Interviewed by Isabella Yu for Noir Catcher Magazine - Milan, Italy - February / 2017
What is the journey of the artist?
I believe that for every artist, that journey is quite different. For me, the journey has been one of complete and total self-discovery. There are some fundamentals all artists must adhere to, mastery of technique and a desire to apply said technique as a vehicle of expression, and a constant craving to learn and be a consummate observer of life and the beauty that surrounds us. My life and art are parallel and by harmonizing the two I have been able, thus far, to find a unique voice and communicate my truths not only as a person but as an artist as well.
What are the ideas and feelings behind your work?
My work touches on many themes, primarily those of humanity as a whole - social indignation, understanding ones self and how that self relates to the world at large. My work is, for the most part, autobiographical and deals with being able to make sense of the times in which I live as well as my reactionary response to deeper issues, such as love, race, religion and the total effect those issues have on me.
What is creation for you?
For me creation is invention. It is bringing in to world consciousness something that didn't previously exist. It is the birth of an idea and the ability to transform it into the realm of the tangible. I am most satisfied with my work when I can look at it and feel some unease with the result. Anything truly new is uncomfortable at first, and it is that discomfort that signifies the true creation.
What was your first encounter with painting?
Painting has been with me since childhood. It was the first thing I was praised for having been "good" at. However, it wasn't until my grandmother took me to see the Barnes Collection in Dallas, when I was 8 or 9 years old, that I got a taste for what was possible in painting. First encounters with masters such as Van Gogh, Cézanne and Picasso really opened my eyes to the possibility of what art could do, not only for the human spirit but also as a way to transform abstract ideas in to something which could be universally shared and understood.
What is your definition of transcendent art?
Transcendent art makes you feel and experience something beyond what is in the subject matter, technique or medium. Art that has no clear definition, that is open to interpretation and reinterpretation. Art that is as mysterious as it is beautiful and that can exist on it's own outside of time and space.
How does your creative process go by?
I try not to let my art practice fall in to a set "process", I feel that artist that do adhere to such a process fall in to the trap of becoming "formulaic" with their work. I give myself the opportunity to create at all times and with this freedom I am always finding new ways to approach my work. My paintings are never premeditated and it is in the journey of the paint on canvas that I discover what was there all along.
How does an artist perfect his own craft?
Aside from the obvious technical aspect of the craft, I believe an artist must learn to fully open the channels of thought and emotion so that nothing can stand in its way. I think the more work an artist does with this end goal in mind, the closer he or she gets to reaching the truth in ones self and therefore in ones art. So for me, perfecting my craft has been just as much about digging deep within my own inner wellspring as it has been about learning every nuance of my chosen medium.
Recently I read Kafka, who says that as long as you keep the ability to see beauty you never grow old...Do you believe in that idea? In what do you find beauty?
I believe that in order to see beauty a person must have some level of gratitude for life, love and the world in which he/she is living. Having this appreciation opens ones eyes to the limitless possibilities in life and beauty that surrounds us which I believe to be a key ingredient for living a happy life. Seeing and understanding beauty gives one a vitality that can be equated to youth. I find beauty in all of life's offerings, behind every dark cloud, every tear drop, every uncomfortable situation... because it is within the true contrasts in life that happiness lives and can be experienced. I know it may sounds elementary, but without one side of the coin, unfortunately there could not exist the other.
Your work bends the dimensions on canvas. Were you influenced, in this respect, by Picasso or Braque, cubism in general or by the primitive art?
I have learned a great deal from the many masters that came before me and in doing so I've also discovered a great deal about myself. All art builds upon that which came before, that's why it is crucial to study and learn the history of the past so that you may have the knowledge to forge ahead and create a new path all your own.
What is the meaning and reason for your monochromatic style?
I find beauty in the true contrast of life and by using only black & white as a means to express myself is merely an extension of that ideal. Life is built on opposites, we all experience them in their many forms, whether it be as rudimentary as night and day, good and evil, happiness and sadness, on or off...this is what is the underline expression in my all of my work, because it is something we all battle with or against everyday. I am constantly being pulled in both directions and my art is a result of that. My work represents that struggle to reconcile the differences yet celebrating the beauty in the contrast.
What is your personal philosophy of life?
The three main pillars of my philosophy are: Positivity, Discipline, and Love. I am a firm believer that with a positive outlook any adversity can be overcome. It is the "vehicle" with which you can transform any situation and put yourself on the path to achieving your greater life's purpose. Discipline is the "fuel" that keeps the positivity going, practicing discipline in all aspects of life gives you ultimate control of yourself and your destiny...you create the outcome. and Love is the "road" on which my positivity and discipline travel. If I am able to do everything I set out to do with love, I am certain the results will be of lasting reward.
Is there a work of art or literature that deeply influence you?
There isn't just one work of art or book that I can say was the major catalyst for my work. I am consistently learning from everything I'm exposed to. Some artists' work speaks louder to me than others, but it all still funnels through my new mind and the output is a result of that variety.
