“Hello Hello” Interview with Jai Carrillo by Rae Rubio


Hand sewn black drop crotch sewn from a skirt skirt. (photo by Laura Cohen)

I first met Jai working together at a frame shop in the Inner Richmond district of San Francisco.   We kept eyeing each other from across the work place because of each other’s fashionable art wear. I knew then we’d be friends, and I’ve always known he’d have something to share with the world of his talents.   Jai is an emerging queer textile artist based in San Francisco. He explores his vision of art through fibers, photography, fashion, and beauty.


Portrait of Jai embroidering (photo by Korey Luna)

Favorite quote: “What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains.” – Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

Rae: Now let’s begin with this interview.  Can you recall a memory of when you first started making art and textiles? How did you start being serious about it?

Jai: My earliest memory of creativity was at 5 years old. When the Disney movie The Little Mermaid came out, I needed to have the Barbie version. What was available to me was a generic Barbie doll and a squeaky rubber shark. With scissors in hand, I cut the shark’s head off and placed Barbie, legs first, inside. This wasn’t the most glamorous mermaid, but I was happy.

What could be more queer than the juxtaposition of a vicious, blood thirsty boy’s toy and tender, petite girl’s doll? Years later, I began hand sewing dresses for my Barbies, which was the beginning of my textile journey.

At 17 years old, I got my first sewing machine. It wasn’t until college that the study of textile arts was something people practiced, not just fashion. Weaving, fiber dyes, basketry, embroidery, and pattern design became outlets for new creative expressions.

Rae: How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?

Jai: The term “queer” has various connotations depending on generation, gender politics, and community. To be vague, I describe queer as a feeling, person, or idea that does not follow traditional thinking in Western culture. The subject is queer because it challenges conventional ideas of gender presentation around masculinity. Breaking down ideas of gender association with textiles opens up new visual and tactile experiences.



Rae: What mediums do you work with?

Jai: Since I went to college to study photography, the idea of portraits appealed to me. Once digital photography was integrated into the practice, I became disassociated with the subject and struggled relying on technology as a tool for expression.

Just like a photograph, embroideries are portraits that capture a moment in time. What’s special about textiles is the hours, days, and months spent recreating that stillness.

Knitting, crocheting, sewing, and embroidery became my favorite practices. I began working with recycled materials like lingerie to make boxing gloves. Knitting with thick yards of wool to create boxing gloves presents a delicate approach to a violent male dominated sport.


After 3 semesters of textiles and a self portrait embroidery assignment, needlework fulfilled many of my queer creative desires. When researching books on embroidery, I found a technique called “Blackwork” which uses counted repeat patterns to create graduation with thread count and filling in extra stitches. Using embroidery fabric that uses counted stitches per inch, stitches create a pixel effect that can make an image. Perfecting this technique has taken years and seems to be what I enjoy most.


Rae: Do you see your work as relating to any current movement or direction in visual art or culture?

Jai: Photography has been used to document diverse cultures and communities. Queer youths are losing visibility as western cultures come closer to equal rights between same sex relationships. Since same sex marriage is an option in California, homosexuals can be seen following hetero-normative traditions like monogamy and child rearing. San Francisco has become an epicenter for queer youths and people living with HIV.

As unemployment rates and homelessness are increasing, 4 condominiums for single family are being built within a 3 mile radius, leaving queers and people of color to move where? Where can queer people of color gain visibility when so much attention goes to living a traditional lifestyle in an expensive city?

It’s important to bring attention to conflicts that may not be part of our community, and art has always been a medium to share worldwide. In public, my mannerism, my petite figure, and floral print outfits read me as a big ole’ queer.  My art looks at ambiguity and anonymity of one’s ethnicity and gender to challenge our prejudices and really look into behaviors.

Rae: Do you intend for your work to challenge the viewer?

Jai: Historically, so much of art subjects the female body to the male gaze. The female body is objectified in all art forms as well as film, television, and advertisement. The female body has become a normative part of western culture and is rarely disputed for being publicly displayed yet often critiqued. When naked male bodies are viewed in the public eye, discomfort and associations with homophobia rise.


Why is there a binary between the sexes? It’s obivious that the imagery is of gay sex and pornography. Beyond gay sex, the experience the viewer has with the art challenges perceptions on sexuality, gender, and race.

When the phallus is delicately embroidered, one is forced to look closely at the details, and see the phallus as something beautiful. Men are challenged to look at the sexual context of the art.


Rae: What are you presently inspired by? Are there particular things you are reading, listening to, or looking at to fuel your work?

Jai: Works by the playwright Tennessee Williams have been influential by romanticizing tragedy and dishonor. Williams often writes about homosexual characters hiding from their true self. Characters that live dual lifestyles often have the most mystery which leads to tragedy. I think the unspoken sexual deviance becomes a curiosity and informal awakening to sexual diversity in current culture.


Rae: What do you love most about being an artist in San Francisco?

Jai: Whenever I walk around the city, there is some imprint of art in the streets. Someone knits yarn around a tree or bike post, coy fish skeletons float on the cement of my neighborhood, spray painted stencils denouncing building condominiums mark my walk to work.

The effort and amount of expression is unlimited in San Francisco. Since I’m working as a Hairstylist at Edo Salon, I’m inspired by everything that can be translated into hair. Color, patterns, compositions all influence my esthetics. There are many street artists as well as gallery artists that are passionate for their craft. Passion is what makes art live and inspires me to create as well.

Rae: Describe your personal style?

Jai: It’s kind of hard to say what my style is like…I guess I’m like a Golden Girl from the 1950’s who bumped into Vivianne Westwood. Yeah, that’s it.


Handmade floral jersey blouse and shorts (photo by Laura Cohen)


Baroque hold shorts made by me from skirt (photo by Laura Cohen)

Rae: Any influential artists that you love and admire?

Jai: Kiki Smith, Claude Cahun, Robert Mapplethorpe, Pierre et Gilles, Tom of Finland, Kenneth Anger, James Bidgood, and Nick Cave are artists that I reference during creative brainstorming. Using traditional techniques of portrait photography, Robert Mapplethorpe showed the beauty and sensuality in bondage and discipline sexual practices with soft lighting in black and white photography. James Bidgood created a pink, glitter filled bedroom and story tale forests to depict homoerotic desires. With an 8mm film camera, Bidgood created a full length film in his studio apartment, lots of paper mache, and filmed male sex workers to create Pink Narcissus. I love the parallels between sexual deviance and magical eroticism. Softening our visions of underground sexual practices of pain and submission creates a kitsch value I love exploring.

Rae: Are there any artists you want to collaborate with in the future?

Jai: Nick Cave creates gorgeous sculptures and suits used for performances. Cave uses different mediums and has so much knowledge for constructing these suits. The details are hand crafted and take a crew to build. I’d love to perform and build a suit with him.

Rae: What music inspires you when you are making art? Any bands or genre you are currently listening to?

Jai: Erykah Badu, Kate Bush, and the Delfonics have been creative sidekick when I want to mellow out, sit in my rocking chair, and embroider. Whenever I’m speeding through a sewing project and need some energetic tunes, Kelis, Animal Collective, No Doubt, Santigold, and Nina Hagen are right by my side.

Rae: When are you most creative, time of day?

Jai: Like many artists who like to procrastinate, the late hours tend to be the most productive. Probably because I’m tired and a little delusional from long hours at work. What has been helpful to enhancing that creativity, is organizing craft nights with friends and roommates. The energy in a room filled with artists presents a bounty of influence, support, and fun that can’t be found alone in my room in the middle of the night.

Rae: Lastly, are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? Where and When?

Jai: During San Francisco’s LGBTQ Pride Month, I was part of a collective art show “Queering Mythologies,” sponsored by the Queer Cultural Center. The show gave me inspiration to work on projects I’ve halted for 3 years. I’m currently working on a burlesque performance piece about a boxer who comes out a queer. The outfits will be covered in red sequins and lace.

Rae: Thank you for the interview Jai! I’ll be seeing you around soon!

Chack out Jai’s website:


Interview Artist Spotlight with Drew Wittig

Drew Wittig is an artist. He is currently living in Brooklyn and working as a designer in New York City.

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“My friends, do you guess to what solitude we ascend? I must learn that the dregs of my thought, my dreams, are the speech of my soul. I must carry them in my heart, and go back and forth over them in my mind, like the words of the person dearest to me. Dreams are the guiding words of the soul.”                                                                                                   – Carl Jung

Rae: Now let’s begin our journey into Drew’s world.

Rae: Recently, I was introduced into your art pieces. I felt a connection to the art that you are making. What is your work about and what inspired you to start on it?

Drew: My work is mostly about self-discovery, trying to uncover images that are buried like old relics of the sea.

I remember that feeling when I first started in this automatic style, where it felt like I was in the stream of consciousness. I was pulling images from another place. I know now that place to be deep within my soul. It was like I was watching these images leave my hand, out of the pen onto the surface, and seeing them for the first time was a real trip.

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Rae: When did you first become interested in art?

Drew: My mom is an artist and when I was growing up she would have me help her finish paintings and drawings. She was very helpful and supportive. It gave me the confidence to view myself as an artist from a very early age. I guess, I’ve always been interested in art.

