Art Whore

Art Talk – TJ Norris of ‘Go Figure News’

‘Go Figure News’ is an art site focusing on art toys of all types. The site was founded in 2014 by American artist, theorist and curator TJ Norris. It hosts news, articles and thought pieces on everything art toy related – well worth bookmarking.

(Picture below of ‘GFN’ head honcho – Mr TJ Norris)

Well, as art toys are on the rise once again in general pop culture we felt it would be a good idea to have a chat with TJ about toys, life, art and ‘Go Figure News’ – read all about it in the Art Talk, below…

Basics/Getting to Know

Name + D.O.B?

TJ Norris
October 1965

City, State n Country you currently call home?

Dallas, TX USA

City, State n Country you’re from?

Boston, MA USA

Describe a memory from some stages of your life ….basically trying to piece together your pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, romance, school, crime… ANYTHING guys!

* age 5 – beginnings:

Making collages in kindergarten using mucilage, construction paper, glitter, crayon – my first exposure to mixed media was so freeing.

(Picture below of TJ as a kid in 1974)

* age 10 – continuations:

1975. Ahhhhh, glam rock, weird politics. Almost the Bicentennial and the Tall Ships.
Since my birthday is on October 10th this was a significant birthday as I always viewed the number ten as somewhat sacred, like a perfect set of something.
When I was this age I was first exposed to Planet of the Apes – I got the entire treehouse set and action figures that Christmas along with Abba’s Greatest Hits on cassette.
In the late 70’s I attended my first rock concert at the Boston Garden and it was Cheap Trick and they were, as they said in my hometown “wicked awesome”.

(Pictures below of the Mego ‘Planet of the Apes’ toys TJ was obsessed with as a kid in the 70s)

* age 15 – getting serious:

That was 1980, I entered high school, was quite a new wave kid. In Catholic school I encrusted my suit jacket’s lapels with pins of the Dead Kennedys, Plasmatics, Gary Numan, Blondie and sported a long, skinny braid which the lunch lady nun made me cut one day. I actually just hid the hair in the rest of my thick, wavy locks now long gone.
While in high school I took my first photography class and had a great art teacher Ann Marie Norton who I think might work for the Boston Globe now. She had the right balance of stern and encouraging “outside the envelope” to allow my imagination to go places.
This was also the first year I started to travel to New York City to see the art, make new friends, go to clubs even though I was underage. My best friend was a trans person before I even knew what that fully meant. I remember us going to Jaques Cabaret in Boston, such a dive for two young and impressionables. We loved the heckling drag queens and marveled at the certain ladies that looked so “real”. LOL.
It was the year I was just starting to come out myself, questioning my own sexuality but not my masculinity.
I was never really a big drinker or into drugs, had some minor experiences, but always wanted to be clear-headed to see and be seen. I do remember one wild allnighter at the Dancetaria, I may have had two adult beverages and I was toast. That night somehow we saw The Waitresses, Siouxsie & the Banshees and Stray Cats once we moved over to the Roxy. I remember heading directly for a pancake breakfast served up by cheeky waitresses (speaking of) in Bensonhurst at the Del Rio Diner the morning after. Memories….

(Picture below of TJ in 1984 – aged 19 or so)

* age 20 – young adult:

In 1985 I entered art school. Met some cool folks from all over. Became a lifelong vegetarian. Had some great teachers like Abelardo Morell, Don Burgy, Laura McPhee, Nick Nixon and Dana Moser to name a few. It was my first exposure to influential artists like Joseph Beuys, Marcel Duchamp, Jack Smith, May Ray and Allen Ginsburg. They all brought something very different to my receptive mind, and I think it’s important to recognize teachers who made an impression.
This young self would only be pulled like taffy in 1988 when I did an international exchange program at Nova Scotia College of Art & Design which kicked my brains mind. It has a great long history of offering deeply conceptual and performance-based work by a cavalcade of greats like Robert Frank, Vito Acconci, Dan Graham, Sol Lewitt, Lucy Lippard, Lawrence Weiner and many more. I was the assistant to the curator at the now very important Anna Leonowens Gallery, an opportunity that gave me my first taste of what it was like to be a curator. This was a critical exposure to a new bent for me. Capital “A” blue chip art was suddenly suspect to me. I really wanted to express myself in new ways.

