Artist interview with Jade Lowder from Theory Magazine Issue Two.
Let’s start with your background in art. How did you begin to paint.
I always drew from a really early age. My mom always brags about how she has this picture that I drew when I was four. It’s of Godzilla crushing telephone poles. I don’t know if she even has it anymore, but she’s always like, “That’s the first drawing he ever did.” I started out drawing cartoons and comic books. I mimicked Alex Ross, who is this really great comic artist. I got into him when I was in middle school. Then I started drawing comic books and making up my own, seeing images and manipulating them. Similar to how the Renaissance painters always copied the masters, I would copy comic book art. Comic books were huge for me when I was a kid, even into high school and starting college, I drew a lot of comics. I still read a lot of comics. I’ve got them lying all around here: BPRD, Hellboy. A lot of Mike Mignola. I’m obsessed with it.
Did you go straight into art when you went to college?
I was actually in film for a year. In high school I did all the art classes I could. I went through AP Art and all that good stuff. Once I got to college, I thought, “Maybe I want to do something else for a little while.” So I tried film, and I learned that a film degree doesn’t really prepare you for anything. You can either be a film bitch, like you’re a production assistant, or a director. For a director, as a rookie, you’re never going to get a good project. Everything else you might want to do in film you have to have a specialized degree. So I was like, “Well, I’ll just go back to art.”
Once you started art school, where did you draw inspiration from to get to where you are now?
When I started back into the art program, I looked at Chris Turbuck’s stuff a lot. I think he was doing his thesis for his MFA right as I was starting art school. Just the idea that you could take comics and turn it into a fine art medium versus where it’s usually just percieved as a narrative or book. The fact that it could transpose, that was really interesting. Then I got into artists that professors recommended to me. And they recommended that I do my own research into other artists. I found a painter Esau Andrews, I started following him really heavily, and he introduced me to this art style called “Dark Pop.” I started following that, and it brought me to this other artist named Jeremy Geddes. His stuff is really desolate. He always features this cosmonaut floating in this photo-realistic background. It’s fantastical, dark, and gritty. I was drawn to that style. I started developing my own ideas mixed in with music. Music was always right there along with it. Bands like Interpol and their album covers always inspired me.
What are some of your other musical influences?
Right now I’m really into Post-Rock, so like Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, This Will Destroy You, Russian Circles, also a lot of instrumental stuff. Lately I’ve been getting into Amon Tobin. I love Amon Tobin.
Can you talk a bit about the theme of apocalypse that is present your work?
Yeah, I can tell my apocalypse story. When I was a kid, I grew up really strict Catholic, Latin Catholic, like when you go to church, there is no English. It’s all in Latin. It’s as hardcore as you can get. Right before the year 2000, my parents, as well as my entire church started freaking out. They were doomsaying and prepping us for the apocalypse. Being the kid that was always asking questions like, “What’s death like?” and all this morbid stuff, I asked, “What’s the end of the world going to be like?” My mom flat out told me that it was going to be perpetual darkness. You wouldn’t be able to see outside. That you wouldn’t be able to breathe the air, and that we would have to stay inside the whole time and pray. My grandmother was going to come to the door as a demon. She only ever used this example, but I understood what she was saying. There will be demons, but they will be disguised as people that you know and trust, but you can’t let them in the house. She only ever used the example of my grandmother. So for a long time I just never trusted my grandmother. I was like, “I think you might be a demon.” So they told me all this, and the worst part was like, “Man, I just don’t want to be that bored. It seems like I’m just going to be doing an awful lot of praying, and praying is really boring.” That was the main thing. I just don’t want to be bored in the apocalypse. That sucks. I had these really horrible anxiety attacks every time the new year came around. When 2000 came around, my parents seemed totally fine, not phased by it at all. But I’m having these hardcore panic attacks the week before. I can’t breathe, I’m up all night, I can’t sleep. I’m pacing the house the entire night and I’m like eleven or twelve. I couldn’t take it. It was way too much for my brain to comprehend. They were constantly telling me the world was going to end, and that I need to be prepared.
When Harold Camping started all his bullshit two years ago, I all of a sudden got these panic attacks again, and I couldn’t rationalize why I was so afraid of it, because I knew it was bullshit. But the more I thought about it, the more I’d be panicking. The day came. It was May 21st, 2010. I couldn’t sleep. I stayed up all night. I walked around Bozeman all day and night, then the sun came up, and I saw a delivery truck making it’s rounds. I was just like, “Oh my god, what a load of shit. That’s why I was stressed out?” Then I started making work about the apocalypse.