Rae: Who or what do you turn to on uninspiring days?

Drew: Having a range of different mediums within reach. For instance, I got myself a nice point and shoot camera last year and I’ve been shooting about a roll of film a week. The photography has really balanced me out. If I’m feeling uninspired I know I need to do something physical too, like hit the gym or go for a run. That can really shake things up. My wife is amazing and when I’m feeling especially useless she’ll always know what to say to make me feel better.

Rae: What does art mean to you?

Drew: It means everything to me, it’s vital to my mental health.

Rae: How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?

Drew: In my recent work, I am exploring the psyche as an internal space, a landscape. The content is created through chance and action. I’m trying to uncover these archetypes, the treasures of my soul.

Rae: You’ve expressed you’ve been reading the out-of-body book? Can you express how this relates to your art?

Drew: When I was about 12 or 13, I was in my room working on a still life, using pencil and one of those conte crayons.

I was so focused on the shading, the next thing I knew I was floating above myself in my room. I was there just watching myself drawing, then I was above my house, looking down at it. Then, I was further up and I could see the park down the street. I realized how high up I was and got scared and then I went right back into my body. I remember waking up and seeing that the drawing was finished and that an hour or so had gone by. It was my first out-of-body experience and had a very profound impact on my life.

Rae: What do you hope to communicate through your work?

Drew: I try to make work that is sincere and built upon a spiritual foundation.

I never try to say what the image means to me or what its all about, I think its important for the viewer to make their own conclusions. If they see something they identify with and talk about it, that is when I feel it’s successful.

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Rae: Describe the process within yourself when creating new pieces. Do you have a ritual that you start with?

Drew: Sure, the ritual is almost always the same. Make some marks onto the surface, try to hallucinate some sort of reality within those marks and set about trying to explain it. I try to do all this without questioning it, kind of like “oh, there’s a figure, it’s a man and here’s a hand, he’s reaching for something,” and just go with it, until the images start taking shape. When I’m creating new pieces it always feel cathartic, like the image needed to come out. When I can let the process be as natural as possible, it works best.

Rae: What are your favorite materials to work/create with?

Drew: Watercolor & Pen, and Oil on canvas.

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Rae: What colors/shapes/subjects speak to you the most?

Drew: I’ve always had a thing for reds and blues mixed together- it feels intense when I use those colors, it really speaks to me. The shapes and figures come out as people or faces and they all have different expressions and limbs and it all seems to connect in some way.

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Rae: Any upcoming new projects in progress?

Drew: Yes, actually, I’ve been meaning to finish this process project. I did a series of watercolor paintings and then scanned them into the computer. Then I took the paintings and went over them with pen. Then I scanned that image back into the computer. What I envision is a book or a zine where the spread shows the image before on the left and the finished piece on the right.

Rae: What do you think about collaborations with other artists?

Drew: I’m all for it. Almost 7 years ago, I did a collaborative oil painting with artist, Ivan Bridges and the result was transformative. I still look at that painting and it gets me fired up every time. We were both meditating a lot and we’d sit before each session. The times when we were working on that piece were great.

Rae: Lastly, what type of music or bands are you listening to right now while making your pieces?

Drew: All that chill shoe-gaze stuff. My wife hates it, she’s always trying to get me to play R&B and hip-hop, but I’m a sucker for ambient stuff. Some old Kaki King, El Ten Eleven, The Books, Future Islands, old Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Mogwai, Ducktails, stuff like that. At the Drive-In really gets me going too, though I think it’s good to have a few albums on deck that you know will set the tone.

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Rae: Exactly, I agree about setting the tone.

Thank you very much for the interview Drew. Hope to see you more in the future!

Click here to check out Drew’s website WITTIG-ART.COM

Interview with Artist Spotlight: Michael C. Hsiung

Michael C. Hsiung is an artist based in Los Angeles, Ca. His simple line illustrations are narrative with mythological subjects and a hint of humor within it.

4782_95536208516_4290469_n “So far, so good, so what!” from Megadeth album. One of my favorite quotes which I’ve been trying to incorporate in my life since I was like 15.

Rae: Now let’s begin with the interview. Thanks for being with us today Michael.

Michael: No problem Rae. Thanks for having me.

Rae: So, I’ve been seeing your artwork for some time now. It is interesting to me that your artwork is influenced by comics, mythology, cryptozoology, and tied to simple humorous moments?

Michael: Totally! I’ve been interested in all those things since I was a child, and when I first started making work….I found myself gravitating towards things like unicorns, centaurs, and stuff like that. My style probably is some what reminiscent of comics, which I collected as a kid, mixed in with my weird spasmy personality.

Hsiung---mermanbattle copy

Rae: I really like and appreciate the patterns and line work in your pieces. What is your favorite medium that you like to work with? Why?

Michael: My favorite medium is ink, though I’ve only started recently to really try and utilize the ink and brush combo. It’s my favorite medium in pen form, but that’s mainly because I’m more comfortable controlling it like a pencil. Also, it allows me to lean on the paper and draw endlessly. I originally started with Micron pens which were something given to me by my sister’s boyfriend Scott. I wasn’t really familiar with art materials when I started, and he recommended to me a blue pencil, micron pens, and stuff like that.


Rae: Has expectations with your art changed over the years? If so, how?

Michael: Definitely, I try to use more color, focus more on composition, and incorporate patterning in my works than I did before. I also have worked on my characters and narrative a bit more, hopefully making them more interesting and humorous.

Finally, I think too that I’ve also learned to relax a bit more when making stuff and allowing more room for error. When I was first making art, lots of my stuff was pretty raw, crooked and more narrative. I’m just trying to tighten up those parts of it and draw less crooked obese people with 3 fingers.

Hsiung---FirstSkateboarders copy

Rae: What do you like most about being an artist based in Los Angeles?

Michael: I think the thing I like the most about being an artist based in Los Angeles is that the culture and folks out here really appreciate art because they themselves are doing something creative, albeit music or film.

It seems like art is tied to every event out here too. There’s also so many galleries and great museums here that you’ll never get bored as an artist.

Hsiung--riot copy

Rae: Describe your process for creating your artworks?

Michael: Depending if I already have an idea of what it is I want to draw, I usually start by sketching various shapes until something forms- bodies, bears, and stuff like that. After sketching, I will usually start to figure out the details like outfits and accessories. Then I’ll use a pen or brush to start outlining and filling in. Then at the end, I might add a bit of red here and there.

7. HSIUNG_JETTY_SHIRT copyRae: What inspires you to continue making art?

Michael: What really inspires me to continue making art is the people who enjoy it, the works of other artists, the friendships that making art brings, and the satisfaction that expression brings me.

Rae: You are also in the “Human Pyramids Artist Collective.” What is unique about this art collective?

Michael: The Human Pyramids Artist Collective is unique in the sense that it involves international artists/friendships. the collective began as a way for lots of these artists who live in Spain, Ireland, or France to get their stuff out there with folks in the United States.

Rae: How do you feel about collaboration in relation to other artists?

Michael: I enjoy collaborations between artists, though I think there’s something to be said about finding the right match. Some collaborations work really well; while others don’t quite work or come out how I’d imagine. Plus, whenever I get works from other artists to collaborate on I’m really nervous about messing them up.

While I know the nature of collaboration is messing up, you’ve gotta see some of these beauties folks send to me!

Rae: Any artists you would like to collaborate with in the future? Who?

Michael: Gosh so many I can think of….honestly! I’ve been meaning to collaborate with artist Eric McHenry for some time, but everything he sends me is just too nice for me to add too, and I end up keeping them.


Rae: What advice can you give others who want to pursue art?

Michael: My best advice is to make art, have fun, and stick with it. Just because you’re not getting shows or known, if you keep working on it, it’ll happen.

Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. If you mess up an eye, then put an eye patch on it!

Rae: Which cities have you lived in? Traveled to?

Michael: I’ve lived in San Jose, Ca for quite a few years. I attended SJSU and got an English degree but remained there several years after. I’ve traveled to Taiwan, Italy, Spain, England, Scotland, Prague, France, Morocco, and various states in the US like New York, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

Rae: Any amazing favorite gallery you love in Los Angeles?

Michael: I have to say that I really like Thinkspace Gallery in Culver City and THIS,LA in Highland Park, both for different reasons. Both galleries put on great shows and have great folks running them.

Rae: How do you recharge when your creativity hits the wall?

Michael: I usually try and spend time with friends and my wife, Rachel. I read, watch movies, and pretty much do anything else than draw.

Doesn’t always help, but I find that stepping away till the point you start freaking out having not made something usually helps. Museums are great too, I just need to go to them more often.

Rae: Any inspiring book at the moment for you?

Michael: I’ve been finishing a trilogy by Bernard Cornwell based on the Arthurian legends which I find really inspiring. Filled with great details on battle, pagan rituals, and stuff like that.

Rae: What has been your most exciting moment as an artist?

Michael: Hmmm….I’m so easily excited, so I have to say some of my most exciting moments as an artist have been just seeing my stuff in books and etc. Most recently one of my prints donned the background of that film For A Good Time Call, which was pretty cool!


