Interview with Marie-Claude Marquis for ‘Don’t Use Me, I’m Broken’

Thinkspace is pleased to present ‘Don’t Use Me, I’m Broken,’ from multidisciplinary artist Marie-Claude Marquis.

In this new exhibition, Marquis talks about the flaws, failures, and challenges that are unique to each individual. The traits that make us interesting and complex beings. However, since the exhibition was mainly created during the pandemic, it took a darker turn than her previous pieces.

In anticipation of ‘Don’t Use Me, I’m Broken’ our interview with Marie-Claude Marquis discusses towers of flea market finds, the place of trophies in society, and the call back to nature.

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

MC: My life always revolved around creating so it was an easy choice for me to go study in visual arts and graphic design. After university, I worked for a while in the fashion industry as a textile designer, but the 9-to-5 office life wasn’t for me. So I quit 2011 to focus on my own projects and freelancing contracts in illustration and design.

Also, since childhood, I have always been a fervent lover of vintage, thrift stores and second-hand objects which are the basis of my work. My grandmother who worked in a vintage costumes store and my mother who brought me to a flea market every week clearly influenced me towards this path.

SH: What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work for “Don’t Use Me, I’m Broken”?

MC: In Don’t use me, I’m broken, I basically wanted to talk about the flaws, fails and challenges, unique to each individual, that make us interesting and complex beings. But since this exhibition was mainly created during the pandemic, it took a darker turn than my usual work.

Before this period, some of us had the opportunity to avoid facing problems, consciously or not, by loading our lives with work, obligations and activities.

But because the recent confinement had a mirror effect on ourselves, it forced us to confront our darker facets and our relationships issues and I wanted to address that with the show.

It will therefore be a mix of reflections, overflow, fears, hope, humor and once again an attempt to encourage the spectator to express his feelings and to free himself from a weight that a person is often unconscious of carrying.

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

MC: Definitely the trophies. I had been thinking about this series for like 2 years and since cumulated materials without really knowing what I was going to do with it, but with a feeling of what I wanted to come out from it. So it was a lot of trial and error: how to design my structures; how to pierce certain parts and how to assemble such fragile elements, etc. I finally achieve to realize what I had in mind, so the stress of breaking everything in the shipping process to the Gallery was even higher than usual (but i’m always super stressed about that part)!

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

MC:
Most: I am someone who overthinks a lot, is really proactive and gets bored easily, so I would say that I love almost everything in the creative process as long as I can touch a lot of different things. This is why creating installations and taking over a room is extra fun for me. For this show, I worked on trophies, the creative photoshoot to present them, plates, embroideries, wallpaper, vases, and objects and I had a blast!

Least: Before I would have said always working alone and being very much in my thoughts, but it seems that I appreciate and seek this more and more. So it would be what I call the boring part: the more technical and organizational things like varnish, packaging, transport, post rush cleaning, etc. It has to be done but I would definitely do without it!

SH: Who are some of your creative influences?

MC: I really love the work of Johan Deckmann who mostly creates titles on book covers. He always makes you think with his clever reflections on human behavior, which are often sad but always true.

I also looooove the super raw, honest and great illustrations of Tara Booth.

And I’m a big fan of the magnificent paintings loaded with flowers, pots and patterns of Anna Valdez (I’m a big sucker for pattern mixing).

SH: Do you have a memorable or funny story from when you were hunting for new treasures to transform? Like, have you driven two hours to an estate sale to only find out the sale is the following weekend…

MC: There is a huge flea market in Montreal (the Marché aux puces Saint-Michel) in which I have been shopping for several years. The place is filled with more than a hundred booths all belonging to different owners who are often very old and who have been stockpiling forever. Some stores are stuffed from floor to ceiling, and it’s super chaotic. One time, I saw the most beautiful old thing from afar in the lot, told the dude I wanted to buy it, but it was physically impossible to get to the said item without everything collapsing, so I was never able to make my purchase. It’s funny but a little sad too …

SH: Do you find objects for specific shows or constantly collect? Do you have a phrasebook, or does the object inspire the insignia?

MC: I would say both!

For the objects, I buy pieces for specific shows when I’m looking for a really precise thing when creating an installation, for example, but I also constantly collect. Whenever I see nice plates or needle-points in a thrift store I will definitely buy even if I don’t know when I’ll use them. It saved my ass a lot for the creation of this show because everything was close for 3 months due to the pandemic. Really grateful that I had a more than a hundred things already in my inventory!!

And yes I do have a phrasebook that I started 6 years ago. I think I’m close to 600 wordings now.

But I also get inspired by the images on the vintages stuff I find. Always looking for the quote that gives a total second meaning to the graphic on the piece regardless of the subject.

SH: In this new body of work you’ve expanded into making unique and humorous trophies. What was the inspiration for this evolution?

MC: Like I said earlier, I had that idea in mind for quite a while. I noticed that between close friends we often make fun of the little flaws or peculiar character traits of one another. Those features can sometimes be annoying to people around, but it is also what makes us funny and endearing at the same time. I kind of see them as “useless powers”. I honestly thought about myself and every friend in my circle to bring out our quirks and this list filled up quite quickly. It was far too inspiring and funny, and I thought it was worth pushing it further because it is very relatable.

