Joseph Guay "Remnants of The Human Condition"
“It’s hard to be unaffected by the world’s condition anymore and remain silent. I wondered if it is the artist’s obligation to bring a different consciousness to the public in these difficult times? I knew I could no longer pretend the news and the global fear based reactions of our society were now becoming an overwhelming influence on me.”
— Joseph Guay | Artist
*Interviewed by: Maryan Aiken . Publisher & Founder of PaperGlass Media & Wire | Tap Media
Joseph Guay is a prolific artist and his impressive resume spans from Apple iTunes, Mercedes-Benz, Ellen de Generes, Billboard Magazine, and HBO just to name a few. His list of personal art collectors ranges from Sir Elton John, Rich Robinson, Ludacris, Arthur Blank, and Laura Seydel Turner. National and international publications like Rolling Stone Magazine, USA Today, The Guardian, Times, LA Times have written about him. He directed films and documentaries for CNN, Collective Soul, Elton John and Usher’s New Look Foundation. This artist not only lists photographer, sculptor, painter, but he also designs the blue print for your modern home. And tomorrow, his thought provoking solo exhibit at Westside Cultural Center in West Midtown will showcase his latest body of work about the “Remnants of Human Conditions”.
The Questions & Anwers
Maryan Aiken > Shows are nerve wracking, exhilarating and career booster. It’s the perfect stage to make a strong statement with the collection. Walk us through the idea that provoked this particular show and what message are you trying to convey?
Joseph Guay > Well, It’s hard to be unaffected by the world's condition anymore and remain silent. I knew I could no longer pretend the news and the global fear based reactions of our society were now becoming an overwhelming influence on me. When I started my career twenty years ago, I was a sculptor. There was something authentic about using my hands to translate what I was feeling inside. I went to a scrapyard looking for metal to begin a new body of work to hopefully express everything that was taking place in the world around me. I came across a bucket of AK-47 bullet shells. My first thought was… “What in the world is a bucket of assault rifle grade bullets doing here?” I was so intrigued with the story behind the bullets that I felt the need to buy them, not necessarily knowing what I was going to do with them. But they felt relevant. Questions started surfacing: Who used these bullets? How many of these are around? Was anyone killed with these or did they just belong to a random individual that dumped them here… and if so… why did a civilian feel the need to have an assault riffle? The questions just kept pouring in. What am I doing as an artist to reflect what's going on in our world? What kind of art could I create to inspire the same questions in other people? I had no intention of projecting a political opinion, but wanted people to think about the accountability of weapons, and more importantly, their own actions and intent.
MA: When ideas come to you, what is your process?
JG: Ideas are a strange thing… they can be completely meaningless and then others will change the outcome of your entire life. For this body of art, I felt a little psychotic at times. The rush of creative thoughts would not stop. As an artist… we dream of these times… but when it happens… it's overwhelming. But these are difficult times in the world, and when you are honest as an artist to that, its surprising how fast ideas pour in. There were days this summer in my studio that reached over 110 degrees, and your body just goes to a different place. When I truly hit my creative zone it feels a bit like I am hovering, watching myself, hours pass working over a piece and suddenly I take a step back and look and there it is… Not really sure of how it happened. Those 15 seconds of bliss are the best it will ever be with that piece of art. Pure.
MA: What has been the most trying piece that you ever produced, explain why?
JG: I just made a piece in honor of Trayvon Martin. It is an 80x80 sculptural piece symbolizing the “Black Hoodie” and “Black Lives Matter” movement that followed his death. It is a difficult topic. I still do not understand how we have laws that allow a civilian to take the law in his own hands if he feels threatened. People can barely drive a car responsibly… Yet alone run around with a gun and decide when or how they are legally allowed to take another person’s life. I struggled with the piece inside. I wanted to make something that honored him… something his mother would be moved to see… But at the same time not exploit the situation. It is a terrible loss. I did crazy things as a teen, we all did, but no one at that time had the right to kill us for it.
MA: What was your first piece ever made? How long ago was that?
