Monsters All Monsters
This is an animation of Jim Shaw singing to my studio. I’m watching on webcam from the past, before I moved back to LA to attend UCLA for my MFA My friends call me Mike Kelly, but obviously I’ve never considered showing under that name. Moving to LA I wondered how I could make art in a city with Mike Kelley in it. I hoped to show with him someday, or get an introduction to have a short conversation, maybe even a collaboration! Then he was gone before any of that was possible. I listened to an early Destroy All Monsters recordings. I guess I just thought that Jim and I could have a thing too. I made this clip and never asked him how he felt about that.
When I decided to carry a phone that is a camera that is a computer in my pocket, my painting practice was never going to be the same. My digital sketchbook was connected to the world. It could process and filter imagery in both chaotic and intentional ways far more powerfully than I ever could before. My sketchbooks no longer needed translating into my work. Through reproductions and video I could integrate it directly. Occasionally, I miss making a classic oil painting on linen canvas. I also kind of miss sending and receiving handwritten letters. I’m not about to go back to that either.
It is important to me to express a harmony between digital and analog. I’m not interested in one versus the other. I don’t need robots to save the day, and I’m not willing to put my faith in a bunch of bow and arrow shooting Ewoks to take down the space militaries of the Galactic Empire. My paint isn’t there to express some sense of nostalgia about the past, and the digital collaging isn’t science saving the world, nor is it some cynical or banal treatment of computerized possibilities. It’s all just work. It’s painting. It’s the narcissist in me making a thing, saying it stands in proxy for me, please love it.
All of my abstractions are portraits. Characters, personalities. I started to refer to them as the masks. I’m so tired of Google trying to get me to switch my YouTube name from “dallapozza” to my legal name. “Dallapozza” is me too. Search the internet and there I am- Twitter, Instagram, Xbox, Tumblr, Playstation, and a lot of other places I probably forgot about. I am a completely different person with my brothers than I am with my wife, or artist friends, or with mentors and educators, collectors, gallerists, or my parents. I’m not lying to any of them.
I saw the masks also as a way of achieving a certain kind of empathy for my deceased parents as I approach the ages they were when cancers killed them. I see myself in these faces. I see them. I can try my father’s face on. That’s not always a good thing. I notice that all the big Hollywood movies these days feature heroes that put on masks, not to conceal their identities, but to become something grander, or more powerful. Iron Man’s robot suit. Batman’s capacity to scare the guilty. I’m a hero when I’m someone else in a video game. In a shooter the screen itself is my mask. I’m even more behind a mask when I have to be an adult.
I guess I kind of lost religion a few years ago. I mourn for it. Missing from my life are it’s mythologies, it’s community, even it’s rituals that didn’t seem so strange if you didn’t think too hard about them. Painting is a mechanism for considering the sublime. An attempt at synthesizing a spirituality that might still work for me. Maybe I might find my dead parents as they are now. Or a way for my wife and I to never be separated. I am not very hopeful. At any rate making pretty pictures is likely the least productive way to live forever. Sure, maybe the images will outlive me, but I would probably trade them places.
Catch a glimpse at Michael’s single channel video, Falconstone.
Teaching a painting from nature class in UCLA’s botanical gardens, I vandalized the landscape in soft charcoal as I moved between students. At one point I drew the Millennium Falcon spaceship from Star Wars on a round flat rock and then video taped the whole mess. Later I used AfterEffects to try to stabilize the shaky cam and have the crude drawing spit out glowing blue rocket fire. I showed my composition to a friend proficient in motion graphics. He complained that it was pretty crappy. I am fine with someone else making me some cinematic space adventures. What I know about is just barely being in control of something, and having that be good enough.
Featured Video: Michael John Kelly, Monsters All Monsters, Single channel video, 1:04, 2012
Featured Image: Michael John Kelly, Mask 12, oil, acrylic, Cel-Vinyl, pigment print collage on panel, 80″ x 80″, 2013
All images and video ©Michael John Kelly