Opening Reception of Sarah Joncas & Kelly Vivanco’s “Betwixt and Between” and Scott Listfield’s “1984” Recap

Thank you to all those who made it out to the opening reception of Sarah Joncas and Kelly Vivanco’s latest body of work Betwixt and Between and Scott Listfied’s solo exhibition 1984 in the project room. The gallery was filled throughout the evening with fans, friends, and family all excited for Thinkspace Projects first show of 2018. There are still a few pieces available from each artist, but not many, so check them out soon!

The exhibitions are on view now through January 27th.

 

Interview with James Bullough

Scope is a great way for us to close out the year, and 2017 didn’t disappoint. We want to thank everyone that came to the booth and a big round of applause to the entire staff of Scope. Also, major kudos to both James Bullough and Michael Reeder who sold out their solo shows during the fair. Below is our interview with Jame Bullough on behalf of his mini solo at Scope.

Was this your first time at Scope?  If not, what is your favorite thing about Scope? Any good stories from this year to share?

2017 was my third year in a row showing at Scope, each time with Thinkspace Gallery.  My first two years, however, I only showed one or two pieces versus the 7 that I showed this year.  Maybe because it takes place in December but I see Scope and the whole Miami Basel week as a culmination of the years work for everyone in the industry.  It’s a place where you can come and see a good percentage of the active people in the scene all in one place and see how their work has progressed since the last year (or not) and who is showing with who.  It’s kind of like a “state of the union” for the art world.  Add on top of that that many of the artists make the trip to Miami so it’s also kind of a family reunion of sorts for everyone to catch up and party and let loose to celebrate the end of another successful year.

Every day and especially every night is an adventure with that many friends in town.  There were a couple epic nights this year, the stories of which I should probably keep to myself, but one that stands out was definitely the night of the Secret Walls battle which I participated in followed by a secret birthday party for my man Alexis Diaz… that was a HEAVY night.

What did you want to push and explore whether in technique or theme in your body of work for Scope?

Showing 7 paintings at Scope allowed me to showcase a few different techniques and styles that I’ve been playing with over the past couple years.  Seeing my work online and in person are two very different experiences and I knew that more actual people would see my work in person at Scope than any other exhibition so I took the opportunity to really push each painting and show the world what I can do.  I showed 5 of my more traditional “fractured” paintings but with each of them, I pushed them further than I normally had in the past.  I added more complex backgrounds and use more complex clothing on my models and I also fractured the figures more than I normally would to really blow peoples minds.  I also worked with one model for two of my paintings who has a very intricate full sleeve tattoo which I highlighted to emphasize the technical quality of my work.  On the final two paintings, I showed a new technique I’ve been slowly incorporating into my work where it appears that the painting is peeling off of the canvas (or wood panel in my case).  When done correctly the effect is really grabbing and I enjoy watching people walk up to the painting to see if it is really peeling off or just painted to look like it is.  My work has always been about distorting or disrupting the traditional idea of portraiture so, in a way, the peeling paintings are actually no different from the fractured paintings, it’s just a different way to break up and disrupt the portrait.

Who has been a major artistic influence in your life? Not influencing your style of art, but influencing your approach to art.

There are two very different worlds that have influenced my work heavily, both in style but also approach… Graffiti and street artists, and traditional ‘Old Mastery’ type oil painters.  The two couldn’t be more opposite in many ways.  The technique, style, approach, desired outcome, target market… almost every aspect poses the two worlds against each other.  But perhaps that’s exactly why I look to both of them for my inspiration.  From the traditional oil painting worlds I take the discipline and passion for technique and detail as well as the ability to spend weeks or months on one piece until it’s absolutely just right, but if I lived only in that world all the time I would go absolutely mad.  Luckily for me, I also paint murals and am influenced by the street art world as well which is more about collaboration and working within restrictions such as time and physical limits.  When I’m working on the streets I’ve got to be much freer and more open to making adjustments on the fly.  It’s also a more physical work where I’m moving around a lot and climbing up on scaffolding or using huge machinery, versus the hours on end I sit in my studio at my easel not moving more than a few inches for an entire day.  I need both situations in my life to feel whole.