SH: What are your thoughts on participation trophies vs. a culture of intense competition and trophy hoarding?

MC: Even if I very much love the idea of wanting to congratulate everyone by giving participation trophies, we all prefer to be proclaimed the best at something, that’s for sure.

But it is clear that the need of collecting trophies is as a way of boosting self-esteem and showing people how good we are. Which is kind of similar to our relationship with social media where we constantly compare ourselves with others (or with the fake life that people choose to show) and show off our achievements. It is extremely unhealthy and anxiety inducing.

This is why I wanted to celebrate the real things. The stuff that people are the best at but would never win anything because of it.

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? What is your favorite local spot to pick up some take out?

MC: Weird fucking time indeed! I realized during the pandemic that there is no point in living in the city when you don’t have access to the restaurants, bars, festivals, and events. It was quite suffocating and made me think about what and who is important to me. I grew up in nature and my need of going back is more and more present, so I am now looking to buy a small cabin closer to my family and where all my friends would feel welcome.

I’m not a good cook, so I was really glad that I could pick up take outs during lock down. There were thousands of choices in Montreal but the best meal I had is the fried Chicken sandwich from 180g and Mitch Deli. Best place in town! … and I’m a bit addicted to St-Hubert’s chicken fingers. Best hangover food.

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

MC: Ahaha! It would definitely be a mix of all the goods! Chocolate and vanilla ice cream with dulce de leche swirls + bits of brownies, Rolo, Reese, cookie dough, and waffles.

And I would put less ice cream and more chunks.

For the name: Can I get a scoop scoop? Sounds great 😛

Online Schedule of Virtual Events:

Saturday, July 25 at 12:00 noon pacific time we will post the professionally shot video tour of our new exhibitions to our Instagram TV

Saturday, July 25 from 1-2 PM pacific time we will go live on our Instagram to tour our new exhibitions

Sunday, July 26 at 2 pm pacific time we will post a full set of installation photos from both exhibitions to our Facebook and blog

Monday, July 27 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 Anthony Hurd for ‘Current Mood’

Thinkspace is pleased to present ‘Current Mood,’ from Kansas City, MO born and now Albuquerque-based artist Anthony Hurd.

The new series of works for “Current Mood” is inspired by a recurring childhood memory where he would wake up and see what looked to be an indigenous mask sticking out from under his bed, watching him sleep, and when he would awake he’d see the mask vanish before his eyes or disappear under his bed. Through a brave exploration of his soul and forcing himself to face his hidden fears, Hurd set out to create a version of these masks / protectors from his childhood.

In anticipation of ‘Current Mood,’ our interview with Anthony Hurd covers the lessons he’s learned over the years, skateboarding, and not going back to “normal.”

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

AH:  Born and raised in Kansas City Missouri, basically spent my childhood dreaming about California and planning my escape. Ha. I came out of the closet at 19 in KC, was a weird time. Went from skateboarding every day with my friends, playing in hardcore straight edge bands and hanging with my straight roommates, to quickly working in a gay restaurant, being in a relationship with someone twice my age, and threw myself into this completely unknown world trying to figure out where the fuck I fit in.

A couple years of making horrible mistakes, drinking way to much, and sleeping with as many people as possible I moved to LA at 21. More men, more opportunities, more work. Ha.

Fell into a career in advertising pretty quickly, and a new relationship. Made tons of very cool friends I could finally relate to on so many levels. Life was a weird mess of striving to live but pretty much failing at a real life. I was stressed the fuck out all the time. I burned some bridges and needed to do something different. So my partner and I started moving around. Palm Springs, Sedona AZ, Austin TX and now Albuquerque New Mexico.

I found art again. I lost my little sister to cystic fibrosis, my relationship ended horribly after 18 years. I lost my identity, I fucked it all up, found myself again over and over. Made a lot of good friends along the way. Just a few years back in stopped doing freelance work in advertising and went full time artist. Which is crazy hard, but super rewarding.

 I guess my background is messing shit up over and over until I learn some semblance of lesson. I cry a lot, that’s kinda new, started after my break up, it’s been good therapy. I do a lot of introspective work, I have joined a few cultural ideas along the way from the outside, but I move on quickly.

Now I’m in a new relationship, got an awesome step daughter, absolutely love New Mexico, and I feel like I kinda sorta have my shit together until it all falls apart again.

SH:  What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work for “Current Mood”?

AH:  Ever since November of 2016 I’d started doing these portrayed studies and sketches off and on. I went into a major depression after the election like half this country did. I watched the entire lgbtqai+ community cringe in fear. My BIPOC friends were too. It’s just been this building of tension, frustration and anger ever since.

I started this show pre-covid 19 crash. Based on the chaos of the world around me. The apathy, the anger, the unapologetic narcissism, the pain and struggle, the peaks of joy and boundless love, the layers upon layers humanity building. I wanted to capture moods and moments, mostly of myself and friends. Then covid hit, the the uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement, the shit hit the fan and things just kept evolving. The body of work just kept feeling more and more relevant so I kept going with it and here we are.

