Monday, October 31, 2011

A Conversation With Joseph Meloy

"More Portraiture" 2011

Joseph Meloy, an artist from New York City, creates artwork in a style called Vandal Expressionism. His mixed-media artwork is charged with energy, contains urban art references, elements of graffiti art and filled with raw, brazen emotion. Meloy spoke with ArtSeen about his artwork and his processes.

Can you tell us a little about your artwork, artistic process, and what types of artistic materials you use?

As an artist of the early 21st century, I happily embrace a mixed-media approach, tying together marks made traditionally with the magical powers of the digital darkroom.  From 2004 to 2010 I worked almost exclusively on the digital end, educating myself in Photoshop, photography, retouching and graphic design, but as I suspected, I was slowly gearing up towards a career in the fine art side of things. I used Sharpie markers to bridge the gap as I moved from using a digital stylus into traditional mark-making and by the time I officially switched gears into Vandal Expressionism mode, I began utilizing big drippy graffiti markers, acrylic paint, India ink straight from the bottle, oil sticks, as well as my trusty camera and digital toolset.  And of course I’m always on the hunt for new materials and techniques to add to my repertoire…

What inspires you as an artist? Why do you create art?

The overload of sensory information you encounter in a city like New York is ultimately what inspires me the most, both consciously as well as subconsciously… So many people, so many buildings, gates, colors, signs, textures… All competing for your attention… I’ve been fascinated with decrepit buildings and urban decay for as long as I can remember and that most certainly plays a role in what I do.  And ever since I was a kid I was fascinated by the immediacy and outlaw nature of the marks people make on the street. I was the only kid in my 5th grade class who would get up early to climb street poles and collect Cost & Revs posters… I still have them too! Somewhere….

As for why I do it, I’m still figuring that out…  I honestly do feel that art chose me, rather than that I chose art, and that, in and of itself, keeps my fire burning more and more each day…  I do what I do out of compulsion, passion and genuine interest in sharing something interesting with the world.

"Wired" 2011
Joseph Meloy, an artist from New York City, creates artwork in a style called Vandal Expressionism. His mixed-media artwork is full of energy, urban art references, elements of graffiti art and filled with raw, brazen emotion. Meloy spoke with ArtSeen about his artwork and his artistic processes.

What types of themes, ideas, or concepts do you explore within your artwork?

I rely heavily on impulse and delving into the unconscious, and in learning to channel that and bring it out into something tangible, I’m intrigued by the themes that seem to emerge again and again in my work.  My obsession with anthropology seems to manifest itself in figures that are at once both man and monkey, my fascination with graffiti tagging informs my linework probably more than anything else, and my interest in futurism (the science, not the art movement…) seems to fuel my merging-of-organic-and-synthetic motifs.  And going back to my fascination with decaying buildings, I enjoy exploring the breakdown of surfaces and formation of patinas and effects of the passage of time.

As an expressionist, I’m not particularly concerned with depicting anything in a particularly “realistic” way, and I enjoy pushing the boundaries of legibility…  Reducing forms and twisting lines to the point where by themselves, they’re almost incomprehensible, but in the context of the whole piece, there is a strong suggestion of a scene taking place, such as people dancing counterclockwise around a bonfire, or a ship out in the middle of the ocean exploding upwards into the sky.  When I was studying typography a few years ago, I learned about ideas of legibility and readability, and how a typeface might be highly legible, but if it’s set in such a way that it’s a pain to read then it might not be particularly readable.  My work is often slightly illegible, but I like to think that by being intriguing that it’s highly readable…

Are there any artists that inspire you? If so who would they be and why?

The list of artists who inspired and influenced me the most reads like this:
JacksonPollock for the notion of allover painting and sheer will to reinvent;  Jean-Michel Basquiat for teaching me to embrace impulse; Willem de Kooning for texture and abstraction; Cy Twombly for being a kindred spirit; Andy Warhol for teaching us that “being good in business is the best art”, Keith Haring for opening my eyes to art when I was 6 years old, Joan MirĂ³  and David Smith for the symbolism and reduction of forms, Ralph Steadman for making art that absolutely speaks to me, Pablo Picasso for breaking up picture planes, John Kricfalusi for having unparalleled taste in color, Franz Kline for exploring giant miniatures, and Stephen Gammell for creating the illustrations that I couldn’t get out of my mind if I tried…

"Untitled" 2011

What’s the best and worst part about being an artist?

The best part of being an artist is getting to share a piece of yourself with the world and leaving behind something that will continue to speak for you whether or not you’re still in the room or even on the planet.  I enjoy trying to give people something to think about, that they each can interpret for themselves and in that sense make their own.  The worst part, well…  working your way up the ladder can be frustrating, and it’s easy to get caught up in conspiracy theories as to why so-and-so didn’t respond to your message, but ultimately, I just consider it all part of the challenge, which in the end I actually enjoy very much.  My glass is half full…

What do you want viewers to walk away with when they view your artwork?

After looking at my artwork, I want people to be inspired by the energy behind it, and intrigued by the cryptic nature of the material.  One of my collectors was explaining to me why he chose the piece he chose to display at his office and he explained that he wanted to have something that both he and his guests could look at again and again and just search for something new each time amidst the shapes and symbols, kind of like a fine art Rorschach Test.

And finally, what advice would you give to other artists?

Based upon what I’ve learned thus far, my advice is to find what makes you different from the six zillion other artists who are out there clamoring for attention and embrace that; then develop it and don’t be afraid to see yourself as a business person. Unless you’re independently wealthy, even as a fine artist, you need to keep food on the table and the lights on, and if art is what you were put on this planet to do, then there’s no shame in reconciling your passion with a paying career path.  And don’t be shy about social media either…  I adopted it last summer and since then I’ve seen more and more artists getting on board with dedicated Facebook art pages of their own…  The pages don’t build themselves and you’ve got to put the time in to nurture and develop a fan base, but ultimately, it’s a hell of a way to reach more people than you could possibly ever meet in person… When I see that people are googling me in Zimbabwe, it just warms my little Vandal heart…

"Checked" 2010

For more information about Meloy's artwork you can visit this site and his Facebook page for more details.

All artwork provided by Joseph Meloy.

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