Rae: Music is a huge influence in art making sometimes, any music you have been listening to lately?

Michael: I’ve been listening to a mix of rock and heavier stuff, but I think YES is always on the turntable not to mention stuff like Om and Thrones.

Rae: Any new upcoming projects that you are working on currently?

Michael: Well, I’m really excited to participate in the upcoming Supersonic Electronic Invitational 2 in SF this January as well as 2013 summer group show called Tonight We Fight, curated by Luke Pelletier at New Image Art.

Rae: Thanks for the interview Michael. Look forward to seeing more in the future. Keep it going!


Check Michael out at:

My Twitter

My Flickr

My Facebook

My Tumblr


My Website

Studio Visit Interview with Artist Spotlight: Marianela de la Hoz

Marianela de la Hoz is a visual artist who is currently residing in San Diego, Ca. She paints miniatures using the ancient technique of Egg Tempera with a contemporary look. Her works are exceptionally detailed and fine. My visit with Marianela in her lovely humble home studio, hidden in the quiet mountains of Vista, away from the busyness of the city, left a big impression on me. Seeing her work and how she speaks of her personal history reveals how universal we all can relate to each other in life experiences.

Rae: So let’s begin our journey into Marianela’s world.


Rae: I recently saw your art series, Heaven and Earth, the Determined Freedom of an Undetermined Life, at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park. I felt a deep emotion while looking at it. What was that series all about and what inspired you to start it?

Picture 3

Marianela: The universal themes that every human being has a good and dark side. I also was commenting on the status of women in society. It took me a year to work on that series, Heaven and Earth, the Determined Freedom of an Undetermined Life which consists of an altarpiece with 11 individual paintings. This story is re-done, a modern Eve, portrayed in the upper region of the central painting, wears an apple on her chest as a type of Scarlet Letter and eats apple pie. The symbolism of the apple has two meanings: rebirth & hope, and the darker symbolism of sin & fall of humankind.

This impressive altarpiece is inspired in part by the Museum’s painting, Madonna and Child, ca.1468 by Carlo Crivelli, which is on view across from the altarpiece. Crivelli piece is the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus and de la Hoz summons the role of religion and questions its effect on motherhood and destiny.

 Personally, I feel closer to Eve because of our imperfections; the Virgin Mary is too perfect and pure for me to attempt to recreate her image.

With these two works together, de la Hoz creates a dialogue between two related but different women, the Virgin Mary and Eve.

Rae: Describe the process within yourself when creating new pieces. Do you have a ritual that you start with?

Marianela: When you are an artist, you are one 24 hours a day. Every morning I wake up at 5am and sweep the floors. It is there while sweeping the floors, I meditate about the projects I want to create. Around 9am, I start painting. I paint about 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 1 year.



Rae:  I read at the museum that when you were young you went to Catholic School. Do you think Catholic school has influenced your work a lot with the subjects you choose to paint?

Marianela: Of Course. For the school that I went to was a nun school, all women. Most were sinful and guilty. I suffered so much, that I thought I couldn’t go on living. I went into therapy for 10 years. Within 5 years after therapy, I tried painting as a daily job and it changed my life. It was cathartic.

No regrets though about going to catholic school now. I am this person today because I lived those moments.

Rae: What made you decide to make art a full-time job?

Marianela: When i had my second child, it made me realize that I wanted to fulfill more of a purpose. I learned from my children. They are my teachers.

Rae: Do you predetermine meaning or does it arrive later in your work?

Marianela: Everything is predetermined. I have an idea. I develop it. I start with sketches. And then put it into my vision. I know from the beginning what will end up in the end.

Rae: Have you lived in other cities? What keeps you staying in San Diego making art?

Marianela: I was born in Mexico City and have been living in San Diego for 10 years now. It doesn’t matter where I live. I will make art anywhere because it is a necessity.

Rae: Any upcoming new projects in progress?

Marianela: Yes I have a showing of drawings and paintings at Noel Baza in december continuing on the same themes I had talked about earlier.


Comer tanto odio me hizo daño / Eating so much hatred made me sick
silver and gold point & graphite on paper
6.5 x 4.9 inches


Se me enfrio hasta el café / Even My Coffee Went Cold 2009
silver point, ink and graphite on paper 5.7 x 4.5 inches


Digame que no entiene aun sobre su estado? /Tell me what you don’t understand yet about your condition
egg tempera on board

Rae: What do you think about collaborations with other artists?

Marianela: I’ve done it before but it’s not my thing. To me, my art practice is a very private process.

Rae: Any advice you have to give other artists out there?

Marianela: Keep doing what it is you love. You have to not care whatever people say.

To be an artist, there needs to be a balance. You have to be a well-rounded artist with a world of your own, good skills, and something personal to say.

Rae: What do you like most about making art?

Marianela: It’s natural for me. Art is my first language. It is cathartic, it helps me understand the outer and inner world of mines. It is vital.


En el Laboratorio/ In the Laboratory 2010

Rae: Any music that inspires you right now if any?

Marianela: I love to listen to many types of music. I was just listening to opera the other day. I like good music and the non-commercial type. Music is very important and is essential in ones life.

Rae: What has been your most exciting moment as an artist?

Marianela: That is difficult to answer. But now thinking of it, there’s not one moment. It comes everytime I have an idea that comes with a meaning behind it. That is the perfect moment when everything comes together. That’s my best time.

Rae: How has your practice changed over time?

Marianela: I learned from my mistakes. I became better. I am 56 years old now. I’ve been maturing as a person and as an artist. I don’t ask anything from anyone anymore. I am an obsessive person though, so I always try to do my best.

Rae: Any books that inspire you?

Marianela: I read all the time. My grandfather taught me how to read. I read Charles Perrault, Brothers Grimm, and Andersen fairy tales. When I read, I translate the stories into drawings in my own way. I also like reading Dostoyevsky.


Rae: Finally, any amazing galleries here in San Diego that you love and always inspired to check out?

Marianela: Noel-Baza because they are honest people in the gallery world.

Rae: It’s a wrap. Thank you for inviting me to your lovely home, Marianela.

Marianela: My Pleasure, thank you.

You can see more of Marianela’s artwork on her site:

Email Marianela:

She has an upcoming show in San Diego at Noel-Baza Gallery, Kettner Nights Dec 14, 2012.

Artist Feature: Jason Jaworski

self portrait

Interview with Artist: Jason Jaworski

Rae: So tell me your story.

Jason: I’m just a small town girl living in a lonely world.

Rae: At what age did you decide you were going to be serious about art?

Jason: When Biggie and Tupac died. I think everything got real serious after that.

Rae: Haha… now tell me about your zine, “Sprinkles, Sparkles, and Kankles.” How did you get the name? 

Jason: I had just moved to New York. This was 5 or 6 years ago. I didn’t know anyone or anything and was broke beyond shit. I was working at an archive of a well-known photographer at the time, dealing with numerous museums and estates. Including the Dali Fundacio, the TATE Modern, and the MoMA.

Every day I would ride the train a little more than an hour north to the Upper West Side of Manhattan and be transported to this strange bubble of wealth and magic. In the evenings, without money or company, I would walk down Manhattan taking pictures and jotting down notes, trying to find food and take in as much as I could. Sort of like a sponge. When I got back to my apartment near Coney Island I would write and work off of everything I’d consumed. Regurgitating everything I had seen and absorbed.

That was in 2007. The same year I had befriended a woman who lived in the Dakota building on 72nd Street. We met through a mail-art project I had started. It involved sending letters I wrote to random addresses. An artist I met at my work, Donna Ferrato, had a show opening on the East Side. I invited the woman from the Dakota to go with me.

We walked up and down Fifth Avenue on one of those magical nights where the ebb and flow of the city seems to work concurrently with one’s own feelings.

It was getting late. We walked back across the park, towards the West Side. It started to rain. While beginning to hold her hand, she said the exact same thing I was thinking- how everything, in the rain, at the right moment, with the right light, can cause things to sparkle.

Rewind two decades. I’m a child. My mom, an immigrant, implants in my head the word “sprinkles” in association with rainfall. 2007: I’m walking in the park again with the woman in the rain. Sprinkles. And the sparkles that go along with it. Upon arriving at the woman’s house we were joined by a group of her friends.  Suddenly, before me were an enormous amount of kankles. Belonging to men and women alike.

That night, I walked back to my apartment near Coney Island as the sun rose. I sat down and jotted three words quickly: Sprinkles, Sparkles, Kankles.

They sort of fell into each other. And described a personal moment in time while also being humorous, something I very much liked. The name sort of stuck and I’ve been making zines and other things inspired by those impressions ever since.

Rae: Describe the process within yourself when creating a new piece? And how do you decide the medium, since you do all kinds of art?

Jason: I’ve always had problems sleeping, either sleeping too much or not enough. When I’m alone, hungry and at my most tired is when I work the best, usually right before the sun comes up until 1 or 2pm. Sort of from about 2am to 2pm. A nice 12 hours. My friend Rhode calls it the Vampire Schedule.

Process wise, I kind of just put everything I’m working with in front of me. And sort of overwork till there’s too much, and then deconstruct everything from there.