* age 25 – further continuations:

Just a year previously I had my first curatorial stint at Tufts University’s Aidekman Arts Center which made a big impression on my community, and involved a collaboration between grad students and working artists who were all somewhat fairly known. The show was called ‘Uncommon Sense’ and was my first time ever creating a catalogue for a show as well. It was also my first opportunity to be in a true leadership role and my first “above the fold” lead arts review – and it was super positive!
In 1990 I had my very first solo exhibition at the Boston Center for the Arts. My work was the inaugural exhibition at the new Black Box space though it was originally scheduled to be presented at the Boston City Hall. Because the work dealt with censorship head-on through mixed media collages that incorporated found materials, drawings and photography the exhibition was relocated due to said “asbestos removal” in the previously scheduled gallery. I was suspicious, but it gave me my first taste of how political the arts could be in the real world.

* age 30 – adult mode:

These years were dedicated to exploring different jobs, relationships, first trips to Europe and Iceland.
It was a time of experimentation, and varying degrees of responsibility, not necessarily in that order.
I also published my first written works during this time, mostly for various poetry journals but it was a foundation for my later critical journalistic side to blossom.

(Picture below of TJ in the 1990’s – aged about 30)

* age 35-45 – adult continuations + meanderings:

This was just around the time I relocated from Cambridge, MA to the Pacific Northwest where I lived mostly in Portland, OR for the next dozen years.
During this time so much changed and shifted with this relocation. Gone were the snowy winters, and born was my first ever business come to life, an art space called ‘Soundvision’ which was a storefront in Portland that catered to edgy and sublime work in all media by locals to international artists. I showcased work by Terre Thaemlitz, vidnaObmana, Janek Schaefer, Cary “Candyass” Leibowitz, Bruce Conkle and Ethan Rose among others. We presented standard gallery faire as well as raucous poetry slams, ambient a/v performances and installation projects.
When I wasn’t running the gallery space I worked part time in a busy newsroom at a teaching hospital where I got a better feel for how the media operates from the inside.
I also had during this time several exhibitions of my work, focused on installation work that incorporated photography and video with the accompaniment of soundtracks which were commissioned by international electronic sound composers. This is my most prolific medium to date.
These years saw more travel to Barcelona and as a guest lecturer/artist at festivals and residencies like Mutek (Montreal), Caldera (Sisters, OR), KHN Center for the Arts (Nebraska City) and Decibel (Seattle) as well as being a visiting artist at I also started teaching photography theories at the Newspace Center for Photography where I taught part time off and on for seven years and loved every minute of sharing my knowledge with a whole new generation.
During these years I wrote several irregular columns for the Willamette Week, ArtNews Magazine, Brainwashed.com, The Oregonian/Oregonlive.com, Signal to Noise Magazine, Igloo Magazine, Paris Transatlantic and various others in the areas of electronic music/sound art as well as the fine arts. Some of these meanderings are in a compendium on a blog called Toneshift: https://toneshift.wordpress.com/
It was in 2012 that I put down my pen or keyboard as it were, to focus on other things. This was also a time, or a bridge for a new body of photographic work titled ‘Shooting Blanks’ which was showcased at the Northwest Biennial at the Tacoma Art Museum and at the Center Of Contemporary Art in Seattle. The work will finally be published in a small book form later in 2017 (http://nosignbook.tumblr.com/).

(Picture below of one of TJ’s installation – ‘Infinitus‘)

* age 50 – meanderings:

In these latter days there has been yet more change.
In 2013 I was hired to become the Curatorial Director of a small rural museum in the desert of Washington state (http://www.oregonlive.com/travel/index.ssf/2013/08/clymer_museum_of_ellensburg_hi.html) but felt a bit uneasy that the role turned out to be a bit more business than creative, and parted ways with the board after a short stint where my hands were tied by awkward traditions. It was a perfect segue to my relocation to Dallas, TX (another means to an end in terms of place). I chose to join my now fiancé who had lived in the Lone Star state for several years.
One highlight of this time is that it kickstarted my interest in artful designer toys and action figures geared towards adults. After seeing the progress that had been made I decided to start pontificating about such gems, with a special focus on those by independent artists as a way to explore the more fanciful, humourous, sometimes sardonic or wry side of creativity. For years I had not really given proper time to the urban arts and this was a perfect extension, outsider art to some extent – and some that was available in multiples which I have become very familiar with over the years. As a curator and writer, it just made sense to found/publish the online zine Go Figure News back in 2014 as a next step in exploring strange things in the universe. At first I had some wonderful people helping administer the page and it has evolved from having up to 30 contributors at one time to being completely a one-man operation.
Though I am always open to change, to welcoming guest writers, I’d love to have someone edit this for me so I can carry on with other artistic pursuits, so change will come sooner and later.

