After a brief run obsessing over the miniature puppets from Trey Parker and Matt Stone's stop-motion animation, Team America: World Police, Seattle's Troy Gua took it upon himself to begin building miniature models of things and people that he loved, from his wife to Michael Jackson and Salvador Dali. His biggest accomplishment with these miniature buddies, though, has come with Le Petit Prince -- his polymer clay rendering of the man, the artist: Prince. What began as a playful nod to a man that has inspired Gua since his youth has since turned into a joyous and involved production, thanks to momentum generated by word of mouth and Prince fan sites and blogs around the world. In this interview with Gua, we discuss techniques, memories, and inspirations, and tie it all together with an eleven-track mixtape full of Gua's most loved Prince songs. Put yourself in Gua's universe for just a minute, and envelop yourself with all things bizarre, all things decadent, all things foxy, and all things Prince.

 

Netherlands-based photographer Jan Reurink can't get enough of Tibet, and captures Tibetan landscape and everyday life with a dedicated selfless passion. In our brief Q&A with Reurink below, he tells us about the rainbow plethora of reasons he keeps returning to the sacred land.
Tibet - Jan Reurink The prayer flags in this image are wind horses; they are called རླུང་རྟ་ -- or lungta. They serve as an allegory for the human soul, and now ritually used as a symbol of well-being and good fortune in Tibet. Tibet - Jan Reurink The mountain range of Mount Ti Se (གངས་ཏེ་སེའི་རི་རྒྱུད or gangs te se'i ri rgyud/ gangté serigyü). Also called the Kailash Mountain Range.

AJ Fosik moved to Portland about a year ago, but he's been too busy to leave his studio and enjoy all the things his new home has to offer. Fosik is no stranger to working at a breakneck pace, and when I was attempting to arrange a studio visit, the only time that worked for both of us happened to be on a Saturday morning. This was less than ideal as I was down in Portland on a blitzkrieg visit in which I was attempting to cram about three months worth of old friends and bourbon into five days, and Fosik had been out the night before celebrating the purchase of a new house. Upon arriving at his tucked-away studio in the industrial hills by Forest park, we were both relieved to discover that we were on the same page in that we were both feeling... uh... slightly less than articulate.
Fosik is an affable curmudgeon who has made a very deliberate decision to not engage the art world on its typical terms. He is first and foremost a craftsman, and he puts more stock in practice than theory. While there are telltale racks of spraypaint and scattered pieces of paper in Fosik's workspace, the studio is more woodshop than anything else, and he tells me that he is self-taught. "I'm probably a bad woodworker," he shrugs and jokes self-effacingly. "Anyone who does fine woodworking would look at these and be disgusted by them."

While it is true that Fosik isn't employing the use of dovetail joints, one cannot help but feel a deep respect for the craftsmanship that goes into the construction of his statuesque pieces. Fosik's sculptures are rich testaments to the power of his obsessive curiosity. Fiercely looming eyes and wide, howling jaws rest upon psychedelic waves of carefully overlapped wooden shingles, and rearing bodies stand in mid-lunge towards the viewer. With a color palette that shares more than a passing affinity with safety paint from a construction site, Fosik's creations are anything but subtle, and they demand the full attention and involved interaction of their audience. Many of Fosik's pieces are vaguely threatening, and his compositions feature larger-than-life animistic figures wielding guns and mallets, their limbs extended to rend and tear, gaping maws set to devour. Fosik cultivated his building abilities in response to the fact that he was raised in a family with no interest in making things. "It's really weird," he says. "I have no artists in my family whatsoever... My dad can't even use a screwdriver. I was definitely one of those kids who took everything apart and destroyed everything I owned trying to figure out how it worked."

