Month of September, 2010
North York Central Library
5120 Yonge Street, 2nd Floor
last time we spoke you were excited to be involved in Culture Days coming up. When is it and what will be happening?
so there is memory involved in our physical interaction with our environment...
every figure in the series has that eye symbol. Is there any significance to that symbol? Is it an ancient symbol or was it you simplifying the eye and making it a symbol yourself?
this reminds me of an art teacher I had once, who, a few months after he had created a piece, would suddenly realize why he did it, what it meant, or what it taught him about himself. But it would happen after living with the piece for that length of time.
it's interesting - I just covered the Loop Gallery's Elizabeth Babyn exhibit, and one of her themes was sacred geometry, and the triangle is very apparent in the human body.... But I wanted to ask you, are there any famous or well-known artists that have inspired you?
it's funny because I'm still having a debate with some people about the whole concept of inspiration. I once heard this interesting talk by Tony Sherman, who said there's no such thing as inspiration. I prefer to sometimes use the term influence. The biggest one definitely has to be Picasso. When I was teaching myself, I rented this documentary on Picasso. In one week, I watched that video about five or six times. On the second day I started doing all these drawings of me and Picasso. It was the weirdest thing in the world. I just started doing these drawings for no reason at all. And in the drawings we were having a sword fight. To this day I still don't get it. I had one friend look at it, and she was describing our qualities, how Picasso is more earth-bound, whereas I'm more air-bound.
so it's like the two elements battling?
it seems like you're very much in tune with your right brain, that abstract part of us - you're so in tune with that, it's awesome.
being in the present moment...
also in the interview you gave, you said that no one chooses to be an artist, but rather you're choosing to accept who you really are. It seems to have come easily to you, or did you ever have to struggle with this?
oh, I struggled with it immensely. When I was a kid I wanted to draw comics for a living, and I think so because it just triggered the idea of drawing, of art. To me, growing up as the son of Italian immigrants, from World War II, the whole focus was to get a job, make a living, to put a roof over your head. Both my parents had to deal with poverty, and had to help the family before they built a life for themselves. When I talked to them about how I wanted to draw comics of course at first they were like "What?!". Later when I saw those pieces at the Museum of Modern Art, it triggered something in me, but I didn't know how to deal with it. Because I was taught to think get a job. Even when I came out of school, I wanted to get a job doing some kind of comics so I could make a living. That was the whole focus of illustration, because then I could pay my bills. Realizing that I had this really strong artistic influence in me, was hard for me to really accept. I was taught that if I do this, I'm not going to be like everybody else. It wasn't until I realized that maybe I'm trying to live a life that's not really meant for me. What if I was meant to live this other kind of life, and that's where I'm supposed to fit in.
that's where your greatest potential lies...
yeah, and so as time went on I came across two influential quotes. One is by Louise Bourgeois, a well-known contemporary artist who passed away a few months back. He said: artists are the way they are, there's nothing you can do for them. The other one was from Robert Rauschenberg, he said that you don't choose that you're an artist, you have to accept that you're an artist. I came to realize more and more that I had to accept who I am and what I am. Maybe if this is who I am, I can handle this kind of a life - because this is who I am. That's what's going to make you feel like you belong somewhere, or give you a sense of accomplishment.
in the interview with MAC you were asked what your proudest accomplishment was, and you answered the fact that you're still a practicing artist after 20-some years. What advice could you give on how to stay motivated throughout it all?
but it's not an image...
and happy and fulfilled...
it's all part of the human experience...
There's an artist by the name of Janine Antoni who taught herself how to walk on a tightrope, for part of a performance piece she was doing in a video. She said that she realized she wasn't learning how to balance herself, she was learning how to be comfortable being unbalanced. She said how she just wished she could do that in her day-to-day life. I guess the bodies in my pieces, being twisted like that, are working within that change.
One book I would highly recommend for an artist who struggles with maybe their culture or accepting themselves with their art, is a book entitled My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. About a person growing up in a very Orthodox Jewish family who has to come to terms with the fact that he's an artist. In one part, he's praying to God and asking him, am I always going to be like this for the rest of my life, living in these two worlds? That book helped me out, because I realized that I'm like that as well, I have that kind of duality.