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Interview: Carla from Art Rebels!!!!!

Carla Cammilla Hjort is founder of Rebel Agency in Copenhagen.  I’m here in her town right now as an artist and participant in the 2016 Trailerpark Festival which opens this Thursday incidentally (  If you’re here, don’t miss it.   Anyways,  I’ve been reflecting on just what a great person she is.  In my mind, and who knows if I know much, but she has to be one of Copenhagen’s top powerhouses in terms of making creative ideas come to life, and not just for herself, but for a huge community of artists and makers from around the globe.  I took a minute to geek out over all the cool projects she’s heading up in the land of the Danes and asked her a few questions. 


Hyland Mather: Hey Carla.  So, you know you’re one of the coolest people in Copenhagen right?  It’s good to be Queen I guess…right?

Carla Cammilla Hjort: Haha… I don’t know if I am to be the judge of that statement but I feel extremely privileged to be where I am today and to be surrounded by such amazing people every day. I started ArtRebels and Trailerpark 10 years ago and this 10th anniversary really makes me think about how much magic we have created together in those years. I had no clue what journey I embarked on back when I started but I’m so happy I did! …  I may not be a queen but I sure feel like one 🙂


(Getting Rowdy at Trailerpark)


HM: So, let’s talk Rebel Agency and the many many cool projects you’re involved in. You head up Space10, You run ArtRebels, and you run Trailerpark.  Come on Carla, how do you do that?  That’s a lot of really cool projects to come out of one person’s brain.

CCH: Again your question makes me smile… You are right it is a little crazy to think about sometimes, but then again I have to stress that not everything begins in my brain anymore. Today we are such an amazing team at the office and everyone has become co-creators  of what we do and what we stand for.

One of my forces has become to set up the collaborations between us and the companies, organizations and governments we work with and for.  I know how to engage people in our ideas and concepts and that makes it possible to build all these great communities like Space10, ArtRebels and Trailerpark Festival and have them supported by great partners.  


(Space 10 – Alastair Philip Wiper Photo Cred)

HM: Yeah, I was going to say,  you’re pretty good at surrounding yourself with good, and super talented people.  How do you know when someone is gonna fit in with Rebel Agency?  What are some of the tell tale signs that someone might not fit?

CCH: I agree very much and I guess that’s the secret of our success. All the companies I’ve started are build on what I call a community model, which basically means that we are a fairly small in-house team amplified by a huge global network of uber-talented people with a very broad range of expertise. Our role is mostly to conceptualize and sell the ideas and then we curate the perfect team for the assignment at hand, facilitate the process and finally make sure that we get it right. We always try to work with great talent but equally important is to work with great personalities. A positive attitude will take you far and I believe we all have a responsibility in making sure we create a good and supportive environment.  If someone turns out to be negative or not delivering as promised we’ll not continue that collaboration going forward.   


(Trailerpark Build Up Vibes)

HM: Evan though you’re in full ramp up mode for Trailerpark Festival, it’s Space 10 that is probably your biggest project at the moment.  Is that fair to say?

CCH: It is fair to say yes. Space10 is a very ambitious project and without a doubt the biggest challenge we have given ourselves so far. It’s also in many ways the most inspiring because it we are driven by a bigger vision.  In short we dream of contributing to a bright future for as many people as possible and of course for the planet but they sort of go hand in hand.


(Space 10 – Alastair Philip Wiper Photo Cred)

HM: Painting in the background, for those that don’t know, Space 10 is a collaborative project a ‘future living lab and exhibition space’ which is sponsored by IKEA.  ‘Lab’ is indeed a great word.  I feel like the environment at Space10 is very inviting in terms of both having ideas and having the tools and resources for executing those ideas.  How do you curate the Labs?  What’s next in terms of Labs at Space 10?

CCH: It is true that Space10 is a collaboration between Rebel Agency and Inter-IKEA-Systems, which is the global owner of the IKEA concept, brand and franchise. I was fortunate enough to meet the CEO a few years ago and we really connected and he loved both ArtRebels and Trailerpark Festival and wanted to know more about our community model. One day, a year later he contacted me, a bit out of the blue, and asked if we wanted to co-create a better IKEA for the future and long story short, Space10 was our way of contributing to that mission.

Bråkig IKEAxArtRebels2

(Art Rebels / IKEA Original Product Line)

HM: Ok, so yeah, you get to help enable cool designers with their cool ideas for future living, via the labs, but it isn’t a charity project, I mean let’s face it, IKEA needs something back from their investment. Describe for us what IKEA sees as the value from Space 10.