Personal motto?

Expect the Unexpected

(Pictures below of some photos by TJ – done as part of his art practice)

Toy + Art Questions

Why the name ‘Go Figure News’ for your site?

It’s just a bit of slang really.

Who else is currently involved in ‘Go Figure News’ and in what capacity?

It’s a sole proprietorship at the moment, but I’m open to partnerships, expansions and etc. etc.

Why and when did you set up the site?

Because I love strange fruit and allowing freek flags to flap wildly in the breeze.

Do you consider designer toys / art toys to be ‘art’, ‘design’, re-hashed crap?

A bit from column a, b and c.
Art, as subjective, makes it impossible to really define, divine or despair in a the typical art gaze.
I try and make sense of why someone might develop something with a purposefully bad art aesthetic – and then one of my favorite concepts is: http://www.museumofbadart.org/ — on the other hand I truly love great craftsmanship, and will point out the good, bad and ugly in my assessments. Of course it begs the age old argument of is it art? Is it craft? Is it design? Is it just another marketable product? Is it neither……
…..in some ways it depends too on quantity to some degree. If someone is producing 100 or more of something it diminishes some semblance of value (akin to prints as opposed to original drawings in fine art). Hey, Mattel and Hasbro and Funko do not make art that is for sure.
But I am personally drawn in by the mashup artists making carded creations, these art toy “bootlegs” that play on disparate ideas to make them their own. I’m all for playing with concepts to the nth degree, growing other people’s ideas, wearing influences on your sleeve with a bite of sarcasm.
There’s a lot of crap out there, plastic landfill. And there’s a lot of really artful makers who care about every final detail in realizing a dream/idea.

If one was to go about critiquing ‘art toys’ – how would this be done, in your opinion?

It’s really basic, the process, it’s in the baggage of knowledge that you carry that will either weigh it down or make it compact for the reader. A delicate balance for sure.
It’s important to respond to the object by way of the basics of color, sculpt, design, presentation, craftsmanship. A good critique leaves room for the observer to breathe their own opinion after hearing what you have to say. A good critique is not just a smart ass know-it-all approach to something. I believe in a wide eyed blind, first exposure approach. It’s not always important to completely know everything about the person who designed something.
A good writer does their research into techniques, and continues to learn about as many processes as possible along the way in order to give a well formed opinion. But these days social media makes us all critics, so one hopes to also kickstart a conversation in the process.

Are art toys for the kids?

I hate the label that says “this is not a toy” – it just makes me laugh. Reminds me of Gertude Stein’s famous quote: “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” Of course these small sculptural designer toys can be introduced to children. Though due to the cost of some of those out there $75-$10K it’s really a short course in “value”.
This is a bit tricky when you are trying to differentiate a piece by say Coarse vs. Picasso when in a museum setting – however with artists like Kaws, Mike Kelley, Banksy, Jeff Koons, Richard Prince and Takashi Murakami the lines start to become blurred. This to me is not unlike, say, Sherrie Levine rephotographing works by Edward Weston and Eliot Porter and calling them hers. It’s about what is known in the popular realm and what separates it from the original vision that gets twisted, and can cause blind spots.
Proceed with your own version of caution.

Thoughts on the NagNagNag and associated figures by Japanese artist Shig – i ask as they are a major talking point in the toy world?

These are the crazy malformed and brightly colored mini monsters (or kaiju) right? If I’m not mistaken these go for big bucks. To be honest, how much they sell for to collectors is as subjective as an individuals response to them as artful objects. They certainly play on outsider art to a great degree more than typical street art.
They can be quite strange outtakes from the world of James Groman in my mind…but also a contemporary form of looking at Godzilla’s bastard zombie children. They are not my personal cuppa but I would never knock ’em for their place in the avant garde.

I gotta ask you about ole ‘Kidrobot’ due to their pioneer status in the art toy scene… So…

* Were do you see ‘Kidrobot’ heading now that ole Frank Kozik is at the helm?

