“Art, Art, Art, Fuck the Devil…” Q & A with NY Artonaut Michael Alan

16 Jul

Still From Michael Alan's Living Installation at Kenny Scharfs' Cosmic Cavern

M: What, Michael Alan, is your quest?

MA: Art is a quest, not a fad or a hobby. It’s a true test of passion. Who will put it all on the line to speak their truth? It’s a calling, yes, it has its business parts, like all human things…but what comes from the source is a special creative force-fueled and driven to get it into the world. What I know is that I will only physically exist for a certain amount of time and in that time I want to live and leave an immeasurable amount of echos, life and laughter within my work. Art, art, art fuck the devil. Up, up, up, and on, on, on and all over. 8 hours everyday in the studio working through everything. Catch me drawing everywhere. Let’s turn up the volume, wake up, be alive, thank you. I am a visual journalist of this fast, fast-paced time, embracing change, hugging fragility, speeding up and slowing down my line. I want to create a body of work that makes a lasting impact now and in the future.

Michael Alan, Head of Glo, Made for The Cosmic Cavern, 2011

M: Your work, though bandaged, often hellishly grotesque and complex, articulates a very special sensitivity. From where does this strange poetry originate?

MA: It comes from life, my view on life, harmonious opposites. I wouldn’t be able to understand and cope if I didn’t fade these facts in my work and life itself. Life is an abstract concept, Love can be grotesque and complex, beautifully hideous. This sensitivity is how I organize my army of marks. It’s not a diary but more of a buildup of energy, lines and motion; a language. Letting go and mustering up order in a system built to be bound by thin string. It’s how I arrange what I see and communicate. Just like any other person, we all arrange what we think we see, it’s what I think that is real.

Michael Alan, "Amusement Park", Courtesy of Marlborough Gallery, 2011

M: You have lived through quite a lot of intense, traumatic experiences in your early years with the passing of several loved ones. Have they and do they affect your work now?

MA: I was destroyed and left lost by the loss of my 3 childhood best friends; they all died at different points in my life. To be honest, in the beginning I didn’t do good at all. I separated from people and was negative. My first big loss was Kevin Maher, at 17, my closest friend in high school tragically died. It was horrific, he was very kind to me. I had a hard time making close friends and he was the best. In time I started writing music and incorporating him in my work, spending time in his old room looking for words, finding signs. He is still here with me as I type this, as I grew I realized they don’t leave, but they stay with you. The strongest form of inspiration. The 2nd death is to hard to speak about, and is still confusing. Two years ago I lost my childhood-through adult life best friend Odin, brother, art partner, everything. This really left me in a bad spot. I worked my ass off painting and trying to find the spiritual side. Somehow I survived. I have made good friends in my 20’s and meet great people all the time, but I don’t have anyone from my youth that I was close with anymore and its hard. The answer for me is to make the best work I can, no cheating, just go all out. I find so much strength through them. I say “if Kevin could, then come on”, and then I just do it. Perspective is all around me, it’s just a painting, a performance, a life, it’s also everything. Everything is love, fragile and beautiful, feel it, than let go. Feel something else and tell everyone.

Michael Alan, O My Head, 2006

M: The Living Installation performances that you pull off are mesmerizing, sort of like a schizophrenic art kabuki; crackling, inspired and free. Are these performances a necessary part to the whole of what you do?

MA: You inspire me as well, thank you for your kind words. I would say it’s a piece of the circle. It’s my public art experiment/ installation with a chance for me to work with people. Without direct contact and connection with people in my art, it wouldn’t feel complete. The studio can be extremely isolated. I have been lucky to meet so many cool people that I can incorporate into my work. With the live pieces I come full circle and turn people into living, drawing fairy tales. What better way for me who speaks fluent alien to communicate with X who is not an artist but wants to be involved. Turn X into a piece, act out concept. Then come back to the studio. Think, sleep, repeat. So, yes…

Michael Alan, "Wowtime" still from Bushwick Project For the Arts featuring Steev, Raquel and Modello, 2011

M: What was your first art project you ever pulled off?

