give an accurate definition for either. Sure, there are thin lines that some artists just wonʼt cross for fear of a faltering career at the hands of an tyrannical audience, but where exactly is this so-called “line” drawn when a curator, collector and gallery owner aren’t your only potential nemeses? What happens when your art is at the hands of the general public to deliberate on and god forbid make adjustments to? This is what Iʼd like to call street art, the expression of an ever developing culture that seems to endlessly decode concepts that are permanently up for interpretation.

Lets all take a trip down memory lane, circa the 1980ʼs. The good days, when New York was actually bad (not just because the rats were bigger than the size of most dogs now), when it was actually cool to be cool, when people wore reading glasses, well to read; yeah, its a throwback. This was also a time when graffiti and street art was really beginning to make a name for itself, catching the eye of many in the formal art world. But once an outlaw art, always an outlaw art, and soon after its rise to international fame, the graffiti scene seemed to drop off the map. Even if it wasn’t profiting monetarily, graffiti and street art was persistent in making young kids all over the world superstars, both hometown and abroad.

One of these young and unknown artists was a pint-sized kid from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, by the name of Michael McLeer a.k.a Mr. Kaves. Kaves had an unmatched loyalty to his hometown and a shockingly natural way of transforming anything he could get his hands on into a masterpiece. Inheriting his name from the retired sibling of an older writer, Kaves began making waves and building his place in the New York graffiti world with his raw talent as a inexperienced adolescent. As a kid with a big ego who didn’t see writing that resembled anything from his block, Kaves started to develop a style of his own. “My style was always big and my lettering always wild and large scale…because you had to pretend you were a giant and that’s what I tried to do.” As a teenager, being featured in the book Spraycan Art by Henry Chalfant and James Prigoff catapulted Kaves into a determined artist, given the ambition to say to himself, “okay, this is where it begins, now youʼre gonna have to step it up, keep making it happen.”

Kaves is now not only a world renowned graffiti artist and painter, but also owns Brooklyn Tattoo Shop, is in a hip-hop group The Lordz and continues to explore numerous other ventures. As Kaves will always love to paint, heʼs currently finding that film and acting are another place to evoke emotion. No matter what avenue itʼs through, “…its all about evoking the emotion, putting yourself out there and pouring your guts out…so I just keep throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks.” An expert in innumerable art fields, Kaves understands that as an artist you donʼt have to be one thing, you should always want to keep growing. “In the renaissance period there were philosophers who were inventors, artists and poets…I live so many lives through these different mediums…for a Brooklyn street kid to go there it was because I was able to wear so many different hats.”

With all this cultural stimulation spurting from street and graffiti art, its a strange occurrence this expressive form is still not respected by many. Kaves commented on this dilemma all too accurately with an astute solution, “…people always say [graffiti] encourages more vandalism but the funny thing is if you give kids a place to do things and be creative, they will eventually say ʻthis is the place to go do itʼ. Now they have no place so its going to be all over…there should be parks for art…so start in the little neighborhoods, start in my little neighborhood.”

The uncanny charm that accompanies Kaves ultra-swag is felt by everyone in his presence, as his genuine curiosity for the world has no boundaries. Kaves believes everybodyʼs life is filled with thought, effort and conscious art, and heʼs interested in it all. His everlasting enthusiasm shines through as he explained with excitement his work in the Year One exhibit, “this new work we’re… showing is cool because its taking the past of what I used to do on the trains and its also stepping into the future…the graffiti writing on the train was my name in lights when I was a child, so we incorporated that as almost a sculpture and now Iʼm stepping into that area.” Fortunately, the one thing that wonʼt change about Kaves work, regardless of what artistic avenue he decides to trod down next, is the inclusion of his running story about what heʼs going through in his life that surely captivates all.

 

Now back to the ʻ80ʼs. Meet Karlos Cárcamo, raised in Queens, NY, a die hard break dancer who assured me he tried out for every break dance scene in any ʻ80ʻs movie you could think of. The young Cárcamo soon emerged as a graffiti artist, influenced by the comprehensive writing styles of his peers. As a budding writer, Cárcamo got his first exposure to the mainstream art world after becoming thoroughly impressed by Robert Rauschenbergʼs “Combines” series that he saw in a traveling pop art exhibit during a class trip. Immediately after the exhibit Cárcamo ransacked the local Pro Paint art store, went to work on making his own work and hasnʼt stopped painting ever since. Nowadays Cárcamo is a trained painter working in various mediums and a current artist part of the “Year One” exhibit at Hionas Gallery. It wasn’t until Cárcamo started working with mediums outside of graffiti that he grew interested in the early history of graffiti that he wasn’t exposed to when he was writing. His interest was on the writers that created the start of graffiti culture in the ʼ60ʼs, the ones least known who often donʼt get recognized but deserve the most credit and praise.

Influenced by the expressive and creative way that street art comments on society and gives people a voice, Cárcamo doesnʼt make his “…art about art, itʼs life, nature, thatʼs what I speak about…I can only see art through the lens of my own experiences, which is growing up in urban culture.” Cárcamo sees this culture as one composed of a codified vocabulary, and he uses his interest in abstraction to scratch away at the elements within its layers to understand and speak about it in different bodies of work. Cárcamoʼs work is dense and coated with meaning, looking at one of his paintings from his “Microphone Check” exhibit you can say “ʻoh, this is talking about the history of graffitiʼ, but at the same time it can be talking about identity. In graffiti you create an identity, like the names of artists, this is not their real name, these are identities theyʼve created, a play on concealment.”