I adore what Kozik has accomplished, he’s got crust. I loved chatting with him (http://www.gofigurenews.com/single-post/2015/05/31/Behind-The-Figure-Frank-Kozik) and our continued dialogue makes me feel like he is perfectly poised to help KR grow even more as a company, become more internationally present.
His dry and wry political commentary in his own work will, even if subliminally, effect some important outcomes to the lil’ toy company that could into the new years ahead. You would not have seen projects like the return of Madballs or projects involving Kenny Scharf and Ron English and their takes on the Simpsons, let along the ‘Death Dealer’ which is quite ominous, without him.
Perhaps to make good balance he is also helping to spin the wheels towards a more commerically viable set of projects from Crayola, the Andy Warhol Foundation, TMNT and Adventure Time. Those types of figures appeal to a much wider audience than ever before. They have a solid range from cute to strange and everything in between for the collector market to absorb, and they are now owned by NECA, so they have a job to do.
My question right back at ya is how different is Kidrobot now in your eyes than they were so many years ago when they were starting out — and how different are they a business model to say, Funko or Super7 – what is their specific niche so to speak?  I’ve enjoyed Kidrobot for many moons and hope they continue to challenge collectors with new visions by new artists. They seem to have their heart in the right place even if they are a bit of a monopoly to some extent.

Thoughts on the current state of the art toy scene?

Obviously things have changed over the years, it waxes and wanes like anything collectible – take vinyl 33 1/3rds for instance. Once CDs replaced them as the format of choice I didn’t ever expect a resurgence…and who knows maybe it’s just hipster trendy, time will tell.
I’ve seen no shortage of new artists emerging in places like Thailand in particular who have a fantastic and expanding scene (thanks to Topz Toy), and Lisa Rae Hansen over in Scotland is doing some fantastic work, as is Wetworks in the Phillippines. Here stateside we have amazing minds like Sket-One, Alex Pardee, Scott Tolleson, Gary Baseman, Kyle Kirwan, Luke Chueh, Jason Freeny…..there’s new-ish makers too like Awesome-Toy, Instinctoy – oh I could go on, but save to say that I believe art toys are here to stay for the forseeable future. Plus, keep in mind, though the more recent generation were brought up on iPads, video gaming and virtual reality, every human has to gain their sense of touch at some point or other, as in understanding 3D. In that a new generation will be exposed to companies like Mighty Jaxx, Kidrobot, Funko, etc. because of their higher proliferation in the market.
I personally love the potential of where carded bootleg collectible figures are headed, and sold directly from artists like Suckadelic, Killer Bootlegs, Super Secret Fun Club, Special Ed Toys and Buzzard Guts. These guys work their butts off to produce ironic small editions that only aid and abet the overall art toys movement. Not to mention other quality makers of limited edition one sixth scale figures like Winson Ma, Gecco, 1000toys and Go Hero to name just a few.
The scene is expanding and diversifying in my estimation.

Do you plan to get further involved and produce toys your self in the future?

Yes and no.
I’ve been talking with a designer/sculptor to turn our Go-Bot mascot into a figure for over a year, and we are still working on that in the background. Again, it is not at all geared for “the masses” but would appeal to robot lovers for sure.
I’d be honored if any artist approached me and wanted to collaborate on a project that would incorporate the figure somehow, and have spoken to a few people, though nothing concrete at the moment.

Thoughts on ‘The Sucklord’ and his current role in the toy / pop art scene?

Love the guys tenacity, and overall “no crap” attitude.
We’ve had some interesting conversations and I’d like to work with him in some capacity someday.
He’s a bit of a force to be reckoned with but if you watch his ‘Suckhour’ show you will notice he’s always questioning himself and his place in the movement. I appreciate that as someone who has always been a bit on the periphery myself. It’s a good place to be. Something even George Lucas has questioned over the years.
Greatness is not always being in the spotlight.

For those who have no idea about art toys in general – what would your spiel be to get ‘em interested?

I’d just say try ’em ya might like ’em. 😉
That said, I’m more hands on when I want to show something off, or learn about an object. As someone who studied and made photography for 35 years I know first hand that pictures can only give a very specific glance, of time, of light, of anything. So to truly experience something fully you have to engage with it, your human nature and your senses have to be activated. So, please get out there and visit an artist’s studio, go to a shop like Tenacious Toys, 3D Retro, Munky King, Rotofugi….and ask the experts who vend these daily. look at the nooks and crevices, hold them to the light of day (especially if they glow when the lights go down!).
Art toys or designer toys are made by creative people who bring their sketches and thoughts from paper or digital form into the realm of the third dimension. They are meant to be touched, displayed, shown off. And by broader definition the best art toys are beyond common definition, they break barriers and labels like all great art. Some make it there and some do not. It’s up to you to gather the toolkit to understand better what they might mean to you. I hope my zine helps out a lil’ bit.

