Joseph Donald Myers 1976-2014
Appears in INSIDE #18 buy online
The undisputed master of the grotesque collages is dead. I didn’t know Joseph D. Myers personally. I have interviewed him some years ago via email, he has contributed his art to INSIDE artzine #17, we have some email conversations… But I know his art! This disturbing, terrifying collage stuff that will changes you right after you have seen it for the first time. His unique talent to recombine the reality to just what it is: A scary illusion. Other collagists just cut confetti, Myers shows us the hidden abyss behind the things we think to know. It doesn’t matter if you like his work or not… it will touches you, it will hurts you, it will haunts you!
Take a trip through his dark portfolio, be astonished about his unexpected answers in the interview and take a look behind the scenes in his artist statement/legacy.
Thanks Joe, for sharing your brilliant art with us in our dirty little magazine.
May you find you peace now…
Interview with Joseph D. Myers (2013)
artscum.org: First, I have to admit, that I have never seen such powerful collages for a long time. They are confusing, disturbing but nevertheless absolutely intriguing in the same time. GREAT JOB! You named your own blog „The Terrible Art of Joseph Donald Myers“. That‘s pretty good description of this wonderful gloomy gallery. Think, „terrible“ is a negative term for most of the people. Can you describe your art in your own words? What is this „terrible“ thing in your art?
Joseph D. Myers: Thanks for the kind words! I think I settled on “terrible” because it describes, both literally and ironically, what my art is about and what I think others may think of it. My work has always been very strange and scary, and I have always wanted people to react strongly, to get some sort of emotional response. I remember back in my high school days a woman (an English teacher, I think) was watching me hang some of my crazy drawings and she looked at me and frowned, not saying anything. After a bit she asked: “What are those supposed to mean?” I said, “I don’t know!” and she walked away. I want my work to be like a beautiful car accident… something you can’t take your eyes away from even if your brain is telling you “Stop looking at this!” I think that’s terrible in the best sense of the word.
artscum.org: The omnipresent deformation steps to a new dimension of ugliness. Do you think ugliness touched the people more than beauty? Think we can imagine, what do think about ugliness so what is your definition of „Beauty“?!
Joseph D. Myers: I think there is so much inherent beauty in what is normally considered “repulsive”, like the grin of a decayed corpse. These “accidental” results of decomposition and nature and humanity – all of this is so deeply fascinating to me. I find beauty in the skeletal remains of a dog, an abandoned home, a stormy sky, a stern portrait of a mother from the 19th century, an image of space captured by the Hubble telescope… the list goes on and on and on. There is so much beauty in darkness. So many details overlooked because of fear.
artscum.org: I‘m curious about your inspirations. Are there any historical examples like the collage dada heros or modern artists like Winston Smith/Dead Kennedys? Any current favorite (collage)artists we should know? What is the fascination of the collage method?!
Joseph D. Myers: As far as my artistic inspirations are concerned, they are many and varied: Salvador Dali, Francis Bacon, Joel Peter Witkin, Al Columbia, Chris Ware, Stanley Kubrick, Stephen King, Robert Crumb, H.R. Giger, Robt. Williams, H.P. Lovecraft, Berni Wrightson, the list goes on and on. So many amazing visions from these wonderful minds. I have learned so much from so many.
I think the digital collage method grew out of me out of necessity, because I was spending so many hours working with Photoshop because of my career. Up until this recent series of digital works my art was created with pens and pencils and pastels, but when I discovered the complexity and depth of the Adobe software, especially Photoshop, my creative world was changed forever. There’s a magical world of creative power contained in what many consider to be a fairly benign yet powerful piece of software. It has allowed me to combine all of the things I find interesting, layer by layer, until the resulting image is born. I always listen to music when I make these things, so I’m tapping into a very deep place, and the art blossoms from these improvisational experiments. It’s very close to what I would consider genuine magic. Because of the ability to find images of literally anything you can imagine or that has existed within seconds (thanks to Google and such), I am able to create these collages as if I were a musician, or a chef… or Dr. Frankenstien. Gathering disparate ingredients and putting them together to create a completely original image. That’s what keeps me interested and amazed. The benign and mundane and feared parts of our world, meeting in a unique way.
artscum.org: Most of your work looks like nightmare visions of a madman. Do think the mind of man is a fragile thing? What must happened to lose control about reality?
Joseph D. Myers: It’s funny, because I’m a pretty “normal”, very happy person. I am a father of three wonderful boys and a husband to an amazing wife, and I grew up with very few worries. But I have also confronted many different demons over the years that have contributed to my macabre artistic tendencies. So I am a bit of a contradiction, I suppose. Which is fine. That adds to the whole mysterious nature of my artwork. J No one really knows what’s going on in my mind except for me, and that’s probably a good thing. But I am so full of love and happiness, many people are quite shocked to see what pours from my imagination. So, yes, I think the mind of man is a very fragile thing… but a fertile ground as well. I am lucky that I have the ability to do something “productive” with my nightmares. Because I think a lot of people, if they were honest, would admit to thinking about some crazy shit from time to time. But instead of tucking those thoughts away, I embrace them and celebrate them. I become friends with them. Much better to be friends with darkness and fear and horror than enemies.
artscum.org: Most of your artwork are full of explicit content, mostly because of your new combination of the things. Do think that everything that seems to be possible use as an object in art? Or is there are anything that be taboo, even in art?!
