Bay Area artist Troy Lovegates has kept busy the past handful of months with plenty of traveling and painting, all while preparing for our current exhibition at Athen B. Gallery, "Condition". We recently talked to Troy about living in Buenos Aires, finger paintings, subject matter and the human condition. Stay tuned for more interviews with the rest of the "Condition" artists Ever Siempre, Franco Fasoli and Zio Ziegler coming soon.
On view until October 2, 2015.
Athen B: I’ve never seen such detailed finger paintings on such a variety of surfaces before. How did you figure out to use the oil sticks the way you do?
Troy: I always liked to get dirty .. I wreck all my clothes and shoes and cameras and phones and everything with grease and gunk and dirt ... getting my hands into gunk just feels perfect ... my finger as the brush ... really hands on it just seems natural ... I found oil sticks because they are used by people who draw monikers on trains and for some reason i hang out with a lot of people who draw on trains.
Who are these people you paint portraits of?
They are stolen souls that I see on my travels, wandering cities ... a lot of people think they are just homeless people or crazies but I think for the most part they are people in transit heading to work or on a long train ride or something ... of course sometimes they are homeless people ...they are mostly hard working weathered people ...i like faces that have time imprinted on them... they have been worn and wrinkled by life ... I mean all those perfect young faces are so pretty but really they are still blank canvases before the details of actually living have been carved in them ...I feel a bit rotten about taking pictures on the sly but people react wild when I get the guts to confront them to take their portraits and it also takes the moment away ...they put on their photo face which was never as good as where they were originally ... I guess in the end the people are just references and the paintings don't turn out even looking like them I am more looking for moods , sorrow , pensiveness, joy , anger than actually who the people are ... I don't really know who the people are.
Are there any artists out there that have affected the way you work? Shown you tricks, maybe showed you the ropes?
Hmm I started way back in the 80s as a teenager before the internet and in a sort of smallish Canadian city there wasn't much visual inspiration ...the only way we even saw pictures of graffiti was by trading photos by snail mail with people in real cities ... I think skateboarding and music effected my work more than any visual artist ... I was sort of just breaking ground for where I was with a small stream of tiny clips of the scenes in NYC or LA or Europe coming through in the backgrounds of movies or skateboard magazines.
Since moving to the Bay Area from Canada have you noticed any shifts or changes to your work style that could be related from the move.
Hmmmm well since I have been here I have gone more towards sculpture and that has been as a direct result of having access to an amazing wood shop at the Headlands Center for the arts during my residency there ... now that I have a new studio in Oakland I am going to have to figure out how to continue to make sculptures minus all the machinery ... going back to basics ... that will probably take me in a new direction ....
You’ve been traveling the world for years now. Care to share any stories from any journeys? Any with Nico and Franco?
I was living in Buenos Aires for 7 months but we had to leave because I felt blind half the time ... the city was beautiful half falling apart but also enormous with overwhelming traffic and bustle... there was so much to explore but I was so allergic to this place ... I painted many good spots with Jaz an Ever ... there are too many stories... a friend visited us there and got shot through both his legs... one night while painting a wall I got attacked by transvestite prostitutes throwing beer bottles at me... when I tried to escape they were laughing and patting me on the back all friendly, just wanted to scare me as a joke ... I randomly found wads of money on the streets which was strange maybe three times I found a couple of hundred Argentinian Pesos which we would just give to young Cartoneros ... this city I feel like you could be blind and go for a walk with a camera and take the most amazing pictures there are so many layers of architecture , people , past and future , clutter , intense thunderstorms and sunsets with colors you would never see in North America , and throw in melting heat to the point you cant think... it really changes your mindset.
What inspired you to start working with wood sculptures?
Years ago in Montreal I found all these woodcarving tools in the garbage ...I wanted to start carving right away but I was nervous about it because it seems like it is something you have to know a lot about ... the certain woods and different knives for different cutting techniques... there is so much trial and error involved ... basically I am not a team player ... I dont like classes or being directed / told what to do ... even if it is in a good helpful way ... I would rather get it wrong alone 5 million times than be told ...I like personal discovery ... so I secretly would try it and fail for a couple of years ... I think I am still doing that in a way ... there are tons of things I make that get reworked , painted over or carved smaller ... I really suck ...it takes me 1000 times longer to get it right
How does the human condition affect the work you make?
Hmmm I think that my work is pretty selfish ... I see so many artists that work off of humanity at large ...wars ... race ... sexuality ... climate change... massive heavy changes going on in the world ... my work is sort of situational to me just things I am going through on a daily basis... and those things are not really humongous up heaving world events ... they are dreams I have had or rather nightmares ... for instance not a week goes by without me having a dream of falling out of an airplane or being in an airplane crash ... so I do draw a lot of falling people trying to swim in the air ... I like capturing people just having a moment to themselves or thinking ... or just journeys through life ...a visual diary ... I think maybe I should have something deeper to say on the world at large but it just doesn't become the focal point of my work that often.
Your fresh off a couple months of traveling. Where did you go and what did you do?
I was on the road for 7 weeks ... mostly back up in Canada ... Toronto ,Barrie , Ottawa , Sudbury ... painting Murals ... I also did a Installation with Thinkspace and The Fort Wayne Museum of Art in Fort Wayne, Indiana ... and the last project I was involved with this summer was the Forest For The Trees mural project up in Portland Oregon.
What’s up next for Troy Lovegates? Goals, projects, exhibitions?
Right now I am setting up a new studio over in Oakland above Athen B Gallery ... I think I will just be hunkering down over the winter and exploring inside work ... my goals are to make my studio an interesting place to visit and maybe be a bit of a hang out spot where friends can make prints and shoot the shit ... of course also to try and make some new arts too !