“I just had the most beautiful dream; I was out there, over the Grand Canyon, in the sky. Out there in the universe. Dark, but there were stars. It was like we were in bed at night, talking in the dark. But somehow above the world as well, in the dark. We laid down, the two of us, on what felt like the sky and went to sleep. On a clear surface that was totally invisible. In the dream, I also met an older lady and I threw up a little bit inside her mouth, like a bird, and she liked it. A video camera is what I saw at the end of my dream.” – Ivan
Ivan: I really identify with Duchamp when he says that all of art making is an urge, and the thing that just can’t be explained any more than that. I do see it fundamentally as an urge, so personally it represents to me some type of obsessive urge, maybe destructive? Maybe not. It’s hard to tell, you know, but I’ve never been able to quit so much, so it seems to put it in it’s place as an urge.
Ivan: I’ve always been interested in drawing. I remember one of my teachers in elementary school saying to me that she hoped I’d never stop drawing. I wrote a poem too when I was very young and it was being read in the auditorium of the school during some kind of rally. I don’t remember much about it, but they picked my poem somehow. I remembered being both embarrassed and also deeply connected to that moment of hearing it spoken.
Rae: What do you love most about being an artist living in San Francisco?
Ivan: I love walking around at night thinking to myself as I look up at all the lights on inside the rooms I pass, maybe south of market or on Polk street, thinking to myself as I see the high ceilings and shadows cast what possibilities all these spaces have. I keep imagining different lives I’d live in each one of these open windows I pass in China town, the clothes hanging out the window, I imagine a room with a subject, a painting, a camera, a typewriter, I see it all.
Ivan: I’ve lived in London, I grew up in New Orleans, I have a second life in Costa Rica with my father. I’ve seen Rome, Florence, Madrid, and spent a week inside an old convent with my cousin in Siena.
Rae: Having been in class with you at SFAI, I know that you grew up in New Orleans. How do you think living there had influenced you in your art making?
Ivan: New Orleans is a dark place. And I remember I used to walk to school before the sun rose and then standing in that schoolyard looking at the large brick building I’d always hear these crows cawing. It’s also a religious place, that elementary school was named Holy Name of Jesus. Being originally born in Portland, Oregon and then transplanted to New Orleans at eight years old to live for the next ten years in this religious school system had a deep effect on me. I became obsessed in my own way with the symbolism of the church, only to find when as I got older that my own relationship to that symbolism was somehow not okay with the specific dogma of the church. I eventually broke with the identification as a Christian probably when I was eleven or twelve years old, but that experience has deeply shaped my inner life.
Rae: Studying at San Francisco Art Institute, who was an influential teacher of yours? What did he/she teach you most about?
Ivan: Rob Halpern, the class was called “The Dead and the Living, paranormal messages in literary texts,” and I’m pretty sure I’ve never been the same again. Well, English classes have had that effect on me and I just don’t see how engaging deeply with literature or theory could not affect ones life deeply. But to talk about a few of the things I learned, the notebook being a primitive technology is one, also that I can grieve while reading. I learned that with Primo Levy.
Rae: What about their program, attracted you to go to SFAI?
Ivan: The idea that you can’t teach art.
Rae: Has your style changed at all through the years?
Ivan: yes, sometimes it’s the limits or constraints that keep me changing. For example, I used to be very hung up on the idea that for me, painting or art making had to do with oil painting. And it was when I had the lucky opportunity to be invited into a shared studio situation that I was unable to paint in oil, the times I was allowed in were infrequent at best and the time in this studio was filled with my supposed partner talking to me more about the news than what would inspire me to paint. It’s one of those experiences that sounds amazing, beautiful studio great location, but there is a catch, all my oils are going to be locked up most of the time leaving me to have to find another outlet. It ended up that I started using watercolor, as a way to cope with this, and that became my primary medium, which I use today. I’m actually going through that same process right now where all my watercolor stuff is in another studio, this time it’s my own, and I’ve been thinking about writing instead! Maybe renting an art studio for me is a great way to discard a medium.
Rae: Speaking of motivation, is there anything or anyone that exceptionally inspires your artwork at the moment?
Ivan: Proust, and Georges Bataille, both of these writers exhibit a type of freedom in their prose, a pure unfolding deeply provocative material that dwells below the surface. I think, of the human experience. It’s given me a little bit of extra courage to move more deeply into my own hidden drives or fears about what might come up if I really push myself to show what I’m terrified to show in my art.
Rae: Any other artists you would love to collaborate with in the future?
Ivan: Sophie Calle, Nalini Malini
Ivan: I love to collage; I also like taking pictures, writing, video. It’s funny someone told me recently that the foe artists have a hand in everything, so I guess I’m not a real artist then.
Rae: Any amazing gallery that you love in the bay area?
Ivan: Honestly, I’m not too familiar with galleries in the Bay area, but I do love certain bookstores, the Green Apple is one, I think of it as a type of church. I also love Forest Books on 16th street; The Ocean is a great place to go as well on a foggy day or night.
Rae: When is your most creative….time of day?
Ivan: It’s either early in the morning or late at night, but I think creativity is such a mystery really. None of this stuff really makes any sense does it, but I do think it’s important to remember where you are when you get ideas. For me I walk late at night through soma or up Polk Street. I also have a couch in a room where stacks of books cover the walls; I lay there and think as well.
Rae: What inspires you to continue making art?
Ivan: I just can’t imagine not doing it. I would say that for me it’s a matter of psychological health.
Ivan: My latest project is a video; these are some of the initial ideas around it:
- I wanted to crawl up into the smell in the hallway, it reminded me of the bath with Terri, I peed in it and she saw and asked me if I did, I said no. Millaudon Street New Orleans, I’m 17. I miss it, those mornings. But tonight is something new. I’ve painted. Terri is gone. She’s the one I can’t seem to get over. But they weren’t exactly days of roses and I feel the green sunlight of a photograph I know well, I don’t remember the day but the photograph for sure. I also remember that porch, waiting for the night to begin. At night we took drugs and in the day we waited. I lived for most of it like that but oh I never knew her all that well and besides she never even loved me. I’ve never known anyone all that well except for artists, ones who are dead who I can think about. This primitive notebook, I can feel it opening to me, take me in your arms. I want to give all of myself, good and bad.
Ivan: Don’t give up. Unfortunately it may take people a long time to realize the value in what you are doing. You have to see it yourself, and you have that be the sole guide for why you continue.
Rae: What type of music or bands are you listening to right now while making your pieces?
Rae: Tell us about new upcoming projects, solo/group shows, or trips you are working on.
Ivan: I’m working on publishing a talk Marcel Duchamp gave in San Francisco in 1949; also I’m currently writing for video work.
Rae: Finally, what do you do for fun? How do you relax?
Ivan: I go somewhere once a week with myself, it’s my way of taking care of myself. Almost always, I try to avoid it but all of my best ideas have come on these excursions. The idea is to have a good time and not work when I’m out on these excursions, and also I can’t bring anyone with me, it’s like tagging along with you and your Dad’s new girlfriend. It’s a way to reconnect with what I enjoy.
Rae: Last one. Favorite quote?
Ivan: “Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it.” – Goethe
Rae: Thank you for the interview Ivan.
Here is Ivan’s performance video:
ivanbridges.com underconstruction…..e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org for any inquiry at the moment
Ivan Bridges is an artist based in San Francisco, Ca.