(For those who love to read, here is more of the interview I did for the 1:AM blog)
When did Chamber Made begin? How long ago did you and Mike Gallegos start doing canvases together?
About 2 years ago. I don’t think it had ever occurred to us, because our styles were so different, and by that time, I was back living in SF, so the opportunity to see each other was limited. But the idea kept coming back to me, and I thought it could be a really interesting experiment. So, I painted a portrait of he and I, leaving room for him to do his thing, and mailed it out to him. When I saw what he had done with it, it blew me away. I had only intended to do that one painting, but after that first one, we were both hooked, so we kept it going.
So you collaborate primarily through the mail?
Yes. Although sometimes Mike will fly out to work on the bigger pieces. We generally shoot for two layers each, so ours is a life of post office lines and airport security.
What are the challenges working so far away from each other?
I think working from a distance was a hidden blessing for us. We weren’t around to try and direct each other, so the collaboration evolved as more of an organic freestyle, each of us working independently and surprising each other with our moves. It made it more of a candid visual dialogue, a discussion in paint. I really like that about it.
So you never plan your paintings out?
Maybe one in ten are planned. One of us will get an idea we just can’t live without, and we’ll go that route, but there have been a few times where that approach has backfired on us. As a rule, we work better when we minimize our expectations of what the other will do. We’ll just agree on a topic beforehand and then riff on that subject, responding to each other visually. The surprise becomes a bit of an addiction. It’s a very exciting way to work, because the process has a life of it’s own. It’s an exercise in letting go and trusting in an unforeseen future.
Can you tell me a little about your take on Nature’s Revenge, and in particular your painting A Suicide?
We saw Nature’s Revenge as more than a revenge fantasy. It was more real than that. We wanted to address it as the inescapable fate that it is, the day when our greed and gluttony catch up with us, and our species is erased from the world forever. Black birds became a central theme in our symbolism, not only as an ominous harbinger of death, but we also wanted to present birds as modern incarnations of dinosaurs, a nod to the pending extinction of our own species. All during our preparations for the show, the gulf oil spill crisis was playing out, day after day after day. It was with a tremendous sense of sadness and outrage that we created this body of work, because we knew how ugly it all was, how deep the wounds we were inflicting on the planet were, and that the price for our crimes would be the ultimate one. The painting A Suicide is about exactly that, the collective drive to bring about our own destruction. It’s the story of a savage end to a savage species.
Do you still do solo work?
Yes. We both keep our solo thing going. I think it’s important to maintain that balance. Solo work is an opportunity to make something of a totally personal nature, and I think that’s an important outlet.
What’s next for Chamber Made?
Well, we’ll have some prints in the December show at 1:AM, and 3 paintings in the December show at Fabric8. And we’re working on some other future shows. Doing Nature’s Revenge was an awesome experience, and we were really glad to have a platform to express our anger and disillusion about the destruction of our planet’s ecosystems, but I think our next body of paintings will offer a little more optimism. But, then again, the paintings make themselves as much as we make them, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see.