Interview with Dustin Myers for ‘The Misfit Menagerie’ | Exhibition on view May 7 – May 28, 2022

Thinkspace is pleased to present Dustin Myers ‘The Misfit Menagerie’ showing in our Viewing Room. The exhibition brings together a collection of hyper-realistic miniature portraits created with oil paint on panels.

Dustin Myers was born and raised in Southern California and has been following his passion for painting for his entire life. He has been drawing and painting since he was a boy and spent a lot of time at his family’s auto body shop where he developed an appreciation for color and paint. Myers spends most of his time painting, and the rest of the time he enjoys teaching and cooking. His paintings blend his many interests which include mythology, philosophy, and religion.

In anticipation of ‘The Misfit Menagerie’ our interview with Dustin Myers he talks about the benefits of starting over, shares the stimulating combo that inspires creativity, and his favorite activity outside the studio.

Can you share a little bit about your upbringing and where you are currently based?

I was born and raised in Southern California. I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. I spent a lot of time as a child at my parents’ auto body shop, getting interested in painting and cars.  I currently live and work in Santa Ana, CA. 

What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?

I really love unique, somewhat odd-looking people. I am also a teacher and see so many awkward moments in my students’ lives that help define who they are and how they develop. I wanted to create a series of misfits who were able to step out of the shadows and be in the spotlight. And I have always loved portraits of individuals holding things that represented who they were, and pets seemed like a perfect pair for this series.

What was the most challenging piece in this exhibition? How did it help you grow as an artist?

The most challenging piece for me was Cigs and Sweaty Possums. This piece originally had a different type of possum painted out, but I really hated it and it wasn’t working well for me at all. So, halfway through the painting, I painted over it and started from scratch. It was a difficult decision with the fact that I only had a little over a week to finish the piece, but I am extremely happy that I made that decision. Now I feel it harmonizes a lot more with the rest of the elements in the painting. 

Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?

I have a hard time painting when my studio is a mess, so I always feel the need to clean up everything before my mind is able to get into a creative groove. It’s annoying at times, but when there is a mess, I always get preoccupied thinking about it. I also really like soft ambient music paired with lavender incense and caffeine. 

What does a day in the studio look like for you? How do you structure your days?

I’m a full-time teacher, so a lot of the time I try to paint right when I get home from work and will paint until I go to sleep. I meal prep to be able to quickly eat healthy dinners without spending the time to have to make things. There will be some mornings that I wake up early to paint before I go to work, but most of my best painting comes late at night. When I have a series to work on, I will structure the day by making sure I hit a small pass on each painting throughout the day. When working with oil paints, I am at the mercy of the drying time, so I need to utilize my time as wisely as possible and do a small amount on each piece and then put it away to dry until the next day. 

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

My favorite part of the creative process is the initial phase of fleshing out my drawing into a painting. I will start out with a rough idea for a drawing and re-work it a few times to refine it before I feel comfortable to start fleshing it out. When I start to really think about lighting and shadows and how the form works, it starts to become alive in front of me. This is a great experience each time it happens and always feels brand new. I love so many other parts of the creative process, but this by far is the fuel that gets me excited to want to put a ton of time into the piece to see it reach its potential. 

Who are artists or other creatives (i.e., musicians, filmmakers, etc) that you admire? What about their work inspires you?

I really love the work of Robert Williams and Mark Ryden. They have always been huge inspirations for me and give me something to chase after with how far they have taken painting. I also really love reading. One of my favorite authors is Haruki Murakami. He creates these stories that are realistic but right on the verge of fantasy. Almost like what fantasy would be like if it were real life. And he has so many protagonists that I have been able to relate to. Just people finding themselves in this odd fantastic world, trying to make sense of what’s going on. 

If you could have any skill or topic downloaded into your brain, what would you want to be able to do/ be an expert at?

I love to cook. I think I am an okay cook, but if I could be an expert at that, I would love it. Cooking is very therapeutic for me, and I feel I can get in a similar creative headspace as I do when I paint. But the benefit of cooking is that I can eat what I make at the end. 

What did you find to be the biggest challenge of 2020 or 2021 for you?

