Jaime Molina is a pleasant chap. His calm demeanor and effortless charm naturally jive with the nice vibes of his work. As a maker of both precise often intimate gallery works and massive mural undertakings, Jaime builds for us a rich and oft totemic visual mythology. His vast imaginary world of bricolage sculpted characters, and playfully engaging, refreshing paintings are a treat for eyes and minds. I caught up with Mr. Molina in Advance of his show, ‘Desolation Slang’ opening at Andenken Gallery in Amsterdam this coming Saturday, June 11th. We talked about his busy upcoming schedule and clothespin ninjas.
Hyland Mather: Sup Jaime?
Jaime Molina: Hey Hyland.
HM: Ok, so I was really hoping that you would be able to travel out and be here for your show in Amsterdam, but alas as the great John Goodman once put it, ‘So many social engagements, so little time’. Give us an update on your busy schedule, current and upcoming projects, just to break the ice, and to make you feel ultra nervous about having to brag right off the get go.
JM: Haha yeah. It’s always a bit awkward talking about myself, but I’ll just pretend I’m bragging about someone else. Coming up very soon on June 11th is my show with you at Andenken Gallery. I’m really excited to show alongside Adrian Landon Brooks for this one. I’ve always felt a kinship that exists in our work so it’s really an honor to present some work with him.
Also, coming up in July, I will have a new body of work at, “Verve and Vitality: In the Third Dimension” at the Long Beach Museum of Art in conjunction with Thinkspace Gallery.
HM: The other day I was interviewed by this high school girl, I’m gonna ‘borrow’ a few of the simple but effective questions she asked me. Do you think it’s cool that I’m ripping off teenage girls?
JH: Haha oh fasho. Street cred level= 10
HM: That wasn’t one of her questions, but Anyway… How long have you been a working artist?
JM: I guess it depends on how you define “working artist”. I’ve been having exhibitions since I graduated from college starting in 2004. At first with friends in their shops/ galleries and then eventually in more traditional gallery settings. If you define “working artist” as an artist that makes a living solely off of one’s art, then I have been one of those since last February. 15 months.
HM: What materials do you generally use?
JM: For surface material, I work with a lot of wood. In my paintings as well as my 3d stuff. It’s something that I feel pretty comfortable working with. It’s something that I can transform very easily. For actual medium I use, it’s mostly latex and some acrylic paint. For my murals it’s usually latex, but it just depends on the wall. Sometimes it’s all spray paint if the texture is very rough.
HM: Ok, cool, that’s it for the borrowed questions…
JM: That’s it, just those two… wa? fa real? No questions about my favorite kind of music? winkmoji
HM: You use found objects with a level of accuracy and attention to detail that’s pretty intense. Some of your pieces have hundreds if not thousands of tiny nails as hairs for example. It begs the question, or questions rather… Are you a weird pack rat type? Do you have huge stacks of materials cluttering every corner of your place? How do you decide what to keep for use and what to let go as true rubbish?
JM: Ha yeah. That’s a great question. I’m definitely a pack rat. It’s somewhat under control though. I feel like I’m a goldfish pack rat. You know how they say a goldfish will only grow as big as it’s environment will allow? That’s like me and my stashes of stuff. I’m not in real danger of being on any hoarder reality shows, but I have a lot of stuff that I see potential in. My tendency is to save stuff because I I see something in it and I don’t want to see it go to waste, but after holding on to certain things for a long time I’m usually able to get rid of it. Usually. Hoarder light? I don’t know.
I used to go trip out at the flea market and at the end of the day I’d see people that were selling their stuff, go throw away everything that they didn’t sell into a huge dumpster. Then I’d see people next to the dumpster digging through all of that stuff and keeping what they wanted. It just seemed to me like the stuff that stayed in the dumpster in the end was true garbage. It had passed through so many different filters and really deserved to be there. I guess I’m that filter in my studio.
HM: You went to Metro in Denver. They’ve produced some great artists, but what’s your take on art school? What did you find invaluable? What fat would you have cut if you could? What would make a young artist more prepared for an art career after the art school experience?
JM: The experience of being in the same boat as all of your classmates and making a ton of work was invaluable to me. The camaraderie and critiques and constant questioning of things, art related and life related, was a really great experience for me. Aside from grad school, I can’t think of too many other opportunities to be with the same group of people and make a ton of work and bounce ideas off of each other and really focus on making art. On the flip side of that, I think real life scenarios could be addressed more in school. I honestly feel where I’m at now as an artist is a culmination of all of my experiences. Not just my school experience. I feel that they should focus a fair amount of time on small business classes. Being an artist today is essentially like running your own business. The more traditional model of having gallery representation and just making the work and letting the gallery take care of everything isn’t as common. I learned a lot of good business practices by working in different fields. Invoicing clients, customer service, writing up bids for jobs are things that I became very familiar with at day jobs that directly affect how I make my living now as an artist. I know that sounds super un artsy and square, but that’s the road. Of course the art has to be solid, but I think at a certain point, that is really just second nature. To be able to pay your bills doing art, in most cases, you really have to be more than just a good artist. You have to be a proficient and professional business person.
HM: Word, I agree to all that. I read an interview with you on jimon-magazine, where you talked about how you used to make little cardboard transformers and closepin ninjas…I’d love to see those, just some fuel for making fun of you I guess, but seriously, do you have photos of those? It would interesting to see the parallels between your current aesthetic and your childhood creations.