CCH: It may sound too good to be true and sometimes I still can’t believe that it’s reality but IKEA really see Space10 and us as an investment in the future. There is no expected outcome but rather a trust and support in the exploration of new ideas, talents and solutions. Of course the hope is that our ideas can be implemented and scaled over time. They basically want us to look from the outside in and come up with new ideas and concepts to how they can evolve over time. IKEA is build on a vision which is “creating a better everyday life for the many people” and we believe this vision can be explored and manifested in so many new and innovative ways which the current business model of IKEA aren’t delivering to. This is really what Space10 is all about and our mission is to push new innovations and great talents forward and make sure we invest in a truly better future for the many people.  

IKEAxArtRebels(Art Rebels / IKEA Original Product Line)

Space-10-(c)-Alastair-Philip-Wiper-447(Space 10 – Alastair Philip Wiper Photo Cred)

HM: You touched on it briefly but you should really describe how the idea came about in the first place.  I think that’s kind of an inspiring story.  I really think large corporations like IKEA can really benefit from this kind of project, but how do you even go about approaching them to get it started?

CCH:  As I mentioned before it was a bit of a lucky punch to begin with. I was approached by IKEA 5 years ago who wanted me to do a talk about ArtRebels and Trailerpark Festival – a kind of inspirational talk for some of the managers, and I happened to also have the CEO on that team. When I was done with the talk I suggested that if we ever got the chance to work for IKEA we would love to do an ArtRebels limited collection for young people living in small spaces. A week after that talk I got a mail from the CEO telling me that they had decided to do the collection with us and that became the beginning of what turned out to become something like a professional marriage:). After the collection he then contacted me again, this time with a much bigger mission in mind. I connected with my colleague Simon Caspersen and we started brainstorming like crazy and finally we came up with an idea of creating an external innovation hub for IKEA build on a community model where we would engange talents, start ups, experts, designers, radical thinkers and troublemakers in general. IKEA really loved the idea and that’s basically how the collaboration began. We then brought in Kaave Pour and Guillaume Charny-Brunet, and the four of us conceptualised the idea further and materialised it as Space10 as we know it today, where we are so privileged to be working with even more amazing people from all over.  

Space-10-(c)-Alastair-Philip-Wiper-530-Edit(Space 10 – Alastair Philip Wiper Photo Cred)

HM: Down in the basement of Space10, you guys have set up an unbelievable tools cave with all kinds of super bad ass equipment.  What’s your long term plan for this part of the lab?  Who benefits from this amazing equipment?  

CCH: We have a lot of great ideas for this lab, that we call The Makery. I can’t reveal too much right now as we are still in process of deciding exactly how to run this lab, but in short we are tapping into the Maker movement and on a more strategic level looking into the future of distributed manufacturing and digital fabrication, open source design and circular economy. On a physical level we’ll build and design prototypes of all the ideas we are working on, and we’ll be inviting different resident designers and architects into a program of labs.  


(Space 10 – Alastair Philip Wiper Photo Cred)

HM: There is also a really wonderful kitchen and dining area set up at Space 10, tell us more about that?  Rumor has it visitors can customise and press their own snack bars..?

CCH: As we always say, you are what you eat and so we really want to explore the future of food and how we can create better and more sustainable choices when it comes to food production and consumption. Tomorrow’s meatball and our vertical farm lab are two examples of how we explore the themes around food.


(Space 10 – Alastair Philip Wiper Photo Cred)

 HM: So the basement is a creation space with lots of tools, the ground floor is a showcase for interior design and art exploration as well as a meeting and workshop space, and the upstairs at Space 10 is like the ‘think tank’.  You’ve got all kinds of people working up there.  What’s everyone doing while sitting behind those smartly designed desks?  Is it just Space10 work, or are people working on other ArtRebels Projects, and Trailerpark?

CCH: We all work on either Space10 related projects or other ArtRebels projects and of course Trailerpark Festival too. We are a hard working uber passionate bunch which is the only way we can manage so many big projects at the same time. I really have a dream team!!


HM: That’s actually a  good segway to start talking about a few of the other cool projects you’re involved in.

Trailerpark for example is a massively popular festival in Copenhagen now, but it started off small…like many great things. I know from having participated in a few Trailerparks as an artist, the build up vibe can be almost cultish in the excitement and dedication from all the artists, volunteers, cooks and builders it takes to make the festival happen.  It’s really unlike any other festival vibe I’ve ever experienced…I mean maybe it’s got a bit of a Burning Man feel to it, but certainly not the same.  Anyway, how do you inspire all the talent from all of these people?



CCH: I am really happy to hear that’s how you experience the festival and the build up in particular. I often think people forget that it’s all about the process and not the end result. And that’s why we put so much love and dedication into the build-up week and into making it the best possible experience for all the artists and designers who participate… as well as our own production team of course. My best friend is cooking us a lot of great food and my mother is giving free massages and dance lessons during build-up… These are some of the little traditions that makes this festival very unique and welcoming. When I started Trailerpark I called it a small urban burningman so you are onto something – except we live in this crazy nordic climate that is totally unpredictable, the only factor that can drive me crazy every year 🙂 hahaha…

Evening_31072014_Photo by Helena Lundquist_17

HM: For those who have never been, describe the kind of vibe you create with Trailerpark.