Joseph D. Myers: I think the “taboo” has to play a part in what I’m doing in order to make the viewer question their own sensibilities about what is “gross” or “perverse” or “forbidden”. I try to avoid gratuitous violence or pornography, but sometimes the animal tendencies that lie within the heart of man have no choice but to show themselves, especially in my art. One thing that I explore and embrace in my work is post-mortem photography from the 19th century. There are so many hauntingly beautiful images of loved ones that died too young before their time… because the mortality rate was so high back then, and photography was such a new technology, people were embracing it as a means to keep the memory of the dead alive forever. So people would sometimes pose the departed in a natural setting, or simply take a picture of them during a funeral viewing. Anything to hold onto the memory through photography. That’s so fascinating to me… and these slices of time/space are captured like magic, the subjects never knowing that someday, some guy with a computer would be staring into those eyes to find beauty and inspiration.
artscum.org: I‘m always curious about the man behind the art. Often the audience compare the artist with his art. So are you an incurable lunatic with bad dreams or an intellectual visionary who can see things we can not see? What do you tell your new girlfriend, parents, neighbors about your art. Or do give a damn about the reaction/opinion of your audience?
Joseph D. Myers: I think I’m someone who’s not afraid to find beauty in horror, order in chaos, and translate that into something interesting and powerful for the viewer to appreciate. Maybe they’ll look at the world a little differently after studying my work, who knows… I just don’t want people to dismiss what I do as the artistic equivalent of a raving lunatic. The world is a scary, scary place. I’m just holding up a funhouse mirror for everyone to see a little bit more.
artscum.org: Mankind more and more develops into a heap of selfish, daft self-destructors, both as for globalization and respect for one another. What is left of the beauty of the cosmic creation? Of the creative spark for perfection? Does Mankind still have a chance, or would it be better to flush the whole shit down the toilet of the evolutionary failure to give the future protozoa a shot for life?
Joseph D. Myers: Best question ever! The state of modern humanity frightens me deeply. I think the human race is pushing itself to extremes, both positive and negative. This balancing act, although important, is very nerve-wracking. I fear that there is a very fine line between control and chaos, civility and barbarism. But I also think that there is so much love, so much good in the world. It’s disturbing how ignorant and shallow-minded many people have become, and I truly hope that people will begin to truly understand the power of compromise and love and peace. Maybe this obsession with self-destruction will fade away someday, but it may take an “act of God” to truly correct all of the problems on our wonderful planet. A wildfire to even things out, create a fresh stage for true spiritual rebirth. But until that time, we have to maintain our corners of the universe and try to appreciate the good aspects of life. But we can’t always turn away from the darkness, the horrible, the terrifying. Sometimes we have to face and embrace these things like dear friends.
P.S.: Jenz, one very important thing that I forgot to mention was my fascination with TEETH! Teeth are a HUGE part of my aesthetic, and I will forever be fascinated by how deeply primal and scary they can be. One of those things we take for granted, but can be so much more than what they are designed for. Sort of like how the female breast has taken on a sexual appeal… I mean, they were designed as very efficient and well-designed food producers/containers when you think about it. Only through human perception have they become sex objects. Just like teeth, although designed to be perfect food cutters and smashers, have become much more interesting to me over the years. So powerful and frightening, and very much a part of our Mammal heritage.
Statement of Joseph D. Myers about his work
My current body of work, which I began in early 2009, is an almost direct response to the death of my mother. Although the Number One Champion of my artwork, Mrs. Linda Myers did not, however, enjoy my more sinister sensibilities. “Why don’t you do something nice?” she’d ask on a regular basis. “Because I don’t really know how”, I’d reply. As I struggled with the idea that she was no longer physically present, I also realized that I could explore death and dying (and the beauty that surrounds it) to my heart’s content without the worry of disappointing her. Sounds strange, especially since my mom was/is The Most Amazing Mother a son could have asked for and her loss is a void that will never truly be filled. All the same, she taught me how to find silver linings in the strangest of places. The result has been close to 200 unique pieces since April of 2009.
My creative process is relatively complex, albeit one that has become deeply intuitive over the past few years. My essential goal to tap into the deep fears of my childhood as well as the fears I have developed as an adult. It all starts with a scavenger hunt of sorts. I scour the internet for images that involve, but are not limited to: death, dying, old portraits, wars, mouths and teeth, insanity, deformity, landscapes, insects that scare me (especially wasps), aggressive animals, humanity in general… the list could go on and on. I will also photograph parts of my own body or use original nature photography if there’s a certain “something” I’m attempting to capture. Then, like an improvisational chef or musician (or Dr. Frankenstein), I start assembling bits and pieces of the images that have spoken to me using Photoshop. Many times I will create separate illustrations that will fill in certain gaps or add to the overall effect. If there is any need for text in the piece I will hand draw and scan that as well. Sometimes I attempt to incorporate a theme, other times the themes emerge like long-silenced screams from the past. I want to present to the world unique images that are at once familiar and terribly alien; comforting and disturbing; beautiful and terrifying. I want to welcome you into my brightly-lit home on a pleasant Spring morning, then slam the door, turn out the lights and strap you to a chair with eyelids held open forcing you to see what lurks in the dark, mad corners of the universe.
Or something like that.
Joseph D. Myers
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