The biggest challenge of 2020 for me was staying physically active. I am very much a homebody, and loved the idea of being able to stay home and focus on painting. But it was very difficult that gyms were closed, and I found myself just sitting around when I would have otherwise been active either outside or at the gym. But I ended up riding my bike a lot more and going for walks around town every day.  

What big projects do you have coming up that you’d like to share more about?

I have a few group shows coming up at BeinArt and Copro Gallery in the next few months, and also I have been given an opportunity to display artwork at the LA Art Show at the beginning of next year. 

May 7, 2022 – May 28, 2022

DUSTIN MYERS – The Misfit Menagerie (Viewing Room)

Opening Reception with the Artist(s):
Saturday, May 7, 2022
6:00 – 10:00 pm

Interview with David Shillinglaw for ‘Dream Machine’ | Exhibition on view May 7 – May 28, 2022

Thinkspace is pleased to present David Shillinglaw’s ‘Dream Machine‘ showing in our Viewing Room. The exhibition features a series of works on canvas, paper and ceramics that present the human head as a vessel full of dreams — a flesh machine in constant flux.

David Shillinglaw is a UK-based artist, best known for his works exploring human nature, success and failure, and the language people use to describe their experiences. David’s practice shifts between the street and studio using a variety of materials and mediums, creating work that ranges from drawings and collages to large-scale murals and installations.

 In anticipation of “Dream Machine,” our interview with David Shillinglaw dives into his creative process,  the areas outside the studio he aspires to excel within, and rumination on our human experience.

Can you share a little bit about your upbringing and where you are currently based?

I grew up in a north London suburb, a place called Barnet at the very end of the train line. I now live in Margate on the east coast, also the very end of the train line. I live with and share a studio with my partner who is also an artist (@lilymixe), and we have a daughter who is three years old this year.

What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?

This show, titled ‘Dream Machine’, focuses on the human head as a container of facts, fiction, and fantasies. The mind is a deeply mysterious, ever-changing space, and I am trying to explore this space with drawing, painting, collage and ceramics. 

Most of my work is self-referential. All of the portraits are of me to some degree, but they are also you, or whoever. The age, gender, race, or background of the subject are all deliberately ambiguous and are an attempt to describe both the personal and the universal. I feel like we are all so different, and yet we are all so similar.

Drawing, painting, and sculpting the human form, especially the head, is always relevant and never boring to me. I construct forms like Frankenstein building his monster, stitching fragments and grafting pieces together until the portrait wakes up and has a life of its own. I draw inspiration from the many faces I see; people with scars, make-up, masks, gold teeth, tattoos and cosmetic surgery. I am trying to draw a line between the internal and external, the feelings and the expressions. I would say all my work is about describing space, whether it be a landscape, portrait or abstract collage, I am trying to navigate and draw maps of spaces.

What was the most challenging piece in this exhibition? How did it help you grow as an artist?

Each work is a challenge and helps me grow. I try to never repeat the same move and I am always looking for new ways to reinvent the process. In this show specifically, there are eight canvases and eight ceramic busts, and both sets of work were a challenge. I want them to stand alone but also sit well together, like a family or tribe. The challenge is to make them succeed as individual pieces but also as part of a whole. I am looking for connections and contradictions. I think I succeeded, there isn’t one piece that looks out of place for me. 

If you could have any skill or topic downloaded into your brain, what would you want to be able to do/ be an expert at?

I am learning French (my partner is French) and I feel like I am very slowly downloading a language. I’d quite like to just wake up and know French. But I also appreciate the lengthy learning process. Like going to the gym in my mind, little by little I am growing new pathways in my brain. I also really envy people who can play musical instruments—I’d love to play the piano—so my chosen super power would be either speaking any language or playing any instrument. I think both would be very useful.

What qualities do you admire in another person you wish came easier to you? What do you believe to be a truth about our human experience?

I strive to be better at listening and learning. I talk too much, too fast and too loudly. The qualities I admire are empathy and patience. I am very impatient and hyperactive. I struggle with this, and my own challenge is to slow down and listen more.

A truth about our human experience? Whether we realize it or not, we are learning constantly, about ourselves and each other, and maybe we learn more from differences than similarities. We should celebrate differences, and cherish the opportunity to learn and grow.

Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?

I like to be fully caffeinated. I like to tidy my space before I make a mess. Music is like fuel in the engine, and there are definitely some songs that can get me on the creative dance floor. 

Photo of David Shillinglaw in studio by Joanna Dudderidge

What does a day in the studio look like for you? How do you structure your days?

Every day is different, it all depends on what deadlines my partner and I have looming. I work a lot better at night. There’s something about the daytime that feels like it’s easier to do admin and organizing. The nighttime is when I feel free to play and explore ideas. There are fewer distractions at night, so I can relax and find my flow more easily. 

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the creative process?

I take great pleasure in working in my sketchbook, with no endpoint or expectation. I find freedom and playfulness in a sketchbook which is difficult to recreate on a canvas or mural. I enjoy being mid-flow, having started, and no end in sight. The greatest pleasure for me is discovering something, a moment in a picture, a color combination, a certain mark or line, an abstraction, an accident. I want to be surprised. I want to see something I haven’t seen before. 

There is also a strange feeling of finishing a piece. In some ways, it’s the end of the journey, and there is a simultaneous satisfaction and sadness. I often think the end of one piece is the beginning of the next.

Who would be on the guest list if you could throw a dinner party for five people, dead or alive? What would be on the menu? What would be the ice breaker question?

Guest List: Oliver Sacks, Bill Hicks, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Carl Jung, Blindboy Boatclub

It’s a tricky question because you want a variety of personalities, but you don’t want any arguments at dinner. I think this is a group of people who inspire me and who would also enjoy each other’s company and conversation.

The menu would be a constant flow of tapas and rich snacks from around the world. We would drink cold beer, red wine and smoke hashish. We would eat outside in a place warm enough to eat and drink outside until the small hours. 

Ice breaker question? I’d ask each of them to list their five dinner guests and what would be on their menu. 

Photo of David Shillinglaw mural by Joanna Dudderidge

What did you find to be the biggest challenge of 2020 or 2021 for you?

Staying sane while the world seemed to lose its mind. Being away from family and friends. Learning how to be a parent. I think I’m lucky that as an artist it’s very normal to work in solitude for six months. The various lockdowns were difficult because of the lack of socializing, but it was no different for me professionally, in fact, I may have even got more work done. 

What big projects do you have coming up that you’d like to share more about?

I have a show currently in Portugal, the result of a month-long residency. ‘Cosmos’ is at Eritage Gallery in Lisbon, and is on until the end of May 2022. 
I am just beginning some new works after this recent trip to Portugal, and I’m excited to make a fresh body of work and see where it leads me. 

Photo of David Shillinglaw by Joanna Dudderidge

May 7, 2022 – May 28, 2022

DAVID SHILLINGLAW – Dream Machine (Viewing Room)

Opening Reception with the Artist(s):
Saturday, May 7, 2022
6:00 – 10:00 pm

Interview with Troy Lovegates for ‘Would’ | Exhibition on view May 7 – May 28, 2022

Thinkspace is thrilled to present Troy Lovegates’s latest solo show, ‘Would.’ The artist, formerly known as Other, brings his vast knowledge of street art and work with found objects to the gallery, presenting his first collection composed entirely of his intricate, hand-carved wooden sculptures.

Lovegates has carefully crafted a diverse cast of characters in the hopes that it will encourage interaction and provoke thought from viewers. The grizzled characters are sure to provoke conversation, bringing attendees together to wonder about the history and personality of each and every one.

In anticipation of “Would,” our interview with Troy Lovegates covers the inspiration derived from exploring the world around you, the opportunity that comes from unstructured creation, and how the past few years have influenced his creative development.  

Can you share a little bit about your upbringing and where you are currently based?

I was raised across Canada with a little stint in Michigan … my dad was a professor and we moved quite often … Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Saskatoon on and on … currently my wife, son, and I left California and moved back to Quebec to take care of my father … sort of the middle of nowhere but close to a quiet city … between a large river and small lake.  

What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?

Hmmm… I would say the theme I was exploring was sanity … the last winter was another lockdown, curfew, and -30 snow storm … I am working out of an old farmhouse surrounded by wind and cold, blizzards with not much communication from the outside world … the show is almost entirely wood carvings which has been a fun place to be carving, whittling and sawing in the hinterland  

What was the most challenging piece in this exhibition? How did it help you grow as an artist?

