Continuing with providing resources through interviews with local artists, we sent some questions to Perry Vasquez, an interdisciplinary artist who has taught locally at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, has had artworks on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Downtown San Diego, and has been featured in the San Diego International Airport with his burning palm trees series titled “Under the Perfect Sun”.
What projects are you currently working on? Recently, I wrote and recorded music for a project called The Beatrice Suite which is inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy (and which I hope you will all rush out and download right now : )). It focuses on the character of Beatrice, one of Dante’s guides through the underworld and the love of his actual life. The lyrics are taken from the poem itself. I know it sounds ambitious and pompous but I hope it’s down to earth. I really had fun doing it. I thought of myself as Dante’s backup band so I could really live out my rock n roll fantasy! I even came up with an alter ego to write the music – Coconut Dalí. A much better moniker than mine! He/she is a cross between Frida Kahlo, Mark E. Smith, Dante Alighieri, and the daughter Salvador Dalí never had.
The Ideal Copy is an ongoing series of paintings that explores the mythology of the palm tree as it exists here in Southern California. For the many years I lived here, palm trees were virtually invisible to me. They were just conventional features of the landscape tourists expect to see when they come for vacation. Then one day I saw a burning palm tree and I almost literally fell stricken to the earth like Saul on the road to Damascus! I’ve been obsessed with the image ever since. I can’t explain.
Tweets from an Imaginary Country is a book I’m co-authoring with Guillermo Gómez-Peña who is a well-known performance artist. As the title implies they are a collection of tweets best described as funny, sad, withering, despairing, optimistic, angry, sardonic, sharp, contradictory, clever, inscrutable, kinky, and sometimes even instructive!
How has the pandemic affected or shifted your practice?
As a contemporary artist, I try and respond to the present moment. The Twitter book with Guillermo is an attempt to respond to the pandemic’s global impact using image and text. Everyone I know is still trying to figure out what this all means. It is a no-bullsh*t moment, but then again it is also a time for levity. Yes. As a way to relieve stress. I find myself drawn to old Fred Astaire movies and escapist entertainment. I can’t tolerate too much cable TV news because I prize my functioning mental continuum. This isn’t a time to be SO open-minded that you let just anything crawl in.
I teach at Southwestern College and we had about one week to change our courses over to online and I teach three courses so I’ve been busy filming tutorials and putting them on YouTube. This helps compensate for learning from a distance. I’ve wanted to make tutorials for a long time. The pandemic forced my hand.
What has your journey been like as an artist? I started out as a larva, just a little skin bag that gradually grew into something strange and beautiful. I found my first artistic hero at age 15, Vincent van Gogh, thanks to the song “Vincent” by Don Mclean. I was growing up in High Point, NC at the time. Fortunately, we had several artist books on our shelves at home including one about him. I took it down and read it cover to cover and that’s how I got started. Many lovely people supported and encouraged me during those years of being an ugly little larva! As a college student, I went to visit my painting teacher and hero Frank Lobdell at his studio. I found him busily picking up nails scattered in his dirt driveway and not in the mood to entertain me. So I started helping him pick up nails. I think we picked up nails for an hour and he finally invited me into his studio and offered me a beer. We sat and talked about painting and art. It was fabulous. I had another groovy experience the first time I attended a performance art workshop with Guillermo Gómez-Peña and La Pocha Nostra performance troupe. That’s when I realized that I was subject to a syndrome I call delirium fronterium (the ecstasy of the border crosser), which is the rush you get from crossing new artistic, pedagogical, existential and ontological borders for the first time. That’s why I keep exploring new media and ideas. I need that occasional dose of entropy in my life to remain active.
Do you have any tips for up-and-coming or rising artists? Here are some timely Tweets for all your young artists to keep in mind:
Break bread with others
In the security of your own L.A.N.D.
(Local Area Network Diaspora)
Let the sacred circle remain unbroken.
Not controlling the outcome is known to reduce emotional stress among performance artists, young arrogant curators, bodhisattvas, and certain species of border frogs.
Spill some milk on the turntable
Find a hole –
Crawl inside and explore its universe.
A playlist to encourage entropy
MIX / MUTATE / MEXILATE / MEXOFIATE
An indigenous hacker once told me
“It’s legacy systems,
infinite ancestral regression
and turtles –
All the way down.”
Contra Newton: Don’t think APPLE: Think MANGO instead.
And in the end –
The hydraulics of HISTORY
Will be juxtaposed with the biological will
to SURVIVE the pandemic.
Find Perry on Instagram: @this_is_not_a_pope