It’s like constructing the tallest building in the world then realizing you just wanted a small house. Reusing and re-appropriating all the previous materials. Like compressing a large wad of coal into a diamond.

As for medium, each one dictates to me when to work with it. I don’t steal anymore. I used to when I was younger. But I’ve stopped completely since then. Since I don’t have much, I work with whatever is around me, and with whatever new tools I acquire. So it’s usually what’s around me that decides how I work and interact with it.

Rae: I really love your process of documentation. You’re very meticulous. And I mean that in a good way.

Jason: I’ve always thought I was gonna die young. I don’t want to forget anyone or anything that I’ve been or have come in contact with, no matter how much I run away. And just as a photograph can contain within its image the details of a moment, I’m just trying to catch as much as I can with as much as I can.

Rae: Would you say you challenge society’s normal mode of thinking with your work?

Jason: There’s this Jackie Chan movie called Who Am I. The whole movie is pretty amazing. I haven’t seen it since I was a little kid though, so by now it might be awful. Throughout the whole movie there’s all of this amazing stuff going on. I think at one point he slides down a building and fights some guys in wooden shoes. Amazing. The only bad part of the movie, from what I remember, is when he gets up on a ledge and screams the title of the movie to the world: “Whoooooooo aaaammmmmmm I?!”

That’s all a side exposition leading to this- I don’t really ever try to question what I’m doing, or who it’s for. I don’t really think of society, either as a challenge or an entity. The same way a flower or plant doesn’t really think of people. The two just sort of coexist and somehow indirectly inform the other. It’s not that I’m ignorant. It’s more that I’m arrogant enough to think that I can ignore society. Without having to conform to whatever norm is floating around right now

Rae: Do you predetermine meaning or does it arrive later in your work?

Jason: I feel like anyone can make anything mean something. From a can of soup, to an empty frame, to a blank black canvas shared between three friends. I can only inject myself and my own meaning into something, so that it speaks to me.  If it ends up speaking to someone else then that is all the more reason to continue.

For me, sometimes the end will come before the beginning of something I’m working on. So I’ll work my way towards that end.

Although, more often than not, that end changes. I used to see everything I did as an exorcism of whatever ailed me at the moment. A sort of therapy. But I don’t really think about it that much anymore.

I just know that everything I do, and attach my name to, means something to me. Because only I could have done it- as good or as bad as it is. People always judge everything and everyone around them. That’s the sad way that we associate things with one another. But no one judges me and my actions more than me.

So it’s sort of like this interview- do I choose to be serious and pose a question? Or do I answer with whatever comes into my head? Or do I pretend to be happy when I’m sad or whatever it is? The meaning of something is derived from its core. And whether it’s a piece of plastic or a novel, everything has a core. Some just burn brighter than others.

Rae: Do you leave the conversation open ended in your art work or is your work more of a controlled study of conversation? For example, when starting a work, do you feel you are designing an experimental study that leads to a hypothesis or do you leave it open to move in any direction?

Jason: I think my real answer to this question would be much too long and kind of incoherent. The short of it is that I just don’t really care. Not in a “fuck you” type of way. It’s just that my thoughts never really collide with those questions while I’m working. I just need to do what I do and I’m doing it. It’s as simple as that.

Rae: Looks like you’ve been very productive. How many hours a day do you create?

Jason: Sometimes I’ll work 48 hours straight. Sometimes I’ll work 48 minutes. It usually depends on my mood and the amount of information I’ve absorbed. It’s impossible to describe without sounding like a douche. But I create when I can. Not when the time is available. But when I am mentally able to do so. I harness whatever is around me. That said, Mr. Miller once wrote, “Whenever you can’t create, you can always work.” So I always do.

Each object, whether tangible or not, each creation, comes from work. You can’t really get away from it. So, I can have thoughts and ideas and dreams, but if they aren’t actuated and acted upon they stay as dreams. It takes work to do something. So more than creating it is a process of working.

I would love to just lay in bed all day and think of all the amazing things I could and should do. But there comes a point when you have to get out of the covers and go outside. And turn all the notes and ideas, in whatever pad or notebook, into actualities. Otherwise they’re just dreams and ideas that never came to be. It’s sort of like masturbation. And, while that might be ok sometimes, there’s no substitute for the real thing.

Rae: What do you consistently draw inspiration from?

Jason: Cities and their structure. And how that structure integrates a place and its people. The repetition of images alongside one another. Jenny. Friends and strangers. (I’m kind of just typing down everything that’s coming to my head.) Burritos are inspirational at certain moments. A hug. Views from an airplane window. A high five from Rhode.

Rae: Any books that you’ve been reading that have taken your breath away? Inspired your projects.

Jason: Ever since I got it a few years ago, there’s no book I go back to reread and look over more than Memories of a Dog.

Rae: When you’ve got a creative block, how do you get yourself out of it?

Jason: Work.

Rae: Heard you’ve lived in many different cities. Which cities inspired you most and why?

Jason: The past few years have afforded me the ability to have a sort of irregular square formation of living in this country. Being homeless and going from Los Angeles to San Francisco to New York to Miami, with little spurts of scenery in Canada, Japan, Taiwan and Mexico.

Out of all of those places, I feel most at home in New York but each one gives its own inspiration in some way. San Francisco will always remind me of my sister and the sometimes frustrating, but always incredible and inspirational, relationship I’m grateful and glad to have with her. Miami is a sort of bounce house for me.

Having some of the most talented and good-spirited friends I know of, Los Angeles is like an unorganized playground of a place where the rides don’t too often work. But when they do it’s worth it. And New York, always my home even if I don’t have a home there, has everything I could hate and hope for all in one place.

Rae: Any upcoming new projects in progress that we can look forward to seeing soon? Any shows or traveling on your calendar this year?

Jason: I’m planning a show with my friend Sasha Grey in the near future. And I’m organizing and exhibiting a photo project and documentary I created while going out to Japan a week after the earthquake last year. And I’m working on a series of books which should hopefully start to trickle out at the end of this year along with a few other goodies.

Rae: Sounds great to check out! And you’ve done some collaborations with other artists in the past, but what motivates you to connect and build relationships through the art making process?

Jason: Some things require more than one person to get done and any moment or opportunity to be able to work with one of my friends is a welcome one.

Rae: Any artists that you would be happy to collaborate within the near future?

Jason: More friends or talented strangers.

Rae: What do you like most about the art surrounding you in San Francisco/bay area?

Jason: Lulu and Nae Nae, Tranny Karaoke night at Aunt Charlie’s. The homeless guy that pulled out his tooth and gave it to my sister. Evan, Amanda, Chelsea’s flannel. Matt, Nisan, Raymond Brown, Keiko, Ray, Austin, Pardee, Monica and Harrison. Green Apple, Kayo, Los Coyotes’ buy one get one free Wednesday burrito special. The guy who screams “you got a quarter” to people on the street. And everyone and everything that hates or hugs me.

Rae: What type of music or bands are you listening to right now if any?

Jason: I’m responding to these questions at this moment while listening to a group of songs I heard while falling in love with my friend at a goth party. I don’t know if that’s embarrassing, honest, or both.

Rae: Finally, what has been your most exciting moment as an artist?

Jason: Buying my parents dinner and paying more than “just the tip”.

Rae: This wraps up the interview. Thank you, Jason! Gonna definitely be seeing your work around I’m sure!

Jason: Thanks.

Check out his website: Jason Jaworski

The images throughout this interview are from Jason’s recent photo project documenting cities along with vernacular images and found photographs.

Artist Focus: Interview with John Felix Arnold III

Portrait by Eric Palozzolo from Past From the Blast @ Kitsch Gallery

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” – Charles Mingus

Interview with artist John Felix Arnold III

Rae: Now let’s begin with the interview, nice to have you with us today….Tell me about your work? What does it symbolize for you personally?

John Felix: Man, that’s a very complex question. My work keeps me alive on a lot of levels, that’s the root of it.

Without creating things I would probably spontaneously combust or wither away into nothingness so therefore it represents life to me. It keeps me moving forward and allows me the opportunity to bring something I deem to be positive to the world.

Art has always come naturally to me. Speaking and asking questions through visualization is something that happens through me. I find joy in its creation and those that search to be around art. When I am really involved, it’s almost as if I am not the sole energy making it, but I am more of a conduit for something much larger than myself aiding me in making a contribution to the future. I could go on and on about my influences, inspiration, conceptual framework, technique, evolution, and what not.

But what I am explaining here, while it may come off as sounding vague, is the spiritual essence of why I do this. It represents a spiritual connectivity.

To me what I make represents my personal dialogue with the world. It demonstrates gratitude for the life I have through pain and pleasure, through the mundane and the monumental. On a basic level, I am creating exhibitions that aim to make the viewer feel as though they are walking into a life size graphic novel set in a post-apocalyptic future world. This being said, anyone who has ever read, Blade of the Immortal, Akira, Sandman, Elektra Assassin, or any graphic novel knows that works in print like these are created out of a need to understand our place in the bigger picture.

Capriquarius 5'x4' Mixed Media on Wood Panel

Rae: Looks like you are an artist of all trades…what is your most favorite medium at the moment right now?