The challenge for me has not really been the work itself … it has mostly been missing city life and the experiences there  … seeing new things every day… watching people and getting new ideas … events happening … really for me it is probably a 4-hour ski before I even see another person … the snow is deep (and yes it is warm right now but it was still snowing last week late April) … I was more focused on skiing each day with my Dad to feel alive and outside … other than that it was mostly created in a vacuum … hard to find people to capture when they are bundled up and masked and in a hurry when I did get to town. 

You’re extremely well-traveled; your exploration of the world sometimes included train hopping and hitchhiking. How has your passion for travel informed your artistic voice? 

Travel is magical to me … part of it is that I am actually quite a terrible traveler… I am horrified of flying and get major anxiety during transit … when I arrive I am so excited to still be alive that my energy just explodes … I wouldn’t really say I am much of a train hopper as I have only gone on maybe 5 or so trips … I actually prefer hitchhiking because I like engaging with new people, fumbling over languages, getting lost … the last big trips I have been on have been long meandering bike trips which I really enjoy … yes, you take in so much more just wandering, I have struggled for ideas out here in the deep snow winters when you see the same thing day after day…refresh the eyes

What are your traveling essentials? 

Not much really … lots of t-shirts… a little container for watercolors, brushes, paper and pens … earphones … too many cameras  

Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?

My ritual is exercise … I think I spend more time walking and thinking or biking or skiing or swimming depending on the season … it is verging on being destructive –really like I will get the dog and head over to the studio and end up 20 km away, having just walked right by and off into though… but usually, this has worn me out and the next day I will be in the studio trying to get what I saw out on paper or wood etc.  

What does a day in the studio look like for you? How do you structure your days? 

Sort of same as above … I am not very good with structure. I do not arrive at the same time to the studio every day and have lunch at exactly noon each day… i might get in at 9 am or 9 pm… might spend my whole time at the studio looking up music… things happen every day but they seem to come in erratic spirts… like super intense hours where a lot gets done and then bumbling times listening to podcasts and dead ends.  

If you could collaborate with any artist in any medium (i.e. movies, music, painting), who would you collaborate with, and what would be making?

I think I would just be wandering and meeting up with photographers in cities that nobody cares to visit … exploring and taking images  

What is one of the most memorable meals you’ve had? The kind of meal that sticks with you because of the food, the company, or both.

All I can really think of is a slice of pizza in New York city … I am always really happy if I can get a lot of food for a really good deal … not really the sit in a restaurant all night with a bunch of friends and chuckle over some wine type… rather be wandering with a beer and eating cheap street food… a couple of years ago my wife and I went to South Korea and this was the perfect place to just roam and find little night markets with many different pickled spicy treats, rice cakes hot from a stand… sort of like tapas spread out across a whole city… eat a bit and wander then eat a bit more.

 If you could have any skill or topic downloaded into your brain, what would you want to be able to do/ be an expert at?

Oh too much … engraving … I would like to learn to engrave… better intuitive understanding of light to be quicker with my film cameras (and internal light meter)… a master at the synthesizer and drum machines… video editing… languages many many languages  

What did you find to be the biggest challenge of 2020 or 2021 for you?

Fuck… where do I start… 2020 my mother died while we were trying to get back into Canada and stuck in quarantine… January – May 8 pm curfew in Quebec in 2021 was brutal… moving to a new place when everything was closed and nobody was on the streets… and throw in that every mural I was supposed to do was canceled and traveling just stopped… I would have to say the entire 2020-2021 was the biggest challenge.  

What big projects do you have coming up that you’d like to share more about?

I am off to Germany in a few days to meet a collaborator for a large wall in Dortmund … I am hopeful that in 2022 some of the projects that have been put on hold are actually going to happen!  

May 7, 2022 – May 28, 2022

TROY LOVEGATES – Would (Gallery II)

Opening Reception with the Artist(s):
Saturday, May 7, 2022
6:00 – 10:00 pm

Interview with Toco-Oco for “The World Within”

Thinkspace is honored to introduce the work of Brazilian husband and wife duo Toco-Oco (aka Lara Alcântara and Guilherme Neumann) for “The World Within”.

