Hi Erik! Tell us something about you and your works.
Hi! I was born and raised in New York City, a block away from Central Park, and now I live in New Orleans, a block away from the Mississippi River. I make videos that combine drawing, painting, and collage. For the past several months I’ve been working on a daily project called Video Sketchbook – each morning I post a new video experiment on Instagram. My work tends to be playful – whether I make a video of a cloud, a tree, or my hand – I like to work with something ordinary until it feels surprising.
Who are your icons, your aesthetic and cultural references?
I’m drawn to deceptively simple work: William Wegman’s early videos, Gabriel Orozco’s photography, Yoko Ono’s writing… It’s exciting to watch an artist do a lot with a little. I recently read a biography on Matisse and I was surprised to learn that he often reworked a painting dozens of times, for months on end, before it achieved that effortlessly simple look.
Your visual culture feeds on…?
The library is my biggest source of inspiration. I wander around the art book section each week and discover something new every time I do. Certain books like Ellsworth Kelly’s Works On Paper and John Baldessari’s Catalogue Raisonné are old friends I visit again and again. I like to flip through the pages and imagine how a drawing or painting might be brought to life with video.
Youtube channels or Vimeo you love most.
To be honest I don’t watch a lot of videos these days, which I realize is an odd thing for a video artist to say, but I think my work has more in common with painting and collage so I tend to gravitate to that kind of work. That said, I’ve found some wonderful videos on Vimeo’s Experimental category page and Eyeworks Festival’s Tumblr page has a great collection of experimental animation.
The moment you understood that you wanted to do what you do.
When I was in kindergarten my teacher asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said, “I want to have fun.” She told me fun wasn’t a profession and I had to pick something else, so I said, “I want to be an artist.” For me they’ve always been the same thing.
What are the images that inspired you most during your career?
I love Matisse’s Pink Studio painting – I have a print pinned above my desk. It’s the type of painting I’d like to climb inside of and take a nap.
The best aspect of your job and the worst.
I love going on walks with my camera, letting my mind go blank, and just looking around. Something will catch my eye and I’ll know in an instant how I can turn it into a video. That moment of discovery is thrilling. One of the challenges lately has been juggling all of my professional and personal responsibilities. I have to be very selective about the projects I take on so that I don’t overextend myself. Work is important but so is sleep.
My playlist is usually obsessively replaying a single song or album until I can’t stand it anymore. I’ve been doing that with Amen Dunes’ Freedom for over a year and I’m still not sick of it. I’ve been accused of only listening to mopey music, which is mostly true – but I think sad songs are the most beautiful.
Your philosophy of life.
Be curious and be kind.
Interview Gloria Occhipinti
Videos courtesy of the artist