Is Everything Art? Talking Trumpets, Humor, and New Media with Matt Starr

“This is my first interview off Adderall ever.”

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Matt Starr has been taking Adderall since he was 9 years old. When I finally reached the New York City based artist on the phone, he was exiting a subway station and apologized for the noise. “Sorry,” he said, “I’m trying to buy a trumpet and I keep getting lost.” It seemed like a fitting introduction. When confined to the limits of language, he describes himself as a New Media Artist and Conceptual Comedian. Looking to his work, it’s easy to understand why words don’t quite suffice to capture everything that he creates. For Starr, it’s not the medium that matters as much as the message behind it. Whether it’s an installation, video projection, conceptual brand, or the pioneering of a fashion movement dedicated to a regression back to infancy, Starr uses whatever tools he needs to get the job done. Sometimes that tool is a bottle of Pepto Bismol; other times it’s a FaceTime conversation with super model Cara Delevingne. Starr effectively and creatively engages his audience, mastering a perfect balance of popular culture and quotidian comforts. His use of familiar objects, places, and even sentiments democratize his work for the masses, and it’s hard to view his art without smiling, cringing, agreeing, or simply wanting to know more. He is quirky and intelligent, playful yet sharp. Starr’s wit and humor shine through, and we enjoyed getting to ask him a few more questions regarding the nature of his work.

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It Drips: An Interview with Anna Barlow

Anna Barlow creates art you want to eat—really, desperately want to eat. Barlow’s ceramic and porcelain ice cream sculptures are sweet, oozing a palatable decadence that borders on the obscene. Expertly executed and slightly disappointing for those of us hoping to chow down on the sundae of our dreams, Barlow’s work resonates deeply. We recently had the opportunity to talk with Barlow about everything ceramic, porcelain, frozen, and saccharine:

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Fameless Quarterly: What was your initial interest in sculpting ice cream?

Anna Barlow: I started out purely trying to capture ice cream in its temporary state—trying to catch that one moment at its best.

 

I was also interested in what ice cream means to us—it’s not necessarily important but it has significance in our lives as being celebrational and therefore special.

 

FQ: What is your artistic process like? How do you construct your pieces? Do you work on more than one piece at a time?

AB: I tend to produce batches of work. I combine both porcelain and earthenware clay in my pieces, which have very different firing temperatures; I start by making lots of cones, wafers, sprinkles and flakes which are made from porcelain and are fired to a very high temperature. I then use these components to construct a piece using earthenware clay that is “scooped” to make the ice cream and piped through an icing bag for whipped cream. The whole piece is then fired again, glazed and then fired three more times.

 

I usually work on around three pieces at a time.

 

FQ: You are fascinated by the rituals of food and the ephemeral nature of ice cream—how do you think the power of pleasure informs your work?

AB: It completely informs my work—I guess I am always looking for the most gorgeous, most extravagant, most fantastical treat possible! This can sometimes run alongside another theme as a contrast to a more thoughtful idea.

 

FQ: Many of your works are incredibly realistic in detail—such as the way your ‘ice cream’ melts and drips—yet they are staged in bordering-on-the-unrealistic scenes. What role do you think fantasy plays in your work?

AB: Usually I’ll work from an image which has popped into my head—it will take me some time to work out what it’s about and usually it’s actually based on life in some way. The cushion pieces seem to be inspired from when I was trying to write about my work for a show catalogue which I find quite challenging—I have a habit of working on the sofa, and one day I looked up and realized each cushion had a leftover plate or bowl on it and I thought: “Ah! That’s why I want to put food on cushions—it’s weird, but probably quite normal to a lot of people!” I made some ice creams that have been smashed across a wall which I think might be inspired by my brother and sister telling me about the time my mother threw an entire hot fruit pudding—plus the dish—at my father in pure frustration (she’ll hate me for saying this!!), but we all think it’s quite funny now….
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FQ: Critics of your work find it obscene–what do you think lends your art to that interpretation?

AB: I think it’s interesting how people react to my work. They either love it, are repulsed by it, or don’t get it. I have a theory that this reflects on how they feel about food or their relationship with it.

 

FQ: Recently you have been branching out into some more collaborative projects, such as creating the piece “Anticipation of a Thousand Moments” for the Big Egg Hunt–a project wherein several artists were asked to design two-and-a-half foot high fiberglass eggs which were auctioned off for charity. How do you see your artistic practice expanding in the future?

AB: I really loved that project! I am beginning to think that it might be fun to collaborate in some way as I would love another set of ideas to work with.  We’ll see…..

 

FQ: How do you, as an artist, make working in a specific medium and within a niche subject area continually interesting?

AB: It’s funny—I never thought I’d stick with ice cream for so long; just as I feel I must be done with it, a whole set of new ideas pop up to keep me going…. at the moment I am interested in how our individual tastes affect our perceived identity. I made a piece called, “Look, it’s so you!” where pink ice creams and treats dominate a mirror’s surface so that you can only glimpse a little of your own reflection.

 

FQ: Your works are becoming more and more monumental–do you see yourself moving towards creating larger pieces in the future?

AB: Yes—now I am represented by Scream Gallery, and they prefer to take larger work.  I am really enjoying spending a lot of energy on one major piece at a time and really going for it on intricacy and extravagance—it’s a really great challenge!

 

FQ: Any new and exciting projects on the horizon?

AB: More ice creams!!