John Felix: The medium I am having the most fun with right now, aside from the conceptual nature is basically mixing all of the disciplines I enjoy into one explosive element. It is definitely the construction of the large panels I am using for my paintings as of late.

My favorite part right now of the process is taking all of the found wood and then organizing it and setting it piece by piece into these beautiful, rectangular, debris, and tapestries. They are like these amazing organic real life 3-D design pieces that hold years of stories and experiences in every single piece of found material. Creating these as a vehicle to begin painting with, is really an awesome experience.

Event Elation 4'x8' Mixed Media on Wood Panel

Rae: What role would you say an artist has in society?

John Felix: That’s a great question, one which I don’t think enough people really give a lot of thought to, I mean people call Drake an artist right? (laughter) To me an artist’s role in society is to inspire dialogue, pose questions, and be fearless in developing their voice as a part of, and as an observer of society.


An artist’s role is to be an intense and integral member of society while at the same time having the ability to look at it from outside and comment on it so as to inspire dialogue within it, that hopefully aims to advance it in a positive light.

Artists are like chefs, we stir a bunch of things up and then serve it to the people to give them something to sustain a part of themselves, to think about, and evoke emotions and reactions.

Rae: I certainly agree with that! How has your practice changed over time?

John Felix: I recently found drawings I did as an infant, before I had any concept of survival in the face of societies expectations, fitting in, before I had any idea that so much of our world is run off of fear, status, image, and the cult of personality. The drawings were fun, fearless, and beautiful. For years I concentrated so hard on technique and developing an acceptable style and coping with a world that I felt alienated from, that I felt like I lost pieces of myself and wasn’t really living.

Now my practice really lies in reaching back into this childhood fearlessness within concepts that I confront as an adult armed with an arsenal of techniques, discipline, and design knowledge that informs a very organic style that is now evolving all on its own accord. After a very crazy life thus far, I get to appreciate years of really rigorous technical practice (that kept me focused in some dark moments) which have become a perfect companion for the free flowing energy that I now get to experience when I’m making art.

Lady of the Lake 5'x4' Mixed Media on Wood Panel

Rae: What themes do you pursue within your artwork?

John Felix: The main theme I am pursuing at present is exploring an idea of what people and certain archetypes will be and do in the face of an inevitable reset of human society.

I guess it really boils down to examining the rate at which we as a society are consuming limited resources around us. Creating multitudes of things which we really do not need, which in turn consume us spiritually, physically, emotionally, pretty much across the board, to perpetuate a system which turns the great majority its members into “self-sacrificing parasites.” 

Christopher Burch, whom I am showing with in New York in March, gets the credit for that term. It happens to fit the work I am doing as well as his and many others at the moment. Other themes examined in my work as well are: lose of control, creating things which consume us, spirituality or lack there of within society, love, what it means to be strong, how to move forward into the future, shelter, how things that are deemed “necessary for survival” will change once the world as we know it now ceases to be, you know light hearted stuff (laughter again).

Rae: Any books that inspire you at the moment, if any?

John Felix: Actually yes. Mirrors, by Eduardo Galeano, is really inspiring at the moment. It is a large companion of short paragraph pieces dealing with historical figures and questions throughout the history of civilization, which have shaped the world as we know it, and aims to get the viewer to really question their own intentions so as to gain some sort of insight into a positive way to move ahead.

Rae: Wow, I’ve got to look into that book, sounds fascinating! What do you love most about being an artist based in the bay area?

John Felix: People in the bay area simply love art, enjoy art, and support art in a variety of ways. The Bay Area is currently a great pool of creativity and freedom of expression for obvious historical reasons and thanks to an amazing history of forerunners. Where else can you run into Emory Douglas, Barry McGee, and Monica Canilao all in the same day.

The Bay is one of the most diverse parts of the world in terms of race, culture, spiritual practice, sexuality, academia, philosophy, technology, politics, and of course the arts.

It is the home of two of the oldest and most important art institutions I know of, SFAI and CCA. It has been called the birthplace of lowbrow art, has an amazing graffiti history, lots of pride behind its local art makers and movements. There are wildly different art movements happening right here right now in the Mission, the Tenderloin, and the greater Oakland area. I love the art community here and the commitment that so many artists have to continually challenge themselves and those around them.

Rae: Having studied at two different art schools in your lifetime? What attracted you most about the programs?

John Felix:Pratt is an oasis of imagination, incredible technical instruction, historical accomplishments in the arts, rigorous training, and amazing professors in one of the most amazing and craziest fucking parts of the world.

It is a home to a variety of disciplines. Something about having alot of disciplines, enabled us to engage one another on a daily basis. We dealt with professors that hold no punches and are not afraid to rip you a new one, if you don’t demonstrate that which is necessary to make it, this creates a great atmosphere.

The program I was in was just designed extremely well, and I benefited more than I could have asked for from it. It prepared me for things to come. We had a pretty epic class, in my department while I was there. Also they gave me more money than any other NYC school to make my home there.

SFAI’s prestige in the arts community, the fact that I won a pretty large scholarship, their history and print making facilities were pretty attractive. SF seemed like a great choice, and working w/ Tim Berry in the Print Making Department was a big pull! After a year though I really didn’t feel that it was the right place for me to be at, so I dropped out and saved myself from going pretty deeply into debt. I might move back to Brooklyn someday, we’ll see.

Rae: Any upcoming projects you’ve been working on at the moment? Could you talk about what you are trying to achieve with them?

John Felix: I have “The Love of All Above” Saturday February 4th at Queens Nails Projects in San Francisco. It is a continuation of my series of installation environmental pieces that act as an altar and a place to give praise as well as a stage and a vehicle for performers to engage the audience.

A Conversation with Charles Mingus About the Inevitable End of the World 8'x3' Mixed Media on Wood Panel Assemblage

A Conversation with Coltrane About the State of Spirituality 8'x3' Mixed Media on Wood Panel Assemblage

I am working musical performers Cassettes Won’t Listen, Bisco Smith, Grimace and Turnbull Green all from the Daylight Curfew Crew. Also performing will be Kool Kid Kreyola and a husband and wife duo called Him Downstairs. I am trying to create an installation environment that exist in the world of “Unstoppable Tomorrow”.

I want people to feel like they are part of a night of rituals and ceremony through art and music inside of this post apocalyptic setting that hopefully takes them out of their normal daily humdrum.

I want to create an environment where I can not only exhibit my new installation and painting work within the installation setting, but also engage performers to work within it, and collaborate with the environment.This I hope, will make the audience feel more part of the piece and the imaginary of all these concepts, disciplines, and personalities.

Then Christopher Burch and I are off to Brooklyn, NY for our March 1rst opening at an amazing space called Littlefield NYC, which will consist of drawings exploring this idea of societies “self sacrificing parasites”. Ninjasonik and Ken South Rock will also be performing at the opening of that show. Then it’s a solo show at Old Crow in Oakland in July. I am incredibly excited about this due to the fact that I get the whole space to explore by myself! Then back to Japan, to go on tour and do live painting with the band Ken South Rock. Pretty busy.

Rae: Any other artists you would love to collaborate with in the future?

John Felix: David Ellis, Tomokazu Matsuyama, Katsuhiro Otomo, and I wish I could go back in time and work with Hokusai and Yoshitoshi!

Rae: Any amazing galleries you love in the bay area?

John Felix: I was part of the Luggage Store’s “In the Moment” group exhibition this past November. I love and have loved the Luggage Store since I first found out about it when I moved here in 2006. There are a lot of amazing galleries here, they all seem to have their own distinctive voice and place and there are a handful I would like to work with for specific projects. I definitely have to say that my favorite gallery to work with thus far, who has also really been a pleasure to build with and evolve with is Old Crow in Oakland.

Rae: Music or bands inspiring you right now. Go.

John Felix: These cats Main Atrakionz out of Oakland are sick. I know everyone is saying Odd Future these days. Dipset all day. I just found the J Dilla Rough Drafts cd at Amoeba for like 10 bucks, that is a really sick one. The Ghost in the Shell soundtrack, Stand Alone Complex. The Akira Soundtrack. Japanther and Ninjasonik no doubt. Daylight Curfew, Kool Kid Kreyola, been listening to some Indonesian Rhythmic Recordings lately. Japanese Koto Drums all day. Always have my early nineties Hip Hop that I grew up with on speed dial. Rediscovered some At the Drive In recently. Been listening to Charles Mingus and Coltrane a lot.

Rae: More inspiration… more! What was your most inspiring moment as an artist so far?

John Felix: Definitely having “Past from the Blast” at Kitsch in the Mission last March (2011) with Japanther finally happened. In the middle of the show I looked out into the crowd and the world went into slow motion for me as I saw over 200 kids going absolutely ape shit inside of my art installation while Japanther rocked out on an altar platform/stage that was the focal point of the installation I built for the show. That was rad! They were rocking the universe inside of my artwork man.

Rae: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

John Felix:

Don’t overdo it man. You don’t have to feel like you have to carry the world on your shoulders. Do what you can because that shit will kill you and you won’t be any good to anybody.

Rae: Thank you John Felix Arnold III! Your future art shows are a must-check- out!!!!

