Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Interview with Erik Otto

Erik Otto paints calm yet tumultuous boats at sea, constructs shelters and boats with recycled materials, and is beginning more abstract pieces with spectacular bright bold colors. His titles tell you a lot about his direction and thought process, using phrases such as, "visible only from a distance," "inner silence," and "blissful moment." With traces of graffiti and illustration, he uses color to enhance the mood of otherwise hard to experience moments. He is able to encompass such depth of the human experience due to his travels and willingness to be exposed to many lifestyles. I am excited to see his work in the near future, as the metaphors become more abstracted and the visuals attach to more to my subconscious than eyes.

He has an upcoming exhibition at the Shooting Gallery in July and is often found creating new work in his studio behind Gallery Three.

You share studio space with Gallery Three's show room, what is that like? How is being on 6th street daily?

I have gained a lot sharing my studio space with Gallery Three. Since we opened the doors to the public in September 2007, I have met a lot of new people and artists. I get the experience of owning a gallery without owning a gallery. I get to see how other artists work, I see all the work that goes into starting a gallery from scratch, and having a space that changes every month is very refreshing. If I had a choice, I wouldn't have had my studio on 6th street, but the affordable rent allows me to continue to do what I do.

Most of the time, when I am working in the studio, the music is on blast and I am too busy to notice what's going on around me. For the times when I do get distracted by the activities outside, the sight is usually pretty upsetting. It takes a lot to come to 6th street everyday and get work done, but it is the sacrifice I needed to make in order to have what I have. I guess the goal every shop owner on 6th street is banking on, is that the block will eventually turn around. We will just have to wait and see.

Your titles and images are centered around oceanic themes, water, perseverance, space, etc. I think Odysseus or some epic journey when I look at your full body of work. What are you trying to convey with these themes? Why are you prone to these ideas right now?

My work is definitely about a journey of soul searching. Nothing too different from what we all are essentially doing, only I have adapted to my visual language as a means of expressing and communicating it. I find water to be the most interesting natural element. It is both a source of life, as well as the one thing that can destroy us all.

The main concept behind my work is protecting and nurturing your hopes and dreams because without them, we are nothing. My work is generally autobiographical, drawing from emotions, in hopes that others will connect with my honesty.

Currently, I feel the world around me, as well as myself, is in a crucial stage referred to as the crisis stage before a much needed change occurs. This is representative by the storms and clouds in my most recent work. The houses symbolize dreams and the boats act as a symbol of hope that will remain afloat even in times of flood.

You have worked with some larger name clients. How was that experience? Now you have your own clothing company, did you get some ideas from them? or cautions for what you want to avoid? What got you into textiles?

I have been fortunate enough to work with some pretty big clients, and the experience ranges from excellent to absolute crap. I now make a conscious effort to choose my battle wisely, and no matter how small the job, always put things in writing. I have been working as a freelance designer for over 6 years, yet the process is never perfect. Fortunately, early on I have become very aware of the absurd practices in business where creatives get the short end of the bargain, while these larger companies thrive.

Overall, complaints aside, it has been a huge learning process for me, and meeting and working with all the people I have come across has added a whole lot to my perspective on how I would like to do things. Since as far back as I could remember, I had always dreamed of working for myself with the sole intention of making a difference. I had it in my mind to start a clothing line in '98, but it wasn't until 2004 did I have the resources to make it happen. At the time, I went into it naively thinking I was just going to print artwork on shirts, but after years of hard work and multiple negative balances in my bank account, it has matured into a very time consuming yet very rewarding job.

You mention in your about statement "traveling to Hawaii, frequenting Arizona and New York", and being "inspired by the stillness of open land." You want to talk about this more?

I was originally going to move to the islands with some close friends after high school, but due to my record (long story), I wasn't allowed to leave the state. I ended up sticking around the bay area and managed to get a degree in Illustration. After graduation in 2005, I rewarded myself with a trip to Oahu that ended up being an epic vacation that transformed my life.

I slept on floors, in parks, and in my tent in the mountains as well as the country side. I also had the chance to hop over to the island of Kuaui, where my friends and I camped out on the beach for 3 days. My parents moved to the country side of Arizona 3 years ago, and it has now become a place where I go to relax. New York is the city if all cities here in the states, and I go there to get inspired and reconnect with friends in Brooklyn.

What keeps your mind thinking of new ideas, enhancing your creativity, and engaging in the local art scene? What art museum in SF is your favorite? How do you approach visiting exhibits on First Thursdays?

In the words of Albert Einstein, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I get my ideas by questioning everything I do, while always searching for new ways to push things further. I feel like I am inspired by all the same things that inspire everyone else, only I am doing my best to leave a trail of things I am proud of.

Favorite museum in SF is the De Young, and believe it or not, it is rare to find me at art openings. It's weird. I always plan on going, then end up getting caught up working on something. Although, I have found, for me, the best way to appreciate the depth of a show is by privately visiting the show during normal gallery hours.

San Francisco is a very inspiring city, and even though my passion is art, I have always been the type to look for inspiration outside of the world I am directly exposed to everyday.

He's all over the web! (coming soon)

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