Stanley Boydston : 8 Questions
Impressed by his work, I asked Stanley Boydston eight questions by email in early Decemeber, 2008.
AWD:The element of reproduction tends to show up in your work, is this completely intentional?
No! First, thank you for the opportunity to talk about things.... Donald Judd is a big influence. Reproduction - maybe sexuality - drives male-produced artwork. I cannot speak for women, but "making" seems to substitute a greater need.... I've had people say, "yeah, that's a given, So what?" ...lets move on! ...Me, I don't want to overlook that fact and go on. I'm in awe of that and I want to explore that sublimating process! ...In 1989, without any deep knowledge of anything other than traditional painting, I had an interaction with Donald Judd and his work. My immediate reaction was that minimal is reductive and wants to deal with the essence of art. It did, on a viewing, experiencing level, but HE was very secretive and guarded. The process in making "minimal" was anything but minimal. It can be very time consuming, wasteful of natural resources and very, very large at times. I realize that Judd didn't exactly support the term "minimal," but he somehow was used it. The next day, morning, after that encounter, I masturbated (not about Judd)...in bed and as I sat looking at the spilled seed in my hand, I realized that I had no desire to paint, to create that day. I said to myself, "yikes,...now this cum is minimal." I really liked just pondering the expansive potential of sperm. ...back to sleep. That morning is the starting point for all the work that I've done since.
AWD:How did the Idea behind Earth 2006-2007 begin?
SPERM! Aggressive male energy...The idea for "Earth 2006���2007" began when I resumed my masturbation series from 1989. The '89 work: existential, reductive, documenting sperm spilled on pictures in Playboy magazine. It was all about work, creativity. Over 100 documented! 20 years passed, I wanted to change the terms of desire, from woman to earth as the object of male sexual aggression. The switch came from seeing war and melting icebergs and hearing, "we are really fucking things up, here, on earth!" I had no problem using my own male energy to illustrate destruction. Earth 2006-2007," shows less about the process of art and calls to mind the aggressive nature of male energy. It shows maleness wanting to dominate nature. Ansell Adams is there in a big way, ...Mathew Brady. There are even Ansell Adams/masturbation seance pieces with his spirit voice talking though me.!
AWD:How has your work evolved?
Like MADRID! The only American - painting and living in Madrid from 1982 to 1992. Madrid's evolution during that time marked my evolution, as an artist and a person. Discovering everything that Madrid and the Prado had to offer: Velazquez, Goya, Ribera, Titian, Rubens, Bosch, El Greco, on and on and on......I never traveled anywhere ��� just stayed in Madrid. Those surroundings were my evolution. Every street, gallery, band, hash dealer, show, critic, collector, designer, director, bullfight, riot, bombing, protest, every artist, was coming out,.. a liberated city, in constant celebration, catching up on lost time. Franco gone! Inside the Prado, getting the director to let me do paintings of the views within the museum rooms was easy, they loved americans. I remember once when I signed in to paint, they pulled out a similarly bound ledger and put my finger on Picasso's signature, where he had signed in, as a student. I was in there 5 days a week, for about 3 years. .. and it was no holds barred. They'd let you touch or lick the paintings and play hide and seek in the back room stairways. Absurd! You can't even imagine the craziness that went on there! My world there was still devoid of conceptual, minimal, etc. This was 1982. Madrid had just started blossoming after the longest dictatorship in history, and things began to change. It started first with the Spanish artists. The return of Guernica to Spain. The discovery of Tapies to the rest of Spain. People were collecting my paintings. Being the only American artist living and working in Madrid, put me in the right place at the right time. I was always on the front row, interacting with a whole lot of interesting american characters that came over during that time. David Salle, Andy Warhol, Donald Sultan, Keith Haring, Julien Schnabel, Eric Fischl, Kenny Scharf, Bryan Hunt, Bill Jensen, Robert Moskowitz, Mike Kelly, ...VINCENT PRICE!... These were all "yankis" who came through Madrid at the time, spoke no spanish and were just looking for something to do and were completely accesible. I got a personal walkthrough with Robert Rauschenburg at his retrospective at Juan March. I gave Divine an all-day tour of the Prado. These types of encounters were starting to loosen me up from what I had been doing up to then. My own work had been like Roy Lichtenstein vs Gaugin. The subject matter was Madrid landscapes and it was very interesting from a Castillian perspective, to see a young american's colourful, "pop" view of Goya and Velazquez's dark, romantic city. The Reina Sofia was built around '88 and ARCO began, ...I think in 1984. The turning point for my development was when the Panza collection came to the Reina Sofia, in,.. I think it was '89. A friend of mine had bought the catalog and there were Jean Baudrillard and Jean Francois Lyotard: "The Post-Modern Condition," .... Lyotard's book "Libidinal Economy," completely floored us. I was selling my paintings really well and at the same time being drawn to art that was being informed by existentialism. From Sartre I went to Martin Heidegger's "Being and Time." That put me over the edge: 3 years with Heidegger, soul demolition, finding out what "being" might be. Having snapped about 30 reels worth of photographs of about 20 different bullfighters posing for me ��� that was my intro to photography��� led to my fascination with contact sheets, ...so a camera was handy when I went away from painting. ARCO was a huge influence too! A lot Crazier than Fiac and a lot of other art fairs, �Ķstuff that was in your face freedom, rejecting everything traditional. But the romanticism was still unescapable. Romanticism... Madrid is steeped in that. You can't get away from it and I've always been a big fan of Dracula. ...The end. That's a real quick version of how my work evolved. And oh, yeah, I used to believe in God before I went to Spain. Now I don't even believe in a higher power. People might be laughing, but that is big coming from a family of Texas Baptists. I do believe that ritual holds power and HYPNOSIS is very prevalent everywhere, everyday. ...and Feel Good as you read that! A lot of my work plays with the processes of belief systems, in the same way that I work with sex and creative drive., so that is relevant to the work I've done in Seance, Spirits and Brazilian crystal circuit installations. Those things have a beautiful Rube Golderg influence that gets pretty wacky, but I can get a crystal and wires to do anything for anyone!