CCH: It’s full of love, art, design, music, technology and most of all amazing people!


HM: What’s new for Trailerpark this year?

CCH: The new is that we have a 10th year anniversary and sadly we’ve also decided to call it the last Trailerpark Festival. We decided to stop while the love for the festival is still intact and while we are on top. Also we have an idea of a new festival concept that we would like to unfold and sometimes you need to let go of something you love in order to create room for the new to come. So watch out for the new this coming year…

_R9V8961 copy

HM: That makes me a little sad, but of course also excited to see what’s next.

The last project I want to get into is ArtRebels.  ArtRebels is a really nice partnership for artists. Every week for example you host a really successful ‘Artist Of The Week’ bit on the ArtRebels instagram, and the website acts as a really nice hub for artists to sell their works and wares to your audience, kind of like a really art focused well curated Etsy.   How do you choose what artists are the right match for ArtRebels?

CCH:  Well this question and the next goes hand in hand. We actually also just decided to close down the webshop and focus on all the off-line ArtRebels projects. When we started out there was hardly any webshops around and today everyone creative has at least one webshop, so we decided the need for this platform was not so pressing anymore. And we really think the ArtRebels project we do off-line are more interesting than a poster shop and that’s why we’ll turn into a community site where we feature all the projects we do and all the artists and creatives we collaborate with… You will also be featured here Hyland and we need to talk about that..  🙂

Hyuro photo Henrik Haven(Hyuro Mural Project with Art Rebels)

HM: Ahhh, yeah I guess that makes sense, I guess like you were saying before, the strength of ArtRebels is in community building, it makes sense that the site and online presence takes on that sort of role.   Can you give us some hints though of  what’s next for ArtRebels?

CCH: I’ve hired this amazing young woman Maria, who will be leading the new ArtRebels and I can’t wait to see what she makes of it. She sure has both talent, good taste and great ideas and she is also a creative herself, which is a big asset when you work with creatives .

Jeroen Smeets ArtRebels exhibition

(Jeroen Smeets curated exhibition with Art Rebels)

HM:  Yeah, I know Maria, she’s cool.  Well anyway Carla, I could shoot questions at you all day, but you’re a busy busy gal.  I hope this short interview gives our readers an indication of just how busy.    I’m really looking forward to being out at Trailerpark as an artist again this year, so I’ll see you soon enough.  Anyway, thanks so much for taking some time to talk with me.  Say Hi to your mom.  

CCH: Nice to talk to you too Hyland!


Jaime Molina – Cuttyup Interview

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.

After that in November I have a show here in Denver at Svper Ordinary Gallery with artist, Wesley Sam Bruce.


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.

meinengers_webHM: 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.

theapology.webHM: 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.

talmofoo.webHM: 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

Mando Marie and Hyland Mather – 2 new Berlin Exhibitions


Mando Marie (Issue 21) and Hyland Mather (Issue 33) both have solo exhibitions opening at the JR Gallery in Berlin, tonight (Friday June 3rd, 2016).  6-9PM .  Lützowstraße 20, 10785 Berlin, Germany.   The exhibition is open to the public.

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Adrian Landon Brooks – Interview

Adrian Landon Brooks is an American artist, making smart illustrative work with a neo-folk slant. He’s living in the hills outside of Austin, Texas. The move out to the sticks has been a big adjustment for the city kid. He and his wife, Dalyce with their 9 month old baby, Willow, have taken on the challenge so many of us dream for…building their own house. Fun, challenging, exhausting, rewarding…the gamut. I caught up with Adrian for a little interview in anticipation of his solo exhibition, ‘Miracle Worker’ opening on June 11th at Andenken Gallery in Amsterdam. Here’s what he had to say.            two_birds_watching_detail_web 

Hyland Mather: You moved from the Big City of Austin, out into the country. Do you have a shotgun rack?

Adrian Landon Brooks: I don’t think a shotgun rack would fit in our city slicker hybrid! Give me a few years and I might start embracing our new-found surroundings.magic_hands_web

HM: I’ve heard you say your working process can be very meditative. Does your move to a more peaceful setting aide this creation meditation process, or do you find yourself missing the bustle?

ALB: I’ve always lived in big cities so the move is definitely an adjustment. I’ve managed to make work in all sorts of tiny closets and corners of dimly lit living rooms so it’s nice to have a dedicated space now. We have a lofted second floor that will serve as my studio ‘til we build something bigger down the line. I’ve learned to sit down and work regardless of the countless distractions surrounding me. All the outside noises are drowned out once I am engaged with the painting.


HM: You’re neck deep in the building of a house. I know for many creatives, building your own space is a massive dream. How is that going?  

