This interview with York Funston originally appeared April 2008 at Yorkrules.com.
York: I amuse myself. When an artist catches my eye online, I’ll send him or her an e-mail asking for an interview. With my as-yet-undiagnosed short-term memory disease, I’ve often forgotten about the discovery when I receive an affirmative response. So it always entertains me to be reminded by my inbox of what yester-me found so engaging: like the art of Dylan Sisson.
York: Who is Dylan Sisson?
That would be me. Guilty as charged.
York: Why do you create?
Ok . . . on one hand I think everyone creates all of the time, just by the singular act of perception . . . I try and create form from the abyss as much as the other guy, and I’m fascinated by this fairly opaque process, what I see as the involuntary manufacture of ego on subjective and collective bases. Less obtusely, my personal inclinations draw me toward gray areas. For instance, we know something that’s likable is likable and something that’s dislikable is clearly not likable . . . but something which is both attractive and repelling at the same time, I find compelling . . . perhaps even balanced. For years I doodled little creatures in pen and ink, but never considered it art or important. The creepy cute doodles were a sort of documentation, the residue of gray areas. I preferred to have those guys drawn into the outside world, where I found them much more friendly. People started commenting on my drawings, some liked them, some were reminded [by] them of people they knew, some people saw them shopping. Certain characters and characteristics began to reappear again and again, and a menagerie formed. On one hand I make stuff because I have to, it’s something I do. On the other hand once it’s out there, I get to see if it stands on its own . . . Ooops, I guess that was three hands. :^)
York: You refer to your earlier character art as “the residue of gray areas” within you. As you have refined this style of art, what have you learned about those areas?
Well, over the years I’ve explored lots of subjects and I’ve noticed my favorite subjects are those that mix contrasting themes, like a character that’s on the verge of being cute or being frightening at the same time. . . I like creating that tension. For example, what’s the difference between a pet and a monster? A pet licks you. A monster eats you. Those are both sort of archetypal concepts, the monster and the pet. . . chaos and control. As people we’re inclined to put labels on everything, to make things absolute. “Don’t touch the plate, it’s hot!” As an artist if I can create ambiguity, perhaps with a creature where it’s unclear whether it will eat you or follow you home, then it creates an interesting tension. . . who’s the predator and who’s prey? Is it safe? How do we inform ourselves of that in the first place? To hijack Joyce, “The mind is arrested and raised above desire and loathing.” These gray areas are not an overt message in my work, and they’re not supposed to be, but I think it does lend support and make it playful. Now that I’m thinking about it, with your standard color wheel, mixing a color with its opposite complementary color produces gray. . . now if we could construct some sort of “archetypal color wheel” and mix a concept with its complementary antipode, we get gray concepts. I like that idea, it’s just another aspect of the palette. But I don’t set out with predefined set of ideas I want to contrast. . . I generally work by creating lots of doodles and picking my favorites to paint, but the work I find the most successful is the work that is internally supported by these types of qualities.
York: There is a youthfulness to your art. How might your creative voice mature as you grow older?
I dunno . . . the aging process might make my work more youthful or maybe less youthful . . . or perhaps a combination of the two. But as my nemesis Ray Kroc says, “When you’re green, you’re growing. When you’re ripe, you rot.” So I guess when I think about the future, I think about new projects: drawing, painting, sculptures, vinyl toys, animation . . . all of those projects are on my short list, and are in the works. There’s only a finite amount of time for projects, sadly. I can think about what they mean afterwards.
York: You sell your art in a variety of forms online. What is your assessment of the art market today, and what is your place in it?
As a maker of things, I’m compelled to find places for them. I like to have stuff out there, accessible in variety of media, the more the merrier . . . and if there are places for any of it, all the better. So I’ll keep making stuff and see where that goes. And as far as my assessment of the the art market . . . maybe it is an unplumbable association of artists and eyeballs, seeing where things go. I guess I’ve always thought James Abbot McNeil Whistler got it right about artists and the rest of the lot, “We wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes; we stumble at noonday as in the night. We roar all like bears.”
Or maybe I just like that quote.
York: My thanks to Dylan for sharing his work. Please visit dylansisson.com to see more of his art. If you would like to share your creativity, or you’d like to suggest someone for Show Us Yours, please send an e-mail to email@example.com.