Do you think the world is going to end this year, in 2012?
(Laughs) Actually, the more I make work about the apocalypse, the more I understand about the apocalypse. The word “apocalypse” doesn’t actually mean the end of the world, what it means is “To reveal what was hidden.” That is the literal translation. In The Revelation it never actually says that the world will cease to exist. It simply talks about how the world might change, or derive something new, or there might be an enlightenment and a secret will be told.
What is now interesting to me about the apocalypse is different than end-of-the-world ideas like Mad Max, and all that kind of shit. Those movies, the great THX 1138 and A Boy And His Dog initially drew me to the subject. Now it’s more of a conceptual idea about the fact that we are living in an apocalypse, but we are two dumb to admit it. To say, “Yeah, there is a revelation going on, and there is a need to start conceptualizing what that means.” We just don’t want to say it, because we all assume that the apocalypse means the end of the world versus that it could just be time to wake up.
So is that the idea behind the blurred censorship aspect of your work, that we are blind to the apocalypse happening in front of us?
Yeah, the blurred imagery came as an idea of how to break the syntax. Which is what I perceived the apocalypse, or the end of the world, to be. It’s a way of taking all the ideologies behind buildings or behind telephone poles or anything, and destroying what they mean. So for an overpass, which is one of my paintings, it’s seen as this tube, just shooting Americans across this thing into the asshole of the world. As soon as you take away the neccesity of that, the end of the world being that break in reading it, what does it mean?
At first, I didn’t have any sort of pixelation or any sort of blurring. It was just that object. I would just say, “This is the apocalypse,” or “This is the end of the world” as the break in syntax. Now I’m using the pixelation as a way of visually representing that break. It can mean the apocalypse. It can mean censorship of something you’re not supposed to see. It can mean a low-res image. It can be a lot of things. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one way or another. It is just a way of stopping you thinking about a landscape or object, and making you think about something else.
If you were to predict an apocalypse, where everything ends, and everyone was blown to bits, how would you envision that happening?
Oh man, my younger brother is always talking about this, and is really serious about it. He thinks there is going to be a zombie apocalypse. When all that crazy stuff that happened in Miami this year, with the face-eating and the bath salts, he was freaking out. He was like, “Man, I’m heading to Havre. I’m going to fortify a home.” I was like, “Dude, you’re not going to do any of those things.”
I’m not sure. The most poetic way that it would happen is something like in THX 1138 where we work ourselves to death, or we capitalize ourselves to death. Everything that we hold to be true in our society becomes our eventual downfall. I feel like that would be the most poetic, but I’m not sure that would be the most logistical. In the end, I think it’s pretty close to what Slavoj Zizek says. He agrees that the apocalypse is more a conceptual re-imagining of the world, in that it will just be a ceasing of how we perceive the world. He has said that viewing the world is like natural disasters. You can’t ever really plan, because the world has ended and rebirthed itself already – like with the dinosaurs – It’s already done that. So nature is, in essence, chaos. You can’t plan for chaos. That anybody would ever try to is pointless. Just knowing that, I think nature would be the one to do it, like Yellowstone blows up and takes us all out. It’s the chaos of it all.
If somebody wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?
Just the Tip.
What’s going on with Others: The Bozeman Contemporary Arts Coalition?
We started it, myself, Stacey Ray, Will Curtis, Jaclyn Guenthner, Aaron Murphy, and Rollin Beamish. We currently have a great studio space in Four Corners where some of us work and we meet out there every other week. Our main goal is to have it evolve without us, because we are all doing this as a way to keep the conversation going after school. That’s what we want it to be. Another option for people graduating or staying in town to have. Along with meeting and encouraging each other to continue to make work and critiquing the work, we have started a series of art shows that we call “A Quiet Evening at Home.” The general idea being, a chance to showcase two artists’ works in a very intimate setting. It’s our way of testing the waters, to see what kind of a reception we can generate.
Thus far, the shows have all been awesome, we got a great turnout to all of the shows we have put together so far. It has shown us that there is definitely an audience for what we want to do versus what is already out there, the “Bozeman scene,” or the “Art Walk” scene.
I went to the Art Walk and it was so bad. It was just pure commodity, everything was catered towards touristy, cowboy crap. No real conversations were even hinted at between artist and viewer – it was just a bunch of ego stroking all around. I couldn’t even take it. I can’t do it. I tried. I gave it my best shot.
You can view more of Jade’s work and get in touch with him on his website.