What does a cram day in the studio look like? What are you eating? How much coffee are you drinking? What are you listening to? – Did you cram to finish pieces for Scope?

Cram DAY???  more like cram month(s).  I paint slowly so I am methodical about planning things out and setting goals for finishing paintings and starting the next one.  It took me roughly 6 months to paint the 7 pieces for Scope and I was working on the last one, one-week before the show opened in Miami.  I take on average about three weeks per painting and I know if I go beyond those three weeks I’m eating into the time for the next painting so I get stressed out about every three weeks as one piece comes to an end.  In all honesty though, I’m a pretty hard worker and my studio days weather stressed or not are mostly the same.

I get in around noon after spending the morning do administrative work or going to the gym.  Then from around noon until 7 or 8 pm I’m painting solid without many brakes at all.  I try not to drink too much coffee or beer (which is extremely difficult) so i’ve switched to Yogi Tea which I’m not sure is any better and I snack on terrible cheap german snacks from the corner shop throughout the whole day, just to ensure that any work I did at the gym that morning was completely nullified.  As for what I listen to, it’s mostly NPR, and science and comedy podcasts, including the best podcast ever… VantagePoint!

What’s coming up next for you?

This year I’ll be quietly working away on a new body of work for my big solo show at Thinkspace in 2019.  I’ll also be traveling around painting murals from time to time starting off with a mural in Hawaii for Pow Wow in February followed by a few big projects I have in the works for the spring and summer.  Other than that I’ll be doing my best impersonation of a good dad and hopefully go on a family vacation for the first time in a couple years with my very supportive and patient wife.

We can’t wait to be showing more of Bullough’s work throughout the year and his solo coming in 2019!

Interview with Michael Reeder

Scope is a great way for us to close out the year, and 2017 didn’t disappoint. We want to thank everyone that came to the booth and a big round of applause to the entire staff of Scope. Also, major kudos to both James Bullough and Michael Reeder who sold out their solo shows during the fair. Below is our interview with Reeder on behalf of his mini solo at Scope.

Was this your first time at Scope? We know you couldn’t make it down due to family obligations, but anything you saw online that really spoke to you, while watching on social media out in California?

Yes, it was my first time showing at Scope, and I thank you for the opportunity! In addition to the work, I had on display at the Thinkspace booth I was stoked to have a recent commission for the National Institute of Urban Art on display as well. It’s my largest studio piece to date, and I’m glad so many people got the chance to see it in person! While watching from afar, I must say I was very impressed with the work Jonni Cheatwood had on display at Mika Gallery from Tel Aviv. Really wish I could’ve checked it all out in person!!

How has the body of work you exhibited at Scope continued to explore the ideas around identity?

I would say that the subject of identity is more of a blanket theme rather than a specific focus. Although my paintings depict figures and representational elements, they’re not specifically intended to illustrate a meaning or a theme. For me, if I set out to make work that is centered around conveying a particular idea or meaning, the work would be very different than my work that already exists. With all of that said, the works on display at Scope represented a range of themes, subjects, and concepts; emotion, gender, ascension, and the internal and external self – which all fall within the subject of identity.

I would like to add that my process from start to finish is very open. I pull from a wide range of themes and motifs that allow me to build the paintings as fluidly as possible. This opens space to create the freshest and most uncontrived image I can, all the while holding onto my “style”. So, to be completely honest, I typically don’t know what a painting is about until it’s pretty much finished. I try to approach everything with a collaborative mentality where the paint, surface, process and myself work together to invent something new. Starting out with an intended final goal not only stagnates the true creative process but also kills the adventure before the journey begins.

