Artist Decoded: Zola Jesus - "Okovi"

Nika Roza Danilova has been recording and performing as Zola Jesus for more than a decade. As a classically trained opera singer with a penchant for noisy, avant-garde sounds, she launched her career with a series of lo-fi releases that pitted her soaring vocals against harsh industrial clatter and jittery synths. The signature Zola Jesus sound became more hi-fi as she began to explore her own skewed vision of pop music on releases like Stridulum, Valusia, and Conatus. With the release of Conatus, Danilova was propelled to regular appearances on festival stages all around the world, as well as a special performance at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. That era culminated in the release of Versions, a collection of string quartet interpretations of her most beloved work, conducted by J.G. Thirlwell (Foetus). That album and subsequent tour were followed by her most hi-fi outing to date, Taiga. Now, coinciding with her return to both the Wisconsin woods in which she was raised and her longtime label, Sacred Bones Records, Zola Jesus has produced Okovi, her darkest album yet. It is, in Danilova’s words, “a deeply personal snapshot of loss, reconciliation, and a sympathy for the chains that keep us all grounded to the unforgiving laws of feral nature.”

Topics Discussed In This Episode:

  • Depression
  • Dissecting sections of her creative process from an emotional and technical standpoint
  • Creative resourcefulness
  • Identity
  • Her thoughts on constructing honest lyrics
  • Yoshino and Zola Jesus’s collaboration together
  • Kindred spirits in collaborative creative partners
  • Exploring morbid curiosities and ideas surrounded around death
  • Understanding human suffering
  • Collaborating with David Lynch
  • Finding your own path
  • Resilience through failure

www.zolajesus.com

Artist Decoded: Jesse Draxler - "Tire Fire + Developing a Point of View"

"Jesse Draxler is an artist best known for his collage and mixed media works, though with his new exhibition "Tire Fire" we find him returning to the medium that sparked his love of image making, drawing. As a child growing up in rural Wisconsin Draxler drew incessantly. Being that his father was a mechanic he would spend hours upon hours drawing cars, trucks, and engine parts. Later in adolescence, his attention changed as circumstances became bleak.

Draxler’s mother was in a near-fatal car accident when he was nine. Upon her recovery, over a year later, his parents were divorced. His mother, whom he was now living with, soon remarried. Then just months after the wedding she was ran over and killed by her new husband in his truck, an event to which he arrived just moments later.

In the following years, Draxler states that he barely remembers a thing. These times of pervasive uncertainty and loss changed him forever and his focus shifted to much darker interests. He was always an outcast from his peers, but from this time on Draxler leaned into his outsider lot in life. It wasn’t until almost two decades later that he began to see a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

Themes of bewilderment, isolation, ambiguity, and absurdity are all strongly represented in Draxler’s work, along with frustration and aggression. Yet these are not endpoints but have rather become the in-roads to deeper understanding and acceptance. It is clear he has spent the better part of his life straddling the line between fear and ecstasy, the beautiful and the grotesque. The result is Draxler’s unique ability to present a point of view in which the subtle nuances of the human condition are concisely illuminated, satisfying a psychological and emotional itch that so seldom gets scratched."

Topics Discussed In This Episode:

  • Talks about his show TireFire
  • Containing multitudes
  • Finding the balance between commercial work and personal work
  • Developing a point of view
  • Susan Rothenberg
  • Viewing the entirety of your life as an artistic practice
  • Listening to music as a tool for creating art
  • Billy Corgan
  • “The Inner Game of Tennis” by Timothy Gallwey
  • The intersection of physical activities and artistic practices

www.jessedraxler.com

Artist Decoded: John Kilar on "Nomadic Living + The Flow State"

"Photographer John Kilar’s site will tell you, simply, that he is a nomad. Portraits and landscapes by Kilar will show you that too, with a raw presentation of untamed characters and equally wild and beautiful locations. Variety does not shake the colorful, documentary aesthetic that is true to his photos, which show a curious admiration for each subject.

John Kilar’s images can be found in Oyster Magazine, VICE, Dazed & Confused, Purple Fashion, and DIS Magazine. His client list includes Heineken, Urban Outfitters, The Cobra Snake, and several other lifestyle-saavy brands which Kilar worked with while living in Venice Beach, California."

Text by Linnea Stephan @ Juxtapoz

Topics Discussed In This Episode:

  • His journey into a nomadic lifestyle
  • Synchronicities
  • Following your bliss
  • Deactivating technology to be more focused on the present moment
  • Expanding consciousness
  • Identity
  • Having empathy towards others

www.johnkilar.com

Artist Decoded: "It All Comes Full Circle" with Michelle Groskopf

Originally hailing from Toronto, Canada, Michelle Groskopf is a Los Angeles based photographer. Her work is a mix of photo journalism, portraiture and street photography. She holds a BFA in film and video production from the School Of Visual Arts in New York where she also taught as an adjunct professor in the graduate film and video dept. She is a member of the celebrated flash photography collective Full Frontal Flash. Michelle is dedicated to empowering youth through photography and education initiatives working with the Lucie Foundation, Educare and Youth Arts to inspire the next generation of photographers and artists. Her work has been shown around the world and featured in publications such as The British Journal Of Photography, American Photo, The Huffington Post, Vice Magazine and It’s Nice That, among others. Her clients include, Refinery 29, Bloomberg Businessweek, Vice Magazine, Marie Claire France, Aftenposten, and Stern Magazine. Her first monograph is being published by The Magenta Foundation and will be released in the fall of 2017. 