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

AH:  I think “The Burden” was the most challenging piece. I had a whole other piece going for it, and it just wasn’t going where I wanted it to go. So I just scrapped it and painted over it after getting like 75% in it. Clean skates are good though. I’m getting more comfortable with disposing of what is no longer working. Painting over things. When I get blocked, I just push through until something clicks.

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

AH:  My favorite part is the exploration. The figuring it out. The experimenting and mistake phase.

My least favorite part? Explaining it really. I work from the gut, from the heart, off the top of my head, sometimes I never know how to explain a piece, other times I know immediately. The abstraction of it all really leaves a space for interpretation. I don’t like being asked to fill that gap in for people. Becomes to

SH: Who are some of your creative influences?

AH:  Skateboarding is still my biggest influence. The spontaneous creative process of an amazing technical line kills me. It’s combined with music, art, fashion and individual style. It’s not a direct visual pull as much as a childhood hype. I use to wake up every morning as and watch skate videos to get me hyped to skate. Now I do that to paint. It teaches me to be flexible, and open, and mostly to keep trying over and over until I find that sweet spot and just let it happen.

SH: You’ve lived in a handful of places before landing in Albuquerque, New Mexico – what is a lesson that you learned in each city that may or may not inform your artistic voice?

AH: Kansas City – where I found communities and friends for the first time. Being that weird gay kid (even before coming out) I found rad people who while not gay, were fucking weirdos and that was good enough. Skating boarding gave me the confidence to pursue anything I was interested in.

Los Angeles – ugh. Freedom? It’s where I found myself for the first time. I got to make a new life for myself, could drop all the fear of living as a gay man in a smaller Midwestern town. It was exciting and wonderful until it wasn’t.

Palm Springs – taught me to slow down. To breathe a bit. Also, heartbreak, depression, sadness, grief. It’s where I lived when my sister passed. I was a disaster for a couple years and I wished I learned more lessons from it than I had.

Sedona – An escape, a new start, really connecting with the land. Learning to find a new path, a new way forward.

Austin – total loss of my identity. Where my relationship ended in the first year. I was alone in a new city where I hardly knew a soul, everything I thought of myself was wrapped up into another person, and they were gone. It never felt like home no matter how hard I tried. I missed mountains like crazy. It’s where I started painting landscapes. After 15 years of mountain views outside my window in various cities, the flat landscape of southern and central Texas brought back bad memories of my childhood in Missouri. I had to relearn a lot of things there and ultimately I probably had my biggest growth there.

SH: There is an undulating quality to your work from the landscapes to the abstract portraits, it feels very organic and unplanned. Is that the case? Or do you have a defined idea of what you want to execute in your mind before putting paint to surface?

AH:  Every once in a while I’ll have a general composition or idea in mind, but mostly it’s unplanned. It’s like a puzzle on many levels. I lay down colors and shapes and figure out how it all fits. But unlike a puzzle, I can shape and push a painting in a direction I choose whether a landscape or portrait, the process is still the same.

 I’m generally more stifled creatively when I go into it with an idea because it creates boundaries that otherwise wouldn’t exist in my process.

SH:  What does the nose know that gives is definition and structure, as opposed to the freer flowing entity it resides within?

AH: Amidst all the abstraction the more surreal or literal Objects help tie it all down , and ground it in reality.

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? What is your favorite local spot to pick up some take out?

AH: Weird times for sure. Crazy really. This last month has been anger fueled, humbling, life lessons, cored corrections and lots of activism on any level I can. Prior to that, when it was “just a global pandemic” haha, I was kind of loving it. I do not miss the pace of life pre-pandemic. Life slowed down. I started working on the yard, growing food and plants, spending more time with my family, getting in great routines with my work. It was an eye opener in many ways. I don’t want to go back to “normal” on any level really. I have been thriving on this change, despite the additional stress, I’ve been more grounded than ever.

As for local spots? We only do take out a couple of times a week, we use to eat out almost every day for lunch. Saving a shit ton of money these days for sure. Ha. But we try and mostly support our favorite local restaurants: a Middle Eastern place Alquds, our favorite little Vietnamese place Viet Pho, and Vegan Thai are our go-to’s.

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

AH: Shit, I don’t know. If it’s based on my taste? I make my own ice cream regularly. Vanilla ice cream with dark chocolate chips and dark chocolate peanut butter cups, plus any kind of berry, and I’m GOOD. Name? Um, “Queer in this together” haha. Ugh, don’t look at me.

Online Schedule of Virtual Events:

Saturday, July 25 at 12:00 noon pacific time we will post the professionally shot video tour of our new exhibitions to our Instagram TV

Saturday, July 25 from 1-2 PM pacific time we will go live on our Instagram to tour our new exhibitions

Sunday, July 26 at 2 pm pacific time we will post a full set of installation photos from both exhibitions to our Facebook and blog

Monday, July 27 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 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.