Wednesday, November 18, 2009

GARY PANTER: Future Selves

Gary Panter is why the television show Pee-Wee's Playhouse looked the way it did. As a designer, artist, light show specialist, and musician, he's incredibly prolific, almost compulsive. The corners of his comics fill with flotsam, the walls of his gallery installations become quilted with years of collected ephemera, paintings throb eye-crossing patterns, and the landscapes of his graphic novels teem with leaning towers, scuttling creatures, smoke puffs, dinosaur goons. His cartoon language is self-referential and smart without being smarmy, and his sketchbooks are so plentiful they occupy about half of Picturebox's recent 700-page epic Gary Panter: The Book.
Looking at his silkscreened small-run art books from the eighties makes one feel like he invented weird, or at least taught pop-art how to throw itself up; he prefigured artistic movements of the early twenty-first century by nearly two decades. Even though he's allergic, he has three cats: Triscuit, Squeaky and Roofie. His favorite movie is Call Me Genius starring Tony Hancock, his favorite book is Flann O'Brien's At Swim Two Birds and his favorite color is "all."

What do you do? What are you doing the most lately?

I am always drawing, painting and playing guitar.

How long have you done these things? How have the things changed?
Since I was little.

One of Gary's weekly strips, from

Why do you do these things? How does it make you feel? What's it like when you are unable to do these things?
I can enjoy life, but I love to make something out of nothing.
I would become unhappy if I couldn't do those things, but I would try to go on.


When was That Moment in your life that told you you would become what you are? What happened?
I drew with my father since I was little and watched him paint cowboy and Indian paintings, so that was generally formative, but...

A moment that told me that I would get old hence, become, was:

One day in Brownsville Texas, in my yard of dirt, in 1956, I saw a tin washtub full of water, with glimmering reflections of the sky.

I picked up a stick and stirred the water and all my future selves that recall that moment appeared and were watching me.

How has your life changed to accommodate That Moment's effect on you?
It was a flow and not a change.

How has your work affected your life in return?
I get petted by people who like my work and reviled by folks who don't like it.
I like it, so I am not worried.

Totally mind-altering piece of Gary life-evidence from his blog

What are your thoughts about being Choctaw?
My father and Grandma were very much native americans to me growing up. My grandparents lived in Talahina, Oklahoma and worked at the TB hospital and at the Indian Hospital. At the Indian hospital the old people still spoke Choctaw. It's cool having some clue about where you come from. It was rustic --everyone chewed tobacco or dipped snuff. There were tornadoes and forest fires and giant hail, croaking frogs and bible thumping.

Where do the animal stories on come from?
The short stories on my site are attempts at writing-- heavily influenced by the writing of Donald Barthelme, Gilbert Sorrentino, Robert Coover, Byron Coley and others.

What do you think of the future?

We will be cave men for a long time. Then we will become fancy seals and gophers with TV skin.
After that, the skies the limit. If we get nice enough aliens will reveal themselves.

What do you think of David Lee Roth? Have your thoughts changed or evolved over the years?
He reminds me of Soupy Sales. No, he still reminds me of Soupy Sales.

Do you have anything you'd like to ask me?
Have you heard Devin Gary & Ross?
No! Tell me about it.
Devin Gary & Ross is comprised of Devin Flynn, creator of Ya'll So Stupid cartoon formerly on Super Deluxe. He has been in various bands, for instance, Plate Techtonics and Gangstuhs Wit Gats. Ross Goldstein has a solo album called Free Dumb and he has made music with various people including Dearraindrop. They are both multi-instrumentalists. I play guitar and trumpet kinda. We do our own stuff and covers of neglected psychedelic pop tunes. We are into concrete music and vocal harmonies and the whole thing is a fucking blast! We played Issue Project Room, Market Hotel, Santos, Cakeshop and Providence this year. There is some early stuff of me and Devin on youTube, but nothing like what the three of us are doing now. There is a CD of Devin and Gary on Ecstatic Yod/Picturbox from before we found Ross.

Exhibition view, Gary Panter: Pictures From the Psychedelic Swamp 1972 - 2001
image thanks to Clementine Gallery, NYC


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