Shouts TWNY, 57, IPD, 138, Dirty Durham, Old Crow, Big Sheikh Deluxe, Faetm, Brooklyn, The Elite

Links to check out this artist: artist website, wordpress blog, tumblr site, facebook, Daylight Curfew Creative Collection, Art Now SF

Gallery Spotlight: Interview with Old Crow Tattoo & Gallery

Located in the heart of Oakland, Old Crow Tattoo & Gallery is a hotspot within the art community, popularized mainly through word of mouth. I heard about it myself from other art students, and have been attending art shows here since 2010, which always blow my mind.

Art openings happen every month on 2nd Saturdays. The Old Crow Gallery, at 362 Grand Ave. in Oakland, CA offers a space to the public for monthly art exhibits by emerging and seasoned artists.

Check out my interview of the Old Crow gang below.

Old Crow Tattoo & Gallery

  • Notables who have shown or performed in the Old Crow Gallery include: Chor Boogie, Jet Martinez, Gaia, Robert Bowen, John Casey, Lauren Napolitano, Shrine, Krescent Carasso, Shawn Whisenant, John Felix Arnold III, Megan Kimber, David Young V, Black Diamond Shining, Lupo Avanti, Optimist, Kristin Farr, Parskid, Poesia, Feral Child, Deuce 7, Christopher Burch, Henry Gunderson, Kid Yellow, Mario Ayala, Jordan Quintero, ATWA, Spencer Keeton Cunningham, Kool Kid Kreyola, Smear, Micheal Kershnar, Jeff Meadows, Jurne, Japanther, Jessica Jenkins Ocotheca, Troung Tran, Amina Slor.

Old Crow Talk

Interview with tattoo artist Philip Milic and curator Terry Addison.

Rae: So, let’s start. Tell me about your unique tattoo shop and its second life as an art gallery.

Philip of Old Crow: In the initial planning, having a communal space and tattoo shop was always my vision, for the most part. A few things have changed, but the gallery part has stayed the same.

Terry of Old Crow: Well, I began showing Philip’s artwork around late 2007, after becoming familiar with his tattooing. At the time, I felt like he was creating gallery ready artwork that stood on it’s own, aside from his already heavily collected tattooing. Philip was in the final stages of opening the shop when we met, and had asked me to help him do an art show to go along with the shop opening.

Old Crow Tattoo and Gallery is divided into 2 large spaces…In the first room our gallery invites you into the tattoo shop which is in a separate larger room.

Pretty much, the minute I saw the space I knew it could be something dope. Since that day, I’ve dedicated all the time I possibly can to having those walls tell stories & hold memories for the people that view them.

Artist: Andrew Luck

Personally, I really enjoy the melding of the two worlds in one. Art galleries move at a much different pace than tattoo shops. Having both in the same space, we’re able to have a constant energy that not only exhibits artwork, but also creates artwork on a day to day basis.

Rae: Philip, How did you come up with the name of the shop?

Philip of Old Crow: My father is an old Croatian man, so it’s dedicated to him, the “Old Cro”.

Rae: Now, as for the tattoos, Philip… What got you interested in that business?

Philip of Old Crow: Not business!!!  Now that’s real talk.

When I started tattooing I was young & didn’t care about the money.

I was 17, living in my friend’s parents’ garage, opening up the tattoo studio I was apprenticing at after school. The shop was open from 12:30 pm-ish till 12am-ish every night. And I was there not for the money, but because it ached in every inch of my bones if I wasn’t there.

Rae: How long have you been in the tattoo business?

Philip of Old Crow: I’ve been a tattoo artist for 16 years, and now that I own a shop, I’ve only been in the business part of it for 2 years.

Rae: What would you say is your favorite part of your job?

Philip of Old Crow: Tattooing.

Rae: So, do you still enjoy the job after all these years?

Philip of Old Crow: 16 years later it still keeps me up at night. It really is like a little virus that my mind will never cure from, and I’m very thankful for this.

I hope to be that old guy that just can’t stop even if someone has to hold my arms to do it.

Feather Tattoo by Philip Millic

Rae: Any particular tattoo artists out there that you guys are inspired by and would like to work with someday?

Philip of Old Crow: Marcus Pacheco, I got to work with him a few years and fully regret not paying more attention when I did. Being young and not really knowing what’s real in front of you. I also have great appreciation for Scott Silvia, Juan Puente, Dan Dringenburg, and Seth Ciferri… all masters at what they do.

Rae: If a customer were to walk in and give you free reign over what was to be put on them, what could that customer expect from you?

Philip of Old Crow: A swastika blooming flowers in the center, would be a vajra and underneath in script it would say, hard to kill. And if you all don’t know the true meaning of the swastika, you all should look it up and educate yourself.

Rae: Do you feel that the tattoo industry is still very stereotyped?

Philip of Old Crow: I hope so.

Rae: Where do you see the tattoo industry in 5 years?

Philip of Old Crow: Wearing oxygen masks. No, I hope a few bandwagon jumpers fall off and stop doing shitty tattoos. But I think most of folks that are sticking to some of the older ideas will prevail over all the technological shit and bull shit TV programming that they’re trying to implement. The beauty of this craft is that you can still buy everything you need in the USA. Everything is hand crafted from the drawing, to the machine, to the formation of the needles, etc.

Rae: Any words of wisdom for the tattoo artists/business owners of the future?

Philip of Old Crow: Don’t do it. Become a graphic designer or a DJ, or grow pot, or be a Facebook model.

Rae: Any upcoming projects for yourself, Philip?

Philip of Old Crow: In a year, I’ll do something big. As of now, staying focused on the present.

Art Opening Nights

Rae: Next, onto the gallery questions. What is your favorite part of creating art exhibitions?

Terry of Old Crow: Right now, I’m really into the process of bringing an exhibition to life from the curatorial idea all the way thru the show’s closing. For me, conceptualizing exhibitions and coming up with the theme’s direction is so important. That’s something I really pay attention and get stoked on.

Rae: Is there some kind of philosophy behind Old Crow’s curatorial process? What kind of artists are you drawn to? How do you go about finding artists to show their work at the gallery?

Terry of Old Crow: Yeah there’s definitely a philosophy… I’m looking to create gallery moments that change from month to month. Hoping that if a person were able to come to every show in one year they would be able to really make sense of my curatorial choices as a whole.

Almost every month at least one person comes to the gallery and says this is their favorite show.

That month I’m curating for them. With them in mind. I also enjoy creating and being part of an artistic environment for people to engage with. Working within Philip’s shop gives the space a certain shanty mysticism that only working with an artist like Philip can bring. I’m trying to curate month to month, season to season, and honestly year to year, in terms of actual shows themselves.

Artist: John Felix Arnold III

I grew up within the New England hardcore scene. Brought up around dudes that skated all day before they’d paint graffiti all night. And heads that listened to Big L on the way to see a Strife concert. Living in Rhode Island helped expose me to lots of great art and music experiences early on. Which pretty much sums up the direction of my curating, a lil hiphop and a lil hardcore.

As I’ve been working at Old Crow, I’ve learned to curate with more restraint. Focus on beauty, subtlety, essence, and grace. Instead of just overwhelming the viewer with imagery and/or message.

Over the years, I’ve been able to grow with some of the artist’s I’ve shown. The friendships I’ve gained with artists over time has influenced curating and much more. I started a small art collective when in my early twenties with friends I met after spending sometime in the Bay. In 2005 or so, around age 25, I started curating independently and showing some of the same artists’ work I do today at Old Crow.

That being said, I also really enjoy showing artist’s from outside of California as well. I’m constantly hoping to bring someone or something to the table while I have a chance, while truly trying to push the work of those close to me.

Rae: What would you say is an advantage for the gallery of being located in Oakland?

Philip of Old Crow:

Oakland? Oakland’s pride is deep. The culture is rich, the weather is perfect. Lots of that LA face/Oakland booty thing is great too.

Terry of Old Crow: Oakland is rad, just that alone is first. I love the SF art scene and think it has a vibrant history. I’ve learned so much about curating by just living in SF and being able to visit all these high quality spaces. When Philip asked me to curate at Old Crow, I felt like I showed up on my own lil art island.

While there’s so much going on in Oakland, I feel like it’s a perfect time for the type of thing we are trying to present. Which is something that nurtures Oakland but shows the beauty of outward to inspiration and energy.

"Oaktown Art"

Rae: Is there anything lacking in today’s arts you would like to see more of?

Terry of Old Crow: Lacking, I don’t know. I’m really more into what I can do better within the space I curate. One thing if any, I think sometimes there’s not enough risk taking in pushing artists or discovering artists that stylistically fit what you may be trying to exhibit.

If we all as gallery directors/curators all did the proper research, I’m sure more artists would be showing within the SF/Bay Area alone. Then again, so many galleries are killing it and are really presenting beautiful exhibitions. So I think it’s more based on what your looking for more the art community at large.

Street Artists are getting kinda silly right now. Respect to the real writers out there, the ones that actually paint.

Rae: What really differentiates the Old Crow Gallery from the others out there?

