Interview with Ermsy for ‘Took It Easy’

Thinkspace is pleased to present ‘Took It Easy,’ from English, Paris-based illustrator and artist Ermsy. Fascinated by American pop culture as a readily accessible, visual vernacular, Ermsy’s take on its beloved illustrated characters is both satirical and participatory.

The use of familiar characters provides Ermsy with a set of pre-established imaginative boundaries within which to work. Like a hot-boxed descent into an alternate universe of nostalgic psychotropic Saturday morning cartoons, his world is a playful subversion of familiar, pop cultural fodder.

In anticipation of ‘Took It Easy,’ our interview with Ermsy covers the controversial topic Nike or Puma, detox, and that pandemic life.

SH: For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

ERMSY: I’m an artist / painter / illustrator / maker, and I live in Paris, France. I had a formal education in graphic design and did graffiti art for a long time since my early teenage years.

SH: What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work?

ERMSY: My inspiration came from everyday life, social media, comic books, the art world, and just about anywhere. I just like making images that I think look interesting. Mixing ideas, styles, and character universes. During the lockdown, I suddenly had a good amount of time to get into making the work for the show. It was a very creative period for me.

SH: What was the most challenging piece in the exhibition and why?

ERMSY: Probably the Turtles piece, which took the longest and needed careful planning.

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

ERMSY: I like all parts of the creative process! If I’m working for myself just to make a random piece, it’s a pleasure from start to finish. I get a big kick out of that.

SH: Who are some of your creative influences?

ERMSY: I would say right now, Marvel Comics, particularly Gold, Silver, and Bronze Age. I’ve also been getting into prewar American comics which have some incredible art and ideas in them, but stay in obscurity.

SH: Your work includes a lot of pop culture icons. What were some of your favorite cartoons growing up? Did you have a childhood hero?

ERMSY: My work is definitely a reflection of the kind of pop culture that was around when I was growing up. My personal heroes changed from one month to the next, there was so much to discover then and many marketing trends came and went quite quickly. I didn’t have a whole lot of ‘stuff’ growing up so anything I could find, I’d hold onto tightly. I hoarded comics and toys. I was a huge Star Wars fan and still love the original films, but it feels a bit hollowed out nowadays.

SH: Nike or Puma? What’s your favorite and why?

ERMSY: Nike every time.

SH: What is the most rewarding moment thus far in your art career?

ERMSY: Hard to say, there’s been a lot of cool moments so far. I released some prints with Bart trapped in an ice cube a few years ago, which sold out in hours. That was a good feeling, and made me think I was on the right path and making a living out of it was possible.

SH: If this body of work inspired a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor, what would be the name and the ingredients of this sweet treat?

ERMSY: I’d call it “Sugar is a Hell of a Drug”

The ingredients would be Haribo and Crystal Meth. I’ve tried to quit sugar this year for the most part, and it’s no joke. Harder than quitting smoking I’d say!

SH: We are in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s an unprecedented time, and it’s a weird time – What is your approach to life during this time?

ERMSY: In the beginning I was fascinated by what was happening. I was following daily death tolls and I’d consumed too much media which was telling us that it would be much much worse! There was a really gloomy mood and the streets were almost empty. It was bizarre to say the least. The supermarkets were being picked dry and there was an atmosphere of fear! It felt like a glimpse of the apocalypse, luckily that wasn’t the case.

In Paris we’re coming to the end of the lockdown. The restaurants and parks are open again and life feels almost back to normal. I carry on as normal and stay optimistic.

SH: Are you sticking to routines, or making it up as we go? What does quarantine life look like for you?

ERMSY: Quarantine life isn’t much different from normal life for me! I spend a good amount of time in my studio every day, working on various projects simultaneously.

SH: Favorite thing you’ve watched, listened to, and ate in the last 30 days? Or since days don’t matter anymore, since the “shelter-in-place” orders came down.

ERMSY: I watch and listen to a lot of Youtube while I’m working. I like the Ancient Architects channel or Shaun Attwood’s True Crime podcast which has some interesting characters on it. 

Another good thing I’ve discovered was NPR Tiny Music Desk channel on Youtube. I’ve been working through those and finding out about some amazing artists

Online Schedule of Virtual Events:

Saturday, June 27 at 12:00 noon pacific time we will post the professionally shot video tour of our new exhibitions to our Instagram TV

Saturday, June 27 from 1-2 PM pacific time we will go live on our Instagram to tour our new exhibitions

Sunday, June 28 at 2 pm pacific time we will post a full set of installation photos from both exhibitions to our Facebook and blog

Monday, June 29 at 4 pm pacific time we will share a link to the self-guided virtual tour of our new exhibitions on all of our social networks

Interview with Lauren Hana Chai for ‘The Little Death’

Thinkspace is pleased to present Lauren Hana Chai’s ‘The Little Death,’ an exhibition inspired by the play between sex and death, the desire to live forever but also the inevitable return of our bodies to nature.