Toco-Oco sculptures carry Lara and Guilherme’s profound thoughts and gigantic questions about human existence in their clay frames. Under this playful name, they dream up fantastical creatures which they turn into curious doll-sized sculptures. Figures that live on the border between heaven and earth, between the human and the divine. They’re both animalistic and supernatural. “It is a world very similar to ours,” they say, “full of injustices, but full of hope.”

Our interview with Toco-Oco in anticipation of “The World Within“, explores their creative process, strengths as artists, and a philosophical approach to life and art day by day.

Can you share a little bit about your individual upbringing and where your studio is currently set up? How did you begin to collaborate together?

We are a couple, both graduated in visual arts from Fine arts university of São Paulo, our small studio is located in São José dos Campos, in the countryside of the State of São Paulo, Brazil where we live. We met in college and around 2006 we started working together, in 2012 we started the Toco-Oco project and a few years later we decided that we would pursue an independent career.

What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?

From the beginning, we followed the same poetics, which is what moves us and makes us continue to produce, although we express ourselves through very different media, the themes are the same. The relationship between life and death, human interrelationships, ancestral symbologies, and the relationship between human beings and nature.

What was the most challenging piece of this exhibition? How did that help you to grow as an artist?

All the pieces are challenging, and our growth as artists happens day by day in practice inside the studio, understanding what will be the material for each piece, which processes will be more relevant and being able to deal with the limitations of each medium, are challenges to be considered every day.

What is a day in the studio like for you? How do you structure your days?

We work every day, with the exception of Sunday, and we usually arrive at 7 am. Our work dynamics is organized by a daily worksheet, a weekly worksheet and several other production worksheets for each series of works. And we understand that this is the best way to ensure that everything goes as expected. As we are a small business, we have to deal with issues not only of creating and developing works, but also with suppliers, customers, and distribution of our work.

Do you have any rituals that help you explore a creative flow?

Some things help the creative flow, especially leisure, but as we don’t have much time to guarantee this, we are all the time connected and exploring references, we talk all day and this exchange is very important to keep the ideas flowing.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the creative process? What are the qualities of your employee that you admire?

Our favorite part is when the idea comes to fruition, when it becomes real. And from there we have the whole production path to go. I, Lara, admire Guilherme’s ability to focus completely on a new idea, and as this is vital for him, while he researches everything so that the idea becomes real,  it’s as if it wasn’t possible to do anything else, super focus!

I, Guilherme, admire Lara’s ability to gather the whole idea and form it creates a critical thought about it, as well as how she reads each work creating poetry and texts about them in a masterful way.

If you could have any skill or topic downloaded into your brain, what would you like to be able to do/expert?

Guilherme would like to be able to speak every language on the planet. I would like to have access to different cultural experiences, I think it would be a good pair of skills.

What was the biggest challenge of 2020 for you?

In addition to the practical issues of the pandemic, dealing with the psychological issues that an extreme situation causes, I think was the most complicated. The feeling of fear and insecurity about everything, not just the global health situation.

What is your proudest accomplishment of 2021? Life so far? (may be art related or not)

Being able as a third-world artist to finance our own home — we think was the biggest accomplishment, besides being able to provide a quality education for our son.

What big projects do you have in 2022 and 2023 that you would like to share more about?

Our focus is not on big projects but on careful day-to-day, to stay relevant as artists, keep communicating with each other, and being able to keep the work going. We try to keep dreams possible and feed them daily.

Interview with Brian ‘Dovie’ Golden for ‘Parking Lot Carnival’

Thinkspace Projects is pleased to present Brian ‘Dovie’ Golden’s latest body of work for “Parking Lot Carnival.”

Parking Lot Carnival” explores the nostalgic connections of our past through the contemporary imagery of Dovie Golden. Using his “fiends” as a signature to connote an emotional presence in the subjects, we see them take shape in familiar human forms. In the context of Parking Lot Carnivals, the works explore pivotal moments of youth that brought joy and optimism in a depressing time.