Who has been a major artistic influence in your life? Not influencing your style of art, but influencing your approach to art.

UK based painter Andrew Salgado has been a huge inspiration for me for quite some time. His work ethic in the studio is incredible, to say the least. He’s always creating huge, beastly yet elegant museum-quality paintings and is constantly raising the bar higher every single show. His work consistently possesses high levels of surface, color, and form and the integration of them all is masterful. Not to mention he is very humble about his success, and I look up to that quality.

What does a cram day in the studio look like? What are you eating? How much coffee are you drinking? What are you listening to? – Did you cram to finish pieces for Scope?

A cram day in the studio pretty much requires that I have everything I need to stay locked in until I’m reaching an almost unsafe level of delirium. This requires many pre-made sandwiches, snacks, water, beer, etc. – all stocked and accessible. I actually only drink coffee in the morning and I add in adaptogenic herbs to help me power through. I’ve found that drinking it in the afternoon or evening is just asking for a crash and that’s obviously the last thing I’m wanting to have happen. I’m jamming music constantly! I probably wouldn’t make art without it. I definitely listen to a wide range of music from Monolord, to The Mars Volta, Sun Kil Moon, Black Milk, Wu-Tang, MF Doom, to Godspeed You! Black Emperor etc. etc. etc.

I didn’t necessarily cram for Scope, thankfully. However, I did utilize nearly every waking hour leading up to the deadline – but I didn’t feel overly pressured. I was mainly trying to focus on cohesiveness amongst the works and that sort of adds an additional layer of complexity to the process. With that said, I’m pleased with the way it all turned out!

What’s coming up next for you?
I am finishing up some upgrades to my studio space (which is very much needed and amazing to have time for), and I’m about to get going on my Project Room solo show with you guys this coming April. I also have a rad collaborative project with Specialized Bicycles that I’ve been working on that will launch in the next few months. 2018 is packed to the brim, and I’m ready!

We look forward to showing more from Michael Reeder in the coming year, especially with his upcoming solo exhibition at Thinkspace Projects coming April 2018.

You can view all available work from him here.

 

NEW PRINT EDITIONS AVAILABLE THIS SATURDAY EVENING FROM SARAH JONCAS, KELLY VIVANCO, and SCOTT LISTFIELD

We’re excited to be dropping new print editions from Scott Listfield, Sarah Joncas, and Kelly Vivanco at the opening reception of Betwixt and Beauty in the main room, and 1984 in the project room this Saturday, January 6thWe will only be accepting in-person sales at this time, and currently, no phone or internet orders will be accepted. After the opening reception, the remaining copies will be shared via our webshop where those unable to attend the opening will have an opportunity to purchase prints.
Make sure to follow our social media channels for further print release details.
SARAH JONCAS
‘Fever Break’
Edition of 40
Fine art print on 290gsm paper
Signed and numbered by the artist
16×20 inches / 40.6×50.8cm
$75
 KELLY VIVANCO
‘Masks’
Edition of 30
Fine art print on 290gsm paper
Signed and numbered by the artist
12×12 inches / 30x30cm
$50
 SCOTT LISTFIELD
‘Rio’
Edition of 60
Fine art print on 290gsm paper
Signed and numbered by the artist
16×20 inches / 40.6×50.8cm
$75

Interview with Sarah Joncas for “Betwixt and Between”

Thinkspace Projects is pleased to present Betwixt and Between featuring new works new works by Canadian artist Sarah Joncas and Southern Californian artist Kelly Vivanco. Both artists are known for their narrative-based works that embrace the imaginative potential of the subconscious and creatively play with elements of the surreal drawings on feelings of nostalgia whether it be hopeful or melancholy.  In anticipation of the exhibition opening, Saturday, January 6th, our interview with Sarah Joncas shares her love for the anti-hero, dream collaboration, and favorite fable.

Opening reception, Saturday, January 6th from 6 pm to 9 pm. 