This sense of trial and error construction has clearly paid off. Fosik's pieces draw from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, and he assimilates religious iconography that nods equally to Asian deities and African tribal patterns. Fosik explains he is intentionally going for this blended effect; having no religious background himself, he has always been curious about what he sees as the absurdity of religious zealotry. His goal is to reference a diverse range of religions without evoking any particular faith, and he delights in the subsequent interpretations his viewers insist upon. While he clearly puts a great deal of thought into his work, Fosik has a perverse, Gonzo-esque refusal to talk about the ideas that inform his finished pieces. He instead prefers to discuss the religious, shamanistic overtones as part of a running joke he is playing on his viewers. "That's the whole point," he explains. "[Religion is] all a sham, but I'm being up front about it and putting it out on the table. I enjoy that aspect of it; it's the old switcheroo!"

ARTICLE CONTINUED BELOW

Perhaps more so than the general populace, artists are able to find beauty and inspiration in the chaos of entropy. Gala Bent is a Seattle artist who uses gouache and graphite to explore the gracefully inevitable failure of enforced order. Bent's compositions play with the tension between clearly delineated geometric abstraction and sinuously free form pattern fields. Her visual images are so direct that it's possible to read them on a visceral level while entirely missing the wellspring of references that rest beneath the surface of her meticulously rendered drawings. But it would be doing Bent an enormous injustice to not look deeper.
There is a deceptive simplicity to Bent's drawings, and at first glance, their sense of whimsy overshadows their underbelly of methodical research. Bent thinks very deliberately about her place in the world, and this sense of inquiry carries over in a very literal way to the precision of her compositions. "I like things that I respond to in a physical, aesthetic way," she explains to me. "But as a person, I just really love to dig and dig and dig... I like it when there's a whole series of layers underneath." After a brief miscommunication over directions that leads to a rather informative exploratory bicycle mission of the alleyways around Qwest Field, we meet in the high-ceilinged Pioneer Square studio that Bent shares with her husband, fellow artist Zack Bent. Bent and her husband create in different mediums, but she explains that they work together in that they are one another's biggest critic and advocate, and that their strengths and weaknesses are staggered in complimentary ways. The artist couple has three young sons, so their lives involve a great deal of juggling between creative and family lives. Their paintings and sculptures stand in easy dialogue on separate ends of the room. "We are both concerned with the architectural," she tells me, gesturing towards the stacks of life-sized Lincoln Logs that rest on Zack's side of the studio. Bent's compositions tend to focus on the interplay between angular and organic forms. Her drawings at times resemble tornadoes – densely clustered masses of line and plane that gradually open into light colored washes or entirely empty space. "I very much idealize geometric abstraction," Bent tells me, adding that her appreciation of the geometric has deepened over the years until she has come to see it as almost "a romantic ideal." She sees the "furry" portions of her works as representing the more human, realistic side of life, the "faltering part... where everything cracks or falls apart." Bent describes this idea in greater detail on her blog, writing that she is "fascinated by the idealistic glory of the philosophy of architecture, especially when it is brought into real space and has to sustain itself against the degrading process of time and use. The most fancy buildings still leak and peel. People still have to deposit their raw sewage inside them, and weather delivers continual erosion to their shells." ARTICLE CONTINUED BELOW (ABOVE) I Am Focusing All My Attention, 2010; (BELOW) I Am Focusing All My Attention Detail, 2010 - G. Gibson Gallery Paper Architecture: Reflecting Pool (I Smell Like Myself), 2011 - G. Gibson Gallery

Like many other Seattle residents, I was first introduced to the work of fabric and mixed media artist Mandy Greer at the central branch of the Seattle Public Library. I remember liking her permanent installation, Library Unbound, and making a mental note to check out more of her stuff (which, of course, I completely forgot to do because I didn't write it down), but it wasn't until Greer's 2011 solo show, Honey And Lightening, at Roq La Rue Gallery, that I was moved from appreciation to awe.


