EK Interview: Derek Gores

art blog - Derek Gores - Empty Kingdom
The fourth and final artists that Empty Kingdom is proud to bring to SXSW ReCREATE:ATX will be Derek Gores.  The fantastic master of the collage will undoubtedly be putting something stunning and novel up on the walls in Austin Texas.  Derek understands that this is about community, encouraging anyone near the event to bring something for him to include, a bold offer from a man who knows what art is truly about.
Tell us about yourself, what part of New York are you from?  What did you miss most from New York when you left for RISD?  What do you miss most now that you are in Florida?
Born in Westchester County… I don’t recall a thing! I shortly after moved to Massachusetts. New England roots, love of history, it’s all in there. I definitely missed the seasons, as most people say. And I noticed a harmony with nature up there. I remember my mom and dad putting in a slate rock walkway up to our house. Something about the moss growing around the stones… the colors, the textures, the right way for things to be.
In Florida, I initially despised all the stucco walls, and what I perceived as a lack of history. Of course now I love that our country is big enough to have pockets of characteristics. Physical stuff, weather, interests. Makes the place an endless adventure.

art blog - Derek Gores - Empty Kingdom

You have art of many differing media, Collage, Mixed Media, Abstract and Drawing.  Can you tell us something that you have learned from each of these disparate media?  Which do you find most easy to express yourself with?  Why do you suppose that is?

Hmm m m I started with drawing, sitting on the edge of the bed drawing additions to the lexicon of intergalactic bounty hunters circa 1977. Drawing is where I’d go even now to create new objects or characters. When I say mixed media, I really mean water plus other stuff. That’s where I express myself the fastest… or where I get to a new place in my head in the fewest moves. The water makes it too quick to control, so you can cut out the middle man of the intellect trying to control my mark-making. It has to flow right off the fingertips. Abstract… I think my first abstract love was Eddie Van Halen’s guitar patterns. Later found Franz Kline and others. The play of tensions vs. releases, “elastic space” I suppose, intoxicates in a way that recognizable objects cannot by themselves. Egon Schiele manages to utilize all those things, which I’d say are the same sensibilities found in today’s fashion design. Collaging the figure, especially where I let shadows and shapes run together, in a “line absent, idea present” manner, lets me put all my interests together. Collage has an additional form of letting go of control- the history each piece brings with it. The references, memories triggered, the mashup of random elements to create the tease of a potential story.

art blog - Derek Gores - Empty Kingdom

What is something you experienced recently that influenced you so greatly that it inspired a piece of art?  What piece of art did it inspire?  What did it trigger in you emotionally?  How did your emotion manifest in the piece?

Life life life. My study of the figure, of the female form, has become the study of ‘Fierce’. Many details in my life have been pointing me in this direction. My kids. Relationships. Mad Men. My favorite artists. I’m drawn by honesty and strength and playfulness and beauty, but beauty by and for the subject alone. I’m looking to see where the beauty of the body and of the mind can overlap with feminism and I never ever ever want to objectify. I am very much in the middle of these thoughts, so not sure where they go. All my work this past year has all this in it. I never want to lose the silly and absurd.

art blog - Derek Gores - Empty Kingdom

In many ways we are defined by the things that we love, the things that we make a concerted effort to set aside time for, that we take the time to ritualize.  They can be as private as stretching naked after a shower or as prosaic as making tea.  Tell us about a ritual you have.  What about it do you find particularly enjoyable?  Why does it have value to you?

Walking or running… Whenever I surround myself white noise, usually in some form of travel, driving, etc., I have a million ideas. Running on my favorite trails does the trick. My dad went to art school, was later a floral designer, and one of my lasting memories is his description of enjoying the shapes of converging triangles formed by watching power lines overlap as he drove down the road. My dad died several years ago, so it makes me quite happy to have such a vivid and fresh spark that is that easy to find on any given day, running or driving down the road.

art blog - Derek Gores - Empty Kingdom

ReCREATE ATX is an event that will provide an opportunity to reframe the discussion of public art in a community setting.  It will be a humanizing experience for the community, allowing them to interact with artists and be given a window into the meaning of the pieces of art.  What obstacles do you see that lie in the way of public art becoming more accepted in this country?  What obstacles lie on the side of the artists?  What lie on the side of the community?  How can we reconcile these issues and make more public, more accessible art, so that our cities are more vibrant and beautiful?

Any time we can give people a peek inside the process we get closer. I love that stuff. While I’m in Austin, I’d love for people to help out in the art. Feel free to bring a photo for me to add into the art.  Many cities are already doing a great job of letting public art, street art, be part of the beauty of the neighborhood. Some do it as part of documenting history, with key local moments depicted. Murals also have become a mainstream way of decorating, depicting activity and celebration as a way of fostering economic growth. And some have fully embraced the raw expression of artists, in the form of open walls. Some towns form an ‘outdoor Museum’ concept.  Obstacles have included going through the process of redefining rules for murals- which in many towns were lumped in with store signage rules – (typically like 10-30% of ONE wall of a building.)  The gauntlet a city makes you go through is worth the effort, and understandable to find that balance of free expression but also curated beauty.  But the times are clearly a-changin’… only 10 years ago this dialogue would have been about ‘vandalism’, whereas now the entire conversation has shifted to being called murals or public art.

How to do it? Form a mural committee in your area with a cross-section of the right folks. Artists, business and building owners. Gather stories and pictures and data of how it has worked to beautify (AND spark economy!) in other cities. Then, develop a vision for your own area. Get artists to submit portfolios. Show how it will be curated and managed, even sponsored. Develop the win/win. It takes a few people translating and being the glue between the artist and the city. The ultimate is to have a free wall or to be given trust. It can be done.

art blog - Derek Gores - Empty Kingdom

How will your collage technique work on a big wall?  Can you give us a sneak peak into your mind?  Do you have any idea about what you’ll be doing when you get there?  Or are you waiting until you’re standing in front of the wall to start putting the pieces together?

On a big wall I tryyy to scale up my tools. Full pages, posters, pre printed schematics, big stuff. I plan some and enjoy the ensuing chaos once I start. Sneak peek? Hm m m m m There will be a figure, that living, breathing being hopefully . . . and there will be gadgetry and schematics and design and cats and public jokes to myself and origami and legos and song lyrics and Bigness and absurdity. Clear enough?

art blog - Derek Gores - Empty Kingdom

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