As Cárcamo redefines the role of appropriation, he also plays with the idea of interchangeable concepts and worth, by giving the term that is commonly used in the art world for issues of originality or authorship a new meaning, by using it the way a “…DJ uses it, you take a sample, totally change it and make something new”. Cárcamo takes pride in the fact that often times you can look at a work of his and not know where heʼs appropriating from. “…Its not necessary for someone to know that the tinted limousine glass I use in the pieces [various mixed media from “Microphone Check”] originally came from looking at a painting of Andy Warhol.”

The paintings in Cárcamoʼs Microphone Check blend together his writing styles and features the names of various graffiti artists, DJs and others who have contributed to the development of urban culture. The Microphone Check exhibit is also a debut of paintings on which Cárcamo used a computer to help form the colors in his works. This winning combination is Cárcamoʼs attempt at telling multiple stories in one form as he talks about both historical aspects and formal qualities such as color, form and space, allowing the creation of an “open ended language where people can bring their own associations to the work, so its not didactic.”

Speaking of open ended languages and over enthusiastic strangers, if you ever wondered what people think of Andy Warhol, Princess Diana or Mick Jagger, all you have to do is put up a poster of them on the street in any of the busiest cities in America and watch what happens. This is what photographer Burton Machen did for his exhibit Urban Evolution: PORTRAITS PROJECT at Hionas Gallery. “PORTRAITS PROJECT” is a supplementary expansion of his series “Urban Evolution” that explores the evolution of found art and collage on the streets.

Machen moved to New York City in 1987 and became enthralled by the Urban Decay of the Lower East Side and the East Village. The pictorial representations of the New York way of life would forever stick in Machenʼs mind and eventually encourage him to start shooting his own photographs to share his experiences with the world. This shared world soon came to include anyone who has something to say, giving a “voice to everyone who chooses to participate in the conversation.”

Urban Evolution is Machenʼs version of Urban Decay, the kind prevalent in inner cities throughout America that “…seem as if they are run down and deteriorating but in reality they are evolving, becoming something else, as is the art on the walls of the city.” Through the Urban Evolution series, Machen lends a listening ear to the many voices that echo far beyond these seemingly broken communities. The PORTRAITS PROJECT stemmed from this Urban Evolution series as Machen decided to take the project into his own hands. Machen put up portraits of different individuals from varying levels of prominence around different cities and let the public have at their faces, artistically speaking. But why care what the general public thinks, openly inviting them to produce the final outcome of a work of art? It is because most artists that “post, paint, etc. on a wall are consciously participating in creating their own…piece but are unconscious to the fact that they are actually collaborating with each other and the elements to create an amazing…work.” This open-hearted attitude towards the completion of works depends on and often dictates the perception of the viewer, which Machen says is a main factor in what separates street art from its more “conventional” counterparts. Upon first glance, one might think that Machenʼs original posted street portraits were the only real art in the piece, when in reality these portraits are purposed to serve as conversation starters. This is the focus of Machenʼs work, for this silent but pulsating conversation to tie the recognition of his work as art pieces together with the unconscious creations that people inadvertently produce.

As these three ingenious artists join nine others to celebrate a gallery that has given them the chance to use their works to speak a long and entangled dialogue, countless others will respond in unprecedented and positive ways. This unpretentious and organic conversation will continue on as increasing amounts of people express their voices from within the walls of the new and firmly established Hionas Gallery.

YEAR ONE a commemorative group exhibition featuring new works by Kaves, Burton Machen, Karlos Cárcamo and more is on view until August 11. Click here for more information.

Janine and the Mixtape May Be Too Good Pt. 2: Janine Foster’s Two Cents

Like an unknown sub-genre, somewhere between hip-hop, lounge rock, and the sound spray paint makes blasting from an aerosol can onto a street wall near a ball court downtown in the night. That’s how I’d describe the lyrically-grounded, trance-inducing sounds of Janine and the Mixtape, the band formed by lead songstress Janine Foster.

Continue reading Janine and the Mixtape May Be Too Good Pt. 2: Janine Foster’s Two Cents

In A Square World, BOSCO Is Decidedly ▲

It was the brooding energy of a sweaty dark night in East Atlanta nightclub, The Basement. That particular night was like most other nights, in Atlanta, surely around the globe, in which local people with the spattering out-of-towners gather for one ever connecting force: live music. Of course live music does not guarantee good music or even a good time but it does ensure that the lack of inactivity will provide a backdrop for the rest of the evening. I’m here waiting for singer/songwriter BOSCO.

Continue reading In A Square World, BOSCO Is Decidedly ▲

High Off An Overtly Fun Disposition, AB Soto Is Like A Piece Of Pop Art Come To Life

Dig if you will, a Hip-Hop culture not glued together by patriarchy or bravado, but actually making good music and having fun. Maybe, the idea is too demanding, but Ab Soto is hell-bent on making sure that he’s there when the Berlin wall of homophobia and the glass-ceiling of urban music comes crumbling down. Of course, most musicians that are sexually diverse have their own sob stories, but this is what it sounds like when AB Soto cries. It’s surprisingly cheerful, and not-so surprisingly thoughtful.

Continue reading High Off An Overtly Fun Disposition, AB Soto Is Like A Piece Of Pop Art Come To Life