When I did My Mirage, I was mining my own history and my friends’ histories from the 60s—I did a lot of research for it, but a lot of it came out of that. And, that was followed by the [Dream Drawings]. I started having dreams that were pretty interesting, had interesting artworks in them, so that’s why I started drawing my dreams, because I was going to make the artworks. So that’s how that dream-oriented stuff started. I’ve figured out that the core of dream logic is that it’s an occult way of telling you something by not just lecturing you directly, but by showing you in a satirical way or a symbolic way with things that are formally similar but not exactly the same. You know, the cigar that is not a cigar, and the cigar that is a cigar depending.
I gave up trying to write them down because a lot of times they’re in the middle of the night and you can’t possibly read what you wrote, or you don’t want to turn on the light. Also, the process of remembering the dream verbally or in written form can erase elements of the dream, so I started recording them into a tape recorder and later transcribing them from there. But if too much time passes … the thing that you remembered when you woke up visually might disappear. In terms of being motivated to begin them [the drawings], if I’ve got a goal to produce a show, some idea might come up that I might normally put on the back burner but if it’s easy enough to get done, and it makes sense with everything else in the show, I’ll go ahead and I’ll do it without thinking about it for six months, and hopefully those aren’t bad pieces.
Well, like with My Mirage, I’d say, oh well this one takes place in the water, so I’ll do this as a watercolour. Or for example I wanted to do something in the style of this 60s woodblock printer, so I did a piece that involved puppets and wood and cutting wood. So sometimes there is a root aspect to the medium. But others are practical. Like if you’re doing a giant banner on a backdrop, then oil paints aren’t going to work. If you’ve got something that you want to turn around quickly, I use acrylic … my two favourite paint methodologies are gouache or oil. Before acrylics existed, gouache is what illustrators who were on deadline would use. You can get a lot more precise with little tiny details with gouache than you can in oils, because the brushes don’t, they just kind of get droopy with oils. Pencil used to be my favourite but then I started getting pains in my arm from using them.
Well I forgot to move. I think if you were an ambitious artist in 1976 maybe you would have moved to New York, I mean, our friends Tony Oursler and John Miller moved back there, but since we weren’t from there we didn’t feel obliged. The art world was basically dead in the water when we got out of college so it didn’t much matter that you were in LA because what were you going to get out of being in New York? And I sort of fell into working in the special effects world. Other people might have fallen into doing set décor, or, there are a lot of different art-related jobs, now there are even more. Now our neighbourhood is just chock-full of people, I don’t know how they can afford a house because it’s so expensive now, it used to be cheap.
In Eagle Rock, Highland Park. The prices are crazy—$700, 000 for a two-bedroom house. Who’s got that kind of money? But it used to be so cheap there, in comparison to New York. And you got more space. On the down side, just having to drive everywhere makes you kind of dumber, because you can’t read on the freeway.
Having worked in the special effects business infected it.
Well I hardly ever read fiction. For a little while I made some time to read Philip K. Dick. Everybody said how great he was, and he’s pretty good, although he’s got an ADD thing, where the first half of the novel is written while the drugs are kicking in, and then it kind of falls apart as it continues. And when I first moved to Los Angeles I started out reading a lot of Burroughs, and then I started reading like James M. Cain and Chandler, you know, the Noir. But mostly I read history and research. I read a lot of religious history, I’m always looking for weird mythological or religious stories, and also I’ve been reading a lot about slavery and Jim Crow. One thing leads to another, and I just happen to be in a bookstore and there’s something there. From the time my daughter entered first grade when she was six, until about a couple of years ago, we had no TV in the house because she would just, her eyes would just be glued to Hannah Montana, and so we realised that that was not going to be a good thing, especially because she goes to a school that forbids TV-watching, so we just got rid of the TV and there was plenty of time to read, just like in the old days. Though, I’m a very slow reader, and I only remember maybe a quarter of all the interesting things. I don’t have a mind like a steel trap, I have one like a colander.
Episcopalian, which is kind of neither here nor there. I was always jealous of my Catholic friends because of all the weird stuff they would talk about that had been drummed into their heads. Then I started researching the Puritan history of America while I was working on My Mirage and I gained more interest in those things. Then self-made religions interested me, like Dr. Jaggers and Miss Velma, or Richard Shaver. I just thought it was intriguing that people could decide 'Well this is a whole new Bible' and then create a following. And suddenly there would be this whole new thing like Mormonism or Scientology.
Well I think it’s a schizophrenia with the inborn DMT that’s in your brain that would make a tree talk to you, and then of course a lot of people have no followers, they probably don’t have that drive to have sex with underage people in their flock or whatever it is that seems to happen with cults. Control of sex is important. Even when they’re not having any sex, like in Heaven’s Gate or whatever, when they’re chopping their genitals off, it’s still the control of sex. The leader would dictate that you were now going to be the sex partner of someone else, it wasn’t like you were having orgies, it was sort of a restricted sort of free love.
Oh yeah, believing in stuff is great. That’s why conspiracy theory is really seductive. A lot of conspiracy’s effectiveness is based on saying 'Well this is the evidence, and the bullet couldn’t have done these things, but what if the evidence was just poorly collected?' Like with the JFK assassination, conspiracy theorists were like, oh the LAPD did a bad job of collecting evidence, but in the end, it really was just a guy with a gun.
Well, I’m anal-retentive. I collected comic books as a kid, and Psychedelic San Francisco posters as a teenager, and records and books and so on. Paintings are a unique thing. They’re not mass-produced. Also not knowing much about the artwork made it fascinating because I could project onto it. Even with my own work, I like that people don’t know what all my work is about because it means they’re still projecting onto it. The stuff in the thrift store collection is a way of looking under the lid of America, the subconscious. But of course I’m ignoring 99 percent of what I see in thrift stores, and I also don’t pay much money for them because otherwise you’d become an addict to this stuff.
Religious propaganda on the Internet.
Because you can just click on it, it doesn’t take up much space, and there’s a lot of it. You’re in this rhizomatic realm, and you can go into all these different directions. You know, if you happen to watch this one anti-Masonic YouTube video, and it takes a bunch of time, and then there’s this other thing to watch. That’s my downfall. It could consume all your energy to do this well.
Well, absolutely! I’ve had great shows in the past, but they’re often in relatively distant locations. This is the first time I’ve had a great show that’s in a great metropolis. I’ve had shows in Bordeaux or Newcastle, and people loved seeing them, but not that many people get to these places. —[O]