If someone wanted to get involved in ‘GOFN’ – either as a writer, or to have their figure reviewed, or just to submit some art – how would they go about that?

Simply go to: http://www.gofigurenews.com/join-us or just drop me a line on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/tjnorrisstudio) or email: gofigurenews@gmail.com

Collecting Questions

When and why did you first start collecting toys?

It was ’74 or ’75 when I got my first action figures – the Planet of the Apes figures by Mego with the Treehouse playset. It had a table, a cage, a secret compartment and spy hatch if I remember correctly. Those were the days of Child World and KB Toys, both long gone retail toy chains. Over the years this was my staple set that I’m played with ’til it fell apart. I had perhaps one other GI Joe, but few other figure based toys otherwise. I was more into tape recorders and similar devices, and my Big Wheel.

What role did toys play in your childhood?

I don’t really know other than my love of animals, considering their feelings, well being.
I didn’t play with toy guns much, and loved clowns. They were colorful and weird and that seemed about right.

Please write a breif timeline of your collection / collecting history?

The above covers it until recently to be honest. Though I saw Star Wars as a child first-run on the silver screen and was a huge fan (still am) I never collected the Kenner figures, I wanted a bike.
Oh, I had a gyroscope that I loved, and a Lite Brite – so as you can see I was more attracted to the creative toys rather than the ones that would have me role-playing. That said, I think my POTA figures were long bit the dust by 1978-19 to make way for my real collecting history, vinyl records.
From the late 1970s until 1985 I amassed a collection of 25K record albums, no kidding. I had Peter Gabriel singing in German, I had a record by Jonathan Borofsky, signed (in-person) copies of ‘Rio’ by Duran Duran, ‘Sings from the Big Chair’ by Tears for Fears, ‘Metal Priestess’ by the Plasmatics….all The Smiths, Laurie Anderson, Tubeway Army, obscure Meredith Monk records, oh and Nina Hagen who I adored and eventually met while on mescaline (one of those very few times) and when I met her I thought she was the devil. It was elusive and altering.
I went to as many concerts as I bought records. as I was moving across the country (and as I had several times and realized the burden of all that weight and space) and sold my whole lot to one dealer who I trusted and it helped fund my move eventually. I remember some of those concerts vividly. The ones who really stood out: Spiritualized, Betty Carter, Pet Shop Boys (in Boston, NY + London), Godspeed You Black Emperor, Yma Sumac, Cowboy Junkies, U2 (in 1983, 6th row) The Sisters of Mercy, Cecil Taylor, Lone Justice, Human League, Dead Voices On Air, Bjork, so many.
Back in those days there would be a triple bill at clubs like Spit/Metro or an outdoor venue that would include odd bedfellows like: Jesus & Mary Chain, KMFDM and the B-52’s; or Public Enemy, PIL and Sisters of Mercy. Music was a true staple in my life. It was and still is, the biggest influence over what I do creatively. I haven’t seen a huge overlap in the world of toys to be honest, so maybe that will change?
After records it was CDs and the collection has rollercoastered over the years, maxing out at about 16K discs…I am into hi-fidelity and have compared and contrasted so much over the years – and am basically unhappy with the whole shift to the cloud-based realm, so I will likely keep my compact discs until they rot.
“Music makes the people come together” as they say.

Item(s) you have lost, sold or given away that you wish you still had and why?

POTA figures (I replaced them with the repros by Diamond Select Toys, but not the same), and probably some of the more obscure vinyl like the original 45 of ‘Walking On Thin Ice’ by Yoko Ono, ‘Stand by Your Man’ by Wendy O. Williams and Motorhead or ‘Valley Girl’ by Moon Unit Zappa.
And a t-shirt I once had that had a tv dinner emblazoned on the front side. It literally fell off me while tubing after 16 or so years.

Favorite 3 items you own and why?

