Tuesday, September 15, 2009

MIKE TAYLOR: Rad to Look Like a Carnie

MIKE TAYLOR is an artist living and working in Miami, FL. His drawing and printmaking style reflects the environment of his artistic post-adolescence in Providence, RI, as well as a broader range of influences from Gary Panter and Raymond Pettibon to the psychedelic palette of the seventies and sixties. His tattoo work, similarly reflects creative contemporaries Daniel Higgs, Robert Ryan and others: a mythic sensibility that transforms the interpretation of the myth, in a traditional style. While reactionary, politicized and endowed with sneaky commentary, Taylor's work is often light-hearted and excitable.

What do you do? What are you doing the most lately?
Mostly I draw. But that has lead to a years-long bout of screenprinting, painting, collage, crappy sculpture, a couple of videos, and a few years back I began to tattoo. I play music, I cook, I hang out with Jessica. I go to work. This month I've drawn a lot of comics, but when I'm working on an image for a print, it's all I do for a week or so. So lately, as in this week, I'm doing comics.

How long have you done these things?
Not to sound snarky, but since I could hold a pencil I've been drawing on stacks of the old computer paper my dad would bring home from work. I would draw pictures of guitars, barbarians, superheroes, and later, all the bands I knew I would be in. Of course, by the time I was in bands, it would have been fully uncool to look like the carnies I drew back then (however, I know that right now, it's back to being rad to look like a carnie, and I love carnivals too!). I started screenprinting in college and then immediately shelved the skillset...I only screenprinted t shirts when my band toured. College makes you hate art, you know? Or it made me hate art. I went back to screenprinting a couple of years later, like in 2001, and then hit in earnest. I started tattooing in 2004, maybe? A friend kind of arranged it...I had been getting work done for many years and expressed interest in learning, but at 29 or whatever felt I was too old to begin another path. Turns out I wasn't. We're never too old to feel like amateurs!

Why do you do them? How does it make you feel?
I may be unqualified to say why I do these things. I could make a list to tackle both questions, and that will touch around the issue:
-I love immediacy
-I have an innate need to feel understood
-I have to keep my hands busy (I grew up in a smoking household)
-as a child I was very skinny with very hairy arms
-art had always moved me
-I feel unqualified to live in the world as -it-is-becoming

When was That Moment in your life that told you you would become what you are? What happened?
Mostly it was movements against what I interpreted as the world trying to predetermine me into submission. I suppose every artist that draws gets told as a child that they'll grow up to be an artist. So when I went to college on an art scholarship I wanted to be a history teacher. Then I taught for a while and realized that I was on the right track with the art thing and I shouldn't be ashamed to feel compelled towards such an "irresponsible" calling as the fabrication of images.

How has your life changed or not changed to accommodate that moment's effect on you?
Hmmm...well, I'm not married and don't have any expensive diseases. But I am poor, so I guess I'm doing it right. Maybe the seriousest answer is that my needs are modest, which is practical for an artist in a capitalist economy.

How has your work affected your life in return?
I am seldom suicidal because I feel compelled onward by a purposefulness that comes in and out of focus...when I'm trying to be serious I sound like a dick. I just want to be wonderful at what I chose to do. So I don't make time for what a lot of people think is fun and I'm bad at keeping touch with my extended family. I analyze things to much/enough to enjoy them.

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think about David Lee Roth?
Diver Down's pre-eminence as a classic record EVEN WITH the lame covers. It can be enjoyed spiritually, academically, and physically. DLR's early support of punk. His relationship with Henry Rollins. He claims to read a book a week and know three languages. The fact that he publicly stated that spending early Van Halen money on cars and women wore out, so he began taking classes, because knowledge is an actual investment.

Do you have anything you'd like to ask me?
Lexie, do you think I should move to Baltimore?
Yes, definitely! You will not be homesick for humidity, mosquitoes and violence.

Do you think you make "feminine" art?
No, not really. But probably. I think all good art embraces the masculine/feminine as recombinable elements of the same mutating whole. I'm not saying I make good art. If I make anything feminine, its definitely fighting against itself.

What attracts you to Baltimore?
It is weird, affordable and crammed to the brim with creative, interesting people.

What artists do you admire?
Ashley Snow Macomber, Shaun Flynn, Jen Kirby, Kehinde Wiley. Every one who gets away with it. Whoever it is that designs tapestries you can buy at the MegaMall. My roommates Nate Nelson, Sarah Jablecki and David Spelce Jr.

What was your first band like?
Pop punk. We covered "Skulls" and had one show. It made our friend Janaka barf.

Do you make art every day?

Would you prefer to not work a day job?

Thanks, Mike!
Mike Taylor's work can be seen at

images by Mike Taylor. Top to bottom:

Pursuit, 200?
(Mike Taylor's self-porttrait)
Orthodoxy Looms, 200?

His favorite book is Crime and Punishment, his favorite movies are Blue Velvet, The Bicycle Thief and The Wizard of Oz.
He loves all animals and all colors, but especially cyan and bright orange and mint green.

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