SH: How long have you been working on this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?
SJ: I started working on the pieces for this show last winter. I like two-person shows because I don’t necessarily focus on one specific theme for the body, but feel out ideas as they come, connecting things here or there, but also just welcoming works to being their own thing entirely. I was exploring more of an aesthetic with this work through – more subtle, dreamy backgrounds that further push the graphic elements I’ve slowly been including in my paintings the last few years. I still have imagery focusing around cityscapes, water, animals, and flowers though, touching on urbanism and environmentalist concerns.

SH: The key to a fable is that it teaches you a lesson. What is one of your favorite fables, and have you been able to master the lesson it taught you or do you still struggle?
SJ: I haven’t thought much about fables since I was a kid, to be honest, but I do like ‘The Tortoise and The Hare’. Not just for the obvious cliché of  ‘slow and steady wins the race’, but for that arrogance was the hare’s true flaw… Never expect the world will work it’s way out for you simply because you think you’re fabulous and deserving. Expect an unfiltered reality, that often things often won’t be optimal, but give it your best anyhow! Despite the anxiety of challenges, my life has been much greater because in the end I went for it, even if I wasn’t the best.

SH: What is your favorite part of the creative process? What is your least favorite part?
SJ: My favorite part is painting the face, haha. Too obvious? I don’t know what it is, I love seeing the features come to life and look back at me. Lately, I’ve been really enjoying painting ears as well, strange folds and turns. Everyone’s ears are so unique, you hardly notice until you start painting them. My least favorite is titling the work. I’m just unconfident with words most of the time!

SH: What inspires the environment that you end up building around your composition? Does the subject come first, or the environment that the subject inhabits?
SJ: It differs, though often the figures come first. With the background, I’m usually inspired by my own surroundings. I like painting suburbia and the city, with animal and plant life creeping in, adding surreal touches. One of the works from the show, ‘Sakura’, was inspired by a trip I recently took to Japan. I ended up using photos of buildings and signs I took in Tokyo as refs for the BG. I’d like to do more paintings inspired by my travels to other places as well.

SH: The women you paint have a heroic and cinematic quality to them, what are the values your ideal heroine would possess?
SJ: Heroes generally have the values of being moral, courageous, determined and selfless. These are all great things anyone would like to see in those they look up to, they’d be qualities I’d want in my heroines too. I think the most inspirational quality for me to see in other real-life women is intelligence and kindness though. And when it comes to cinema, gotta admit I love a great anti-heroine! Someone like Lizbeth Salander or Arya Stark, not the typical crowd pleaser type.

SH: When in the studio are you listening to music or podcasts? Can you share what you’ve been listening too?
SJ: I listen to music most of the time, especially film scores. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Max Richter compositions, kind of dramatic and moving. I love all the scores created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for David Fincher’s films, Alexander Desplat, Clint Mansell, Johan Johansson etc. I recently stumbled into music by bands like ‘Cigarettes after Sex’, ‘Rhye’ and ‘Tame Impala’ and find them really great to paint or chill to as well. But no podcasts actually! I should try them out sometime.

SH: How do you continue to challenge yourself as an artist and remain excited about the work you produce, without alienating your collectors and followers?
SJ: I try to change my work slightly with time, follow my heart without jumping too far from my own style. Something gradual and fluid that feels right to me! I also satisfy other painting vibes for myself by doing side work that I’ll put on my shop from time to time. Usually cute things, sometimes more grotesque, but light-hearted and not as serious in time and theme as my gallery works.

SH: Who would you want to collaborate with, dead or alive? The person can be in any area of the arts; film, dance, music, etc.
SJ: Ugh, I’m just in love with director Denis Villeneuve lately. He’s Canadian to boot, and every Canadian loves to see another doing well and creating genuinely great stuff. I couldn’t even see myself doing anything related to his films, but he’s incredible and all of his movies have been inspiring to me.

