Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Chase Tafoya Interview

So a few years ago I had the pleasure of connecting with Chase Tafoya. He was working on a solo exhibition in which he was painting his artist peers as portraits. I was surprised and honored to learn that he was doing a painting of me for the show. I also was stoked to see all the "Watership Down" reference that he added to the piece. It was almost a premonition to this show so many years in the future.
You can see chases work in a variety of arenas, check out his website here and some of the paintings below. But what blows my mind is his superb mastery of acrylics which is the medium I use as well, but man for the life of me I can't get them to look like that! So I will be happy to sit back and enjoy the richly rendered blends and invite you to eavesdrop on a little conversation I recently had with Chase:

GS: Okay, so lets get the nitty gritty done, where are you from and when were you born. I know, pretty basic but a good place to start

CT: All good bro. I was born in the small town of Merced, California. I've lived allover the state, but have recently moved back. It's a good place to stay focused. I was born August 14, 1983

GS: I read in an interview that you started making art at an early age, around 3 or so like myself. Did you find that it was just something you've been gravitating to all your life and were your parents supportive?

CT: Yes sir. I started drawing at 3 and have been doing it everyday since... literally. That's cool you started at 3 also. I read that most creative types start at age 3. Pretty crazy.

GS: Yeah man, I am not trying to be the pushy father or anything, but I brought my 3 year old son into the studio this weekend, gave him a panel and some selected paints and brushes and let him go at it. He sat painting focused for a good hour. I've never seen him sit still for so long.

CT: Yes. I feel a desire to constantly create. I started painting at 17, and each piece I approach to evoke an emotion, or embed a message with. Its a feeling that I believe only another artist can relate to. My parents were very influential in my art. Growing up they got me those little wooden art briefcases, instead of toys, for Christmas. I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for their support.

Ha ha that's rad! I'm sure its encoded in your son to be an artist too. My mom and dad both painted, and they would sit with me for hours as we created art. My pops used to draw the Ratfink character, so that was the first thing I really knew how to draw. Good times are right around the corner for you and boy to create and do art together!

GS: That's Awesome your parents are artists too and so supportive. Pretty rad your dad exposed you to Rat Fink, I had to find out about him on my own. I was super stoked when you agreed to be in the show. I am also curious if you have an attachment to the story "Watership Down" previous to the invitation, which I think I know the answer to but just for our readers.

CT: Dude, It's an honor for me to be a part of it! I was stoked when I got the invitation. O yeah, I have a great attachment to the story. I grew up watching the movie, and later in my life I picked up the book. I love the hidden undertones, and symbology in it. I know it influenced my work, and its a story that was ahead of its time. As an artist, I'm constantly reminded to keep pushing the envelope and overcome my artistic struggles. A little deep, sorry. ha ha

GS: no, I agree the story is timeless and about pushing through oppression and defeating evil to just live a better life. The dark undertones grabbed my rebellious side as a kid which is why I was so interested in the character of The Black Rabbit of Inle´, but as I got older I realized that he just represented what was inevitable and really made me think what is on the other side of death.

CT: I greatly agree. Death will eventually come knocking, calling, or in this case.... hopping.

GS: Tell me about the piece you submitted for the show, It is a beautiful piece and I know you select your subjects for various reasons. Who is the model and how did it go selected the elements you wanted to include in the piece?

CT: Thanks man that means a lot. My piece is basically my version of the black rabbit of Inle, or "Death". Most cultures see Death as this skeletal type figure with a sickle, or an old man with a beard. As I started researching more, I found out that allover the world different cultures have a Death character, and some included women. A banshee in Irish Folklore is an example of this. The story goes, that the banshee disguises herself as a beautiful woman, and seduces you into getting close to her. As you approach, she takes your life. The model I used is Anita Varvatos, and I felt was the best example for conveying this. The butterflies that hover above her head, in my painting, are believed to be a persons soul in Japanese Mythology. So I saw this woman being surrounded by the souls she has collected. The crane is symbol for death in other cultures, so I added a crane with its wings fully spread and close to her, so she could appear to be an angel. More like the angel of death. In Watership Down, the black rabbit appears in the dark, when the moon is out, so I painted a dark cemetery background with a full moon. She also has tattoos on her hands of an hourglass, a sickle, and other symbols for death, or something coming to an end. She also wears rosary beads, with a lucky rabbits foot on the end. Perhaps a gook luck charm for herself?

GS: Wow, incredible research my friend on an incredible piece. Your attention to detail is phenomenal and it's a refreshing take on this theme. You all should do yourselves a favor and come down to Gallery 1988 Los Angeles this Friday night to see this piece by Chase Tafoya and so many more by your favorite artists from around the globe. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me Chase, I appreciate it.

CT: Anytime Greg. It was my pleasure. I want to say thank you again for letting me be a part of this amazing show. I can't wait to see what everyone comes up with!

Well We'll see y'all Friday night at Gallery 1988 for "INLE". Don't miss this one.

(here's some more work by Chase:)

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