Terry of Old Crow: Besides that we’re also a tattoo shop, and the face that there’s an alter in the gallery that never moves. The walls aren’t white all the way to the ceiling, there’s lots of things. I think people enjoy the really diverse grouping of artists that exhibit here. I think that is one of the best things about this space and what we are giving to Oakland.

Artists: John Casey, Obi Kaufmann, Nathaniel Parsons and Dave Higgins

Rae: Any particular artists you would like to collaborate with in the future?

Terry of Old Crow: Ummm, I really really really like Jane Alexander’s work. Eric Eaton is really great and seems like an honest good dude. Cris Cleen over in NYC @ Saved is creating a narrative w/ his paintings that I’d like to see explored in a gallery setting. MR Jago work is fantastic. I’m really interested in showing an artist named Reader’s work as well.

Rae: What attracted me most about your tattoo shop, has been the art show openings and word of mouth of friends who’ve gotten tattoo work by you guys. I’ve been to a few gallery shows since 2010 and was always blown away by the Artists’ work shown here!!! Amazing!!! Any favorite Artists that have shown here previously that has inspired you guys?

Artist: Shrine

Philip of Old Crow: Robert Bowen, Robert Burden, Optimist, and Shrine. This question is kinda silly cause if I didn’t get inspiration from it all, I would be sleeping. So really, I pull inspiration from everyone that has shown, even those I didn’t like so much.

Terry of Old Crow: The Poesia show was really amazing. I think it served as a re-introduction to the gallery artist he is today. Optimist paints super good. Shrine’s show was beautiful. John Felix is the future.

Artists: Jurne and Vulcan

Artist: Brett Flaningan

Lauren Napolitano is such a multi-talented artist, she’s epic and curated better shows than I have in my own gallery, also was part of one of the most exciting shows we had this year. Lauren, Spencer Keeton Cunningham, Kool Kid Kreyola, Andrew Luck, and Brett Flaningan were able to put together one of the most cohesive shows we’ve ever had.

I brought Megan Kimber’s work to gallery this year and that was rad. Krescent Carrasso is one of my favorite painters, that being said, she hasn’t let me hang any of her paintings yet, but there’s still time anyway. Marcus Pacheco and Vulcan took part in this year’s “Stant Tall pt. II” and that was pretty amazing to have 2 legends from different worlds take part in one exhibition.

Artists: Ken Davis and Optimist "Stand Tall pt.II"

Rae: You guys give a lot to the community through showcasing works of emerging artists. 

Terry of Old Crow: Getting the chance to create an impression in one person’s mind is really dope. Whether it’s on a buyer’s wall and in a viewer’s memory.

Art starts cycles for people. It gets the brain working outside of oneself, outside the day to day norm.

I hope people walk into Old Crow and feel there’s a vibe to the shop. That same vibe which is present in the style of work that we exhibit and produce. Being part of Old Crow and its constant outpouring of art has been pretty awesome. For a new gallery, I think we’ve done some things that people have been able to really enjoy within the art community.

Rae: Any words of wisdom for the creatives out there?

Terry of Old Crow:

Listen to Rick Ross while you make artwork… Hustle Hard, home skillet. And tell stories with your art.

Artist: Optimist

Rae: Any upcoming projects for Old Crow Gallery in the future you are excited about? New exhibitions in line?

Terry of Old Crow: Tweenz in Feb, Ink to Abstract in March w/ Shawn Whisenant, Robert Bowen, Poesia, Weirdo, and Jessica Jenkins, Pre-Vinylite Society in May, April’s show “Entrophy w/ Mario Ayala & Vibrata Chromodoris,” June we’ll be showing JAE54 and Chez, John Felix Arnold III has a solo show in June which is gonna be crackin’. Stand Tall 3’s in August. Out calendar for next year is really fun….I can’t wait to see these shows come to life, epic.

Rae: Any final words?

Terry of Old Crow: We out here. Shouts out to all my IPG’s and BG’s, Awake Click Stand Up. Metro, I see you. I wanna thank Philip for allowing me to work within the Old Crow Family. Espirit d’ Escalier.

Rae: Thank you for the interview Old Crow. Looking forward to seeing more art happenings in the future!


Check these birds out at:

Check out Philip Milic’s interview video w/ Vimby: 4598

Keith Smith, Book By Book

Keith Smith, Book By Book is and exhibit at Bruce Sivlerstein Gallery, New York.

Keith Smith has been creating books as works of art since the 1960s, yet he has rarely shown his work to the public over the past twenty-five years.

He designs books that allow the viewer to experience and question the structure and nature of the book itself—his works are often radical departures from traditional books made of string or covered in fabric, they unfold, light-up, do not open, are unbound, or punched full of holes. Each piece is an opportunity for the viewer to expand his or her own expectations for a book and physically engage with the imagery or text.

For Smith, his work is a form of creative articulation whereby the act of making the book—the binding, printing method, page materials and textures that comprise the form, content and structure of the book are chosen to most adequately express the artist’s original inspiration or personal challenge.

While a single book might be guided by one idea or one particular interest, when the viewer examines the artist’s complete body of work—currently over 280 books—images of certain people and places reappear, and Smith’s voice begins to emerge. His works address the recurring themes of love and desire and reveal the artist’s efforts to reckon with his sexual identity.

Keith was educated at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He has taught at the Visual Studies Workshop, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the University of Illinois. He is a recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships, and a National Endowment of the Arts grant and a Pollock/Krasner Foundation grant.

His work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; Center of Creative Photography, University of Arizona; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University; International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London among others.

He has authored nine books on bookmaking, among them; 200 Books, An Annotated
Bibliography, published by Keith Smith BOOKS, First Edition, May 2000; Books without Paste or Glue, Non-Adhesive Binding Volume I, The Sigma Foundation, Inc., 1991; and Structure of the Visual Book, First Edition, The Sigma Foundation, 198.

Courtesy of Bruce Silverstien Gallery. Exhibit runs till January 7, 2012.

Featured Artist: Jorge Tellaeche

Jorge Tellaeche is an artist currently living in Mexico City, Mexico. His biotic line work and vibrant bright, pastel colors consists of a combustible, lively interpretation of dreamlike disorderly landscapes.

Rae: Any self portrait photo of u?

Jorge: Yeah I did one for my last solo show called “Animals R Honest” @ Medellin 174 gallery . Its of me turning into an animal with deer horns. 🙂

Rae: I’ve been checking out your latest work on your blog. What would you say about these latest series you’ve posted?

Jorge: Uffff that they are very different. I like the challenge of changing the direction of my work when I get too comfortable doing, what I am doing. But anyway, the new series is all about me reflecting on what kind of person I want to be, so they are these kids that are somewhat illuminated, and have an amazing connection and clarity with nature and other kids. Its like a lost tribe, thats why its called “the lost boys and girls”

Rae: Describe your process while making a piece.

Jorge: Its hard to explain, because it changes between pieces. But I am usually working on a acrylic piece and on the side some watercolor drawings or some ink. So there is no real strict way of working for me.

Rae: Looking at your work, you bring a really soft, vibrant graphic art to your style? It gives your artwork an inviting feeling? What inspires your work these days?

Jorge: Well I studied graphic design, so I have that buried in my roots, and I think it makes the paining more current, and it communicates to our generation. Yeah, I like my art work to be pieces that you can live with and enjoy for many years or generations, and that the dialogue with the piece can constantly develop and grow into different directions.
What inspires me? …. well everything I think, I am very influenced by my emotions so with that I involve all of my friends, and people that surround me that make me feel different things. Also by my surroundings, colors, forms, textures.

Rae: How is your studio working routine? Time of day? Any great music you’ve been listening to lately?

Jorge: hahaha no routine, I am a MESS … I can paint in the day or night, it depends on my other activities that day, but I do try to work every day. Music is tremendously important to me and my work…. I have a very eclectic ear so I don’t listen to just one type of music, but lately I have been feeling my studio with the sounds of Lhasa De Sela, Foals, Chris Garneau, Bon Iver, Architecture In Helsinki , and many many others 🙂

Rae: What do you love most about being an artist living in Mexico City?

Jorge: Well Mexico City has a huge amount of energy, it lets you work as hard as you want and go as far as you can…and I like that in a city, to always ask more of me.

Rae: Are you a full time artist? or do you have a day job as well?

Jorge: I am a full timer! 😉

Rae: Any upcoming project, trips, shows coming up for you?

Jorge: Yeah, I have been busier than any other year. I am reviving a functional art project that involves furniture called twig, I am going in December to SF, LA, SD and TJ and then early next year I am going for two months to Berlin… and as for shows, I have a collective show called minimart with Fifty24 gallery in Mexico city, and a solo show in Mexico city in April that I am working like crazy for.

Rae: Nice. What is the most inspiring, exciting moment you had in your art career so far?

Jorge: It always keeps getting better….one tops the other

Rae: So you have lived in San Diego before? What made you decide to move to Mexico City?

Jorge: Yeah I was living between TJ and SD for many very comfortable and fun years. I decided to move because I love big chaotic cit, and Mexico city is one of my favorite places in the world.

Rae: You’ve done a lot of commercial art, do you think that has influenced your process of making art in any way?

Jorge: Not really, all the commercial work that I have done has been with creative license, so I don’t really have to change what I am doing or how I do it.

