Today, our very own JM Superville Sovak, the illustrator of Into the Dangerous World, is going to tell his own story of the top 9 artists who influenced him throughout his life so far as an artist:
JM: The first pieces of art I ever saw were my father's crisp engravings of Connecticut winter landscapes. Unlocking the mystery of how my dad made these things was my apprenticeship in learning to draw. Since my first X-Men inspired drawings of exploding heads (very popular in middle-school, not so popular with my dad), part of my process of growing as an artist has been the many conversations I've had with my peers, my mentors and teachers, living artists or dead ones (some of these talks happen only in my head). Nothing is created in vacuum. So here, in the somewhat random order of when I saw their work, is a not-so-complete list of the artists who changed my life.
1. Lee Bontecou. On my first trip to MoMA, age 16, I was blown away by Bontecou's welded steel and stretched canvas constructions. Her wall pieces seemed to grow out of the museum architecture, wrapping themselves around dark voids trapped like a ghost's three-dimensional speech bubbles. I thought she was the first-place winner in the Darth Vader Jedi Arts Award.
2. Vaclav Dyntar. My mentor Dyntar was the first artist who'd invited me to his studio and let me watch him work. As a potter and a sculptor, he handled his clay with the ruthlessness of a bull rider and with the love and discipline of a monk. "If you're going to put your hand in there," he'd say, "you might as well make it look like it was there."
3. Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg made it seem okay for me to mess things up, make a sculpture out of a painting, make a painting out of found objects. Nothing was sacred, everything was up for grabs. As he put it: "I think a painting is more like the real world if it's made out of the real world."
4. Jean-Pierre Gauthier. My metal sculpture teacher and later studiomate, Jean-Pierre is part-musician, part-mad scientist whose Frankenstein-like musical machines made of everyday objects create an automatic chaotic orchestra. JP taught me about the chance operations of composer John Cage, and that with a well-equipped toolbox, walking through the aisles of Home Depot can be as inspiring as the galleries of a museum.
5. Robert Smithson. Smithson made the entire outdoor landscape his studio and transformed the idea of what we call a "museum" space. Using materials like sand, glass, salt crystals and gravel, he made "earthworks" to create a "sense of the oceanic." To him, the place where the artist makes art as important as the art itself.
6. Glenn Ligon. As I struggled with the idea of making art and being identified as black, Glenn Ligon's work gave me a language I never even knew existed to talk about race in America. His work using Richard Pryor's jokes as backgrounds for paintings, or Muhammad Ali's words printed on punching bags, made me re-evaluate everything I'd come to take for granted about the whiteness and straightness of art history.
7. Faith Ringgold. You might not think of quiltmaking as a radical political form of art activism, but Faith Ringgold will quickly convince you otherwise. More than any other single work of art, Faith Ringgold's 1969 "Flag for the Moon" spun my head right around. There have been many more celebrated artists who've used the iconograpy of the American flag as material for making art, but Ringgold's is as revolutionary (and necessary) now as it was then.
8. Kara Walker. Kara Walker's black paper silhouettes of the most nightmarish of scenes of Southern plantation life depict the physical and psychological violence between slave-owners and slaves in a way that, like the blues, is as beautiful as it is painful (think Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit.") Because it forces us to imagine more than what is there, Kara Walker's work teaches us something about "seeing the unspeakable."
9. Marilyn Minter. Marilyn Minter has a long history of myth-busting the [HIS]torical straight white male artist narrative with her massive paintings of women's body parts so gorgeously up close they will seduce you and abuse you like chocolate-covered jalapeños. *Full-disclosure*:I've worked as a studio assistant for Marilyn and not only has the OCD nature of her work technically made me a better artist, her generosity has made me a better person.
Street art, gallery art, comic art, artists doing their own thing
September - Julie Chibbaro
August - JM Superville Sovak
August - Bilrock
July - Deb Lucke
July - Sari Wilson & Josh Neufeld
June - Risa 'boogie' Tochigi
June - Urban1
May - Eugene 'Mr. E' Stetz
April - Karlos 'Odessy3' Carcamo
March - Jay 'Braze One' Sayers