Lauren uses unconventional mediums with mixed media as well as working with her first love, oils. The mixed media brings together different elements that are a reflection of her identity. She paints issues such as taboo, the Korean cultural trait han, history, the clash of traditional and modern, east and west, and the struggle for balance in between.

In anticipation of ‘The Little Death,’ our interview with Lauren Hana Chai discusses her grandparents, eureka moments, and the balance of masculine/feminine energy.

SH: For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

LHC: I’m born in Honolulu, Hawaii raised by my Korean grandparents. I’ve always been drawing since I was a kid and eventually moved to San Francisco to study fine art painting at the Academy of Art University. Having been raised very traditionally Korean at home, from an early age I always felt at odds with my American life outside and furthermore distanced from the local Hawaii community as well. These multiple worlds I lived in between has been a driving factor to question who I was and where I belonged in this world.

I also started questioning my history and heritage greatly while exploring what had happened to my mom who went missing when I was 11. In my senior year at art school, I painted my Last Known Locations series which were 6 paintings of 6 cities of her actual last known locations. My paintings have always been muted and dark up until this point. Finally dealing with this darkness and processing my loss through art catapulted me to create the bright, colorful art I paint today.  I no longer questioned which group I belonged to and accepted all facets of myself.

SH: In the artist statement for “Little Death” you mention your grandparents nearing death and thus thinking about the entirety of their lives. Can you share with us one of your favorite or cherished memories with your grandparents?

LHC: When I first came out and told my family that I was bisexual, it was very ugly, to say the least. It’s very rare to have an accepting traditional Korean family towards any homosexuality. During this rough time, my grandma was the only one who eventually came around, and unconditionally accepted me for who I am. After months of my family not wanting to even lay eyes on me, my grandma asked if I still liked girls. After I replied yes, she said: “It’s okay, I still love you.” Those words meant the world to me and I would have stayed in a very dark place without her. I will always have a special place in my heart for her and am forever blessed to have her in my life. I can tell you many funny or endearing stories of my cute grandma but this is her at her core: 100% pure love.

I’ve really only started making more cherished memories with my grandpa within the last several years. He worked hard for our family and then would play and drink hard every night so I hardly saw him growing up. Since then he got cancer and survived for nearly a decade now, respectfully dropping alcohol sober cold turkey the moment he found out. He has softened up a lot and shares a lot of his memories and stories with me. My most cherished memory is when he shared a poem he wrote about his mom when she passed that was published in the local newspaper. It was the first time I saw my tough grandpa cry. There’s a lot that I don’t agree with him on but through it all we are all the same deep down.

SH: What was the most challenging piece in the exhibition and why?

LHC: I came pretty close to crying with “The Little Death 4”. I spent a lot of time painting it one way before I decided to completely change it close to the deadline. One painting informed the next in this series so, by the time I got around to painting this one, I had the realization of where I should be going to properly execute my concept. Originally I had painted the face to be sliced open like a cadaver but it felt too medical. I then abandoned my reference photo and painted with the more enlightening/transcendent part of death rather than the exposed/dissected look. It was a completely new process that scared me and I went through self-doubt but now I am glad I stuck with it and it feels as if I got one step through the right door…or maybe that I just got the door to finally open. Unfamiliarity is always the challenging part of painting.

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

LHC: Even though I just talked about how unfamiliarity is always the challenging part of painting, it is not my least favorite. What’s worse about the creative process is the always lingering realization that everything you create is not a masterpiece and perhaps you yourself will never even be considered as someone who can create a masterpiece…and having to be okay with that. My ego, self-doubts, and harsh critique that I give myself can sometimes be tortuous. At the same time, they are necessary to help me (hopefully) be at an upward trajectory with my art versus flatlining or the opposite. And then it’s because of this that the little nuggets of what I personally consider to be “eureka” moments during the painting process are my favorites. Sometimes just by sheer luck is when “eurekas” like what happened with “The Little Death 4” will appear, and I feel that something just happened (somehow) and I’m kinda happy with it — and maybe I can now take this and do better. Those are my favorite times, enjoying the process itself and being present versus the final destination.

SH: Who are some of your creative influences?

LHC: I admire an array of different artists but in terms of gaining inspiration, I don’t look too much into others for. Granted, I did study classical styles of painting so there will always be influences in my techniques from my student years but looking into myself and strengthening the bond of art to my soul was a big influence on my creativity. “Outsider art” is one of my many favorite genres of art since the artists were mostly psych patients or people who were not educated in art resulting in raw, unfiltered, not meant to be marketed or even displayed, art. Old Korean folk art is also a big interest of mine. East Asian classical art all trickled down from China, the energized calligraphic strokes, the soft pigmented paintings on silk of nature and etc., that we all know as Asian art to be. Japan took this and made it even more delicate, the Japanese touch. Korea went in the completely opposite direction with their folk art: bold, electric colors, crude drawings and one might even say “ugly” compared to the rest of Asia. When I first started looking into my heritage and went down a rabbit hole of studying Korean folk art, I felt a sense of belonging. These are my people, this is the art of my soul. My creative influences will probably be forever shifting, but this is where I’m currently at.