JG: Well… the first piece I ever did was on a foam surfboard as a child. I had to be 3 at the time. A few years ago my mother found the photo and I keep it around to remind me of what this gift should be… a child like expression of self! In that I mean… being honest to yourself as an artist, creating what makes you happy. Yes this is my job and I provide for people based on the sales I make, but I finally reached a place where I had to go back to that foam surfboard… I made that painting on it because it felt great to create… I didn’t make it to sell (I was only 3) and I didn’t make it to get the approval or blessing of some gallery or art critic. It has taken me 20 years as a professional artist to realize that and this new show is rooted in this belief. I finally made a show I wanted to see and that I would want to go to.
MA: What is your signature piece. The one that your loyal followers will say, “yep, that’s a Joseph Guay piece”
JG: I guess it would be my base-resin photography. I have spent the majority of my career creating and trying to master that process. But it is like an old girlfriend to me now. We shared a lot of time together… we still love each other and talk… but it was time to move on a different path in life. People laugh but this art thing is a relationship. Sometimes you hate it and sometimes it is the air that lifts you from the bed every morning and carries you to that sanctuary… the studio.. where your heart has its home.
MA: Who has been the great artist or anyone that influenced you the most?
JG: Basquiat was the greatest influence on me becoming an artist. Until I was exposed to his work, I always thought art was for the elite. His work was raw, gritty, a statement of creative chaos. It affected me and my path... as well as the path of the majority of artist that I know. Then once my career took off, Elton John and I became friends. He has been the greatest guide and shepherd for my creative journey. He is a wonderful human being and one of the most honest and caring people I have ever met. He has done a lot for every artist he meets and even more for human rights. His aids foundation supports so many people and he is not a celebrity that just acts like a spokesperson... he personally funds and fights for change!
MA: You have been a great success stateside and internationally. Tell us how art collectors are different. What are their motivating factors?
JG: Collectors are different in all regions of the world. I sell a lot in LA, NYC, London and Dubai. Atlanta is about making your home look good for others, NYC is about having a small space that symbolizes you, LA is about having something people will recognize, Dubai wants beauty, and London is about having a good investment as well as a very thought provoking piece. So collectors in all these areas buy different pieces of mine for completely different reasons.
MA: How would you define yourself as a creative artist?
JG: That was always a question I hated because I think I never tapped fully into my creative self until now. But now I welcome the question, “How do I define myself as an artist”… well f%#@ it… I’m just me. I don’t want to do anything else. I’m not a surgeon, or an attorney… no ones life is really going to stop due to my job. I just create art. I make paintings and sculptures, take photos, do film and tv, I even design homes now. It's all art. I don’t want any of it to be too over thought anymore. I just started a new company called “Factory Independent”. It's a throw back to the days of Warhol’s studio. He made it all. Isn't that the point. Enjoy this journey. Affect and change everything you can put your hands on. I see art in the way I cut my damn grass anymore. It's all part of tapping into this journey.
MA: How is this show different from your previous one?
JG: Haaaaa… well you have to come experience it for yourself. I would say my past shows were about making art that I hoped people would find beautiful and then buy to put in their home. But this show is different… I don’t care if I sell any of it. Its about making a statement. That is hard to do… But this show is about real topics… Trayvon Martin, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, the Dallas Police Officers, the Boston Marathon, Pulse Nightclub, Sandy Hook Elementary, and the World Trade Center. I’m done making pretty art. I want to affect this world that is affecting me. In order to create change, we must change ourselves… so I am not sticking to an artistic platform that has worked for me for 20 years. I won’t do it. I have been known for my photography and this show does not have one photo in it. It is all sculptural. You have to get your hands dirty sometimes to make things change.
MA: The legacy you want to leave behind?
JG: Be yourself, dream your dreams, and help others to do the same. I have a wonderful family that has always supported that statement. I could tell them I was going to get a submarine and sculpt something on the ocean floor… and they would support it! Well, then again, they know my crazy ass may damn well do it!