JM: Yeah man. Oddly enough my mom still has those little clothespin ninjas. She saved a couple of them over all these years. Now that I’m a father I completely understand why. The cardboard transformers didn’t make the cut I guess, or maybe they fell apart, but the little action figures still crack me up. I drew camouflage on them and made little backpacks full of swords and throwing stars and nunchuks and all kinds of little dude stuff. I made these little loops in the hands so you could pull out the weapons and put them in their hands. I think it would surprise anyone who knows me that I used to be really into guns and weapons and army/ninja things. Typical kid stuff I think. It’s funny you mention parallels because I was just thinking the other day about the commonalities in the things I used to make back then and how it gave me such joy to just nerd out on stuff like that. I feel like when I finally came back to making 3 dimensional work like that, I really got back to that place of joy. I know a lot of my characters look sad, but I really enjoy making them.
HM: I guess that brings me to the next borrowed question … When did you first become interested in art? For me, I had a crazy crush on a girl named Marika, and I just wanted the same electives as her … Give us your artist origin story.
JM: When I was little I wanted to be an inventor or a scientist. Then I wanted to be a cartoonist. Then in 7th grade I read Salvador Dali’s journal and from that point on I wanted to be an artist. It just all made sense. All of the weird stuff I always drew and all the stuff I made with my hands was in a way validated and I just never stopped making stuff.
Did your art win over Marika? It would be funny to hear that story.
HM: Yep, got her. Then lost her, but she was my first great love without question.
HM: People ask me regularly what I’m looking for in the artists that I show at Andenken, and though there is no set answer, one thing I tend to gravitate towards is the artist that uses the venue of the street, but also excels in a gallery environment and has an appeal to fine art eyeballs. It sounds formulaic but actually it’s trickier than you think. You are an artist that brings something strong to both the street and the gallery. Do you have a preference right now for gallery or mural work?
JM: I feel really lucky that I get to do both. I love each one dearly so I could never choose one over the other even though they are so different. In a weird way it’s like I use my heart for the 3d and my head for the murals. The 3d I do completely intuitively. I don’t do a whole lot of sketches anymore. I just start making something and see where it goes. It comes straight from my heart. The mural work I do also comes from my heart, but I have to think about it a lot more. There are so many variables to consider when you paint a mural. I get lost in it the same way as the sculptures, but I just have to be more aware when i’m making it. I guess that’s the big difference and maybe that’s why it’s so satisfying to do both.
HM: So there is are big differences in preparation and creation in the two arenas for you.
JM: Yeah, Like I said before, the murals I have to prepare for. I need a reference, which is usually just a line drawing and a notion of what palette would work best, and I need to see the location of where the mural is going to be. I like to consider the location pretty heavily before I know what image is going to go there. It’s just a lot more prep work. With the 3d stuff, the hardest part is trying to decide what i’m going to listen to for the next few hours. Getting over the hump of starting is all it takes and then the work just evolves organically.
HM: You’re a family man, father and husband. Pressure is very real as a parent, you have to provide. It can be scary as an artist to commit to a career as a maker. Are you working any shit jobs right now to cushion?
JM: Lucky for me all of my shit jobs are pretty far behind me. I worked for a long time as a valet which was great. I worked with a really tight knit group of guys and it was super flexible for my parent schedule. I also did home remodeling which also was incredible. I learned a lot about how things are built. I got to create things or destroy things almost everyday. I will say that becoming a parent is really what put me on the path I am on today. Things got pretty real the moment I knew my life wasn’t just mine anymore. I took everything a lot more serious from that point on.
HM: Denver, where you live, has some really really really good stuff going on with arts. Could be the weed…not in the way that people might originally jump to…’Oh weed just makes you so much more creative and cool’, but rather in the sense that right now there is good funding for the arts, and I think at least part of that is the huge influx of cash into the city. Would you agree? What’s your take on the Denver scene? Drop some names of Denver artists you think are making good work?
JM: I would attribute the amount of growth and development here to the exodus of people coming to Colorado. I think that started with the legalization of marijuana here, but at this point it seems like people just want to move here. I completely understand why. Denver is a great place to be. I’m not sure the dispensaries are directly funding the art boom, but the new people, energy and resulting good economy they ushered in certainly could be. It’s a double edged sword though. There’s a lot of conversations that need to be had about keeping a balance here and not just gentrifying the whole city for growth’s sake, but that’s an entirely different story.
I’m afraid to name artists that I love because inevitably I will forget someone and they will be bummed. Luckily for me, and for Denver, I have a hard time answering that question because there is so much talent here. There are some artistic giants here in this city though. Now that Denver has a little bit of shine I hope they get a little recognition.
HM: Your instagram handle is cuttyup, where does that come from?
JM: Back in the mid 2000’s I used to go out and get belligerent with my homies. I somehow named my drunk alter ego, Cutty McSteez. I’d act up and throw pizza at people and just kinda cause a mess and it was like a running joke with my crew like, “uh oh he’s gettin cutty” One of my best friends who moved to Buenos Aires would come visit and every time he’d come he’d stay with me and instantly turn my house into a big scene. Making everyone shotgun beers and just dumb degenerate stuff. He’d always be like, “can we get this party started already? Are you gonna cutty up or what?” So the cutty up thing became our way of saying, let’s do this, let’s party, let’s rumble etc. Anymore it’s just a reminder to myself to keep things real I guess.
HM: I really wish you were gonna be here for your show in June, you’re fun to pal around with.
JM: Likewise, man! I hope there is a next time.
HM: Thanks for the interview and I hope I see you soon.
JM: I appreciate your time, Hyland. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for the supremely thoughtful questions.
You can follow along with Jaime on instagram @cuttyup