Interview with Gary Dobry
Q) So, can you tell me a little about
yourself? Full name, age, some background info, etc?
A) Gary Dobry. I studied painting & drawing of the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Il, USA. I Apprenticed as a painter under the late, great Ed Paschke & a classmate of Ed’s (School of the Art Institute of Chicago, class of ’57), “Bumble-Bee” Bob Novak. I earned a Diplome de Francaise from the Sorbonne, Universite’ de Paris , and did my tattoo apprenticeship under Ernie Gonazales of “Electric Art Tattoo” in the USA. I've been represented by, or/and exhibited at; the Judy A Saslow Gallery in Chicago, Il, eklektikos Gallery in Washington DC, The Henry Boxer Gallery in London, England, Aron Packer Gallery in Chicago, Il as well as exhibiting with Ed Paschke at the World Tattoo Gallery in Chicago, Il, with Andy Warhol at the Franklin Roosevelt Hotel in LA, Ca. and with Leon Golub at the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Art in Chicago, Il. I’ll be showing at L’Art Noir in New Orleans when the new space is completed later this year. The old space was lost to Katrina.
Q) How did you get started making art?
A) Both my mother and father were artists. My father was mainly a cartoonist and did a comic strip for a Naval newspaper. My mother paints mainly landscapes. My father is heavily tattooed and his tattoos probably had the most profound effect on me as an artist. Sailor Jerry kind of stuff. Battleships, geisha girls and the like. I started with drawing stuff like his tattoos; ships, skulls with knives embedded in them and snakes protruding through the eye-sockets, low brow kind of stuff like that. I also drew lots of superheros. I learned comic book anatomy before Gray’s anatomy.
Q) How would you describe your art?
A) Well, to me painting is philosophical, more so than technical. I’ve never overly concerned myself with the “craft” of painting. I could always draw & render well because of my work ethic and Paschke taught me well how to do technical things but I learned young, from both Novak and Paschke, that art is philosophical – art is truth. Paschke and Novak studied under Isabelle MacKinnon at the Art Institute of Chicago in the 50’s. MacKinnon was a student of Hans Hoffman. Hoffman was the guy who taught Jackson Pollack the drip style of painting. Hoffman was the major influence on the NY School of painting. Hoffman brought the modernist’s concepts of creating 3-dimensional space on a flat 2-dimensional surface, without destroying the integrity of that flat surface, to the US. Novak would tell me, “Art is truth”. The analogy I use, to make these philosophical ideas digestible to the layman , is this;
If one were to paint from a model, the TRUTH is, once one finishes painting one’s painting of the model, the model will get up, stretch, burp, take a piss, get dressed, etc., BUT, the painting of the model will never do any of the things REAL models do. That tells us that a painting of a model and ‘a model’ are two different distinct things. If Art is “truth”, then the painting of the model is a “lie”. Picasso said, “one doesn’t copy Nature, one is ‘in-tune’ with Nature." In other words, if one tries to create 3 dimensional space on a flat 2-dimensional surface by using “tricks” like “perspective”, then one is lying to the viewer. To create Art, one must tell truths. Hoffman’s schtick was doing just that, reproducing the universe in a flat 2-dimensional language using shifting & overlapping planes. In my art, I am always conscious about telling truths. Art dealers have marketed me as an “outsider” artist, a “visionary” artist, a “contemporary” artist, etc., etc. Its all labeling. Art is truth & I’m a truth-teller.
Q) Where do you get the inspiration for your art?
A) You breathe in, then you breathe out. Picasso said, walk in the forest all day and you’ll be painting green all night. I say live a full life and take a lot of risks and you’ll always have something to paint. Paschke was big on taking risks. He’d tell me to ALWAYS choose the most risky way of doing things. He’d tell me that every time you create a problem for yourself, a solution is required from you to solve it. The problem solving is like a fighter picking-up experience in the ring, fighting tougher and tougher opponents. My inspiration comes from living a full rich life in which I take a lot of risks. I paint what I live.
Q) What are you working on now?
A )I’m working on 3 different bodies of work. In one I use old school Americana banner style painting, a la’ Snapp Wyatt, Fred Johnson, Johnny Meah, to express my own pop surrealism idea. I’m not doing derivative “side-show” banners. I’m paying homage to the great banner painters by using their style to express my own pop surreal ideas.
I’m also working on a series which incorporates my most commercially successful stuff, boxing imagery, in which I mix it up with the old school tattoo stuff we do in the shop.
