EK Interview: Derek Gores


Derek Gores has a two of his Full Volume series currently hanging at 111 Minna in San Francisco for the Empty Kingdom Art Show that goes from now until July!  His art address sexuality, fashion, and culture, check out his interview:

Previously featured:

May 2014
March 2013
April 2012
March 2011
August 2010
TOP 100 of 2012
TOP 100 of 2010

What new techniques have you been experimenting with? How have you been maturing personally? How do you see those two parallel each other? How are they divergent?

As I start to feel too comfortable or in control I inject randomness or blindness into the process. Lately that has included stacking several pages together and cutting or ripping them all at once and using the results. Lots of my art process development is about planning and controlling juuuust enough to be able to squeeze everything I can out of improvisation, and be present in the moment. Probably the same for my ‘personal maturity’ also.

Separately, I’ve been doing lots more wet charcoal drawings. They are my antidote to all the layers of the collage. I go for the fewest charcoal strokes possible I suppose.


Much of your work is about sexuality, whether openly or by degrees, high heels, fashion, nudes. How have you seen the attitude towards sex change throughout your life? Do you think we have regressed sexually in the past years? Can a society be more sexualized in it’s messaging and simultaneously less sexually liberated? And do you think we are?

I can’t speak for All of Society, but I feel that the exploration of beauty, nudity, sex can exist in a healthy and positive manner. Like anything, it can be pursued for good or evil, and I choose the good. This is certainly a fascinating time to be witnessing and involved in the dialogue. It is wonderful that today we have sites like missrepresentation.org, and actors like Jennifer Lawrence and others calling out sexism and objectification of women. My initial attraction to fashion was that I find the photography leans heavily on some of my favorite parts of art history- abstract painters like Franz Kline, Diebenkorn, combined with the sensuality and raw energy of the German/Austrian expressionists Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. The combination of angular, harsh shapes setting up the fluid, curvy flesh makes a pretty good run at capturing life in a two dimensional medium.
I do enjoy some of the sensibilities in the fashion industry- the drama, the expression, the contrasts of forms – and the depiction of strength. I do not support the factions that use under age or malnourished models, or anything fake.


As an artist, what message do you think your work is broadcasting in regards to the body and the ideals surrounding it? Do you think the ideals of your work are different for male and female subjects? How about male and female viewers?

I make art of what I find mysterious for myself, and worth investigating. I tiptoed into this realm when I started several years ago, because I’m well aware that I’m a man and I had no interest in objectifying anyone. But I quickly found a deep and positive response to the artwork. Often I see people who are initially hooked by what seems like familiar beauty, and then they linger at a deeper psychological intensity. Surprisingly it has been men and women equally.

I consider myself a Feminist. I love hearing people talk about the psyche of the subject in the art. A Russian woman recently said to me at an exhibit, while first apologizing that her English made it difficult to express, that, “… the woman is daring us, and strong; also cautious, vulnerable, but craves this moment, coming together, surrounded by chaos.” That sounded perfect to me. I’m very happy that it isn’t a cartoonish, one note feeling. Whether working from life, or from my imagination, I’m after the real and multi-layered moment.

My ideals are influenced by strong people I’ve admired in life, in art, and also attributes I hope to foster for my three daughters.


Besides black and white, you use a lot of colors of passion, red, pink, is there an inherent meaning to your color selection? Have you studied color theory? Have you any interest in it or do you grant it any credence?

I’ve studied just the basics. I go mostly by instinct, and often against the obvious. Lots of times I find a color combination I like from a surfboard or poster or dress and force fit it onto the composition I’m working on. Painter Dean Richardson, a mentor 20 years ago, encouraged introducing ‘acid’ colors to a harmonious but stale color scheme as a way to jolt some real life into the proceedings, and I still run on that.


Where does the name for your Full Volume series come from? Can you tell us a little about the pieces? What is going on in them? Who is the subject?

Well I name most of my pieces by finding stray text in the artwork after they are done. I choose something that has different meaning than the magazine’s original context. ‘Full Volume’ was found in there, probably from a shampoo ad. Upon further review, I like the idea that the heroine in the image is still, quiet, but loud with strength and intensity. I like the feeling that something just happened or is about to happen. It makes us wonder what is going on just off the edge of the canvas.

The first piece had a new kind of transparency for me, an additional level of confusing space, and felt like I could make a series of it. Making a series is extra fun and useful as a creative strategy, like something Brian Eno might insist on me. Useful because, as I become more familiar with the shapes and tones needed to form this particular figure, I accelerate– and get to that abstract place faster each time. I’ve done about 20 now, throwing myself curve balls of different landscapes, color directions, etc., While most of my pieces come from photo reference I shoot, working with a model and building a space myself, this one is mostly from my head. The iconic and symmetrical pose lends itself to pulling from 35ish years of drawing the figure. Now that I think of it, I like that I go back and forth between studying a real person, physically and psychologically, and other pieces where I can only go from memory or intuition.


What are you working on next?

I have a series in mind inspired by a visit to the Vienna Museum of Natural History. Also influenced by my guitar teacher. You’ll know it when you see it. Me too!

I’ve also opened a new studio in ‘EGAD’ for Eau Gallie Arts District, Melbourne, Florida. A diverse group of artists, brewmasters, musicians, curators, florists, developers and more are having a blast making the area awesome. Any artists out there interested in living near the beach, with wide open blue skies, surrounded by Space Program engineering intellect, just a few hours from Miami’s art scene– get in touch with me. We are definitely importing. Check eaugalliearts.com.

What are the best 3 sandwiches?

My grandmother’s hot pastrami sandwich.
Meatball sub, Satellite Beach, FL, circa ’89, though now I’d fit spinach and everything else on there.
My youngest daughter makes a mean peanut butter sandwich (extra crunchy).