In our interview with Brian ‘Dovie’ Golden, he shares how he pushed himself this exhibition, the lessons he’s learned from his children, and the power of vulnerability.  

What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?

Every summer a carnival would come to Chicago near my home on the Southside and I would count down the days until I could attend. The rides, games, lights, popcorn, cotton candy, shrieks of joy from carnival goers, balloon animals were part of a limited-time party rooted in freedom and chance. I wanted to pay homage to that touchstone memory and capture the feeling I got when I attended each year. While “Parking lot carnival” is inspired by a physical place, it is more about the unique and emotional insight stirred up by places we deem special. I invite the viewer to recall their own “parking lot carnival” moments and things that gave them joy, even when the world around them did not bring them joy.

Since your last exhibition, ‘Warning Signs’, how have you challenged yourself as an artist? Is there a specific piece in this body of work that really pushed you?

When I create a body of work, I try to keep in mind that I want the work and its interpretation to change as much as we do as people. Our perspective shifts as we evolve, so I try to keep that in mind. Since my last show, I have challenged myself to integrate a fuller scope of story in my pieces. In “Warning Signs” I demonstrated how the subject can get lost or found by external factors. In “Small Wins” I wanted to portray a theme around individual accomplishments. As part of this body of work, I explored placing the subjects in familiar yet unfamiliar settings so as to focus as much on the background as the subject. I challenged myself to strike a clearer balance between foreground and background as both shape perspective. The piece that I feel shows this equilibrium is “Lift off”. 

Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?

My practice of doing rough sketches of ideas is constantly on the go. This series is from a collection of sketches I did a few years ago that I was finally able to connect and create a body of work around. I always carry a sketchbook with me. The only ritual I would say I have is that I pray before painting every piece. Well…that and a great playlist and a good cup of coffee…or bourbon. So maybe I do have more than one ritual.

What is your favorite carnival game?

I always enjoyed balloon darts, mainly because my success rate was high (lol).

What are a few lessons and/or teachings your children have given to you that has influenced your creative/artistic voice?

My sons regularly remind me that I have so much to learn and their love for me endures. We make space for love. These words get me every time. They teach me that patience, love, and understanding will solve any quarrel or misunderstanding, and to remember we’re all human. They can be seen throughout my work, whether I use their likeness or not. Because of them, I’m a better person.

If you were to write an ad campaign for Chicago on why it’s the best city for creative inspiration, what would be your pitch, and what symbols would you use to represent Chicago? What qualities and values must visitors have in order to visit?

Since we’re located a little east of center in the US, I would have to base the campaign idea around Chicago being the heart of the nation. That heartbeat is the source of so much creativity across our country and abroad. From Archibald Motley to Kerry James Marshall, this city has influenced and inspired every form of art and I’m grateful to have been born here. If I had to choose a symbol, I’d choose the #3 CTA bus since it runs through the corridors that most inspired me: Southside and Downtown.

How do you unwind when outside of the studio?

In order to recharge, I try to drain my mind of all creative thoughts and set my mind at rest. It’s not easy but I’m practicing.

If you could collaborate with any artists in any medium (i.e. movies, music, painting), who would you collaborate with, and what would you be making?

I have a ton of people I’d love to collaborate with. But top of mind, I’d love to collaborate with Ava Duvernay and Big K.R.I.T in some way. I admire people who create from their heart and soul, and to me it’s evident in what they do creatively.

What is your proudest accomplishment of 2021? Life thus far? (can be art-related or not)

The past few years have required introspection—whether we wanted it or not. We have had to take stock of what’s important, how are we affecting others, what boundaries are we setting for ourselves (good and bad). My journey thus far has been riddled with challenges, but I choose to remind myself of the wins and the opportunities I had to learn something new about myself. I learned the importance of celebrating yourself—particularly as a Black Man. I am most proud of how vulnerable and powerful I have become. I love that my work has opened more discussion around mental health and blackness. I am beyond grateful that despite dealing with bouts of depression and being taken to a very dark place by it, I’m glad to still be here.

What big projects do you have coming up in 2022 and 2023 that you’d like to share more about?

Following this show, I will participate in a few group shows this summer. After that, I plan to keep working. I have a bunch of sketches I want to complete, and I’m eager to see where that takes me.