SH: How would you describe feminine power and its influence on the world? What do you imagine the world would look like if there was a balance of feminine and masculine energy? 

LHC: The early wave feminists fought for women’s suffrage, for women’s equality and to not be treated like little girls. They became independent warriors and brought money home when men were off at war. Their amazing feminine power gave us the freedom we have today, so I do believe that the world we’re living in now has a good balance of feminine and masculine energy. I don’t think that means that there won’t be conflict or misunderstandings ever between men and women but to me, this is an ideal time. I look to my grandmother and the life she lived in having been whisked away from her family at the age of 17 to never see them again and be arranged into a lifelong marriage with my grandpa who didn’t even have love for her. But it was her duty to start this new family with a man she just met.

As a woman, she was to be a housewife and bear him 3 children, not receive an education and not be taken seriously. She was to be seen as a breeding, cooking, cleaning machine, and nothing more. My grandma alone embodies the utmost feminine power, the resilience throughout her entire life of oppression, the dedication to her loved ones, and not only keeping her sanity but marching upright through it all. My grandfather has his own strong masculine energy as well, he carried our family forward, brought us out of poverty, endured many years of hardship but they did not live in a time where these opposite energies were harnessed together. My grandpa is still very much sexist and he has caused my grandma an unspeakable amount of pain throughout the years.

As a woman today, I feel that feminine power is to know and embrace oneself as a female, but also be aware of what that feminine energy and power translates to the men in your life. Owning and unapologetically expressing freedom, but also setting much-needed boundaries. Having the compassion to listen to each other. Understanding what our ancestors went through to appreciate the freedom we have today.

SH: What is the most rewarding moment thus far in your art career? How about your life?

LHC: Honestly I’m pretty green in my art career, could I even call it a career yet? Has it started? Showing with Thinkspace is probably the most exciting and rewarding moment for me, really! Being able to share the platform with many amazing artists on the roster is pretty cool! Participating in Pow! Wow! was also a major trip and a high that lasted for months after that gets revitalized every time I drive by all the murals that were created from the recent festival here in my hometown. My very first painting done after graduating art school was also a rewarding moment, the freedom, wildness and 100% fun I had while laying down my brush marks!

SH: If this body of work inspired a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor, what would be the name and the ingredients of this sweet treat?

LHC: Juicy Flow: Korean peaches, sacred fungus, DMT, and saliva.

SH: We are in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s an unprecedented time, and it’s a weird time – What is your approach to life during this time? Are you sticking to routines, or making it up as we go? What does quarantine life look like for you?

LHC: In the beginning, I did have a routine: exercise in the morning, read, have some breakfast, paint all day and watch a show at night. Admittedly it helped to have this Thinkspace deadline. Since it’s done, I vegged out for a while and now my routine’s all whack. Deadlines are good for artists, we need them!

SH: Favorite thing you’ve watched, listened to, and ate in the last 30 days? Or since days don’t matter anymore, since the “shelter-in-place” orders came down.

LHC: Binge watched “Dark”, a German TV series involving mystery, crime, and believable sci-fi time travel. Listened to Author and Punisher’s “Nihil Strength” and “Terrorbird” on repeat and ate a whole lot of Thai food cause it’s just across the street.

Online Schedule of Virtual Events:

Saturday, June 27 at 12:00 noon pacific time we will post the professionally shot video tour of our new exhibitions to our Instagram TV

Saturday, June 27 from 1-2 PM pacific time we will go live on our Instagram to tour our new exhibitions

Sunday, June 28 at 2 pm pacific time we will post a full set of installation photos from both exhibitions to our Facebook and blog

Monday, June 29 at 4 pm pacific time we will share a link to the self-guided virtual tour of our new exhibitions on all of our social networks

Interview with Sean Banister for ‘A Tourist at Home’

Thinkspace is pleased to present ‘A Tourist at Home,’ the first major Los Angeles solo showcase of Riverside-based artist Sean Banister.

Banister’s story is the classic tale of a creative who went the route of doing graphic design to pay his bills and lost sight of his true love of drawing and painting. We’re thrilled to be able to help him make his original art his main priority again and are looking forward to watching Banister carve out his niche in the SoCal scene, and the world over.

In anticipation of ‘A Tourist at Home’ our interview with Banister discusses painting in a pandemic, the slippery slope of mind-reading, and the quintessential philosophical question –  if a professional wrestle, what would be your entrance theme song.  

Join us on May 30th for the virtual opening of ‘A Tourist at Home.’