(*) Nurse with Wound – ‘Soliloquy for Lilith’ (box set) – because it’s one of the three best records ever made and can transcend me over time, place and mood

(Picture below of the box set)

 

(*) a vintage (circa 40s or 50s) set of wind-up clowns that I believe came from my uncle – I just love their flocked hats and lil’ instruments

(Picture below of some of TJ’s clowns)

 

(*) iMac – otherwise I’d likely not be as prolific a communicator. This is my third model but they have seen me through thick and thin – if those keys could talk…..

(Picture below of an iMac)

Top grail items you would like to own and why?

Hmmm, I got a few last year (finally) in the trio of POTA Hot Toys gorilla figures, so I sated that for a while.

(Picture below of the ‘Hot Toys’ Planet of the Apes figures)

Right now I am hoping to acquire the upcoming ‘Yuan Kong’ (Time Wars) and 10th Anniversary Apexplorers ‘Space Adam both from Winson Ma (you are probably noticing a theme).

(Picture below of the Alex Pardee ‘Astronaut’ figure by ToyQube)

Also I’d love to own something by KAWS at some point, but they continuously slip through the cracks and are so high-priced, but if that were not a factor, yes please.
Oh! And i love the Jason Limon (Martian Toys) – Abominable Snowcone.

(Picture below of the Abominable Snowcone figure by Jason Limon and Martian Toys)

I recently acquired my first piece from Japan’s Instinctoy which I am going to review very soon. I’d love to own more from them as they look as though to be top notch. I’m going to follow and hope to review figures (break my review cherry) from: Blackbook Toy, threezero, Kenth Toys, Hateball, Executive Replicas and JPS this year – hopefully broadening my horizons a bit!

Do you think collectors are born, or created – that ole nature Vs nurture debate?

It’s partly a learned behavior, the hunter and gatherer instinct.

Odds n Ends

Please describe your experiences growing up in America?

Small Irish/Newfoundlander Catholic family in Boston, now religious.
A punk rock kid with a heart, and a mind for exploring the far reaches of the experimental without necessarily getting lost on a desert island.

Who was your 1st crush and why?

Hmmmm, probably Wonder Woman, Linda Carter. I was even a card carrying official fan club member! She was the ultimate trip up to the typical machismo, powerful and beautiful. Later it would probably be someone more like Adam Ant, who incidentally kissed me on the cheek circa 1981 outside the Metro club. It’s a beautiful blur.
I also made a fool of myself when I met Roger Taylor of Duran Duran, their drummer, probably the same year. Good times.

Does sex change everything?

Umm, I’m still debating that.

Favorite band(s)?

Miles Davis (70s fusion period), Nurse With Wound, and the traditional gamelan music of Bali and Indonesia.
Erik Satie is rather sweet on the ears and I love to listen to the less mathy style of Laurie Anderson.
The Pet Shop Boys are so consistently played I’ve likely worn out out all the MP3s, especially ‘Behaviour’.
And the enduring sounds of Billie Holiday will always haunt me in the best possible way.
And I love what comes from the label Raster-Noton! Oh, and Siouxsie & the Banshees as well as The Knife.

Favorite TV show(s)?

That always evolves and I don’t watch much honestly.
I really love the whole Netflix thing. I’m into post apocalyptic, dystopian sci-fi evolution themes mostly.
Give me binge-watching on ‘Stranger Things or ‘Daredevil’ (or its spinoffs) anytime. I love ‘Wayward Pines’ – perfectly twisted and hope it makes it to season three! I think ‘Westworld’ is unique, not fully hooked yet like I was with ‘Nurse Jackie’ and ‘Mad Men’ – two of the best shows I’ve ever watched.
I do also check out ‘Veep’ as it’s so well written and bitingly funny from the insider political perspective. I get through ‘Sherlock’ but the episodes always seem too long form my liking – unlike the fantastically paced ‘Doctor Who’.
My favorite vintage shows include ‘The Prisoner’, ‘The Avengers’, ‘POTA’, ‘The Jetsons’ and ‘Land of the Lost’ (though some haven’t aged as well as others. The show I’ve watched more than any other is likely ‘Forensic Files’ – I was addicted to it for years, and still watch re-runs on HLN. I wish there were a contemporary equivalent without the unnecessary drama, but alas nothing comes close for me. There’s a few shows I tried to watch and gave up because they are too cliche or pat like ‘Agents of Shield’ and ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ – both have some good effects and the actors are half-way decent but the productions suffer from overkill of screentime for each and every cast member in a cloying way. That doesn’t seem to ring as true for ‘The Flash’ or ‘Grimm’ (final season) both which I have watched pretty much every episode.
I also have been known to crash on the sofa to ‘easy tv’ like: ‘The Great American (or British) Baking Show’ and anything on HGTV. A lil domestic won’t kill ya!

