My own childhood drawings.
Connecting with my childhood self feels like time travel. I ask her questions and marvel at the clear and vivid answers she gives. The child me was immersed in the soup of the all that is. Her drawings were made with total creativity, without any anxiety of influence. These drawings help me rediscover the forgotten beauty I once knew.
My housecat, Foxy
Sharing space with a miniature tiger, a little wild animal, makes me feel like there is still nature in my life. I live in a concrete box, and everything I see out of the window was created by humans. All of these manifestations of other people’s visions—buildings, billboards, machines—become unbearable after a certain point. When I look at Foxy, how she couldn’t care less about the rules and norms of this society, I feel recharged. Every time our eyes meet, she shares ancient, unspeakable wisdoms. Although people call them domestic, kitties are still wild at heart. To be loved by a beast like her is such a life-affirming feeling.
Cutting up old work.
Making collages from prints of previous paintings is the creative destruction that keeps things fresh. Playing with these cut-ups allows me to stumble upon accidental configurations that I would never be able to think up on my own. The pieces then start to have a dreamlogic life of their own. The water splashes from a koi jumping become the perfect stars for a snowy nighttime forest; a bird feather closeup morphs into the patchwork quilt of a distant landscape. This process is experimental, but the experiments are carefully controlled and monitored. It’s salad theory: if you toss a bunch of delicious ingredients together, the result will probably be extra delicious. If several paintings were successful, there’s a good chance that their chopped and mixed version will be pretty good, too.
A big part of my life is differentiating between authentic, personal thought and the ideas that I have unconsciously absorbed from modern society. I'm trying to unlearn the programming and filters that the human adult world has imposed. The bowerbird exemplifies fundamental, natural artistic truths. This bird curates collections of objects, builds a stage, and spends years developing a performance routine. The effort this precious creature puts into attracting a mate is a reminder of the instinctual truth: Beauty for the sake of Beauty, in the name of Love and Connection.
Opening my mind with psychoactive plants.
Safely, with a chaperone, once or twice a year, I find it necessary to drop the ego, get outside of self, and just feel a more universal connection. These special plants allow various parts of the brain, normally separate, to communicate—smelling color, seeing sound, becomes effortless. If you focus, you can feel the actual movement of the Earth through space. The sensation is so grand: what you think of as you becomes just a tiny, silly thing. I like the way it helps me kick bad habits or vices—social media, unhealthy food—by seeing how ridiculous I look from just a slightly shifted perspective. I confront fears, document observations, integrate the lessons into daily life, and hopefully evolve.
The work of Walton Ford
This artist is one of the only living, mega-successful painters who has been able to focus strictly on the natural world. His hyper-realistic depictions of animals involved in fantastical narratives are the perfect combination of raw beauty and wild imagination. His work proves that there’s room in the art world for depictions of flora and fauna. When I look at his level of mastery and craftsmanship, I can literally see the years of practice it took to develop some of his individual techniques: to learn to notice so precisely how light plays in fur, how to depict an animal eye full of emotion. I plan to live to a hundred and never stop working—I think I can reach his level.
Klimt is the greatest artist of all time because he invented the most advanced Other dimension. He really committed to depicting another version of reality that had consistent visual laws. The masterful distortion of realism is richly intricate but loose and natural. It’s organic—it moves, it grows! From my perspective, his work is so advanced it feels maybe divine. Like he reached some beyond-human understanding. But great art makes a viewer think, “Wow! I can’t believe a human being did that. I am a human being, so that means I can create something like that, too.”
Interviews with people who claim to have contact with extra-dimensional entities.
My favorite of these is Paul Selig, whose books I read constantly to feel lightness and love. Selig’s communications with a trio of higher beings—angels or aliens—are lessons about noticing which of your own decisions are fear-based and which are love-based. Looking at humanity from a perspective outside this plane of existence makes it easier to differentiate between the thoughts that are your own and the thoughts that are arbitrarily imposed by history. I’m trying to learn how to be more psychic, so I can tune into higher frequencies of information. The beings give exercises on how to meditate and listen to your own higher self, free of the fears of the normal existence.
The feedback of the people I surround myself with.
I listen. I ask. I don't make art in a vacuum. I do a little dance with my audience, both leading and responding. If we are all One, which I truly believe we are, then I am but a toe on the body of a giant collective Being—humanity. Everyone has an innate understanding of art: by tapping into Facebook or Instagram comments I can digitally sample the critical minds of thousands and become aligned with this Being. I invite my mother, my friends, my neighbors into the studio all the time to just yell out what they think of a piece I’m working on. I am also incredibly lucky to work with a young and bold curator, Gabrielle Aruta at Filo Sofi Arts, who questions and challenges me but then gives me her full support.
Photo Credits: Erik Nuenighoff
Solo exhibition 'Ritual in Pairing'
Curated by Gabrielle Aruta of Filo Sofi is opening at the High Line Nine May 4th & runs through May 30th.