Full schedule of events after the interview

SH: For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

SB: I loved making art as a kid and was very into it as a teenager in the 90s. I was all about Dali, along with all the cool artists I got to know through Airbrush Magazine (never airbrushed, but it was a cool mag in those days). After high school though, there didn’t seem a viable way to start an independent adult life going as an artist (the internet then was not the resource it is today). So I discovered another love in English Analysis/Composition and in teaching, and became a high school English teacher after college. After finding stability in my career, I started working art back into the mix, designing graphics for t-shirts and swimsuits for high school swim teams. That didn’t really scratch the itch though, so I found my way back to my original love of drawing and painting a few years ago after taking some art classes at Riverside City College. I found I really liked being around artists and socializing while making art, so I started up the Inland Empire Drink and Draw to connect with and even build up my local art community. Taking the classes, along with a few outside workshops, and having fun with the drink and draw scenes in the IE and Long Beach made it feel like something was waking up inside that had been asleep for too long. In 2019, I really made an effort to produce more work and push my skills. Two of those paintings got into shows that got me some really good looks, and here I am.

SH: What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work?

SB: I was approached with the opportunity for this show a few months ago in March; at that time I hadn’t started any new paintings for the year and had already sold all my past year’s work. Instead of just going with “New Works” I wanted to develop myself and work toward having a theme, so I committed to “A Tourist at Home” based on the title of a Gang of Four song. Being a tourist is kind of about making decisions and valuing experiences based on your surroundings not being your normal ones. I thought for this show it would be interesting to see what that mentality would look like if a person wasn’t abroad but was stuck at home. It’s no small coincidence that this group of paintings was done completely under the stay-at-home order due to the pandemic as well. I use items in each painting to help focus the individual piece, to emulate the way we use items to assure ourselves of comfort or normalcy. 

In my first piece for the show, “Make Yourself at Home” there’s this really welcoming chair in a really unwelcoming setting. In addition to the dramatic lighting, I put monkeys in there to help give it an uneasy vibe. The monkeys represent the unpredictability and chaos that is a part of the creative process, and my own journey of getting familiar with and fusing with that process. There’s a monkey/s in each of the pieces for this show as a symbol of this. While the show explores the idea of being a tourist at home in perhaps a literal sense, for me it’s also about my own growth as an artist.

SH: What was the most challenging piece in the exhibition and why?

SB: The most challenging piece was “Don’t Mind Me.” This being my first show, I didn’t really know how to plan it out ahead of time, so I was relying on moments of inspiration to hit along the way. Before I got the idea for this I’d hit a wall and was getting very down on myself, so it felt amazing to break past this.

Then I realized what I had gotten myself into as I engaged in the detail that I wanted to see in it, particularly the leaves. The monkeys around the edge of the frame were fun, but those leaves! Ultimately I am really happy with this piece, but it was a tiring one for sure.

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

SB: When I’m painting, there’s a moment where whatever I’m painting stops being the sum of all the steps it took me to get there, and switches to something that tricks my eye into believing what I’m looking at. That always gets me feeling good. So that, and of course finishing a piece completely and seeing the idea come into reality, those moments are my favorite part of the creative process. My least favorite is when I’m about ¾ into a work. Sometimes I start to lose steam, and maybe even question if the piece was a good idea to begin with. It’s a real bummer moment, but it just takes pushing through there to get back to the good vibes.

SH: Who are some of your creative influences?

SB: I fell in love with Salvador Dali’s work at a young age and his art still gets me inspired. As I was starting to really dig back into painting like two years ago, I discovered the work of artists like Craola, Jeff Soto, Camille Rose Garcia, and Esao Andrews. I was in awe to discover the worlds their work had developed, like you could step into another reality, and that they had been at it for so long.

While my aesthetic doesn’t really look like that, I’m still really energized creatively when I think about their work. Also, since joining Instagram a few years ago and discovering galleries like Thinkspace, I think my greatest creative influence lately has been seeing such an awesome array of artists creating with their unique voices and knowing that there is an accessible audience who wants and even needs this type of contemporary art in their lives. As far as my own style, I feel like I haven’t made enough work to be able to sit back and see what I’ve absorbed in my life and analyze how it’s come out in my work. I feel like I’m early on in this journey, and am just really encouraged by all the art being created in the world to keep moving forward in exploring my voice and my identity as an artist.

SH: If you could download any skill into your brain, Matrix-style, what would you want to instantly learn?

SB: I reaaallllly want to say Kung Fu, but after discussing it with my quarantine crew I think I’ll go with being fluent in all human languages. How much fun would it be to be able to go anywhere in the world and communicate on a native-speaking level? Sad to say I only speak one language, but fixing that is on my shortlist of new things to get at.

SH: Would you rather be able to talk to animals or read people’s minds?