mandy greer Honey And Lightening, 2011. Roq La Rue Gallery, Seattle
Artists often describe their ideas as beginning with a seed, but with Greer the analogy is more literal: her work gives the impression of growth, and her compositions wind sinuously across both body and landscape as fractalized coral reefs that gracefully devour everything they come in contact with. Her painstaking craftsmanship involves the weaving and layering of such diverse materials as buttons, pom poms, sequins, beads, plastic trinkets, glitter, mirrors, and family members' hair. She uses "cheap materials" in such absurdly detailed, utterly chaotic excess that they they take on an aura of luminous richness. Her latest subjects involve strong, folkloric figures festooned in elaborate headdresses. They move gracefully through kaleidoscope forests and fields of trailing grass. One gets the sense of being enveloped by an epic fairy tale, but it's one that lacks a definitive plot. Greer draws from a wide spectrum of folk tales, finding inspiration in stories from Greek, Roman and Chinese cultures. "I stumble upon mythology that speaks to the struggle," she explains. There is an inherent delicacy in textile work – one that Greer both embraces and contradicts. In her works, haunting vignettes of half-told stories are littered with crocheted entrails and vines of thick, cloying mud that evoke a sense of elegant foreboding. They deal with a sense of vague narrative that, through abstraction, finds archetype; her installations whisper of timelessness – of a buried, invisible power that runs below the surface of the world that we cavalierly inhabit. At the time of our interview, Greer was still in the process of settling into her home studio, and walking into her workspace was like entering the magical dress up box every child dreams of having. Her studio is filled with giant, color-sorted plastic bins of fascinatingly patterned and textured scraps of fabric. Half of her studio is devoted to an exposed beamed staging ground for installations, and there are so many odds and ends lying around that, for someone with an attention span as short as mine, it's difficult to find a place for the eye to rest. INTERVIEW CONTINUES BELOW mandy greermandy greerHoney And Lightening, 2011. Roq La Rue Gallery, Seattle

Earlier this year, it was announced that the 619 Building -- Pioneer Square's First Thursday's most exciting spot -- would be closing and its artists forced to relocate. In celebration of this, the recent Art Walks at 619 have been out of control, with visitors...

matt leavitt
Time permitting, Portland-based artist Matt Leavitt allows his imagination to run free by tinkering, inventing, and manipulating objects in the pursuit of fine artistic ideas. The fascination of his multi-disciplinary artwork can be found equally in the methodologies spawning them as in the finished products themselves; trial and error, as well as chance events, serve as stepping stones to reaching greater ends -- some predictable, some unpredictable. Leavitt creates with the mentality of sussing out his wildest artistic fantasies, all the while drawing equally from his knowledge in Civic Engineering and his experiences at Great Vow Zen Monastery in Clatskanie, Oregon. In his experimentation, he has done things many would never consider. He has attempted to make ink from flowers petals; he has thrown melted candle wax onto frozen ponds; he has created sculptures from liquid clay. His interests flow in many directions, and these divergences are present when one looks at his entire body of work. The projects he undertakes are always well-detailed within his mind; every piece of every series falls in line with subtle stylistic rules yet deviates within a larger framework.

 

"Since most art dealing with consumerism seems too matter-of-fact, I want my work to be allegorical, being humorous and visually interesting but imparting a deeper message. Why the hell do we need all this stuff, anyways?"...

Eatcho has quit his dayjob. He's late on rent. He knows that being a full-time artist is difficult to impossible in Portland, Oregon, a town where everyone who makes your coffee, bags your groceries, or pours your beer has his or her own creative project to fund. Without a day job, making art can't possibly be a hobby; it has to pay the bills. Eatcho says it dawns on him regularly that, "[The situation] is kind of scary -- but I wouldn't want it any other way."
eatcho Mania and energy are as apparent in the man as in his work. As we sit and shout over espresso beans being ground, Eatcho sips his drink and tells me that one reason that he's able to work intensely is that he's an insomniac, averaging just four or five hours of sleep a night. This also means that, while the bedroom studio setup is constricting to a lot of artists, he prefers it. "When I get up, it's good to have my work right there," he explains. "I mean, I have that thing where I'm constantly running upstairs to put my ideas down."