SH: When not in the studio, what would an ideal day look like?
SJ: I like getting days alone with just my guy, maybe going somewhere out of town for the day, enjoying nature and some good food/drink! Something peaceful and relaxing.

SH: What do you think the role of art / the artist is in society?
SJ: I’m not sure there is one solid role or objective as an artist. A lot of us are just following our hearts and putting it out there, hoping others might connect with it too. We’re trying to put our thoughts, feelings, and sense of beauty into the world, reflect upon it and find catharsis in the process, I think. But also being apart of the audience and enjoying the art that others make – whether it’s music, films, books or visuals – is one of the greatest parts of life, right?

SH: Kicking off the new year with an exhibition is a great way to start 2018! What are your artistic plans for the rest of the year?
SJ: I have a bunch of group shows I’m contributing to throughout the year, and then a larger, 3 person show at Haven Gallery in the Fall. Will probably have about 8 pieces for that and will start them as soon as I’m home from this show’s opening ~

Interview with Kelly Vivanco for “Betwixt and Between”

Thinkspace Projects is pleased to present Betwixt and Between featuring new works new works by Canadian artist Sarah Joncas and Southern Californian artist Kelly Vivanco. Both artists are known for their narrative-based works that embrace the imaginative potential of the subconscious and creatively play with elements of the surreal drawings on feelings of nostalgia whether it be hopeful or melancholy.  In anticipation of the exhibition opening, Saturday, January 6th, our interview with Kelly Vivanco shares her insight about growing as an artist, favorite fable, and plans for 2018.

Opening reception, Saturday, January 6th from 6 pm to 9 pm. 

SH: How long have you been working on this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?
KV: It’s hard to tell if themes come before a show or emerge during sketching and painting the pieces. Months before, I look through my collection of old photographs, random art-crafts-animal-birds-picture books and an ever-growing mass of odd bits I’ve dredged from the internet. It sits up in my noggin’ and slowly tangles, making connections and snarls like a hoarder’s dreamcatcher until I start to paint. Atmosphere, feeling and theme comes out then. Like I said, I can’t tell if it comes before or during — it’s very chicken and egg.

SH: The key to a fable is that it teaches you a lesson. What is one of your favorite fables, and have you been able to master the lesson it taught you or do you still struggle?
KV: A lot of my favorite fables teach you things like — all stepmothers are evil, grandmothers should shave lest they be confused with wolves, or a prince’s kiss is an approved method of CPR. Others teach a more general — treat people how you’d want to be treated, which is a great message. I don’t try to add any story or message to my paintings, even though my pieces can appear illustrative, it’s up to the viewer to add their own interpretation.

SH: What is your favorite part of the creative process? What is your least favorite part?
KV: The best part — getting totally lost in creating, losing track of time and space and everything. Losing who I am and all my fears and worries. The worst part — letting my fears and worries get to me afterward, second-guessing everything I’ve done, looking at other peoples’ work and success and judging myself in comparison. I guess that’s not strictly part of the creative process, but it is part of the process of putting something out there.

SH: What inspires the environment that you end up building around your composition? Does the subject come first, or the environment that the subject inhabits?
KV: Where the subject is situated is important to the whole painting, whether she is at a Dodger’s game or in a box comforting Schrodinger’s cat or in a lush garden, it changes the view of who she is. But it goes both ways, she is viewed in the context of where she is, but also her environment is viewed in the context of who she is.

SH: The girls in your paintings have a very wide-eyed childlike quality to them, what are the values and ideals they’d carry by the time they grew to be women?
SL: I just hope that they keep their wonder even through everything it takes to grow into a woman these days.