SB: Talk to animals. Reading people’s minds seems like a slippery slope. I definitely wouldn’t want other people reading my mind, so it goes both ways. Also, there’s a big difference between what we think to ourselves and what we say and do. It would be too easy to start judging people on their thoughts and not on their actions. Like, people think some crazy weird stuff that nobody should have access to. I think that level of privacy definitely needs to stay sacred. Also, the only way to get a positive effect from mind-reading, I think, would be if everyone could read everyone’s mind. Now we’re imagining a really different world! Okay, I feel like being able to talk to animals would really enlighten how I look at life though, and where my values lie, so that feels like the better choice.

SH: We are in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s an unprecedented time, and it’s a weird time – What is your approach to life during this time? Are you sticking to routines, or making it up as we go? What does quarantine life look like for you?

SB: Well, as luck would have it, right when I was offered for this show was when we locked down, so mostly it has been filled with painting. I try to be active too, otherwise, I get into funky moods; it’s been really nice since the sunny weather started up again. I had like two weeks where things like my oven, my breaker panel, and clothes dryer for my house were taking turns breaking down, so I had to get professionals to come and fix them. I like to woodwork and build things in the garage too. I made all the panels I painted on for this show. I am a habitual hobbyist, so when I have free-time I very quickly fill it up. I get some video games in there, also Friday night video hangouts with friends. There’s a routine of sorts there, but it’s pretty fluid. For me there’s also this feeling of, when this is all over, am I going to value how I spent my time or just say, “Glad that’s over” and just close the chapter. I think I always have this small background anxiety over not wasting the time I have, but I’m not sure if that’s any different than regular times, or if I’m just more focused on it under the circumstances.

SH: Favorite thing you’ve watched, listened to, and ate in the last 30 days? Or since days don’t matter anymore, since the “shelter-in-place” orders came down.

SB: We just watched Nick Cage in Vampire’s Kiss, and I think that’s the best thing I’ve watched in the last 30 days. I don’t know how I’ve missed this movie until now. Cage has the most awesome freak outs in this movie and the story is really interesting. I love it when you come across a movie with dialogue that makes you want to memorize it.

While painting I’ve been listening to a really great playlist from the dudes at Sketch Party. It’s 64 hours long and a really nice mix of styles so I can just put it on random and zero in on painting while listening. I actually really like listening to other people’s playlists.

I think home-made pizza would be the most interesting thing I’ve eaten. It’s just pizza, but it’s more satisfying when the pizza comes out of your own oven.

SH: If you could be on a zoom call with 5 people dead or alive who would they be? What would be the ice breaker question?

SB: Is there a time travel aspect to this? It seems implied with the dead or alive part. There are a lot of different ways to go with, but I’ll go the New Wave route. All from 1979: Debbie Harry, Elvis Costello, Adam Ant, Danny Elfman, and Mark Mothersbough.

Icebreaker question after explaining the internet and Zoom: If you were a wrestler, what would your entrance theme song be?

My answer: “I Put a Spell On You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.

Online Schedule of Virtual Events:

Saturday, May 30 at 12:00 noon pacific time we will post our professionally shot video tour of our new exhibitions to our Instagram TV

Saturday, May 30 from 1-2 pm pacific time we will go live on our Instagram to tour our new exhibitions + we will have all the artists on hand to briefly discuss their new shows

Sunday, May 31 at 2 pm pacific time we will post a full set of installation photos from both exhibitions to our Facebook and blog

Monday, June 1 at 4 pm pacific time we will share a link to the self-guided virtual tour of our new exhibitions on all of our social networks

Saturday, June 20 from 4-8 pm we will have a closing party via timed visits (scheduled online) that will be strictly monitored for everyone’s safety. No more than 4 patrons at one time, in one group (all must know each other and arrive at the same time). Masks will be required to enter and worn at all times. No exceptions. More details shared soon.

Interview with McKenzie Fisk for ‘Good Luck Don’t Die’

Thinkspace is pleased to present ‘Good Luck Don’t Die’ featuring new work by McKenzie Fisk.

Los Angeles-based artist McKenzie Fisk’s work is a pop surrealist interpretation of the raw and unfiltered view of the childhood experience. Painting children and animals together, Fisk strips away the weight of adulthood and the accompanying overwhelm of an unending list of daily tasks, by capturing the slices of life that remind us of childhood and the joy of small everyday moments.

In anticipation of ‘Good Luck Don’t Die,’ our interview with McKenzie Fisk discusses her creative process, snack foods, and the inspiration behind this body of work

Join us on May 30th for the virtual opening of ‘Good Luck Don’t Die.’

