Shane Butler Interview

Shane Butler at ESQUELETO
This is the last week to catch the gorgeous solo show from artist and musician Shane Butler in our Los Angeles location. I've really fallen in love with this series of delicate nature-inspired drawings, so I wanted to ask Shane about his methods and influences and how he balances his art practice with life on the road with his band, Quilt. If you are in LA, make sure to catch the show before it closes on January 31st! Alexis: How did you get started in your creative life? You and I met in art school obviously, but how far back does it go? When did you know that you would want to be on this path? Shane: Oh god. It goes back really far. I don’t ever really remember wanting to do anything else with my life (besides a short stint wanting to be a professional skateboarder and wanting to be an astronaut as a kid.) I guess those are both creative acts as well though. I’ve been making songs and drawings and writings since I was really young. I had these journals when I was a kid in which I would write these ‘poem-songs’ that had illustrations to them. Making things has just always been a part of my life I can’t live without. It’s kind of essential to my being…or at least for these first 27 years of my being. Shane Butler ESQUELETO A: Can you tell me a little bit about how you made this series, your inspirations and process, and the idea of Shinrin-yoku? How do you fit in time for drawing amidst the craziness of touring? S: Well, actually this series came out of the craziness of touring. I was starting to go a bit stir-crazy for a while there because we were always on the road. About 5 years ago I had a really ‘serious’ visual art practice; I was doing a lot of large-scale video installation stuff, sculpture, and performance work. When our band started to tour a lot I didn’t really have the time or space to do this kind of work, so I got locked into a non-productive funk in my visual arts practice. I decided to figure out something I could do on the road to get back in touch with that part of myself. I got this little grey box - about 8x11” and 4” deep - and I called it ‘my studio’. I took a bunch of nice paper and broke it down into small pieces and placed it all ‘in the studio’ and started to make drawings looking out the window while on the road. It was hard because the van is always shaking- I noticed that the way my hand would draw while shaking looked more like the actual plants than when I would draw them with a stiff hand. Nature is wavy like that. It is a cool series because it kind of gets me in touch with whatever surrounding I am in. Shinrin-Yoku is a Japanese phrase for a practice that would be similar to ‘forest-bathing’ - there is really no equivalent in English for it. It is the practice of taking walks in nature and surrounding yourself in nature as a sort of inner cleanse. I have had this experience many times. Being someone who lives in a huge city, I really crave and cherish my nature-baths, it’s good for the soul. The series of drawings are abstractions that reference some of the shapes and flows of ‘looking at natural areas' - in some utopian world they may even distill that feeling. It takes a lot of discipline to draw on the road, because it’s really easy to just be exhausted and veg-out. But, if you force yourself, it will happen. Shane Butler at ESQUELETO LA A: You have been known for your music for a while now, but you're very active in the visual arts as well. How do you balance all of your creative endeavors? S: I guess the short answer would just be ‘discipline’. I think in general it takes a lot of discipline to maintain an artistic practice on any level. I think there is still some nostalgia for ‘the artist as loafer’ type thing in a lot of circles. You know, like romantic Parisian chain-smokin’ dudes who just let paint fall out of their eyes onto canvases. But, we live in a different time now and a different economy, and I feel like one has to stay very disciplined in order to continue to make work. It’s hard, but fun. In terms of balancing the creative endeavors, it’s just what I’ve always done. I started playing in bands when I was 14 years old, and I had been drawing and writing and being a performative loon for years before that. My idols are people like Patti Smith, David Byrne, Brian Eno, Henry Miller, William Blake - people who always have had interdisciplinary practices. I have found that to draw helps me interpret music in a new way, which in turn helps me write songs in a different way, which then helps me look at art in a different way, which helps me visualize fiction in a different way... That is just my method. A lot of people are really good as ‘specialists’ - I work better at blending a lot of forms. I’m a Buckminster Fuller disciple on some level and he was really into that idea; of interdependence. A: You travel a lot - where is home for you now? Where will always be home? And what are some of your favorite things about those places? S: I live in New York. I grew up in New York and moved to New York City when I was 14. I lived for years in Boston, but New York will always be home to me. I love New York. It is the best place in the world and the worst place in the world. I can imagine myself always having a place here. I am a fan of having stints in other cities, and fortunately I am allowed to travel quite a bit in this life, and that helps reinforce my love for my home city. My friend Johanna said to me last night, "New York is so strange, it’s a total ‘non-place’,” which I totally get. It’s the only place I’ve ever been to that is consistently changing and yet always staying the same. It’s like a Mobius strip folding in upon itself. It’s part of the U.S., but also feels like its own country completely. There is music here every day from every part of the Earth; there are an endless supply of humans to look at on the subways; there are countless bizarre interactions you see everyday…. Why don’t you send me a slew of questions about New York and we can talk all about it for hours? I would like that.

Shane Butler works on view until January 31st 1298 W Sunset Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90026 (213) 947 - 3508

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