Through bending the dimension are you willing to reveal something else, hidden for the eye?
There are so many ways to interpret my work, and often times it is not until after a painting has been completed that I am able to fully understand it's meaning. When painting, I enter a meditative state. My focus is usually on the current events and people in my life and my thoughts on everything all at once. The most exciting aspect of making art is that spontaneity and surprise that results from being somewhat detached from the outcome and then later revealing the work's meaning.
What is the most intimate space for you and your most treasured object?
My studio is my sanctuary. It is a place where I can be completely myself, uninhibited and free to create. Although I own many incredible works of art by some of the greats, musical instruments beautifully crafted and mementos that I've collected over the years. However, my most treasured objects would be those which I have created myself, my art. Not only are my artworks a reminder to myself of my own ability and limitless potential, they are tangible objects which also contain a part of me in them, they are irreplaceable, unreproducible and mean everything to me.
What should be the artist's contribution to society?
True art is a relic of the artist's times and life. It's as much a representation of themselves as it is about the world in which they live. I believe an artist should examine their place in society, and comment on their observations with the work they create. These are treasures to be experienced by future generations as a reminder of the growth and progress that has been made by humanity and also a indicator of where the human race, as a whole, is headed.
Do your artworks provide for you what life does not always deliver?
Yes, art for me is an opportunity to transform my world and everything in it, in an effort to better understand everything around me. It gives me hope in the sense that I have some kind of control over life, and my destiny. The way I chose to see and represent it is entirely up to me. Art for me is the beginning and the end. It encompasses my entire being and affirms my purpose on this earth. I live for my art and I'll die for it as well.
Do you have a structured plan in mind before starting a drawing or painting, or does it come with the start?
As I mentioned before, the spontaneity in my artistic process is for me the most exhilarating part of creating. Planning the final product in advance can take the life right out of it. When I make an artwork, I do so for the journey, to see where I can take a subject, to discover the transmutation of a form, to revel in the evolution of an idea. Premeditation, in my opinion, prevents the artwork from taking on a life of it's own and my desire to take an idea to it's absolute limit.
Are there moments of a "creative block"? How do you revive and revitalize your creativity?
I'm only human and I experience creative block just as much as anyone else. The key is to persist beyond. You have to stick with the work until you overcome the obstacles that present themselves. I believe that is one of the things that sets my work apart from that of my contemporaries. I am unafraid to go beyond the point of no return, even if that means destroying the art as a result. In art there is no room for the timid, the faint of heart or the weak. It takes a thick skin and a certain naivety to walk directly in the face of failure knowing that the chances of triumph are minimal, if any. Yet, from that struggle comes the purest form of art, work that is just as profound to the viewer as it was to the artist making it.
Is there something in the world of art nowadays that you dislike?
Not particularly. The art world of today is the art world of yesterday. It is built by commerce and fuelled by money just as much now as it ever was. It is what it is. Instead of focusing on my disdain for it, I try to find ways to integrate my work in to it while at the same time staying true to myself. Being an outsider has it's obvious downside, but I feel the upside is much greater. I have more freedom to do as I please, make my mistakes and have my successes without the pressure to conform to someone else's ideas of what art is or should be.
What is a piece of advice you will give to any young artist?
Do the work. Do the work. Do the work. There's just no shortcut or way around that. You have to live and breath your art. If you really want to make it (I'm well aware that "making it" can be very different from one person to another) in the traditional sense - notoriety, sales and respect, you have to be willing to pay the price. And that price is to do the best work you can, as much as you can, for as long as you can. No exceptions and no excuses.
What is the most inspirational place to you and why?
Throughout my life, I've had the great fortune of being able to travel and experience much of the world. And there is a lot of beauty and history that one can take in from seeing and experience different places and cultures. However, I believe that for me, inspiration is very much a "state of mind". It has more to do with ones attitude and desire to contribute something from within, than it does as a result of where you are. Inspiration comes from a strong need to communicate and express one's ideals. What I mean is, I can be just as inspired walking the streets of LA as I can be standing at the Piazzale Michelangelo overlooking Florence at sunset. Inspiration can be found in the attention you pay to your surroundings and your awareness of the effect your environment has on you.
What is your aim as an artist?
Ever since I was old enough to have thoughts of my own, I've dedicated my life to making art. Always carrying with me the personal mission of changing the way people perceive not only art, but themselves and the world around them, for the better. I'd also like to be remembered as the greatest artist of the 21st century. A lofty goal indeed but one I'm certain I can reach. Obviously there are many variables at play, such as, the way the public perceives me and my work, the cultural climate in the world during my lifetime and so on and so forth. However, I steer the ship and have complete control over my willingness to express my truths. By making certain that everyday my work is being used as a vessel for inspiration and innovation, I can inch myself closer and closer to that ultimate goal. I'm certain that given the opportunity to live a long and healthy life, I'll continue to use my talents to create an enormous body of work that goes beyond the monumental and is of true lasting value, leaving behind something for all future generations to experience, enjoy and learn from.