Full schedule of events after the interview

SH: For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

MF: When I was little, I used to draw famous paintings to get out of chores. When I went to college, I got a double BA in Microbiology and Fine Art, with a minor in Chemistry. I went on to complete a Masters in Physiology at Columbia University in NYC. After a year of planning in NYC, I launched my own art-unrelated company. After that year, I sold that business and suddenly found myself with some extra cash and free time. So I painted. A lot. Even though I have an art degree, it was basically during this time that I finally had the confidence to give in to what I really wanted to do and give it a real go. That was a little over 10 years ago and I never looked back. I get to satisfy my inner science geek on the daily by listening to science or history podcasts, books on tape, or anything I care to learn about while I paint. And I usually base my work on scientific studies, things I find useful to remember, or other things I find interesting. 

SH: What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work?

MF: My show is called “Good Luck Don’t Die”, featuring animals that are critically endangered for one reason or another, where there are either no conservation efforts or the conservation efforts in place are ineffective. In one piece, the manatee, they’ve been rehabilitated to the point where they’ve been removed from the critically endangered list and, therefore, also removed are the efforts and regulations enforced to stop their population decline (which will cause an immediate relapse of population decline). 

I think it’s important to see how integral human interference is in causing the degradation of whole species. And that only human intervention and policy will stop it. The pieces are meant to start a discussion about the plight of the individual animals more than point a finger at any one particular institution. There’s no perfect solutions, but hopefully there’s a willingness to learn and broach the hard discussions necessary to save these species. 

I try to create beautiful images that don’t slap the viewer in the face with their narratives, but at the same time I hope people will delve a little deeper into the details and that they will spark those discussions. 

SH: What was the most challenging piece in the exhibition and why?

MF: The orangutan piece.

Capturing this moment of childhood was important, and fit well with the narrative I wanted to relate on how the palm oil industry is killing off Orangutans. But doing both justice at the same time was a challenge.

For the first part: the ability to cook and prepare meals is tied to joy in everyday life. As a kid, putting the tastiest things together should result in something even tastier, right? I wanted to portray that, as a kid just learning, that seems logical. 

For the second part, depicting how ingrained palm oil use is in so many products it’s almost impossible to avoid, even if you are willing to read the ingredient list/ know the different names under which palm oil hides. The Cadbury creme egg is a really good example of its parent company, Mondilever (its underling being US Cadbury), because it is simply listed under “vegetable oil” in its ingredient list. For those trying to avoid palm oil, it’s an unfair delineation. But should you avoid palm oil? it’s not that simple. There are farmers that rely on their palm oil plantations. There are now “sustainable” sources of palm oil -though that falls on the back of having first created the fields through fire and in an unsustainable way. It’s history is rooted in deforestation. Farmers treat the orangutans as pests and try to dispose of them. But a whopping 50% of shelved products in our grocery stores have palm oil – what is the best way to satisfy both the farmers, the food industry, and the orangutans/ other animals in that area that rely on forest habitats? As an exercise, name your 3 favorite snack foods. Palm oil is likely in all 3 of them! 

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

MF: My favorite part is coming up with the narratives and getting them out and onto a surface.  I really enjoy the rough strokes and accidental play of colors as everything is being blocked in. Least favorite part is the finishing and smoothing.

SH: Who are some of your creative influences?

MF: Norman Rockwell for his narratives. JC Leyendecker for his use of brushstrokes

SH: If you could download any skill into your brain, Matrix-style, what would you want to instantly learn?

MF: Woodworking and construction. I have all these ideas to create things and spaces and would love to someday know how to build things. 

SH: Would you rather be able to talk to animals or read people’s minds?

MF: Neither! If I had to choose, I guess talk to animals. 

SH: We are in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s an unprecedented time, and it’s a weird time – What is your approach to life during this time? Are you sticking to routines, or making it up as we go? What does quarantine life look like for you?

MF: I’ve mostly been working on this body of work and was fine to not have the social pressures of having to leave the house while painting over the last few months. I’m starting to get stay-at-home fatigue but will continue to stay home anyway to protect the at-risk people I have in my life.

Quarantine life will hopefully mean a little more self-care over the next coming months. Making sure I’m in touch with friends, exercising and having a little more freedom to practice some new skills (painting and otherwise). 

SH: Favorite thing you’ve watched, listened to, and ate in the last 30 days? Or since days don’t matter anymore, since the “shelter-in-place” orders came down.

MF: Watched: I’ve really enjoyed re-watching “The Last Man on Earth”. It’s a series made a few years ago about a virus that kills almost all of humanity (ironically, or prophetically, that hit in 2020). I love how they briefly emphasize art early-on in the series, as some iconic pieces are gathered and still considered prized possessions. And it inspired my need for a full-size dinosaur skull on my future dining table.

Ate: Discovered these frozen chocolate muffins from a company called “Vegetables Made Great”. They’re delicious and the perfect pick-me-up snack when I’m working. 

SH: If you could be on a zoom call with 5 people dead or alive who would they be? What would be the ice breaker question?  

