An interview with Brain Magazine. It is in French. Here is the English version:
Did your parents work in the art field? My mom taught blind and visually impaired students in our public school system and my dad owns a local family insurance agency.
As a child, what did you use to doodle in your textbooks in school? Mostly pen and pencil.
When did you decide to become an artist? My third year of college. I was a business major, planning to work at my family’s insurance agency, but my grades and overall interest were not there. I decided over the Thanksgiving holiday to switch my major to studio art.
Your artwork contains everyday manufactured products, like Pepsi and Coke cans. Were you somehow influenced by Andy Warhol’s work? I think every contemporary artist has a Warhol influence. The idea of Pop Art expanded the boundaries of what Fine Art can be, just the way Picasso and Dada expanded those earlier boundaries. Those ideas just get interwoven in contemporary thought.
Do you drink Pepsi or Coca Cola? Yeah, but I don’t have a preference. Coke has always had incredible ad campaigns.
In your collages, you tend to mash up retro technological items (such as VHS tapes, Atari consoles, etc.), vintage wallpaper and faded family photographs. Can we consider nostalgia as your main work theme? Mortality is my main theme. I end up using identity and the evolving digital world to focus on mortality in an indirect way, so pop culture allows me to get further away from mortality’s morbid and introspective aspects. We do a lot of strange things, like becoming nostalgic or creating unique mythologies, because we are aware that one day we’ll die. That has always fascinated me, so those themes are a foundation. Media like VHS or Atari relate to the temporary nature of things.
While VHS tapes and Atari consoles can be considered as part of the collective memory, you have chosen to use pictures of your own family. Why? I try to take those images and turn them into a template or an everyman/woman that people can relate to. I always get rid of facial features and use them as the protagonists in the story. The lines coming out of them represent abstractions of thought bubbles in cartoons. It is their way of interacting with their environment, trying to understand what is going on around them. I also hope they add a layer that can push the work beyond simple pop art.
What is – or was, if you don’t play anymore – your favourite video game? I love video games. This is my top ten: Fallout New Vegas, Majora’s Mask, Ico, Red Dead Redemption, Beyond Good & Evil, Resident Evil 4, Legend of Zelda, Psychonauts, Bioshock, Skyrim
In your artwork, we can see audio tapes of Dr. Dre and REM. What were your favorite musicians back then? I never really listened to music until my 10th grade year of high school. Losing My Religion was a single on the radio at the time and after hearing it and seeing the video on MTV, I bought pretty much every R.E.M. album in a few months. I had a 10 disk changer in my car trunk and it was always completely full of R.E.M. albums.
Do you also listen to today’s music? I love Synthwave. It is really all I listen to. Alpha Boy, Arcade High, Betamaxx, College, Electric Youth, Futurecop!, Kristine, Lazerhawk, Miami Nights 1984, Mitch Murder, 80s Stallone. It all has an either 80s movie soundtrack vibe or early 8-bit video game sound.
Who are your favourite artists? Cy Twombly, Takashi Murakami, Peter Doig, Tom Wesselmann, Jennifer Mehigan and Roberto Calbucci
Are these mash-ups also a way of tackling the theme of technological obsolescence, which tends to come more and more quickly, as cell phones for instance now tend to become outdated only two years after they were released? I was thinking that, there is an opposition between the rapid pace at which technology progresses and the slow pace at which an artwork is composed, and between the overconsumption phenomenon and the DIY aspect of your collages. Am I correct? I use older things to focus on the temporary nature of existence. It really is as simple as that. I like repeating patterns or a large collection of things to go after traditional ideas of the sublime in art, where the sheer number of things, like tiny pixels, imply a much larger scenario, such as infinity. It is the simple idea of stars in the sky at night. How many are there? It is uncountable. The same goes for wallpaper patterns. When does the pattern end? Never. How many piles of Atari and VHS tapes are out there? You just don’t know.
When do you think we will be able to see iPhones in your work? They would need to be replaced by something else. I have a first generation iPod, with the actual buttons around the radial wheel that I’m sure I’ll use at some point. The iPhone replaced the iPod. At the same time, the original iPod already looks like a bulky antique. Who knows if the iPhone will ever get there.
As we mentioned it, collages tend to create time lags in your work. Do you think these discrepancies might have a comical effect? I think comedy in Fine Art isn’t a good idea, so I wouldn’t do it intentionally. I think Norman Rockwell was great at it, but there are not many other examples. That being said, I love comedy and I usually watch B horror movies while I work, so it might make its way in unintentionally. I could see something like the VHS tapes stacked against a Jacobean wallpaper pattern as a bit comical. Maybe the general idea of using themes of mortality and traditional ideas of the sublime with pop art and personal family photos is funny as well.
You use acrylic paint and permanent markers. Can you explain why you choose these media? I’m interested in the actual process, the steps that are needed to get to the end, and I’m very methodical in how I get there. With paint, it is the ability to control the different layers with masking tape. With the marker drawings, I’m trying the recreate as accurately as possible the images I’m working from with a rather inaccurate media, so that tension is always there in the work, trying to make a specific, complex shape with a media that tends to run and bleed and is completely unforgiving to mistakes. I suppose they balance each other, with the paint giving me a lot of control and the markers giving me less control in many ways.
I saw one of your old series, in which you represented landscapes and spaces with pyramidal mountains and starry skies. Where did this Egyptian cosmic inspiration come from? The simple questions of Who are we? Where do we come from? What happens to us when we die? are the foundations of belief systems we have developed throughout history. For a while, I would take different mythologies, such as Egyptian or Native American, and would use those world views. It all goes back to knowledge of mortality. Would these things exist if we didn’t know we were going to die?
Do you rather work in the morning or at night? Sober or drunk? Morning is best, but really I can do good work any time of day. As for drinking, I’ve heard of other artists who were productive while they drank, but I am so process oriented, it isn’t helpful. Ten years ago I did larger abstract, expressive paintings, which I think is a much better format for booze.
Do you believe that Art is useful? It is useful to me. As someone who lives off their work, I would hope that it is useful to a lot of people, but ultimately, I make the work for myself. If other people find it useful, then that is wonderful and I am sincerely happy about the connection.