I just re-found this GI-Joe toy from my babyhood were I switched all it’s parts. I interchanged different legs, arms, hips etc from other toys with a screwdriver into this mish-mash. It really impressed me, the toy is tiny and the screws are so small. It looks like one of my living installations, I was 4. I’m not sure how I did it. I was always changing things around the house, chairs on the couch, cat in the box, tricks. Or in school I was tying kids shoes laces together in class, plopping bottles of glue on kids when they were sleeping. I was a pain. I wasn’t a bad kid, it’s just that my mom is not like an average mom, she is a penguin, a huge free spirit and I was raised to just have fun. It was a very loving and extremely silly household. She was a part of my first performances and music albums as well. I love you mom!

Michael Alan, "Monkey", Courtesy of Gasser Grunert Gallery, 2008

M: If an artist is born an artist, is a plumber born a plumber?

MA: A lot of artists are not artists, and a lot of plumbers are pumping and want to be a dentists.

M: What is your spirit animal? (Please feel free to cut and paste one into existence if you like.)

MA: Racoon-raindeer-penguin-blackcat-squiggle.

M: Often a revolutionary artist is said to “push the envelope.” But your work seems to supersede this by way of its’ inherently natural quality, possibly suggesting that there is no envelope to push at all. 

There’s always something to push. People say there is nothing to push because they don’t want to work hard. You always hear that it’s all been done…that’s lack of ambition, negative and a lie. There is always a way to make or reinvent the new, or to make a change . Rearrange everything. Life is meant to always breakdown and buildup. There is evolution. Art exists for this reason and it wants to expand. Get to work, it will take as long as it takes and turn down as many alleys as it will, but it/you will find the way. Make change, make change, make change.

M: You have a BFA from The School of Visual Arts and were asked to teach in the International Studies Program there. As a teacher of art, what would be the one golden rule, the one indispensable truth that you would impart to your students?

MA: I’m still shocked I was asked to do that, and honored at the same time. I would say to never trust a program or rely on a credit. Work hard and ask questions. Save your money on a Masters in fine art and get a studio; live in it. Shoot for a free education. Do all that you can while you’re young to be that genius! You are what you say you are.

M: There is something brittle/fragile/somewhat unraveling in the figures you express. Is this your state of mind as well?

Michael Alan, "Cleaning the Clouds" at Gasser Grunert Gallery, featuring Theresa Magario, 2010

MA: O yessssssss, Fragile beauty. I almost married her, I miss her. I live, I love it. You do too.

M: Indeed. Speaking of witch, what is the most insane and/or illegal thing that you’ve done in the name of art?

MA: I wouldn’t say I’m the best person to ask what is legal or sane, words like that escape me. I’ve performed in places I was not supposed to, I’ve used spaces I didn’t have permission for, I’ve painted on what was not mine, I’ve given what I haven’t had. My art has gone onto things and over things and into things. My judgment and moral compass is playful, devious. I like to joke. Do you like jokes? Is it all serious to your readers out there in readingland? My shows naturally push these limits, people ask is this dangerous..? Maybe, maybe not, I do the best I can.

M: Michael Alan, you are an art astronaut performing an art opera in a deep and vivid artspace. What is the most important thing that you’ve figured out along your travels?

Michael Alan, "Black and Blue", Courtesy of Gasser Grunert Gallery, 2008

MA: I am not who I think I am. I am a collection of dreamlike self-manipulated interpretations, mixed emotions, feelings and ideas of what I can only think is reality through the tools I have been given. I am love, living now, typing on a keyboard. Who wants to come over and make art and watch the Simpsons?

Check out Michael Alan’s Living Installation “Where the Wild Things Are”Kenny Scharf’s Cosmic Cavern Space on Saturday, August 6th 9pm-2am.

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