My mom (who passed away in 2017)

Warren Buffett

Malcolm gladwell

Simon sinek

Terry Crews  

And I would ask them: “What is one thing in life you wish you knew sooner, but only found out or really understood in your more advanced years?”

Online Schedule of Virtual Events:

Saturday, May 30 at 12:00 noon pacific time we will post our professionally shot video tour of our new exhibitions to our Instagram TV

Saturday, May 30 from 1-2 pm pacific time we will go live on our Instagram to tour our new exhibitions + we will have all the artists on hand to briefly discuss their new shows

Sunday, May 31 at 2 pm pacific time we will post a full set of installation photos from both exhibitions to our Facebook and blog

Monday, June 1 at 4 pm pacific time we will share a link to the self-guided virtual tour of our new exhibitions on all of our social networks

Saturday, June 20 from 4-8 pm we will have a closing party via timed visits (scheduled online) that will be strictly monitored for everyone’s safety. No more than 4 patrons at one time, in one group (all must know each other and arrive at the same time). Masks will be required to enter and worn at all times. No exceptions. More details shared soon.

Interview with Scott Listfield for ‘This Is America’

Thinkspace is proud to present ‘This is America’ featuring new works by Boston born and raised, Los Angeles based artist Scott Listfield. The exhibition is a new collection of Listfield’s lone astronaut adventuring into dystopian landscapes inspired by national parks and various landmarks. An ironically poignant body of work given the current pandemic.

In anticipation of ‘This Is America’, our interview with Listfield covers his survival skills, Childish Gambino, and when he knows a piece is finished.

Join us on May 30th for the virtual opening of ‘This Is America.’

Full schedule of events after the interview

SH: For those not familiar with you and your work, can you tell us a little bit about your background in life and art?

Of course. My name is Scott Listfield. I paint astronauts and, sometimes dinosaurs.I was first inspired to start painting astronauts after watching 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time. This was over 20 years ago now, but while watching the film I was struck by how the 2001 I thought I would grow up into – one where I had a robot best friend and a flying car and I lived on the moon – compared to my real life in 2001 – where I was just out of school, working an entry-level job, living in an entry-level apartment, and generally ill-prepared to be an adult. 20 years later I’m still painting astronauts and still somewhat ill-prepared to be an adult. But now I live and work in Los Angeles, and the astronaut in my work has explored a strange and ever-changing world over the span of the 450+ paintings I’ve made in the series. And I still like to think about the disconnect between the future I thought I’d grow up into and the present I’m actually stuck in. Especially as that present has taken a couple of recent turns into some very weird territory.

SH: The artist statement/press release for this show is pretty in-depth and perfectly encapsulates the irony of the current pandemic and the dystopian nature of your work. Could you breakdown the spirit of that statement and of this latest body of work in three words?

Thanks! The show statement I wrote is “Pretty in-depth,” which is a very nice way of saying “super f*cking long.” I’m wordy by nature (enjoy reading this long interview, everyone), so I’m not sure there’s anyway I can cut it down to just three words. I already get stressed out trying to fit something into a Tweet. But the show is titled This Is America. Which, coincidentally, is exactly three words. So there you go.

SH: Can you dive into your inspiration and process for selecting the locations our Mr. Astronaut will be exploring in this exhibition and how you approached their post-apocalyptic appearance?

When Andrew and I originally started talking about this show a while back, we had been discussing the idea of a show about national parks. Now as I started thinking more about the show, and what I really wanted to say, that idea started to morph and change a little bit. I was thinking a lot about the tradition of American landscape painting, about the places that we think of when we think about America, and about the monuments, statues, buildings, and landmarks that feel quintessentially American. Like a lot of people, I’ve been worried about where our country is heading, whether those places we romanticize still mean anything anymore. Is this the end of America as we know it? Or are we just about to enter a different chapter? Where we’ll be in another ten, twenty, or a hundred years? I wanted the astronaut in my work to explore some of those places and ask some of those questions and maybe – maybe – look for an answer somewhere out there.

SH: If you had to choose a dystopian future and end of the world, how are we going down? Robots, Zombies, Asteroid — murder hornets? What is the plan?

I don’t have a strong preference, since I will almost certainly be one of the morons who mistakenly runs for cover IN the murder hornet nest and dies instantly. Even if by some chance I survive for more than 30 minutes in any sort of apocalypse situation, my fellow future humans will quickly realize that I bring little to the table in terms of survival skills. I mean, I can paint astronauts and I’m pretty good at ping pong and that’s about all I’ve got.

SH: Who are some of your creative influences?