Rae: Favorite place traveled so far? And why?

Jorge: Berlin, thats why I am going back! It has a freedom that you can feel that I love.

Rae: Any artist you would love to collaborate with in the future?

Jorge: Yeah, there are many that I completely respect. I would love to do something with Kelsey Brookes, Dr. Lacra (even though he is really dark) , Sergio Mora… and I can go on ….

Rae: Any amazing places/spots that you would suggest to check out to someone traveling to Mexico City?

Jorge: Depends on your mood and personality, but for sure the pyramids are a must see, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Condesa-Roma is a nice neighborhood to eat, drink and walk around. And JESUS CHRIST the food is amazing anywhere you go heheheh.

Rae: You’ve also done street art, thinking about doing more?

Jorge: Yeah, I would not consider myself a street artist because I haven’t done enough, but I did start last year wen I started my collaboration with Adidas. Since then, I have been doing a lot of murals….and I have to say that I love it… Its fun and it’s a great way to communicate with a larger audience … I would love to do one in San Diego in December!!!! HINT HINT heheheh

Rae: Yeah, you should totally do a mural in San Diego! Any advice you would give to other artists?

Jorge: I don’t feel I am old enough to give other artist advice hehehe … but maybe I can say that there are no rules in this biz, everybody has their own rhythm and timing, don’t get discourage if its a slow start. OH and stay passionate

Rae: Thank you for the interview Jorge, hope to see more from you in the future.

Check out his website at
twitter: jorge_tellaeche

Artist Interview Featured with Alexis Amann

Rollup Gallery: photo courtesy of Lauren Devenney

“I am the Bad Wolf. I create myself. I take the words. I scatter them… time, and space. A message to lead myself here.” – Rose Tyler (Quote from Doctor Who)

Alexis Amann is a SF based artist working with a wide range of mediums.

Hedgewitch and Baby Beluga

Hedge and Beluga bone detail

Rae: Let’s begin with the interview, nice to have you with us today….

Rae: Describe your process for creating a new piece and what sorts of materials you prefer to use and why?

Alexis: I work with acrylic gouache on paper. I love working on paper because it references a book, illustrations, and comics. I like making work that feels like it comes from that world. I can cut the edges to suit the painting. I like that I can work with paper to make a small painting that will be framed, or a larger installation piece made of multiple pieces of paper that over a wall.

My experience is that when a painting really needs to happen, it will not leave me alone,  even if I have a ton of other paintings in line that I should be finishing up. I have to at least get that idea down on paper as much as possible. A lot of my art making process is about listening to those little thoughts and images as they arise as much as I can without censoring them. I’m definitely a first ideas person – get your first idea out and refine it later, don’t mull it over for all eternity trying to find a better idea, or make it something that would say this or that, suit this person or that person, or be one thing or another. Once they are out, the ideas are mine to change and manipulate in the making of the piece, but in the early stages, I try to just the ideas as much as possible. I also do work out of ideas by drawing in my sketchbook. Drawing is thinking, sometimes a better way of thinking. I often go back to those drawings as a starting place for creating pieces.

Bearded Lady (lost at sea)

Rae: I noticed your illustrations seem to take on a comic illustration perspective, do you also agree with me?

Alexis: Yes for sure! Comics have been a huge influence on me. As a kid, I read Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbes, Archie (and all of his pals ‘n gals), Lynda Barry, Amphigorey, Matt Groening’ Life in Hell stuff, Zippy the Pinhead, the comics in Cricket magazine, and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, among other things. I was never much for superhero comics as a little kid, although now I do have a collection of Golden Age Wonder Woman comics that are amazing. I continue to read lots of comics, including everything Lynda Barry does. I really, really love the Hernandez Brothers. They are beyond compare both in story and art, truly stellar- their female characters are brilliant, and it’s amazing to be able to see story arcs occurring over years and years.

Rae: How is it living and working as an artist in San Francisco? What do you love most about being an artist based in SF?

Alexis: The art community is great here. I grew up on the Oregon Coast and love being in a city that is also right next to the ocean, where I can take Muni to the beach!

Rae: What inspires your work these days?

Alexis: I have been working on a series of monster women that are a mix of literature, pop culture, fairy tales, personal history, and mythology. My work is inspired by pretty much everything that passes through my brainpan, catches my interest, or tugs at my heart. Some of those things are: the ocean, my personal history, my friends, relationships, books I’ve read, things I’ve heard, natural history, old illustration and comics, William Morris patterns, science fiction, and Doctor Who.

Rae: When are you most creative, at what time of the day?

Alexis: I’m in the studio a lot at night because I work a day job. I’m creative whenever I have to be, whenever I have time. I like to paint in the mornings on my days off – it feels so good to start the day painting and then I can just keep painting all day. My favorite time to paint is really Saturday night – it feels like the farthest point in my week from any other obligations, and the quietest, deepest time.

Rae: What was the most inspiring moment you had this year?

Alexis: Right now, everything kind of pales in comparison to how inspired I feel by the Occupy movement. I finally feel proud of America in a way, I’m not sure I ever have before. Art-wise, I went to the Alternative Press Expo this year and was very inspired by the way Kate Beaton talks about her work, reading her history comics aloud, almost like a stand-up routine. I like people who really have fun with their work like that. It’s cool to see artists really excited and entertained by their own work. People who really make work they love inspire me the most.

Rae: Any upcoming projects, trips, more shows? etc……….

Alexis: Worked on a squid costume for Halloween! I have a few things in the works, but not ready to talk about any of them yet. Soon, hopefully.

Rae: How would you describe your work to someone?

Alexis: Usually, I tell people that I make narrative paintings on paper that are drawing based, with use of a lot of color and line, have cut edges, and reference mythology, pop culture, literature, natural history, and personal narratives, and are populated by mermaids, boats, harpies, whales, monsters, women, fish, water, demons, etc. And that there’s a lot of water everywhere, usually.

Rae: Can you recall a memory of when you first started making art? How did you start being serious about it?

Alexis: I had a lot of hip surgeries as a kid for a condition I was born with, and was in a cast more often than not until after I was three years old. I remember drawing on my casts a lot with my mom, and sitting at the table drawing and painting a lot back then. She also let me draw on the walls of my bedroom. I got to keep the casts after they came off and had them for years- heavy plaster things with scrawled marker pen drawings all over them. I’m not entirely sure when I became “serious” about art, it just kind of happened because I didn’t like doing anything else quite as much as drawing and painting.

Rae: Having studied at SFAI. How did studying there influence your art making now?

Alexis: I feel like my time at SFAI really returned me to myself in terms of my painting practice. I came up against a wall with needing to find fun and excitement in making my work again, and I really fought to let myself make work that I loved. Grad school shook everything up in the way I was hoping for and brought me to the work I’m doing now, which I’m so grateful for – it feels like my real work. Because of this struggle, the most important part of what I found during grad school was a deep trust in my own vision and own process, the knowledge that I can see myself and my work through those difficult times- a feeling that I can really count on my artistic process.

Rae: Studying at SFAI, any teachers that are influential? What did he/she teach you most about?

Alexis: The teachers at SFAI are awesome and incredibly generous. When I was there, I worked with Caitlin Mitchell-Dayton, Mark Mulroney, Amy Ellingson, and Dewey Crumpler, among others. I feel like they all had a role in helping me understand my vision for my work in different ways. I also feel like I learned a lot about how to be a teacher myself from working with them. I think the most successful teachers are those who are able to share a lot of their own artistic process/struggle with their students – their honesty and compassion with themselves is something they bring to their students as well. That’s something I try to bring to my classroom when I teach now, too.

Rae: What impressed you most about the art department in SFAI, for you to pick the school?

Alexis: I loved the vibe of the studios at 3rd street and the Chestnut campus. I think this may have changed over the years, but at the time I was looking at schools, and the SFAI Chestnut campus really felt like a painting haven.

Rae: Yeah, I know what you mean, I totally agree with you on that one. And which cities have you lived in?

Alexis: Rochester, NY (until I was 8), Newport, OR, Portland, OR, San Francisco.

Rae: Any artist you want to collaborate with in the future?

Alexis: I would love to collaborate with a writer on a book project!

Fancy Demon

Rae: Any amazing gallery you love in the bay area?

Alexis: I just showed with Rollup Gallery in August, which was super fun.

Rae: Favorite place traveled? Why?

Alexis: The library – everything is there!

Rae: Lastly, what type of music or bands are you listening to right now while making art?

Alexis: Music is so emotional – it’s too much like painting for me to listen to music much in the studio. I mostly listen to audio books and podcasts because they put my mind into the right kind of distracted focus when I’m working. I’m a devout Nerdist podcast listener and also listen to all the usual suspects like the Moth, This American Life, etc, when I can. There is more media to consume than I can keep up with, which is so frustrating. I just finished the audio version of The Martian Chronicles, and currently listening to Ready Player One, which is awesome so far — and read by Wil Wheaton!

Rae: That wraps up the interview. Thank you, Alexis! Will be seeing more of your work in the future, I’m sure.

Another one of Alexis’s favorite quote: “A girl’s best friend is her mutter.” – Dorothy Parker

To check out more of her artwork, go to her website: and