SH: When painting are you listening to music or podcasts? Can you share what you’ve been listening too?
SL: At the beginning, at the critical stage, when I am trying to get totally lost in the pieces, I listen to music, like — Boards of Canada, Yppah, Tycho. I also listen to movie soundtracks, like — Thomas Newman, The Neon Demon by Cliff Martinez or Ramin Djawadi’s Game of Thrones. Or whatever random music pops up on YouTube. When I’m finishing off the paintings, during the less creative stages, I listen to podcasts like The Bugle and TV shows that I can follow along without having to watch the screen. For me, some of these pieces will be inexplicably linked to The Office and Toast of London.

SH: How do you continue to challenge yourself as an artist and remain excited about the work you produce, without alienating your collectors and followers?
SL: I think staying the same can alienate collectors and followers as much as changing too much. I’d like to grow as much as I can, evolving in a natural way. It’s easy to paint the same thing again and again and get into that kind of pattern, it’s a lot harder to push yourself beyond that. I guess that’s why they refer to it as “push yourself” and not “laze yourself” or “drool-on-your-snuggies-while-watching-repeats-of-storage-wars yourself”. I despair sometimes when I look at my body of work that I’m repeating myself — same girls and birds and orangutang, like everyone, is doing — but despairing is part of what pushes you to do something newer and better.

SH: Who would you want to collaborate with, dead or alive? The person can be in any area of the arts; film, dance, music, etc.
KV: I always thought it would be cool to collaborate with a costume maker. I would like to see some of the clothing my characters wear come to life.

SH: You sometimes create works with wood carvings or pieces that have a more sculptural element. Do you cut those pieces yourself or do you collaborate with someone to help create that vision?
KV: I collaborate with my husband, Peter, on those pieces. He makes such wonderful panels for me to paint on and frames to finish some work off. He always does something that is complementary to the piece or something that inspires me.

SH: When not in the studio, what would an ideal day look like?
SL: A civilized day of croissants, coffee, reading or walking and exploring someplace new.

SH: What do you think the role of art / the artist is in society?
SL: It goes from the gamut of a pretty thing that matches the couch to a mirror that really makes us look at how society is acting. There are artists like Josh Keyes doing that for the environment, or writers like Margaret Atwood that have been doing it for years — or the show based off her show — The Handmaid’s Tale. I think as people, not just artists we all want to change things for the better. Anything that makes us feel something or use our brains is a good thing.

SH: Kicking off the new year with an exhibition is a great way to start 2018! What are your artistic plans for the rest of the year?
SL: I am curating an eight-by-eight show at Distinction art gallery in February and I have a solo show this November at Rotofugi in Chicago. Other than that I plan to play around with my grown-up version of a box of crayons and a pad of paper as much as I possibly can.

Interview with Scott Listfield for “1984”

Scott Listfield’s latest body of work of hyper-realistic oil painting inspired by Orwell’s 1984 and his own childhood memories of the 80’s kick off Thinkspace’s 2018 project room. The single astronaut who explores various landscape eliciting self-reflection from the viewer takes a time jump to a world once familiar and distant, with an unsettling familiarity. Our interview with Scott Listfield dives deeper into the inspiration behind the show, those who have influenced his artistic growth, and posthumous collaboration.

Opening reception Saturday, January 6th from 6 pm – 9 pm.

SH: How long have you been working on this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?
SL: Well, I’ve been painting astronauts since 1999 which, considering how fast things move these days, is basically the dawn of time. I’ve been thinking about this particular series, though, for probably about a year now. In January 0f 2017, the George Orwell novel 1984 jumped to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list, which seemed a bit curious to me, since it was written in 1949 and all. So I’d be thinking about doing a set of paintings about what 1984 meant in 2017, which touched on themes from the book, referenced the wave of nostalgia for the 80’s that we always seem to be in, pulled from memories I had as a kid growing up in the 80’s, but also maybe talked about the world we’re living in today. That’s already kind of a lot to throw into one group of paintings, so of course, I decided to also add in some references to popular music, a recurring Lamborghini Countach, and a whole hell of a lot of stripes. And it probably took me about 3-4 months to finish all the work.

