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Feature Mon Oct 20 2008

An Interview with Artist Joey D.

When I asked Joey D. about interviewing in Gaper's Block, he warned me that, though he'd try to answer my questions as best he could, he wasn't "so great with words." Silver-tongued or not, Joey's skills are undeniable as he incorporates everything from acrylics to stop signs in his eye-popping art. One of Chicago's most prolific 'urban' artists, Joey's work has been seen everywhere from State Street's You Are Beautiful mural to Juxtapoz magazine. His latest show, the group effort We Need Each Other, opened last week and runs through November. Joey was gracious enough to set his descriptive doubts aside and share with us his thoughts on process, labels, and his plans for Halloween.

Last August, your solo show at Rotofugi, "Mooks," got some pretty positive buzz. Were you pleased with the results? More importantly, where did your mom get the amazing egg rolls that showed up half-way through the opening?

Yeah I was really pleased -- the turn out was great. I loved seeing my all my family and friends come out to show some support. I was also surprised by the number of people who showed up that I didn't know or was meeting for the first time in person. I'm not exactly sure where she got the eggrolls. They pretty much sell those at all Filipino stores in Chicago and the Chicagoland area.

"Mooks" featured some interesting use of found materials, such as a high-chair seat and a stop sign. Do you frequently use alternative media?

I'm not a big fan of canvas. I like using found materials because I appreciate the different textures and colors and sometimes even the smells that they have. I don't paint too many backgrounds in my pieces and focus more on the characters. I find lots of my stuff just walking through alleys, dumpster diving, thrift stores and garage sales.

box plane

Do you have a particular process or method when creating your pieces?

Well, I try to doodle as much as I can. On the train, at work, at a meeting, and I pretty much save everything. For my first solo show I busted out every single sketchbook and scrap paper I had ever saved to come up with ideas. As far as the actual painting part, I feel that my technique is constantly changing. I use mainly acrylics -- the super cheap ones that are less than a dollar.

You recently took part in OhNoDoom!'s "We Need Each Other" show; how did you get involved in that? What was it like to be a part of something involving so many people?

One of the great things about Chicago is that it's big, but it's not too big. A bunch of us have been in the same shows for a while now, so there's a pretty big circle of art friends that we've created in just the last couple years. We try to look out for each other and support each other as much as we can. The "We Need Each Other" show was a great example of this -- no egos, and everyone working together to create one unified collaborative piece that represents Chicago.

OhNoDoom! describes the participants in "We Need Each Other" as "urban artists" - do you define yourself as an urban artist? Do you think titles like this limit artists?

Yeah, I dunno. I'm not one for labels in general. I don't drink or smoke, and I don't think I'm a fan of the 'straight edge' label that lots of people give me. Am I an urban artist? I don't know. Maybe some of the stuff I do, but yeah, I think it does limit the artist and also his audience, which is not good. Just plain artist works for me.

Are you influenced by any one's work?

I grew up with a lot of tv and cartoons. I also went through my comic book stage and video game stage. There are so many artists that have influenced me but a few that stand out are Dr. Seuss, Tex Avery, Max Fleischer, John Kricfalusi, Todd McFarlane, Sam Keith, Jhonen Vasquez, Rene Magritte, Ivan Albright and a whole bunch of others.

follow the leader

How do you feel about putting street art into galleries?

I'm a big fan of street art and really appreciate it when I see it walking around the city. I don't really do it that much myself, but a lot of my friends do, and I think its great that they are able to share their talent to a whole new audience through shows. I think its good that they're not limited to just the streets and can expand their canvases beyond that.

Did you have any formal schooling in art?

I've been drawing for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories are drawings of E.T. and of dinosaurs. I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to study traditional animation and 3D animation, and I regret not taking any painting classes. As far as painting goes, I kinda just figured a way to do it that would be good enough for me. I do wish I had better technical skills, so maybe someday I'll try to figure that out...

Is there any one work in particular you're most proud to have made?

Not really. I've learned to part with my art and to not get too attached. Once I finally finish a piece I just move on and think of the next thing to make.

...but we don't have a clown statue

Do you feel that Chicago is pretty fostering place for an artist like yourself?

Yeah, I do feel like it's a good place to make a name for yourself. I don't think it's quite there yet as being recognized nationwide, but there is a good art community here, and if you can make art for your friends to appreciate, that's good enough for me.

If you weren't working here, where would you be?

Well, I was born here and lived in the area my whole life. All my family is still here so I don't see myself moving anytime soon.

Switching gears a little, are you ready for this election to be over with yet?

I feel that everyone on both sides is too focused on what the other party is doing and isn't worrying about their own issues. Lots of hating and generalizing going around and I'm about fed up. Yeah, I'm ready for it to be over and I'll leave it at that.

Bacon or tofu?

Bacon. Didja not see the meatarian painting I did?

What are you doing this Halloween?

I'm gonna have a Halloween party at my mansion but first off I gotta hunt down the person or persons who stole the scarecrow right off my front yard. Wow... unbelievable.

Joey D.'s work can currently be seen in the "We Need Each Other" exhibition, an exquisite-corpse style exhibition curated by OhNoDoom!, on display through November. You can view his work at www.angrybrownboy.com. He would like his scarecrow back.

About the Author

Jaime Calder was born and raised in the south suburbs. She has been a Featherproof Books intern, a temp and builder of ramps for skateboarding cats. Jaime presently helps out at MAKE: A Chicago Literary Magazine, and talks a lot about that one time she met Ira Glass.

 
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Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

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