Artist Interviews 2021
By Johnny Otto
You grew up in Boca Raton, Florida. Was there much of an art scene there or did your inspiration come when you moved to Los Angeles and attended the Art School of Design in Pasadena? What was Art School like?
Well I had artistic aspirations in Florida of course and I was doing art there. My mother was a nude model for artists at Florida atlantic University and I would go with her while she sat for them.
The artists would put me in a little room behind a curtain and give me paint...maybe thats how it started I'm not sure ..? But I was always scribbling on something as a kid up until high school when I was in AP ART classes.
Miami has a great art scene though I'm not so sure of how much in the 90s when I was a teenager. I mean Im sure it was there but at that point I was restless I just needed to go somewhere else.
I thought it was going to be NewYork but it turned into Losangeles. So I had been doing art for years I think what inspired me was the everglades I lived nearby , the primordial feeling along with the alligators and insects.
That was all in my backyard, thats what we did go out and feed alligators. They've sort of haunted me ever since , I can still remember a dream i had when i was young about a spectral alligator coming through my sliding glass door,
I always felt I could feel the energy that exuded from there and that it fed into me and my work even after leaving and living in Los Angeles. I loved here with one bag and my box of paint and lived out of hotels on the sunset s
trip and slowly built my way up. There is an energy in those places very conducive to creativity.I wanted to be like my idols who sort of lived on the edge and created ...like Jim Morrison or William Burroughs.
So to answer your question its a bit of both but I would say my work really exploded when I moved here and was shaped by the experiences and places in the city. Those first few years were kind of bleak so doing
art really got me through it and I was living the art life. I can get into this more in question 7). I'm really self taught so I didn't really learn anything from Art Center technique wise. It's a nice school and has a great
library but it did not inspire me much. It seemed their job was to break down everything I was interested in painting and it was very PC. I don't think I ever had one critique that did not label something I did as to dark
or misogynistic, theres one and I believe i included it that people just hated so I must have done something right. Art Center was in truth a great let down, I thought I could go there with my skill and get somewhere with
it but I never really did. I mean I made some contacts which is why you go but I seemed to burn my bridges through arguments , very ridiculous one I might add. As a design and illustration school it is great but not as a fine art school, its very theory based and again PC. We use to have these group discussions about each others work and I just found it ridiculous that I should be talking to another artist telling me what doesnt work in my work.. as if they could understand it to begin with. Its very ridiculous. I did take some cinema classes there I liked. That was cool and I designed a fake movie poster I later turned into script so if I ever get it made or sold I can always attribute Art Center to that. I also took a set design class which i was good at. The whole getting into debt thing is crazy ...because there is no guarantee of getting anything from it. Maybe if you are there for graphic arts ( something I regret not doing) or car design other than that you are just hoping you have a good relationship with the instructor who probably teaches at USC and some other connected places and they'll help you up the ladder by putting your work in a show. Most success in the art world is really based on these big schools and its all about the theory ,learning the vernacular and using it to describe your work so a curator understands it. Its kind of a sham but so is a lot of the blue chip art world which don't get me wrong I would love to be in but its got an air of pompousness to it and it most of it has no heart.
Looking at your work I have to assume that you’re interested in the subconscious and perhaps the dark workings of the mind, There seems to be a merging of sex, violence, death and dreams. What drives you to paint images that are sort of dark and provocative? Why not paint landscapes or abstract art? Why is this your focus?
Well to start with I do actually like abstract stuff and I do do abstract work just not the typical squares and neatly modified shapes.My abstraction is kind of something new Ive developed over the years that still illustrates that dark subconsciousness thing just not in a relatable defined way. I wish I had a more solidified answer for why I focus on the stuff you mentioned the death fetish merged with sex etc... but it just sort of comes out and its how my mind works. I'm attracted to the abject and how things deteriorate and how that happens to the body as well. It's really still that everglades primordial thing which still lingers in me but it's also what is around Los Angeles on an unconscious level.I think i learned to disassociate at a very young age and I have always had this other world stirring in my brain. I have very vivid dreams and for me dreams are very integral to my work I am trying to as best as I can put it down on canvas or paper but it does not happen in a organized way. It starts out sort of like an automatic drawing then an image appears I fixate on it and say this is a painting and work on it more More as to why it's my focus I just need to do it or I would go crazy and these things in my head are an extension of myself I guess. Its weird how and where the mind wanders ... I believe in the artist to a degree is a vessel for something working through them and I do believe that there is a somewhere else I receive these images from. They say the minds eye creates the art...so there must be something esoteric going on. I guess you could call it Jung's Collective Unconscious. I mean we all have it all humans are aware of it and experience it in some way shape or form, I'm just painting it or invoking it.But I think this imagery is inside all of us and on a deep primordial level its relatable to everyone. Theres a reason we all understand Munch's "The Scream." Understanding that concept and looking really looking around Los Angeles i think pretty much explains my work and how the city inspires , its a parasitic relationship. I need a bit of chaos to create. This place is a vortex and I in a way feel like a slave to my work.If I did not do it I might go insane and making it can consume you from doing what normal people do and I love the worlds I am creating and open to. Nothing matches that creative non existent bliss except maybe sex which is another moment when you are sort of unaware of the past present and future. Art Center thankfully did not do a good job of getting me to stop making my work.
I wold have been making more less challenging abstract art had I let them tell me what to make. but going back to the question its something inside me I need to get out.
