An interview with Zach Johnsen…

An interview with Zach Johnsen

1) Please give us a lil’ background info on yourself. Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in a little town in northeast NH state called Colebrook.

2) I know you just moved to Portland from NYC. If I came to your area, what would we do / where would you take me?
Inside the city, we’d have to go to Ground Control, grab a beer and play some old school video games. In the northeast, we’d have to get some food at this cuban restaurant, Pambiche. And definitely, we’d have to go to at least one of the ample strip clubs around here.. like Devil’s Point or Sassies.. it’s pretty much mandatory.. even if you don’t frequent strip clubs.

3) What are your thoughts on art school in general?
Art school is pretty great because it exposes you to a number of ideas, techniques, and facilities that you probably otherwise wouldn’t have access too.
It sucks because at the end of your tenure there, you are left with a degree in art and big school loans that you have no means to pay for.

4) What’s your earliest memory involving art or creating art?
Some of my earliest memories are of my mom’s colored pencil work hanging around the house. I remember particular pieces she created and that her friend Janice (whom did gouache paintings) had in the house. Actually, one of the pieces I really remember used to hang above the sink in the kitchen.. It was this still life my mom created in colored pencil of a sink full of dishes.. It remains to this day one of my favorite pieces that my mom created.. In fact, it hangs in my house here in Portland as we speak.

5) When are you most productive / when do you normally work on art?
I work any and all the time. Usually my favorite time to work is about 11am, noon when no one else is around.. or late at night after my roommates have gone to bed. 6) Tell us something about yourself that someone would never guess in their wildest dreams.
I have always wanted to date a celebrity. Right now, I have this recurring fantasy to date Lauren from the Hills.

7) Are you reading anything right now?
Yes indeed. I am finally reading Behold a Pale Horse by William Cooper. That, and this huge book.. kinda social commentary by the Harvard Design School called Project on the City 2.

8) What’s your favorite color and why?
Um.. hmmm… painting wise.. yellow. It just pops so lovely.

9) Do you listen to music while painting/drawing? If so, do you have a current favorite that inspires?
Yes, I pretty much always listen to music. It gives my mind something to focus on instead of wandering aimlessly while I paint and draw. Currently, I’m listening to whatever my friends pass me for free. I’ve been listening to the new Ratatat album and a bunch of new rap music from the northwest that a friend of mine introduced me to.. Commom Market, Jonson & Johnson, Blue Scholars.

10) If you had to explain your work to a stranger, how would you do it?
I probably wouldn’t. I’d show them an image and let them glean what they might. But if that person were blind, I guess I would say I create personifications of human and animal charactersistics when they drift from the natural world.

11) Talk a lil’ bit about the general idea/vibe behind your new series of works for “Sunnyside-Yard”.
The Sunnyside Yard is an installation show revolving around the business/office world and the relentless pursuit of misplaced ideals. With this show I am bringing out the true nature of the average employee and turning them into the traits that they actually are.

12) Favorite artist (living or dead) and what makes them special to you?
Egon Shiele because of his drawings, and actually his paintings too. His line and style to me is unrivaled and his use of color is spot on.

13) What have you got coming up in terms of shows and projects after “Sunnyside-Yard”?
I have a big ol’ show in this space here in Portland called Backspace. It’s a humungous space that I have pretty much free reign in.. so I have a number of installation works in mind as well as some new paintings and drawings. Plus, I plan on curating a small show of other artists works to show alongside mine come December.

14) Speaking of other projects, I know you are deeply involved with the Tank Theory clothing company and do a good bit of work for various brands/labels. Any feedback/advice for artists looking to do more in the ever-growing lifestyle arena? Man, that’s a tough cookie to crack, especially these days when there is an overabundance of clothing/lifestyle brands out there. It is totally oversaturated… But the good thing is, a good half of it all looks similar or even the same. So my one piece of advice would be, if you are starting a clothing company, t-shirt design company, etc you have to come from an original angle. The artwork has got to be unique and the ideas well thought out for it to really stand out.

15) What are you doing right after this interview?
Going to the Florida Room… this shitty dive bar right down the street that serves awesome drinks but terrible food.

For more on Zach Johnsen, check out:

Zach Johnsen
Opening Reception: Fri, Sept. 12th 7-11PM
Sept. 12th – Oct. 3rd in our project room

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