Your web site is titled Bunnywax.com. What’s the story behind the name?
Bunnywax was a compound name my wife Mary and I came up with back in 1999 when we decided to build a site showcasing our art. Mary was working on constructing hand-made stuffed rabbits with hand-embroidered removable organs and I was making a lot of sculpture coated in wax. A few years later, Mary began writing creatively so we archived her visual work on the site and it became my art site.
What do the figures and faces in your work represent?
I used to imagine these characters as psychological self-portraits. Lately I have been seeing the beings as more developed individuals. I’ve been exploring more open ended narratives trying to assemble vague stories.
What was the evolution of this style of work for you?
I graduated art school with a degree in painting. Even back then I was doing figurative work but quickly abandoned the backgrounds in favor of plywood cutout figures layered in paper pulp and painted. Eventually I began to move toward sculpture and pretty much focused on sculpture for years. I always drew, mostly in sketchbooks but now I probably draw more than sculpt.
How long have you been making art?
I began drawing from a very early age. My mom has drawings I did when I was three years old. They show creatures with big crazy teeth and spyrographic eyes. I never stopped making art so I guess you could say I have a good 40 years under my belt.
Where did you go to school?
Massachusetts College of Art in Boston.
What professors influenced you the most?
Marcia Lloyd was my first painting teacher. She emphasized that an artist should lead a full life and not get too isolated. She said to me that I may not be a painter. At the time I took it as a slight but I now see it was true. Painting was never really my calling. Barbara Grad, another painting teacher of mine, said that no matter what happens in your life, you must always make your work. No matter how difficult things become in the rest of your life, make the work and all will be well and balance will be maintained. She right, I know doing the work helps keep me sane.
Who are some of your favorite artists these days?
Casey Jex Smith, caseyjexsmith.com
Josh Keyes joshkeyes.net
Robert Hardgrave, farmerbobsfarm.com
Martha Sue Harris, marthasue.net
Andrew James Jones, stolenideas.com
Nate Williams, n8w.com
Scott Radke, scottradke.com
Joshua Krause, krauseart.com
Brendan Monroe, brendanmonroe.com
Kyle Ranson, kyledamonranson.com
Tim Sullivan, timsullivanart.com
Patricia Paccinini, patriciapiccinini.net
What are your influences as an artist?
All kinds of stuff. Strong art. Solid craft in any medium. Science Fiction, animals, plants and nature in general, politics, the human body, and architecture. Arty, weird movies like Cronenberg’s “Naked Lunch”, Julie Taymor’s “Titus”, Tom Tykwer’s “Run Lola Run”, Aranofsky’s “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream”, and Svankmeyer or Brothers Quay animation.
What bands are you currently listening to?
Recently: Thee More Shallows, cloudDEAD, Why?, Beck, Tortoise, Califone, The White Stripes, Rachels, Rodan, Slint, Husker Du, Buzzcocks, The Beta Band, Matmos, Boards of Canada, Ui, Miles Davis (from the 70’s mostly), Herbie Hancock, Funkadelic, Chicago Underground Duo, Spring Heel jack, Jaga Jazzist, Will Oldham, The Sword… I would say that music is pretty important for me, especially when making art.
What’s the last book you read?
Michael Chabon’s “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union” and I’m currently reading Dan Simmon’s “The Terror”. I dig the fiction.
What is a typical day for you as an artist?
I have a day job that is pretty flexible but can keep me busy most of the morning. I get into the studio in the afternoon and work till dinner usually. If I’m not going to an opening or doing something social I can work in the studio into the late evening.
How has being an artist influenced your personal relationships?
I’ve met many artists and folks who collect art as well as gallerists and curators. The all have one thing in common which is that they love art so you don’t need to explain your fetish to them. I have non-artist friends who know me in other aspects of my life and it’s usually a surprise to them that I make art.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? your art? How do you see it evolving?
I don’t know where I will be in ten years. Maybe the work will be larger, more complex. The discovery is the best part.
What shows have you been in lately?
I had a nice show with my buddy Martha Sue Harris at Receiver in SF in November. That’s a cool gallery and good folks to work with. I’m in a show of the Diane and Sandy Besser collection at the deYoung Museum in SF which is a big honor. There are some truly awesome artists in that collection. I have a show coming up at TAG in Nashville with Josh Keyes in February.
I saw your work down at Art Basel in the Red Dot Fair. I noticed you are in Swarm Gallery out of Oakland. Can you describe the scene in Oakland?
Oakland has been experiencing an art Renaissance of sorts over the last few years. All sorts of new galleries have opened. The scene has exploded into a collection of galleries that are quite varied and there are tons of artists here. I imagine Oakland is a little like Brooklyn. You have SF, like Manhattan as the big brother and Oakland, like Brooklyn is the petulant child with it’s own personality. A number of Oakland galleries have banded together to form a loose collection known as the Art Murmur which is basically all member galleries coordinating openings on the first Friday of the month. It’s a big social event and a great way to meet other artists and art lovers.
Do the sculptures work off the drawings or vice versa?
It works both ways, one does not necessarily precede the other.
Have you ever done any animation work? Do you ever see yourself working with digital media?
I feel like I’m just getting the hang of drawing and sculpting. Learning animation is such a huge undertaking. If I were seriously considering that, I would probably look for a collaborator.
I have seen your work all over lately and I’m sure you have done some traveling along the way. What cities have you been the most impressed with as far as art goes?
LA has some great art and galleries though I couldn’t imagine living there, too much traffic. NYC is art central but it’s way too expensive to be livable. Chicago is pretty great for art but it’s too cold. So I guess the Bay Area is where I should be. Great art. Great people. Great weather.
Do you have any advice for young artists just starting out? How should an artist approach galleries?
Go to a lot of galleries and learn who shows what kind of work. Go to openings and meet people. Get a good website together. Have a postcard of your work printed. Make sure it’s the best possible image of
your work and don’t be afraid to spend some money on a good photographer. When you are talking to someone and mention you are an artist, give that person a card with your name and website on it. If you want to approach a gallery make sure it’s a place that would be appropriate to show in.