with Shanna Waddell As a child, what did you want to become
As a teenager, I started to get a better idea of what I wanted to pursue as a profession: a painter. I was encouraged to pursue art education, started on this route then quickly changed to a BFA in painting; there were more studio classes available.
In which town did you grow up? Long Beach, California.
What inspires you in the job of being an artist?
The ability to take a reference point of some sort – anything from a spider to a historical reference – and challenge it with the multiplicity of painting [is inspiring]. With this regard, in graduate school, I began researching cults such as Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate. I started with a painting of the Jonestown massacre, and I wanted the work to have a slow reveal when you approached it, the way beauty often manifests itself. At first, in the painting, you see saturated colored shapes, and then you start to see the mass suicide. Limbs and such objects start to become clearer to you. The interest [in the historical reference] for that particular work was my first inspiration, and the fascination of beauty turning to terror [was also inspiring].
My second inspiration was the human yearning for the betterment of a person’s current state. This specific idealism inspired me to paint the Jonestown event, where followers strove for a utopian agricultural religious living arrangement but instead went haywire. In other paintings, like “Heaven’s Gate, Harold Camping,” and the next series of works, I work(ed) with this similar theme in variations. I am interested in the general framework of the psychology: why people and groups of people take their lives – some to ride a comet to the next dimension – or how people can believe the end of the world will occur in just a couple of months, immediately upon learning of this so-called end from a man who creates a neat and tidy calculation.
Do you think your background has influenced your current art style? If so, what specific element in your background is most pervasive in influencing your current art style?
I have a small family unit. My grandmother on my father’s side was a model in the Hollywood scene; she got caught up in various understudy shots for Marilyn Monroe and was in Playboy Magazine. She never really settled and made a nest for herself, so when she was in her 60s, she lived in a motor home the latter part of her life. She plastered Jesus stickers all over her van and drove me to various Pentecostal churches in the Southern California area. This may explain my fascination with religious cults? I also fell in love with the hippie culture (although I don’t dress like one), commune living arrangements, and such things that revolve around that movement.
In which way do you consider yourself an innovative creator?
In painting, there are thousands of choices: the way you approach a painting; what type of stroke you will chose for making a specific remark; how you approach the painting with content, subject matter, style – it all references the deep history entangled within painting. I, like many painters, am interested in pushing the medium of painting to its current limits, which then allows for innovation in the modern era.
Do you have any other creative ambitions or dreams to which you aspire?
My dream has always been to live in a classic Volkswagen Van with a canoe on top, to travel/backpack around the US, and to paint – while on rivers, seeing mountains and surfing various shores.