Taking a break from preparing for his upcoming solo show at Shit Art Club, Seany Andrews, aka The Mac, sits down with Erik Sommer to talk about Dr. Seuss, universal interconnectivity, gardening, and his new paintings that are no longer paintings.
(ES) Describe your work for us.
(SA)My work is a an ode to the child within us all. I like to call it “kindergarten art”. When viewing my work, I’d say the biggest emotion I am trying to extract from your soul is happiness. There is a common motif of interconnectivity and playfulness that is incorporated into each work and is hopefully ingested when you look at something I have created. If possible, I want you to feel like a kid flying a kite or riding a bicycle on a no school, summer afternoon.
Tell us a bit about your background. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Laguna Hills, CA. My mom studied sculpture and my pops is a patron of all art forms, so my childhood home was full of eye-catching work I enjoyed everyday – Peter Max, Bill Hemmerling, Dr. Seuss, amongst others… And beyond that, they always listened to good tunes and had ‘em playing at the pad – Neil Young, The Animals, Howlin’ Wolf, Talking Heads, Louis Armstrong, Led Zepp, Dave Brubeck, Sam Cooke, The Clash, Sergio Mendes, you get the idea…. I got a proper dose of different kinds music from a young age. I think having all of these forms of expression surrounding me as a kid made me drawn to the more creative side of life. And to that point, I’d call all of my siblings artists even though I am the only one trying to professionally pursue it.
Where do you live and work now?
I have been in Los Angeles since 2010. I work downtown at SAC (Shit Art Club) and weekly go down to OC (Orange County) to manage a garden. I have done landscaping since my high school years, but the past 4 or 5 years I have really focused on garden work. It has become a step beyond a passion of mine and I can foresee myself working with or around plants for the rest of my life.
How do you think this has influenced your work?
When my neighbor (a professional artist named Thomas Whittaker Kidd – look him up!) visited my gallery/studio for the first time he once told me that he sees my work as being very internal and my studio mate’s work (Loser Angeles – look him up too!) as being external. I have resonated on that for quite some time and I think he completely nailed it. So, to get back to your question, I think LA influences me by just shaping me as a human in daily interactions, but not in any specific way. I don’t create political art and I don’t really paint things I see. It is all just in my strange, childish brain… However, the garden work I think has a heavy influence on my art. When gardening, it is much like painting, in the way that it is a process where I can get lost in the moment, reflect, and be completely consumed by my mental capacity. This state is when ideas to paint come to me or revelations are had. I love my reflection time.
Do you remember any artists as a child that captured your attention?
Dr. Seuss has been a constant joy in my life for as long as I can remember. He is kinda the mecca of all artists for me. In high school I remember getting super fired up on Banksy, but then again everyone did for a moment there, and while he is a super creative and talented artist his work is on the opposite side of the spectrum to mine so I don’t think he had much influence on what I would create in years to come. Folk art, Haitian art, hippie art (like Peter Max) and sculpture are the first styles of art that come to mind when I think of my childhood.
Any artists today you are looking at?
John Rivas, Trey Abdella, Hunter Potter, Taylor White, A. E. Mabry, Stan Edmondson, Hetty Douglas, Loser Angeles, you, amongst others…
You have spoken of a belief in universal interconnectivity and the importance of childhood’s imaginative nature. Can you expand on these concepts?
Universal interconnectivity is a concept that I find undeniable and tried and true. Our actions and efforts affect the world. We are in this together and always have been. And I don’t just mean humans, I mean the greater us, all life throughout the universe. We are all made up of the same things, so physically we all share the same makeup. What makes us unique is our brains, the internal. This is where childhood’s imaginative nature comes in. Children are free. They are passionate. They are curious. They are creative. All things that can get sucked away from you as you turn into a “grown-up”. Holding onto to these traits keeps one true to themselves and it is important you turn into someone you want to be rather than someone somebody else tells you to be. Your childhood traits make you distinctive and I find that important.
Along with painting, sculpting and gardening you also have a background in jewelry making. How do you think these mediums play off of each other in your work?
With my more recent work you can really see it. My paintings are no longer paintings. They have morphed into a collage of mediums that sit on a wall. And I can’t really call them paintings anymore… A single work now will have paint, clay, tile, sometimes gems, glitter, glass or mirrors, pool sticks, felt, foam, feathers, lightbulbs, etc. Pretty strange stuff… The jewelry making to me was always a form of mini sculpture. I worked in the lost wax technique. You carve things out of wax and cast them into metal. I always enjoyed making it, but I am not really a jewelry wearer, so naturally I took a step back on that creative front.
Are you more concerned with the process or the end result?
They are equally important to me. My work ebbs and flows as I create it and rarely do I know what I am creating when I start. If I don’t feel that it is done, then I am still in the process. But, I generally don’t have a presupposed idea on what the work will look like before I begin.
What is your normal studio practice like? Any routines or superstitions?
Not really. There is a lot of ADD in my brain so nothing really stays “normal” for too long. If I am really in the zone the music will be blasting and in between brush strokes I will take a step back and do a little dance or yell some nonsense that is hopefully reiterated by my studio mate or the echo of the gallery.
What about your working technique? Walk us through how you start and then develop a piece.
It starts with a thick brush, house paint, spray paint, and oil sticks. First I am trying to create an extremely thick layer of paint and sloppiness. Once it is picked up some weight I’ll start drawing a composition. This is rarely nailed on the first try. So, I paint over and over again until I like what I have done. Then I will go to oils and get a detailed base-coat. From there I usually build a wooden box and stretch the work around it. That rigidness enables me to do all the mosaic work and attach whatever clay pieces or found materials I want to include on the work. Finally, I touch it up with oils and put in the fine detail. It is either done there or I will do the electrical work if I am including lights.
Any recent or upcoming projects?
I just made a coloring book so that is kinda fun. I also have a solo show coming up at SAC at the end of January. I am calling it a double feature – it will be two solo shows with two entirely different concepts and styles, but in the same building, both by me. The front room will be called undoubtable connections. It will be centered around that universal interconnectivity theme we spoke of earlier and all of the work will be on paper with ink and watercolor. The second room will be called wasting time. I am building six or seven rooms within the room and the centerpiece of each room will be these “TVs” I am making. The rooms will all say something about me and show a glimpse into me as a human. The work will be those mixed media wall pieces I was mentioning. This idea probably sounds fried, but we will have to revisit it when it comes out so I can show you.
How do you spend your time outside of the studio?
Hanging with my beautiful wife, fly fishing, playing footy, cooking, gardening, drinking beers with Uncle Kevy in the shed while watching hockey, the occasional poker night/early morning with the boys, camping, lighting off fireworks, giving high fives, roasting doobies, smelling flowers.
Finally, what is your favorite color?
I paint with blue a lot. But I love the stink of brown. And red has always been pretty sexy. Making yellow lights is a gift from a higher power. Sliding through multiple green lights is even better. Purple makes me feel royal. I cannot really imagine life without colors, but I do wonder if I were another species would I be able to comprehend a color that humans can’t?