I was recently interviewed by Sylvia for So Guide no. 67, a beautiful cultural magazine from Douban China. I decided to post the interview here since I enjoyed her questions, and because the magazine is probably somewhat hard to obtain outside of China. Hope you enjoy!
When did you first get interested in art? Do you still remember how you started? Who inspired you when you realized you wanted to become an artist?
I remember my mom making lots of artwork when I was a child, and I had a family full of do-it-yourself types. The atmosphere was generally one of creation and creativity. During middle school I began making collages and just never quit. A little later, when I was a teenager, I found one of Sabrina Ward Harrison’s books (entitled “Spilling Open”). It was a total revelation.
Your works are full of imagination, so I guess your thinking is very special. I’m curious what kind of person that you are in real life situations? Could you introduce yourself in your personal style? What do your friends think of you?
My artwork is where I feel truly comfortable expressing myself boldly. In my dress and my mannerism I’m reserved and maybe even a little plain. I like a quiet, simple, uncomplicated life. Most of my friends seem much, much more busy and they probably wonder how I don’t go crazy spending so much time at home.
What inspires you the most in daily life? What gets you excited?
Learning is a great inspiration. I love doing research and then practicing something until I get the hang of it. Lately I’ve been learning about nutrition and techniques of cooking whole, healthy foods. I’ve also been gardening; I’m in love with plants.
Speaking of “master”, who will you instantly think of? Please talk about him / her in your own words.
Ray Johnson is king. His collages are delightful on so many levels. They’re visually stunning, funny and heartfelt. I have the feeling that he took his work very seriously, but never too seriously.
Could you talk about the background story of “The other is looking in on you” series in details?
I worked on the new series for about a year, and the fundamental idea in my mind was transformation. I’m 25 and am just coming off of the formal “education” part of my life. One day I woke up to the fact that school teaches you very little of what you actually need to know, and that it in fact plants a great amount of disinformation and propaganda into young minds. So, I decided that I had to learn to teach and transform myself, independent of any institution, group, or movement. I wanted to work on knowing and feeling through my own direct experience. I’m still working on unlearning some very poisonous, insidious ideas.
How does the idea of “The other is looking in on you” series form?
I made all the work first, and then tried to decipher what it was saying. I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of Terence McKenna lately, and the title of my new series is taken from something he said in one of his talks. Basically, he’s describing a psychedelic experience in which he realized that the sacred plants weren’t allowing him to peek through the veil onto “others”, but that the “others” were looking in on him. Some may find the idea of “others” unsettling, but I like to think of them as benevolent guardian or helper spirits, and I like to think that they’re all around.
Could you talk about your consideration before you start “The other is looking in on you” series?
I work intuitively, so I never begin a piece or a series with a clear intent. Sometimes I have a vague idea (ie: transformation) but, for the most part, I just get to work.
Could you talk about the relationship between your creation of art and your innermost being? Could you talk about your power inside when you create “The other is looking in on you”?
I make artwork because I need to; it’s a functional thing. Art is my place to synthesize experiences, information, feelings, etc.… I used to do a lot of journaling, but I can’t seem to keep up with art and writing simultaneously. I think this is because they actually meet the same need for me. And I feel much more comfortable working with images than words.
Which work of “The other is looking in on you” is the most satisfactory in your mind? Could you explain the meaning and connotation about this work?
My most treasured piece is probably “Welcome to the Garden.” I like to think that we’re all intended to be here, and that we’re designed to be lovers and caretakers, not destroyers. Today there exists an underlying assumption that humanity just pillages and extracts from the earth, never giving back or nurturing. I guess that is the state we find ourselves in (under intense perversion and manipulation), but it isn’t meant to be that way, and doesn’t have to be. We’re all gardeners, caretakers, and nurturers in our natural state; we just have to get back to that.
It seems that you are also very sensitive to color? Some of your works have rich color in this series.
I always feel quite comfortable with color and don’t over-think it too much.
“The other is looking in on you” series is very different from the rest of your work. It contains more painting and drawing elements. What’s your opinion about it?
I love to combine techniques, and I find it necessary to oscillate between the worlds of collage and painting/drawing. I get bored if over-focus on one or the other. Some days I’m good at drawing and painting, I can keep a strong line or shape and make it do what I want. On other days it feels like that part of my brain is entirely inaccessible. Some days the collages seem to arrange themselves perfectly, all on their own…other days it’s a total disaster. I don’t know if other artists feel that way too, I try to just go with the flow.
Generally speaking, how long it takes you to complete a work?
Although they are quite small, my pieces usually take a while to complete. It depends on the size, level of detail, and whether or not it’s easy to resolve. Some pieces come together in a day, but others might linger unfinished for months until I figure out what exactly it needs. Sometimes I just paint over things entirely, it creates texture and happy accidents. I can get pretty precious about my work, but I do my best to avoid that.
Could you recommend a book you read or a movie you watch recently? Please talk about your feelings.
I recently read “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell. He was a comparative mythologist, which is neat because he was able to discuss humanity’s tales with a bird’s eye view. He eloquently expresses how vital mythology really is, and how a lack of myth contributes to a schism in the mind; a fundamental misunderstanding of the life cycle and our place in the cosmos. When people can’t understand their lives and their world via lore, laws must be created in their place. And they are truly a poor replacement; evidenced by the world we live in today.
What’s your nearest plan?
We’re moving out of the city into a rural area! I’m looking forward to the fresh air, and some space to move around. I can’t wait to have a big garden! And a dog!