 

ABODE: Christine Facella

Christina Facella began her career as a science illustrator for the Museum of Natural History in New York. In 2007, after several years of traveling in South America and Asia, she left her position at the museum to found Beetle & Flor—an interior accessories company. The profits from Christine’s beautiful, hand-cast, porcelain, and gold objects go towards funding her real passion—providing free and low-cost design services to underserved artisan communities in order to help them bring their products to the global market. Since Christine undoubtedly knows good object design, we were excited to see how this would translate to her personal living space:

 

Fameless Quarterly: Thank you for inviting us into your home! Tell us a little about where you live. What neighborhood are you in? When did you move here?

Christine Facella: We’ve been living in this apartment for about four years. It’s on the cusp of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick, on an isolated tree-lined street with row houses dating back to 1910. In the evening when working hours are over and the traffic dies down, it’s quite the tranquil spot.

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FQ: What are your favorite and least favorite parts about living where you do?

CF: We have an awesome backyard. The previous owner planted an array of berry bushes: black currants, white and red raspberries, blackberries, concord grapes and gooseberries—which attracts: squirrels, birds, opossums, raccoons. Unfortunately since we’re in a very polluted area, off Newtown Creek, we’re a little hesitant to eat much of it—which is probably what I like least about living here. To compensate we’ve built several planters in which we grow herbs and vegetables in the summer.

 

FQ: Outside of your home, what are some of your favorite places in the neighborhood?

CF: Walking to the studio I can choose two main routes: One takes me through McGolrick Park with its beautiful canopy of trees and newly planted native garden. The other route is behind our house, into a heavily industrialized, dirty area. I like them both; they are contemplative in separate ways: urban nature and people in the park and the void of nature and people in the other.

 

FQ: How do you think your neighborhood influences your work as a designer and artist?

CF: Last year I did a small collection of ‘urban wildlife’ skulls for the newly launched Brooklyn CSA+D. I based it on ‘tough’ species (domestic cats, rats, pigeons), basically animals I see on a daily basis around here. Other than that, living in such a creative community of people who make things is, in itself, influential!

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FQ: Does your past as an illustrator for the Museum of Natural History have an impact on how you arrange and decorate your personal living space?

CF: I think so. Both Warren and I used to work there, as illustrators and model makers. We’re both interested in natural history, and we both originate from geography that made us appreciative of nature: Warren grew up in Maine and I myself am from Norway. Having the outdoors be part of our living environment is a given.

 

FQ: Beetle and Flor was founded to fund your low-cost design services to underserved artisan communities in order to transform their local products for the global marketplace. Do you find you employ that re-purposing aesthetic at home? Are there any items in your apartment that you have created out of re-purposed materials?

CF: Most of our furniture is ‘hand-me-downs’ or from the street or garage sales. A few of our planters outside are made from old studs from removed walls in the apartment, and we’ve used reclaimed materials for some of our hand-made furnishings, fully stained with a concoction made of rusty metal and tea. The quilt on the bed was made from Warren’s old shirts and scraps of fabric.

As for the artisans, I’ve been working on a long term project with Work + Shelter, based in Delhi. They employ and train women in crafts such as knitting and sewing. For the past two years we’ve been working on a biodegradable stuffed toy project (mirandaredpanda.com).

 

FQ: Your porcelain and gold skulls are beautiful! They would fit perfectly on the shelf of a Wunderkammer–which is pretty fitting, given your background. Do you have any curios in your home?

CF: We collect things from travels or the outdoors, but they are all scattered throughout the house!

 

FQ: What is your favorite thing in your apartment?

CF: My mom, long ago, when living in Atlanta, made a rag-rug wall hanging, in pink, blue, and gray hues. For as long as I remember, it has been curled up in my parent’s basement—probably due to its outdated style and sheer size—and was amongst the ‘stuff’ my dad brought when we moved in, thinking I would want it.

I wasn’t thrilled, but since our house at the time was fairly empty, I ended up hanging it in the hallway. Now in the morning when I wake up, it’s the first thing I see, all lit up from sunlight streaming through the skylight and glass blocks. I’ve really come to love it, enough so that it has influenced the color choices in the bedroom.

 

FQ: In addition to your signature skull porcelain works you have also been producing planters and vases. What was the inspiration behind this shift?

CF: I thought it was perhaps a slightly unhealthy obsession to only do one thing, so I had to venture out and try new ideas! We can always go back to what we know, but growth happens when you try something different, at least according to Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.

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FQ: Do you garden a lot at home?

CF: Yes, it’s a weekly treat! I’m usually at war with the morning glories, trees of heaven, and those Blackberry bushes, which would like to spread all over the yard. I have a certificate in horticulture from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and am about to start an MA program in Landscape Architecture at CUNY. Plants are my second obsession!

 

FQ: You must travel a lot! Do you bring anything with you on your trips to remind you of home?

CF: Usually when I go somewhere, I’m ready to get out of here and the last thing on my packing list would be a token of home! I travel light: a small backpack. Pictures of Warren and the cats on my phone is all I need.

 

FQ: What is the biggest luxury in your home? Are you saving up for anything at the moment?

CF: We’re going solar! A huge expense, but with the tax breaks and loans, the monthly cost comes out to about what we pay Con Edison now. We are super excited!

 

FQ: If you could change something about your apartment what would it be?

CF: Who wouldn’t wish for an additional bedroom?