To know John Felix Arnold the Third one must be prepared for the personality of the man. Tattooed, tenacious, and extremely driven, he talks of his passions and his past while on a recent visit to his studio:
1). Can you tell us a bit about your history as an artist, and how you first became interested in creating art?
My parents are both dancers, my step father is a photographer, and my former step mother and my step mother now are also both dancers. I apparently started drawing really wild abstractions of things laying around the house, of some old animal bones my dad had, and whatever I could mark with crayons and magic markers from the time I could draw on a wall or paper or even myself. When I was 4 apparently I colored myself purple from head to toe and when my mom came home I said “Look Mom I’m a Grape!” My babysister probably shit herself and my mom spent four days washing it off. My dad moved to NYC in 1986 so I was exposed to New York in 80’s which was fucking crazy! I got really into comic books at around 6 years old, Iron Man on the news stand. My step father introduced me to war illustrations and technical drawings of boats and such, and being around dancers, modern art, and everything that comes with the dance world, figurative movement, expression, undulating forms, I guess I have been depicitng what I see my whole life. Everything definitely went all down hill from the grape incident, give a person attention for making a mess and it will become an obsession.
2). How has your work evolved into your current style?
I touched on that a bit in the previous question but to get more specific here goes. Being around modern and classical dance my whole life was big one. My father is really into soul music, he was the same about soul music as I have been about rap and hip hop my whole life. It was the hip hop of his generation, soul, so a lot of my process of visual sampling and reference reconstruction come from a beautiful sensibility I learned from what was able to be harnessed from the music he grew up with and reworked into today. I grew up reading a lot of graphic novels and comics, but more so the expressiveness of beautiful graphic novel works by Frank Miller, Kent Williams, Bill Sienkiewicz, Katsuhiro Otomo, Dave Mckean, Shirow, and more. Taking narratives and making them into beautiful pieces of art. Also I grew up around a thriving artistic culture through the dance world, and was exposed to a lot of crazy art in the eighties. A lot of old abstract art too, my father had a lot of Twombly around the house. Couple all of this with living in NYC in the late eighties as a child and growing up in the old rusted, crime ridden, dead city (back then) of Durham, NC, I developed a very particular aesthetic and energy in my visual language. And given the state of a world I have watched change so rapidly and intensely my whole life I can’t help but use all of this imagery and experience to pour out my take on it and create things I think are expressive, inviting, beautiful, and speak of my thoughts on today and create things that help me get through it pyschologically.
3). Can you tell us a bit about your current body of work?
Past From the Blast is a visual narrative collection about a future post apocalyptic world that I have been creating for some time called, Unstoppable Tomorrow: The World of Future Antiquity. I have noticed a lot of peers have been involved in this sort of dialouge with their work, and for an obvious reason. I see the world we are living in headed toward an inevitable reset where we cease to become the dominant predators of this earth. Where creations we have brought to life will inevtiably exceed our controls and we will become the prey. Within this world and context we will be forced to really explore our humanity again and what makes us thrive, love, live, and survive. The work i have been doing for Past From the Blast is trying to represent figurative, narrative portraiture showing members of this unrelaized future world. It is far more human feeling than my work of a few years ago. I have really gotten back into very very expressive mixed media work, color, big work, and just feel so stronlgy about the concept and the people around me and my models etc. that I feel I am really conveying expressive painting again, as well as exploring new ideas in design, and giving a beautiful narrative without words. I am working on “relics”, pieces of found materials that I paint of print on that represent unearthed historical items from an anthropological dig researching this world when the reset occured, or we hit ground zero so to speak. I watched 9/11 and towers fall with my own eyes from a rooftop in Brooklyn so this concept hits home very deeply. Also I have been making installation pieces that exist within this world for sometime now, and the piece I am creating for this show is a shelter and an altar and a place for the survivors of this world to come togehter and give praise and show unity through gathering to witness amazing music (Japanther) and give thanks for what we still have and the fact that we are still here and alive. It is made with almost all found materials as a way for me to say thank you and give life back to materials and things we as humans discard and disregard so easily in our hyper moving modern existance.
4). Where do you find inspiration?
Go out on Market street and watch the buses, the rail, the cars, the business people, the homeless, the bike messengers, the construction workers, the beautifuly angsty and hip students, the cops, the crminals, the models, the agents, the proffesors, the motorcycles, newspapers with images of war on them: turn on the news and watch a war report, or a story about gun control: go somewhere warm on a rainy saturday night where people are together the shield themselves from whats outside and gather and be thankful to have a place to create a dialouge, and laugh and listen to music. Think of a couple making love all night long in there apartment, going at it, while outside a bus breaks down and a street performer plays her cello. If you were to leave a camera on these events with the lens open for sometime so all the movement swarmed togther like an amoeba and instead of a snapshot of one moment you had a freeze frame of all of these man made, human, and natural elements moving and working and fighting and fucking and loving and yelling and eating and dancing and laughing in a big swarming, creature, everything mixed together to create one interelated energy. That is where I get my inspiration. That and making marks on a page has always been my fortei.
5). What’s next for John Felix Arnold III?
I am in a show in August called Dark Matter at 1 AM Gallery with some awesome heavy hitter. I am working on some things in New York for 2012. I am organizing a long trip accross the country for the fall right now to go and paint as much as posible in as many different places within the US as possible, going Kerouac on this land! I am working on a big coffee table art book for the next few years slowly but surely. I am working on trying to get myself and my art to Asia sometime at the end of this year into next year. I went on tour with my dad when I was a kid to Singapore and Taiwan with his dance company Pilobolous and I can feel the magnetics of this universe pulling me back there. I want to explore the world and make art all over with amazing people. Life’s short, its not a race, but there is a lot to do while your alive. Right at this moment though I am going to go get some bangin shrimp and pork shumai dim sum, and get to work!!!! Thanks again Mike and Warholian, everyone I know and love from SF to NY to NC and all over! TWNY 57 And a big mighty thank you to Old Crow for everything they have helped me with and done for artists in the bay thus far!
– Interview and Pictures by Michael Cuffe of Warholian.com
For more on the artistry of John Felix Arnold the Third visit: http://felixthethirdrock.com/