Topics Discussed In This Episode:

  • Making thematic work
  • Her early life/work as a filmmaker and producer
  • How she became a photographer
  • Visual iconography
  • Outside forces polluting ideas
  • Her experiences living in Hollywood
  • The path of least resistance
  • Physical and emotional stress
  • Larry Sultan
  • Thinking about life as a marathon as opposed to a sprint
  • Changing the idea of success
  • Romanticizing the artist lifestyle
  • Seeing the light at the end of a dark and hopeless tunnel
  • Looking at other mediums of art for inspiration
  • Over intellectualizing artwork
  • The “Full Frontal Flash” photography collective
  • Finding a community

Michelle Groskopf - Instagram

Artist Decoded: "A Peek Into The Lives of Sex Workers" with Scot Sothern

Writer / photographer, Scot Sothern, bounced around for forty years. In 2010, at 60, his first solo exhibit, LOWLIFE, photos and stories of life with street prostitutes, was held at the notorious Drkrm Gallery in Los Angeles. His first book of the same title was published in the U.K. by Stanley Barker in 2011. The British Journal of Photography called LOWLIFE, “The years’ most controversial photobook.” Scot’s work has since been exhibited in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, London, and Paris. In 2013 he began a biweekly column, Nocturnal Submissions, for VICE Magazine, and Curb Service: A Memoir, was published by Soft Skull Press. STREETWALKERS, stories and photographs was published by powerHouse Books in February 2016. Writer, Jerry Stahl, called it “An absolutely amazing and essential book." BIG CITY, published in 2017 by Stalking Horse Press, is Sothern’s first novel.

Guest Interviewer: Nolwen Cifuentes

www.scotsothern.com

Artist Decoded: Gems - "Every Full Moon"

GEMS is the evolving ethereal pop project of former lovers Lindsay Pitts and Clifford John Usher. After an agonizing romantic split, the duo are continuing to make music together with the project: ‘Every Full Moon’. The full moon represents a time of culmination and fulfillment, of coming full circle, and a symbolic illumination in our inner lives that is mirrored in the night sky. GEMS will be releasing a new song with every full moon as they work through the ghosts of their past and face the uncertainty of the future. Their hope is that the music they create can serve as a vehicle to transform the pain and work through things that otherwise seem totally overwhelming.

Topics Discussed In This Episode:

  • Being able to separate yourself from your art
  • Constantly investigating and navigating the world
  • Neil Young, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell
  • Astrology
  • Releasing their songs at the end of the full moon cycle
  • Changes the duo has been going through both personally and with their musical career
  • Technological advances
  • The music industry
  • Getting trapped in systematic styles of living / thinking
  • Social and emotional education
  • Positivity through individuality
  • Artwork affecting culture

www.gems-band.com

Artist Decoded: Kidmograph

"I'm an art director, motion designer, and illustrator from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I've been working online since 2003 with an extensive list of creatives in music videos, live visual packages, lookbooks, and everything art related.

I have studied Beauty Arts in Bachillerato de Bellas Artes in my natal city, La Plata. I also have a teaching degree in Beauty Arts." - Gustavo Torres (aka Kidmograph)."

Topics Discussed In This Episode:

  • His beginnings as a painter then transitioning to digital art
  • Juxtaposing disparate elements together
  • His daily flow
  • Staying disciplined
  • Looking inward for inspiration

www.kidmograph.com

Artist Decoded: "Drawing Your Own Path" with John F Simon Jr.

John F Simon Jr. is a multimedia artist and software art pioneer who work and installations are found in the permanent collections of The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and The Museum of Modern Art in New York, among others. In 2011, he collaborated with Icelandic singer Bjork to write an app for her album, Biophilia. Simon's newest publication, Drawing Your Own Path: 33 Practices at the Crossroads of Art and Meditation, is out now by Parallax Press. Simon grew up in central Louisiana and currently lives and works in Sugar Loaf, New York.

Topics Discussed in this Episode: 

  • Creative ruts leading to personal creative breakthroughs
  • His experiences going to Brown and SVA
  • How he started to experiment with digital imaging
  • Communal VR and AR spaces
  • "Snowcrash", a book by Neal Stephenson
  • Classic panopticons
  • His research into AI
  • The "no-self" experience
  • Discussing the idea behind his book "Drawing Your Own Path"
  • Understanding and dissecting meditation
  • "Secret of the Golden Flower" (book)
  • Mindfulness being executed when the verbal and non-verbal parts of the brain sync up
  • The personal narrative
  • Bruce Lee
  • Creating your own reality

www.drawingyourownpath.com

www.numeral.com

Artist Decoded: Rebecca Farr - "Out of Nothing"

Rebecca Farr (b. 1973, Los Angeles, California)

Lives and works in Los Angeles, California.

Rebecca Farr recently exhibited her most recent show at Klowden Mann, Out of Nothing and was reviewed by New American Paintings. In 2015, Farr was awarded a residency at Kaus Australis in Rotterdam, and was featured in a group exhibition at Kaus in the Fall of 2015. Farr has exhibited in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Houston, Istanbul, Rotterdam, and throughout the Pacific Northwest. Her work is held in private collections both nationally and internationally, and she recently completed two years as faculty artist in the education department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art where she has been developing youth driven public works. Rebecca is the founder of CREATE/ACTION, an artist driven community organizing collective based in Los Angeles.

www.rebeccafarr.com