ALB: My wife and I have been building the last two years in the hill country outside of Austin, TX. I can honestly say it’s been the most challenging two years of my life but also just as rewarding. I am very accustomed to making my creative vision a reality with my artwork, but building was a whole other beast. One of the biggest challenges was learning to share a vision with another person and practicing the art of compromise. I am proud to say that we are now living in our place with our nine month old daughter, Willow. We are finally getting to the finishing stages of the process and can move on to the painting, staining and decorating. All the good stuff!


HM: When you were pretty young, 19-20, you and a few friends had a rental house, and I read that you had pretty much covered it with paint and ink by the time the lease was up. Is this the plan for the house you’re now building, or are you going to try and separate the work you make as an artist from the space you’re living in as a home builder?

ALB: I would like to keep some separation for sure but the work tends to spill over in most areas of my life and house. We decided on a lofted studio partially because it’s more economical to build up but also to better contain the clutter. My actual workspace usually just consists of a drafting table and maybe an easel but it’s the repurposed materials that take up the most room. I hit streaks of collecting interesting pieces and it might be months before I get around to using them. I would really like to build a barn shell for a studio sometime in the next few years. It would be interesting to see the direction of the work without as many space restraints.  


HM: More and more you’re using found object as the substructure for your paintings. I’ve heard your work described as ‘neo-folk’. Do you see the found object as a contributing force to this description?  When can we expect some more work on clean fresh panel?

ALB: The repurposed materials contribute greatly to my vision and the overall success of some of my work. Particularly using the original surfaces of the wood/metal as the background. I would be hard pressed to recreate the natural patina of some of these objects. I would say it’s pretty common to see repurposed objects and materials in traditional folk art from many different cultures. Some of which are more utilitarian but I imagine it was also about utilizing materials that were easily accessible. Over the last few years I have unearthed tons of treasures on the countryside, which have later turned into paintings. The hunt for materials and discovering ways to use them has become a very vital part of my process. That being said I still crave painting on a freshly built wood panel, especially when I am wanting to work a bit larger.


HM: Your paintings seem to utilize some common totemic themes, for example the bird creatures. Can you elaborate a bit on your imagery mythology?  

ALB: Most of the symbolism in my work is a fairly subconscious hodgepodge of imagery borrowed from the different cultures that inspire me. The bird head specifically was a way of separating myself from the main subject in the painting. It’s stepping away from a more self-portrait approach. I put plenty of myself into my work but it’s not really intended to be a literal reflection of myself.


HM: I’ve heard you talk about color interaction, particularly with pastel flavors. Color preferences though, especially from what the fashion seasons tell us, ha, seems to oscillate in popularity. Have you been visually married to the same set of colors for a long time? Do you see your personal preferences for colors changing?

ALB: I am partially color-blind so it’s kind of important for me to continue with what I know works. Certain hues blend when I see them and it can be hard for me to tell the difference. A good example would be light pink and white which can almost look identical to me depending on the surface. I still go through phases and get hooked on different color combos. I will always be a sucker for terracotta, seafoam green and marigold.


HM: You went to school in SF at the SFAI.  How much influence have the Mission School artists had on your own work?  Was that a big draw for you when deciding where you wanted to study?

ALB: I will never forget sheepishly approaching Barry McGee back in 99 at the Hoss opening in Houston, TX. I brought him my sketchbook full of weak imitations of his work. He just smiled flipping through some pages and found a blank page to sign my book. I have always been deeply influenced by Barry and Margaret Kilgallen from the moment I stumbled upon the Mission School movement. It was only natural that I run to SF the first chance I got. I spent some time at SFAI and lingered around the city long after attending school. I met a handful of locals who showed me sides of the city that probably look like a different world nowadays. The years I spent in the bay area influenced my direction greatly and inspired me in too many ways to count. It was truly a magical time when everything started feeling possible.


HM: Your old work, circa 2007, was an order of magnitude more abstract and expressive, the tight, flat illustrative renderings of your work of today is a real departure.  Was this a gradual move, or did you simply wake up one day and say, ‘Nope, time to paint flat, tight work instead’?

ALB: I think the departure came when my painting skill started to catch up with my creative vision. The more expressive approach was a way of going through the motions and fine tuning some of the imagery I still use today. I achieve the ultimate meditative experience by creating a simple and concise image filled with all the colors I love. The process itself can sometimes be more important to me than the final product. 


HM: What’s a dream art project for you, if money, time and scale was no nuisance?

ALB: I would like to use some of the experiences from our building process and erect some small structures for site specific installation. Think Pee Wee’s Playhouse with creepy bird head pals.


HM:  Thanks for the interview my friend.  I’m really really really looking forward to the Miracle Worker exhibition. 

ALB:  Oh you’re welcome man.  Thank you!

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