AWD:Could you define your Seeds 2008 piece?
PACKAGING AND SELLING NATURE! A lot of Walden Pond there. Essences like seeds relates to the original sperm work, from Spain and the later "Earth 2007-2008." There are dramas involved with each plant and how it lived its life as I've cared for it or ignored it. Seeds in packages, presented as artwork raise the status of an everyday object in a way that brings the viewer into a whole new realm of possibilities within himself. Nature, and its stewardship, as well as the value of exchange become vital. If every person with a backyard packaged all their seeds ��� all the seeds that just blossom from flowers and trees and weeds and grasses, they���d be shocked by the quantity of life and reproduction that surrounds them that normally goes to waste and gets ignored and rarely honored. I love honoring the life of one little weed or an unknown flower. I definitely feel a kinship there. It is about continuance, vitality. The connection of energy between an object when it is transferred from person to person is exciting when said object is a seed. A work of art is ever finished. I enjoy making people aware of that, transforming the audience into a living extension of backyard plants that I stewarded into an art form. All art is unfinished. Every utterance or writing about a "finished" piece of artwork transforms that work. No work is every done. People try, in museums to control the physical properties of a work, but they do little to control the conceptual integrity of a work. Also, possession of a piece of nature and restricting it to a package, caging it, owning it, is an unsettling thought to me. Thoreau seems to treat that topic similarly by exploring his own possessive possibilities, as I have done, by packaging and selling nature.
AWD: Do you have a dream as an artist?
SURVIVING GLOBAL WARMING! Really, my dreams, right now all involve the earth surviving global warming. The shaman culture that I seem to come into contact with here, in Santa Brabra, California, all say that its irreversible. That���s pretty sobering and puts things into perspective. Apart from that, my dream art piece would be Frankenstein. Going to cemeteries and digging up body pieces of people and bringing together a patchwork person with lightening coming form the sky, down into my studio, through the roof and then the creation so vital that it breaks away and starts its own life. That is the ultimate piece for me. Maybe that gets back to art as a sublimated desire for reproduction. ... and maybe thats why I like digging in the garden.
AWD:Where do you see your work evolving too?
CIGARS! I���m growing tobacco now. I don't smoke, but I���ve gotten the seeds. I���m going to dry the leaves in that tipi and roll cigars. I like the fact that tobacco is sacred. I disdain the fact that it is a killer. I guess it reminds me of the Frankenstein monster. I���m not sure where that is going to lead to, but I like the process of interaction with nature first and then the viewer. I���m not sure where the emphasis will end up on the cigar, the ash, the process, the smoke, the packaging, the monster of it, or what. Its pretty strange living in this surf culture, after Spain. The culture shock was exciting, disorienting, blinding ��� at first. I've tended to focus more on the belief systems side of things, around here, what crystals and colors and chanting and all that do for people and how to incorporate all that into my work.
NO, I studied botany! I was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. I'm Cherokee. My mother was a beauty queen, in the 1950's - "Maid of Cotton." My father was an all-american football player. My Dad's mother was actually the one that started me with oil painting, as a 2 year old. I had a thing for Salvador Dali that led me to drop out of the University of Texas botany department and move to Madrid. I lived by his "50 secrets of Magic Craftsmanship," for a year. I found it in the rare book section at UT. There in the school library, holding that book, was the moment that I knew I was going to be an artist. All of Dali's painting techniques. Color, underpainting,.. then fantastic stuff, like: you could only have a spider for a pet, no flowers, what to plant in your garden. Eating sea-urchins for sleep, dream stuff. MASTURBATION was required while painting. Sex was not permitted during the planning of an artwork. That was a big day for me. I���m sure I cried like a baby! I was so excited, I quit school, the next day. That was a beginning for me. Ronald Reagan got elected ��� yikes! Good bye, thats when I left the USA.