SH: What is your favorite band, movie, and TV show from the 80’s?
SL: For those of you too young to remember the 80’s, it was pretty much exactly like Stranger Things. We all had BMX bikes, bowl cuts, and there was an inter-dimensional demon in our hometowns that we had to destroy. Just like Bruce Springsteen used to sing about. Anyhow, if I’m going to pick my favorites from that era, I feel like I have to choose the things that were most important to me then. Which means you’re getting 8-year-old Scott’s favorites, not necessarily the things that still resonate with me most today. Although, now that I think about it, maybe they’re the same list.

Band: Michael Jackson. Movie: Return of the Jedi. TV Show: Transformers (the cartoon, obviously).

SH: What is your favorite part of the creative process? What is your least favorite part?
SL: My favorite part is making paintings. My least favorite part is not making paintings.

SH: When painting are you listening to music or podcasts? Can you share what you were listening to while developing this body of work?
SL: I used to listen to music while in the studio, but as I’ve gotten older, and increasingly bewildered by young people’s tastes in music, I find myself listening to more podcasts. But I do still listen to a fair bit of music while I’m painting, and I had new albums by Cut Copy, Action Bronson, Yellow Days, LCD Soundsystem, and King Krule in circulation in the studio, alongside some 80’s hits by Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, and Hall and Oates, which put me in the proper 1984 type of mood. As for podcasts, I listen to The Jealous Curator’s “Art For Your Ear,” one of my favorite art podcasts, and “Beyond Yacht Rock,” a podcast about yacht rock and other made up genres of music, by the guys who first coined the term, among others.

SH: Who has been one of the most influential people in your artistic development? Have they shared any advice with you other artists can apply to their work or journey?
SL: Oh jeez, I know I’m supposed to name a teacher or a mentor or something, and then fill everybody in on the most profound thing they ever said, which still resonates with me years later. But I don’t have a figure like that in my life, or at least not exactly. For a brief time in college, I became very good friends with a guy who was a couple years older than me and who had, unlike me at the time, lived a little. He had seen some things. Truthfully, he wasn’t exactly a great artist, but he was an extremely smart guy, and he told me a bunch of things I’m still unpacking years later. His name was Chris Ostoj, and unfortunately, he died young, which is sadly the way a lot of the most important people go. He used to look at my paintings and tell me, very seriously, to “Be more punk rock.” At the time, I’ll admit I didn’t exactly know what that meant, but it certainly seemed pretty bad ass, so I wrote it on my studio wall and repeated it to myself every now and again. After a while, I think I got it. And then I kind of stopped getting it. But hey, do with it what you will.

A little later on in my life, when I first started painting astronauts, I met my wife. She was my girlfriend at the time, of course, which is how that works, usually. She had studied illustration in school, while I had studied fine arts. Those two things are taught very differently, as it turns out. She looked at what I was doing, which involved essentially zero prep work and zero research and zero patience and 100% fucking around, and told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was stupid. And she was right. I learned to stop wasting time and get fucking serious about things.

Later still I met my friend Wes. It was at a time when I was making paintings of astronauts largely to throw in the back of a closet or perhaps to hang exclusively in my own home. Let’s just say that there was not exactly a lot of demand for my work back then. I was working a day job and it was hard to carve out the time to keep making paintings that almost nobody cared about. Every artist reaches this point, some many times, where they start thinking about hanging it up. Is it worth the time and the effort? Do I still like doing this enough to keep plugging away at it, even though it might never lead anywhere? I was at that point. My friend Wes would come over to my house, get kinda drunk, blunder into my studio, and proceed to tell me that he thought my paintings were better than the ones he had seen in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. He was wrong of course, and when he’d get into VERY DRUNK territory he had trouble pronouncing “Hermitage.” But at a time in my life that I needed someone to believe in my art, he was there.