Favorite sport(s) + teams?

Nope.
Well, a tiny soft spot for the Boston Bruins maybe. 🙂
And I love watching the world’s strongest men lift up huge boulders and that sorta thing.

Favorite movie(s)?

So many great ones but I’d say the top tier are: Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, Koyaanisquatsi, Liquid Sky, Logan’s Run, Female Trouble, Planet of the Apes (entire original series), Star Wars, Blade Runner, THX 1138 and the entire oeuvre of filmmakers like Jack Smith, Derek Jarman, Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger or the Brothers Quay.

Favorite books and comics?

I have a small stash of comics, usual suspects: Star Wars and Planet of the Apes.
My partner Jon goes for the more esoteric titles like ‘The Afterlife of Archie’, ‘Harrow County’ and ‘Providence’.
Books is a whole other world for me, I love to collect monographs on artists like Yoko Ono, Nam Jun Paik, Marilyn Minter, Dan Attoe…
A book that had great significance, or three actually were: ‘Camera Lucida’ by Roland Barthes, ‘Lipstick traces’ by Griel Marcus  and ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel. These were very influential and for disparate reasons.
I cannot go without mentioning the lasting effects of the worlds of J.G. Ballard, Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, and Edward Gorey. Too dark?

Please describe your latest dream in detail…

Not to be glib, but I only share my dreams in my work.

Have you ever tried psychedelics of any sort? And what was the experience like?

Yes, as described, not prescribed, above.
No further details are available at this time 😉

Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?

My contribution of ideas to this world. Through my physical art work, through teaching, through writing.
That and for being a overall good human being. I do my best.

Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?

While I’m not a big proponent, I recommend a lil’ experimentation in every pocket of life, just know your circumstances and potential outcomes.
Do your research and if you have a general safety net, well, you be your own judge.

Please describe what you think the American Psyche/Zeitgeist is today?

It’s the new backwards.
Reality television has seeped into the people’s general consciousness.
I see a lot of unforgivable greed and irresponsibility particularly regarding the environment and people’s general wellness. Beyond the pale anything is possible, permissible these days. Respect for the fellow man seems to be at an all-time low, though with the internet we are seeing more clearly into the dark side, so to be expected we can feed our head with truth and make change, or go with the status quo and lose our true selves.
I campaigned for Bernie Sanders in this most recent election for leadership in this country and still believe in the core ethics of his message. It’s time for a social change revolution (the sweet refrain of Tracy Chapman plays on in my head).
That said, life does not begin and end in the political arena, we have to make so many other choices in this life, day by day.
My personal zeitgeist is getting back full time into my studio work, slow and steady, no more cold turkey for me.

The Future

Any collaborations on the horizon?

Yes, besides for the book project I am planning some new work to be presented as part of a small retrospective at the Ellen Noel Art Museum in Odessa Texas later this year or early next.
The new work will be based on ‘the unseen’. I am fascinated by things like microorganisms, dna, stuff that is not available to the naked eye, beyond our physical perspective but permeates everything. The work will incorporate socio political themes (and maybe some dreams) by using an experimental set of materials and processes for scratching or peeling back layers of an actual surface to create the work. I plan on the work being of fairly larger scale and will incorporate atypical techniques. More on that soon.
Also, years ago I collaborated with French composer Christian Renou (aka Brume) on a 70 minute video projection/sound project, and I’d love to follow-up with a quasi part two.
As far as other collabs go, I’m always open and willing to consider any reasonable offer as long as it’s a balance of talent and risk. I’d be open to further exploring the schism ‘tween hi and lo art in other ways than simply waxing poetically.

Any major projects you want to hype?

My work is currently on view at the Vanhaerents Art Collection in Brussels (see: http://www.vanhaerentsartcollection.com/en/category/man-in-the-mirror/ ) though October. I’m showing alongside Matthew Barney, Bill Viola, Thomas Ruff and Michelangelo Pistoletto to name a few.
Otherwise I’m planning a relocation from Texas in the coming months and we can expect to see gofigurenews.com (after three years) at least through July.

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