Max Ernst, Dali, and Hieronymus Bosch are some of the Artists I think of when I see your work. Of course your style is vastly different than theirs but in that same school of surrealism. Who are your influences?
My influences are definitely those artists you mentioned. At one point I just devoured art books , those artists and others broke through to the other side and that was my goal. I particularly love Bosch for his layout of imagery. That is something i definitely learned or took from him.I think he really was painting hell or at least giving it a visual form we could relate to.I mean there are a lot of artists I like and not all are fine artists. I am a huge comic fan and there are some fantastic comic book artists.A short list would be david Lynch ( also his films) Ives Tanguy (perhaps my favorite surrealist) H.R. Giger, Francis Bacon...I love Bacon for the implied narrative he creates and I don't think he always had a defines idea what his paintings were about , its the implied narrative tha grabs a viewer. Something you can look at over and over again without ever really understanding it entirely. there needs to be mystery. Lets see dave Mckean , Bill Sienkiewicz , Otto Dix , Rothko, William Burroughs , David Bowie, Laurie Anderson, Mobius, Phillippe Druillet, Simon BisleyLove early 80s Heavy Metal Magazine , a lot of unknown artists.Frank Thorne, Picasso , Van Gogh, Jim Morrison, Edward Munch, Floria Sigismondi she art directed the early Manson videos and also did some 90s David Bowie videos. Movies and visual art are also in the influences its a huge list and I have for sure left out a lot. I like some Warhol, I like the collaboration he did with Basquiat in the 80s. I love the 80s NewYork art scene I wish I'd experienced that, theres never been anything quite like it since. I live by Ann Magnusson and have met Kenny Scharf at parties , thats about as close as I have gotten to it. There are probably several other artists I did not mention.
Any Artists you'd like to collaborate with?
I'd love to meet David Lynch I feel like I might have a lot to talk sbout with him but who knows sometimes artists cancel each other out.I also might bother him to much about making a director cut of his DUNE. . I think that would be cool though I love his art and how he does not apply to much meaning to it except absurdity. He's an interesting director and just the fact that he became one is amazing that could never happen today. You could never make Eraserhead at a film school and get a career from it, he's sort of a oddity. I'd like to meet Floria Sigismondi she was the art director for the early Manson videos and some David Bowie ones a swell. She's an interesting artist would love to work with her. I did set design so I would love to maybe turn what I put out on canvas into films. I love Southpark I would love to see them list one of my paintings. animation in general would be cool that is something I could see collaboraitng on with someone. Also I'd love to do album covers so any musician is always welcome to say hey I like that listen to this can you make us something.
Are you currently showing your work or what is your focus at the moment?
My focus is just doing the work and trying to get it seen which although seems easy isn't. We have FB , Instagram all these sights and maybe a 6 degrees away from someone who mightt like it just a hashtag away but its still hard. I guess its luck, I sell something occasionally usually prints, Id love to make posters and shirts but its all very big and a lot of work and I am as said a slave to the art. I'd like a show though.
How does music inspire you or set a mood for you? What do you like to listen to when you paint, or do you prefer silence or perhaps the sound of the city?
It sort of depends sometimes nothing other times its Bowie, there' s a particular album which is Diamond Dogs one which I think is perhaps his best. Its very dark and moody. Listen to the opening of future Legend I can play that over and over, just the music itself inspires some strange landscape. I also like LOW a lot. I'll tend to play aloe the same songs over and over or albums one I use a lot is HOLE Lie Through This, its such an aggressive album and its pretty much my high school parking lot anthem as is Nirvana. I am sort of stuck in the 90s and still wondering what happened to all the things that never materialized from it. Theres a song on The Crow soundtrack I replay over and over called TIMEBABY III by Medicine. Of course Nirvana , a lot of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Janes Addiction...that first album. Bahaus. I love the 80s synth thing like specifically from John Carpenter films. That music really created something and sunk into me when I was young. Early 80s when I was growing up had such a strange dark vibe and it ended pretty quickly by 85.But it left a residue. If its not music I paint to television of movies playing in the background.
How has living in a city as vast and complex as Los Angeles affected your work?
As I said I was painting in Florida but when and when I moved here my art exploded. I was living in run down hotels off the sunset strip trying to be William Burroughs without the drugs.
I really got into the cut ups and sort of utilized them to create work because they work as a literary acid meaning they create images in the head ( at least they do for me ). so I was living
in half squalor in a haunted hotel the Las Palmas hotel (which may be form down now Im not sure)... you know its the hotel from Pretty Woman where she lived in before she meets Richard Gere ,
anyways I am underlining passages from The Soft Machine being choked on my bed sheets from some weird energy in my room and writing and drawing a non linear gothic novel in the fashion on William
Burroughs describing my day to day life and dreams . That was my first first 2 years here and I would love to put that book out one day.. I also use to frequent a long gone coffee shop called Top
fuel where I would go every day till I eventually worked there and worked on that book and a few of the painting I submitted here.That was a cool place with some wicked energy, it doubled as a place
for NA and AA people to go to so it looked like a run down bar but it served coffee, and it had a great jukebox. Thats sort of the way it goes I guess to answer your question the experiences
gathered and you transfer that energy of the people or presence a place has into the work.That energy, experience whichever feeds the work.
Are you primarily a painter or do you enjoy making other forms of art?
I do a little of everything I've written 3 screenplays, very good at Photoshop I love making digital images. I do set design, a little acting finishing up my reel. Painting is what I have to do I like it because I don't need another person.