Well I named this show after a song by Childish Gambino. So I’ll include him in my list. I already mentioned that watching 2001: A Space Odyssey was the original source of inspiration for me to start painting astronauts, and it’s not so hard to see that Star Wars has been hugely influential in my life as well. These days, though, I’m largely inspired by my peers. I love (and miss) going to shows at Thinkspace, and a number of other galleries here in Los Angeles. There are sooooo many great artists working right now. It’s really inspiring to me to feel like I’m now a small part of all that creative energy. When I first started making these weird astronaut paintings over 20 years ago, I didn’t know anybody else who was doing anything remotely like what I was trying to do. I had no idea if anyone would ever like it, ever buy any of it, or ever get what I was trying to say. It’s been really humbling and amazing to be able to talk to other artists who I really admire and who know what I’m doing, and respond to it like I respond to their work.

SH: What was the most challenging piece in this exhibition and why?

Definitely the Grand Canyon painting. It’s the largest in the show and I had to paint the entire thing with my tiniest brush. I’m not sure why I decided to make a 30×40 inch painting that was literally nothing but detail work. Probably because I hate my wrists and want them to fall off.

SH: How do you know when a piece is finished? When is it time to back away slowly and put the brush down?

I realize this is a really hard problem for the vast majority of artists, and they will almost certainly hate me for my answer. But I work on a painting from top to bottom and left to right, mostly so that I don’t smear anything when I inevitably put my hand or arm down on the canvas, and the painting is done when I get to the bottom right corner. That’s it. I walk away. Of course there are times where I need to go back in and touch up some details. But it’s super easy for us to get really obsessive about that process of messing around with a painting when it’s functionally 95% done. And most of the time it’s only the artists themselves that notice the difference in that last 5%. Of course, it’s absolutely worth doing right, and doing well! But it’s decidedly not worth spending 50% of your time on that 5% that few people will even notice. And besides, the part of painting I enjoy most is getting started on that next one. I’m always thinking about my next painting. And so I finish them up and move on.

SH: We are in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s an unprecedented time, and it’s a weird time – What is your approach to life during this time? Are you sticking to routines, or making it up as we go? What does quarantine life look like for you?

Frankly not that different than my pre-quarantine life, just with a considerable amount more dread. I had a lot of paintings to make when it started and I have a lot of paintings to make now. Staying busy keeps me sane – well, somewhat – so I’m glad I have work to do. Like a lot of people, my days have started all bleeding together, and there’s barely anything that’s happened in the last 10 weeks that serves as any kind of marker, other than the few times I’ve ventured out of the house to run errands. So even though I like to keep myself busy, not having any real break is starting to feel a little like wandering aimlessly through a never ending haze. But I lived in Boston for a very long time, and in some ways this is like suffering through an especially long winter. Just a lot weirder.

SH: Favorite thing you’ve watched, listened to, and ate in the last 30 days? Or since days don’t matter anymore, since the “shelter-in-place” orders came down.

I quite enjoyed the latest season of “The End of the F*cking World” on Netflix. In the studio I’ve been listening to new albums by Caroline Rose, and new singles by Run The Jewels. And I’m hoping I didn’t buy the last two pints of McConnel’s salted caramel chip ice cream in existence. That sh*t is delicious and I haven’t seen it any supermarkets since like week 2 of the quarantine.

And here’s a couple bonus book recommendations for sci-fi fans: The Interdependency trilogy by John Scalzi, and the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells.

SH: What is the most rewarding moment thus far in your art career? How about your life?

To the first point I’d have to say publishing a book on my work. I can point to a lot of individual shows I’ve had that I’m really proud of, but having a book come out feels like wrapping a bow around my entire life. It’s definitely something I wasn’t sure I would ever achieve.

To the second point, easily, meeting my wife. There are a billion different ways my life could have gone where we would never have crossed paths. It’s the largest stroke of luck I’ve ever had that we just happened to be in the same place at the same time.

SH: If you could be on a zoom call with 5 people dead or alive who would they be? What would be the ice breaker question?

Let me get this straight. You want me to summon Picasso, Galileo, Anthony Bourdain, David Bowie, and some rando back from the dead just to drop them straight into a Zoom call? No. Not doing that. I’m not going to try to explain over video chat that SURPRISE they’re alive now, but also they have to use a computer to talk to people but, hey, they can give themselves a Star Wars background if they want.

Online Schedule of Virtual Events:

Saturday, May 30 at 12:00 noon pacific time we will post our professionally shot video tour of our new exhibitions to our Instagram TV

Saturday, May 30 from 1-2 pm pacific time we will go live on our Instagram to tour our new exhibitions + we will have all the artists on hand to briefly discuss their new shows

Sunday, May 31 at 2 pm pacific time we will post a full set of installation photos from both exhibitions to our Facebook and blog

Monday, June 1 at 4 pm pacific time we will share a link to the self-guided virtual tour of our new exhibitions on all of our social networks

Saturday, June 20 from 4-8 pm we will have a closing party via timed visits (scheduled online) that will be strictly monitored for everyone’s safety. No more than 4 patrons at one time, in one group (all must know each other and arrive at the same time). Masks will be required to enter and worn at all times. No exceptions. More details shared soon.