Studio Tour #008 - Michael Rea
Studio Tour #008 - Michael Rea
Chad Kouri: Introduce yourself, background, childhood dream career, so on.
Michael T Rea: Well My Name is Michael Rea, I am 34 (my Walter Payton Birthday) I went to the University of Wisconsin Madison for graduate school in the area of sculpture. Before that I attend Northern Illinois University, where I received a degree in Art Education and focused on Painting. I grew up in the South suburbs, Burbank and Tinley Park. I guess my childhood dream career was to be a guy who created the graphics for skateboards, or if that did not work out illustrate comic books. My high school aptitude test said I would make the perfect gravel truck driver. Never tell anyone you like the idea of working outside.
CK: Do you have any formal training in wood working or was it something you picked up on your own?
MR: I sort of picked it up on my own, but while I attended UW I worked with a number of very technical wood workers, which did inform certain aspects of my work. I try to stay a lot looser than what most wood workers can stomach. Wood workers believe in getting something right the first time, I much prefer the deviation that occurs after fucking something up three to four times.
CK: You just got done curating the Gimme Baby Robots show. What's that all about?
MR: Gimme Baby Robots is a show my good friend Dave Teng Olsen started five years ago, in Madison , WI. Dave ran the show the first two years and we started working together the last three. At first the show was a once a year show in Madison, made up of Graduate students, undergrads, and some faculty. Once Dave And I graduated we decided to expand the show to be a once a year multi-city art show. Last year we went to seven cities, which almost killed us, and this year we scaled things down to four. 2009 started at the Igloo gallery in Portland, we just finished the the Chicago show which was at the Empty Bottle, and we have two stops left. Echo Curio Gallery in LA, a final stop in Seattle. The thing that makes baby robots a little different is all bids start between a dollar and ten. All work is limit to the dimensions of 10x10", or 10x10x10" for sculpture thus the name baby robots (work does not have to depict robots or babies). 70% of the money goes back to the artists and the other 30 gets split between the hosting gallery, myself and Dave. Needless to say Dave and I never make any money, and well the checks we write to artist are on the modest side. What I enjoy about the show is the way it promotes the idea of art collecting. The show is always a friendly cheap way for someone that is new to art buying to get their feet wet. Galleries I feel can be a bit intimidating as are the prices The most we usually sell something for is about a hundred dollars. Another aspect of the show is we show undergraduates, grads, emerging and established, and the field is leveled. You never what someone is going to fight for, and what may be ignored on a give night. The show is always a salon style silent auction. We tend to encourage drinking and of course competitive bidding. At the end of the night the bids are locked in that work can be taken home that same evening. For the most part this runs rather smooth since we have five years of experience, but we are always looking and discussing new ways to make next years shows work a little better. Baby Robots is open to all feel free to go to http://gbr.siamesebirds.com/ for more information.
CK: Are you still holding down a day job?
MR: I am still holding a day job. I work as technician in the department of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University.
CK: What's your favorite piece that you have made? Is it the same as what everyone else likes most?
MR: Not sure about that one, I guess I sort of favor the spacesuit I built a few years ago, or perhaps the tambourine I built for the wood band I made. It is always odd what one person likes the most. It always seems to be a little different. I think my experience is always a little different from that of the audience. Some pieces were more difficult than others to build conceptually/physically. I sometimes harbor a secret hate for a few of them.
CK: Without much other similar work to reference (at least that I'm aware of) how did you go about figuring out how to execute your pieces? Was it all trial and error or were you referencing other artist's practices?
MR: I guess mostly trial and error. I mean there are a lot of tricks you pick up from friends and other artist but in most cases you never know until you try.There is also this ego thing I find that pops up. Just because everyone else failed to do something does not mean I will. Which usually leads me to failure as well. Sometime you have to learn things the hard way, a few times.
CK: What is the biggest thing you have ever made? What is the highest shipping cost you or a gallery has paid to get your work somewhere else?
MR: I think the tank on a ramp is the biggest thing I have ever made which is about 8'x18'x15' total ish. Shipping on the other hand is a whole different story, the most I think anyone has spent is $6000ish.
CK: How long have you been in the space you are in now? How long where you in the space before this one?
MR: Well I moved to three different studios last year. I think I spent about three months in the first, four in the next, and I have been in my current space for about a year. Needless to say I plan on staying in my current studio for a bit.
I find that when I change my work space I'm more inspired to create new work. Do you have that same feeling or is it just an overall inconvenience.
Moving studios sucks. I hate it. I keep getting new tools which are heavy, my work is heavy. All in all it is hellish. I prefer to just be in a space where I can work without interruption.
CK: What is your favorite kind of wood and why?
MR: Poplar, not to hard, not to soft, not to expensive, and a large variety of color.
CK: What's a typical work day for you?
MR: I like or prefer to work during the day. Start around 9 and leave around five. With the day job this varies. Sometimes I work for a few hours in the morning before my job. and other days in the evening after work.
CK: You mentioned that you don't often do a lot of sketching. Do you use any computer software to flesh out ideas or does it all go right from your head to form?
MR: No, I sort of think of the objects as sketches, or at least the initial steps.
CK: What is the most untraditional wood working tool or machine you have ever used?
MR: That is a good one lets see. Well I have a few etching tools left over from an undergraduate intaglio class that I like to use. I also like to use Lumograph pencils for marking my cuts. Other than that it is rather traditional. I do use an angle grinder a lot which is guess is more of a metal working tool, but that is a bit like splitting hairs. I wish I used a turkey baster or something but, I guess I use the usual stuff.
CK: Why is Chicago so frickin' awesome?
MR: So many reasons, but I like to think it has something to do with me.
CK: Where is the most unusual place that you have shown your work?
MR: Not sure about this one, everything so far has been rather typical. I will be on the look out for some sort of prostitution convention, or perhaps a leper colony looking for some large wooden sculptures.
CK: What is the longest you have stayed up consecutively to finish a piece?
MR: I have to admit I am fairly organized and rarely procrastinate. I am sure I have worked til 2 or 3am a few times but for the most part I like to wrap things up a few days before they are due. I probably just jinxed myself.
CK: Jammin on any new good music we should know about?
MR: Just downloaded When the going gets tough by Billy Ocean and Love Touch by Rod Stewart. I can not seem to get my hands on Nasty Girl by Vanity 6
CK: Know of any up and coming superstars that we should keep our eyes on?
MR: Ryan Travis Christian seems to be kicking a significant amount of ass lately.
CK: Plug any up coming showing or event you have here.
MR: well I am going to be in a group show
Hand+Made: The Performative Impulse in Art and Craft
Opening reception: Friday, May 14, 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. Artists/Scholars Talk: Saturday, May 15, 2:00 p.m. On view: May 15 – July 25, 2010
I will also be in a group show at andres guerrero in San Francisco in April.
I will be traveling to Germany this Summer to be part of a Project called Forest Art
I will be in a group show next fall at the NIU Museum, in DeKalb.