Thursday, October 16, 2008

Say Hello to Gus Harper

If you read my blog regularly, you'll notice that we've already said hello to Gus Harper before.

His pinecones, in particular, drive me nuts! If you look at the photo with him, you can see how large they are. I wanted to follow up and do a profile on his art. Here is our email exchange.

Let's start with your grid painting video on youtube. Wow, that's quite a hit. I checked it a bit ago and there were almost 500 ratings and it was at 4.5 stars. Did the reaction catch you off guard?

Sure did. I just made that video to sent to a few friends and the person who commissioned the painting. It got passed around until someone at youtube must have seen it. I woke up one morning and discovered 300 plus email messages in my inbox. I didn't know what was going on until I realized that youtube had featured the video on their homepage. The video was seen 100,000 times that day and has totalled over 165,000 so far. The funnest part has been exchanging email with people from all over the world who contacted me after seeing the video.

Gus Harper (in his studio)

Your paintings feel really modern and fresh. When did the grids emerge? Or were they always there, in some form?

Thanks. I think they started a couple of years ago with a triptych. I couldn't decide if I wanted it to go horizontal or vertical, so I decided to make it go both way and add pieces. I liked the way the criss-cross of the grid created a contrast with the spiraling shapes of the painting. I thought I was being clever but now I realize of course that a ton of people have done this sort of thing. Oh well. I guess if you are doing something that has already been done, then all you can do is try to do it well.

People seem to be looking for obvious connections like Andy Warhol and Georgia O'Keefe - do you agree?

Well, people have told me that I remind them of those two, but Andy had a thick shock of silver hair and Georgia had a vagina. I don't have either.

Do you have any direct influences that you are aware of? Are you influenced by your peers?

I've been around art all my life. My Mom is an artist and she took me to museums and galleries when I was a kid. So, I've been surrounded by artistic imagery all my life. Now I have a bunch of artist friends. Their creativity inspires me, but none of us paint alike. We just feed off each others' creative and enthusiastic imagery.

Like many artists, you have several distinct subjects. I can think of oranges, roses, the poetics. Recently, you were discussing both pomegranates and roses in an interview. I guess I had a vision in my head of an "orange show" or a "roses show", but it sounds like they might be a combination?

Well, I did have a show that was nothing but citrus inspired imagery. The forms morphed into abstractions. Now I'm moving on to new subjects. Been doing some work with astronauts and honey bee images. We'll see where that goes. Sound weird? Well, it is, at least a little.

You were born and raised in Santa Monica? And you spent some time in NYC? How long were you there?

I was only in NYC for about a year and a half. Loved it. I actually love L.A. too. Wherever I go, when I tell people that I am from L.A., they feel free to tell me what they hate about my home city. Its kind of funny, because I can't imagine someone telling me they are from Boston and me responding why I hate their city. Seems rude. And when I tell people that I actually like where I live, they are often shocked. It makes me laugh.

When and where are your next shows?

I'm showing at Sol y Luna gallery in Puerto Vallarta during Thanksgiving. A few group shows after that. I'm also thinking of exploring a few options in the Bay area and I'd like to get something going in Seattle soon too. [Seattle galleries take note. :)] You know I love Seattle. I've had such a good time there that I've even wondered what it would be like to live there.

Southern California sounds so different than life up here in Seattle. When you're not painting in your airplane hangar studio, what do you like to do?

Well, I do love hanging out at my airplane hangar studio. Its also where I store my surboards. I surf a bit and run everyday. Clears my mind. I like to travel a bit too. Gives me more ideas and allows me to focus when I get home. I started my whole "poetic" series when I was in Argentina and Uruguay. I've got trips to New Orleans, Costa Rica, and Mexico coming up. We'll see if that has any influence on my art when I return.

Hey Gus -- thanks for chatting. You're overdue for a Seattle visit!

Thank you. You are right, I'll get my sorry ass up there soon enough.

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