Polling The Artists (part 1)

When I was planning this "online Magazine",  the first segment I had in mind was this one called "polling the artist".  It's a simple idea.  Ask a bunch of artsy types one question, print their answers, then sit back and reap the rewards.  The first question I've asked these suckers is "What piece of art, or artist, set you on your current path". So, here is part one of a two parter, beginning with the talented (and probably insane) Matt Lennox.

This is a dream I had: I’m a voyeur, squatting in a yard outside at night, watching some people through a living room window. The glass is dirty, and the couch in the living room is the kind you’d recover from a street corner. The only light comes from the television, which is broadcasting some insipid reality show. There’s a wrinkly stripper sitting in the corner. She has a tattoo on her thigh. It’s a heart, inside of which is the word LUV. She’s playing cards with a lapsed mendicant. By day he is a security guard at a shopping mall. He’s wearing a suit he bought from the Salvation Army. There’s a small child in a Boy Scout uniform sitting on the couch, watching the reality show. Then the closer I look I see the Boy Scout is not a child at all but an ancient dwarf. The dwarf sees me seeing him, and the next thing I know, he’s up and doing a Fosse tap-dance routine on the living room floor. I can’t hear anything, on account of the dirty glass between us.

I don’t know anything about art. I think art criticism is a hustle. Overwrought interpretation of art is a sham, something pointy-headed people do to purchase your obeisance. Art exists to defy explanation. And besides, I write stories, which is kind of like what you do when you can’t paint, sculpt, dance, or make any music. I have a bunch of people running around in my head. A lot of them are weird assemblies of people I already know. And they kick the inside of my skull and break things and don’t let me sleep until I sit down and let them tell their stories, not all of which are good.

Ken Kesey, James Joyce, Cormac McCarthy ... especially Cormac McCarthy. I didn’t know I had a voice till I read what these fellows had to say. I really wish ye’d have one of these taters.

Oddly enough, it was the Quay Brothers' adaptation of Bruno Schulz's "Street of Crocodiles". The film adaptation made me immensely curious about Schulz himself as well as the Quays, and that developed into an interest in Film Studies, the surrealists, Polish writers of the 30s, and Polish literature in general. All these interests eventuated in me switching my PhD major field (from medieval to early 20th-century) and in me focusing a lot more intensely on my Polish background in both my academic and creative work.

And well, if you know anything of my current music, you know that it's rich in allusions to Polish folklore, literature, and history, and that it is peopled with a disarming and characteristically surreal host of characters within a very Schulzean landscape. I'd say there are even hints of the Quay Brothers' score interspersed throughout my recent compositions.


For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by mechanical components. In fact, in most cases, I am usually drawn more to the parts that make up a finished product than the finished product itself. I think part of the appeal to me is that when you see a carefully designed, machined object removed from the environment it was intended for, it takes on a life of its own. It’s almost irrelevant what the part is designed to do, as I find myself appreciating it from a purely aesthetic standpoint.

This fascination has found its way into the objects I design. I try to incorporate these aesthetic elements into my furniture by using both smooth, ‘milled’ lines, as well as raw, utilitarian processes. As a result, my pieces have been described as looking like they were meant be part of an enormous machine.

The artist that has had the greatest influence on my creative life is Sabrina Ward Harrison . I stumbled upon her first book, Spilling Open, several years ago, and was completely enamored. Her honestly raw collage-style art journals documenting her triumphs and struggles as a 20-something have inspired me to create, to be messy, to be open, to trust the mistakes, and to grow as both an artist and a person.

In the middle of my undergraduate degree, I had been floundering--so to speak--as to how the hell I was going to make a living with my saxophone. At the time, my limited view of the world led me to believe I had to be the second coming of some already established Jazz legend in order to keep playing music. So naturally, I harbored a bit of anxiety as all I wanted to do, really, was listen to music, play, and go to matinees (while getting paid of course). Now, this may be true in every artistic discipline so I am sure you'll understand that I had heard more than once how hard it was, how oh-so-competitive the (insert your heart's desire) industry is. And for a while it really put me off even trying to look into how I would learn more about the whole thing--even though I knew it was something I would love to do. Finally, I realized that that whole concept of warning people how hard something is to do, to make a living at, is, well, nonsense, and you can do anything you want to do...if you want to do it. And I realized that after (and here is the point) flipping channels one day and hearing this really interesting music. It was the score to 'Happy Accidents', a Brad Anderson film scored by Evan Lurie. The score's mix of jazz instruments and interesting harmonies helped me to forget about the John Williams prototype of film music out there, that there was more to film music than orchestral glory and olympic-type brass cues (none of which I had been particularly interested in...at the time..am totally into them now...ahem). More than that, and some directors may hate this, but the music stood out to me as something woven into the story, as necessary as the script. It made the film more enjoyable, interesting, and...you know...cooler.


This is a very hard question to answer because everything I have experienced has gone into creating who I am, and the art work I create. I think I can break it down into 4 categories. Film, Video Games, Literature, and Artists. Don't worry I'll try and keep each short.
Film: I remember being very young (6 or 7) and my dad bringing a bunch of Ray Harryhausen movies home from a yard sale. Jason and the Argonauts and Jack the Giant killer are the two I remember best. I think that was the point when I started wanting to be an animator and when I started making short stop motion animations with a Super 8 camera.
Video Games: The most influential game I have ever played is Final Fantasy 7. It was the first time in my opinion that video games really evolved into visual story telling and found their place somewhere between books and film. FF7 began my semi-obsession with CyberPunk. Anytime someone tries to tell me video games are for children this is the first games that comes to mind.
Literature: The first time I read William Gibson's "Nuromancer" I finished the last chapter, flipped the book over and started again . This is still my favourite book and I've read it many times. I don't know how to start explaining this book. It's like "BladeRunner" meets "Hackers" but on speed. If you have never read it your missing out. I read this right around the same time I played FF7 and the two make up the corner stone of a lot of the artwork I do and projects I work on.
Artist: This is by far the most difficult area to narrow down to one. I've studied art history for may years but I find there's too much of a disconnect between the masters of fine art and myself. I have more of a connection with the great industrial designers and architects of the 30's-60's like Raymond Lowey or Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. More recently I've been very influenced by modern concept artists working on films and video games. There are far to many to list but one of the most prominent would have to be Craig Mullins. Look up goobrush.com if you feel like being inspired.


Tara said...

Bravo Shawn Clarke!
Loving the concept behind your blog-oops! 'online magazine'.
I'm always so glad when artistic/creative people find another way to put that out into the world!
I say well done:)

Shawn William Clarke said...

You're my hero for commenting Tara!! Thank you for your kind words as well.

Lesley Denford said...

I second Tara's sentiments. This e-zine has a lot of potential. Keep it up, kid.

Joel Emberson said...

i think this zine could be kind of a big deal, just like you shawn! can't wait to read more.