The third body of work I’ve been working on since I lived in Paris, “lipstick paintings”. These works can come off sounding artsy-fartsy if I explain, philosophically, what’s up with them. Basically, the model expresses herself on the canvas, which is rolled-out on a bed. She marks the canvas with lipstick. Kisses it. Drags her painted lips across it, etc and poses until she comes, on the canvas. A model is an exhibitionist. The artist is a voyeur. The “posing “ session is no more than a voyeur/exhibitionst experience. After, I stretch the canvas with the models markings on it, I do the “artistic” experience. I paint from memory the imagery over the model’s markings, incorporating them into the painting.
Q) Are there some web sites that you would like to recommend? Artists, art communities, xxx,...!?
Q) What programs / materials / tools do you use to create your pieces?
A) I’m old school, I paint, I draw & I tattoo.
Q) What advice would you give to younger up and coming artist?
A) If you choose the path of an artist, you have to understand being an artist is a degrading vocation. The world has very little interest in paintings and books. That’s sad to say, but true. I’m not saying there aren’t those who appreciate art and culture. I’m saying the average guy is below average and the average guy has no use for books and paintings in their life. I’ve been degraded as much as any other artist and I still create. The average guy I can relate to with a tattoo. The average guy may not have the desire to take on the philosophical ideas painting presents to him, but he WILL cough-up $300 for a skull with a knife going through it, temple to temple.
Q) What is your personal definition of life and art and everything else in between?
A) Art is truth. Tell the truth and take risks in life so you have something worth saying in your Art.
Q) Do you think that art is a universal language - transcending all the different languages, cultures and religions etc?
A) Of course. Art speaks to us. It’s blood and sperm. A skull & cross-bones tells you something is poison. Everything can be reduced to a kanji , a symbol, and no matter who you are, or where you are, in the world, you’ll understand completely what is being expressed visually.
Q) What are your artistic influences?
A) Biggest influences in my art have been Ed Paschke and Bumble-Bee Bob Novak who taught me to tackle art in philosophical terms.
Q) How are the reactions on your work in general?
A) Varied. Like I said, the average guy is below average and couldn’t care less. Some love my stuff and keep buying it. If I dig it, I consider the work strong. I hold my own opinion in high regard. ;0)
Q) Do you have many connections in the underground scene?
A) I work in a tattoo shop. I think tattoo artists generally lean towards underground stuff. I curated a low-brow art exhibit at the eklektikos Gallery in Washington DC a few years ago and Judy Saslow marketed me as an “Outsider” for years. In fact my dealer in England, Henry Boxer, is the editor of RAW VISION magazine. I keep to myself really. I hang around tattoo artists more than painters these days and when I paint, I do so in solitude. I don’t concern myself with what’s fashionable. I follow my instincts.
Q) Tell us about a recent dream you had.
A) I don’t remember dreams very often. In fact I had this conversation with a girl who models for me. She’s perfect, made in heaven. I can’t even believe this gorgeous woman gets naked for me. She’s married and I have a girlfriend, so there is no hanky-panky between us. But, we both are very attracted to each other and have tried to dream about having sex with each other. I even bought a book about dreams, hoping I could get a hot dream about her going. Finally, one night I had this glorious lucid XXX-rated dream about her. In the dream I had her bent over her desk at work and I was fucking her from behind, a pencil behind her ear, glasses on, blouse open, with her co-workers peeking through the door at us doing it.
After that, no more dreams. I don’t sleep much, maybe 5 hours a night, tops. Maybe that has something to do with it.
Q) What is freedom to you as an artist?
A) If you’ve lost everything, you have no ties to anything. The more you lose, the more free you are. Freedom is youth. As you get older, you nest. You exchange some freedom for roots. Roots are good. You can still reach for the heavens, like the branches of a tree, but your roots dig as deep into the earth as high as your branches reach for the heavens.
Q) Are there any particular works
you've done that stand out as your favorites?
A) The one I’m working on is always my favourite.
Q) Last Books you read?
A) Polidore, Ropes of Sand, Welcome to Terrorland, Barry & the Boys, While America Slept, Cocaine Politics
Q) Last records you bought?
A) The Mavericks, The Gourdes, Lucinda Williams, Willy DeVille live in Berlin
Q) Who are your favourite artists & Your favourite galleries?
A) I’m old school. Picasso, especially his later stuff, Peter Saul, of course Ed Paschke, Bob Novak, banner painters like Fred Johnsom, Snapp Wyatt, Johnny Meah, you ;0)
Q) Your contacts….E-mail…Links
A) Gary Dobry