SH: In the few paintings we’ve seen so far, the astronaut doesn’t seem to be as isolated as previous works. Was this a conscious choice or only our perception?
SL: Well, there are certainly more people in these paintings, although they mostly appear in the form of large billboards with the faces of Madonna and Lionel Ritchie and Huey Lewis on them. I also included, I think for the first time, a secondary recurring character – the mysterious Lamborghini Countach which appears in a number of the paintings from this show. But you never see who’s driving the car, and it’s not clear if they’re somehow aligned with our protagonist, or just lingering maliciously in the background. These also all take place in a world that feels more artificial than my normal paintings. Pink and purple skies stripes raining down from above. I don’t know, but I actually feel like the astronaut might be even more isolated in these than my previous works.

SH: Who would you want to collaborate with, dead or alive? The person can be in any area of the arts; film, dance, music, etc.
SL: Wow, I can choose a dead person? Like, I’ll take dead Einstein? Oh wait, you said arts. Huh. To be honest, I don’t do a lot of collaborating, because I’m one of those creative loner types. When I do, on occasion, though, I prefer to work with someone I consider a peer. Because the work has to make sense together, right? And if I’m being honest, I would have trouble working with someone a lot more famous than me, or a lot more dead than me, or especially both. Like if I worked with zombie Picasso and the entire art world was super excited he had come back from the dead but then they were also all like “Uh, why is zombie Picasso working with this guy who paints astronauts? Was zombie Matisse available? Or living Jeff Koons at least?”

Anyhow, let’s go with Stanley Kubrick. Or Pharell. Can I say both? Wait, David Attenborough. Final answer.

SH: When not in the studio, what would an ideal day look like?
SL: I mean, I like to be in the studio and, like a lot of artists, I tend to get a bit itchy when I’m not. But I also like to travel, and seeing new things and places and people do inspire me, both personally and artistically. So I’d say, flying off to someplace warm, exploring a city I know only a little bit, and grabbing an ice cream cone with my wife. Or, you know, fighting ninjas. One or the other.

SH: What do you think the role of art / the artist is in society?
SL: Well, that’s a big question. I hate to be simplistic, but isn’t our role to make some art? Do people ask accountants “What do you think the role of accounting is in society?” What about baristas, or systems analysts, or Uber drivers? Actually, maybe they do. But I feel like artists, more so than most, are always questioning our place in the world. And why is that? Do we need to play a role in society, or can we just, you know, make some art? And who am I to explain in one or two really long run on sentences what role all the other artists in the world should be playing?

I’m just a guy who paints astronauts. Sometimes an astronaut with a cool car in the background. Sometimes an astronaut with like, oh shit, is that Hall and Oates? And sometimes an astronaut, and somebody looking at it stops for a moment, in the middle of everything else that is going on right now in their life, and maybe or maybe not there’s something in that painting that makes them think about the world we’re all living in together just a tiny bit different. And they feel a little more connected to something, or someone, or the things I’m saying, or trying to say, in my paintings resonates with them, in some small or large way. And maybe they think about buying it, and taking it home with them, to live with, forever and ever. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe they just smile. Or maybe they ignore it and scroll to the next thing in their Instagram feed. And hey, that’s fine. I’m just making some paintings of astronauts. I hope some people like them.

So yeah. I’m answering this question in the most roundabout way possible. Of course, we have a role to play. But I’m not the one who says what it is. That’s for each of us to figure out on our own.

SH: Kicking off the new year with an exhibition is a great way to start 2018! What are your artistic plans for the rest of the year?
SL: So I am very excited to be kicking off 2018 with a show of my work that feels to me like it’s pushing things forward a bit. It’s kind of dark in tone but exceptionally bright in color. It’s politically timely but set in the 80’s. Working on these paintings did feel like the next step for me, and I’m excited to see how it shapes my paintings coming up. I’m sure I’ll spend 2018 painting more astronauts. I’ll be doing a little something with Spoke in San Francisco in June, and a show with the very talented painter Josie Morway at Antler Gallery in Portland in the fall.