Stagecoach Run Art Festival, Treadwell New York, July 4-5 2015 - featuring: 312 Bowery Group
Group interview with:
William Buchina, Jason Alexander Byers, Adam Payne and Omar Zeinc, by Anthony Cerretani with Sam Monaco and Max Teicher.
By ANTHONY CERRETANI, JUN. 2015
Sam Monaco is an artist liaison who, along with Max Teicher, has been working with artists William Buchina, Adam Payne, Omar Zeinc and Jason Alexander Byers, for a number of years now. Monaco calls Buchina's cell phone at 3pm on Saturday, April 11. "William?! We need you! Where are you?”
William Buchina is driving into Manhattan from Hudson, New York to meet with Sam Monaco, Anthony Cerretani and the three other artists for a group interview in anticipation of the upcoming group presentation of 312 Bowery at the 20th annual Stagecoach Run Art Fair.
Under the guidance of Max Teicher, William has participated in the festival for the past three years, and this year he came up with the idea of inviting these other artists to show with him.
That Saturday afternoon on the phone with Sam, he responds coolly, "I am at the coffee shop around the corner. Is it time?" It is time, and the four artists sit down with Sam Monaco and Anthony C. to discuss their own artistic backgrounds, the experience of showing as a group, and their excitement looking towards the upcoming presentation at Stagecoach Run.
Anthony Cerretani: When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Omar Zeinc: I was 6 years old and in the Dominican Republic, and friend of mine drew a whale. I thought it was the most amazing painting. I drew the same whale, and from then on... most of my notebooks in school were just all drawings. I was good at math, but my notebooks were all just filled with drawings. A lot of battles between stick figures, Haitian and Dominicans, stick figures killing each other with machetes. Drawing is an escape. It’s a way I can just create my own universe. It started there.
Jason Alexander Byers: I remember I had this little truck that I would put all my paper and markers and crayons in, and I would put all my weight on it and just navigate around. And my parents were always having people over for parties, and I would drive this truck around and draw stuff for people. They’d say, “Draw something!” and I’d draw it. But I can remember one time when I was probably about four years old – I don’t know why this image was in my head or where I’d seen it – but I drew a swastika. My mom was kind of in-shock, and I remember my dad leaning over her, saying, “He can draw whatever he wants.”
Anthony: You don’t always get passed the freedom card as a child.
Jason: Yeah, well my dad was a painter. William: I thought you were going to say he was a klansman or something. [Laughs]
Adam Payne: So, growing up, I was always drawing and making stuff. But my family upbringing, being Mormon, the arts are not very appreciated and it was not even an avenue you could follow. So it took me a long time to accept that I was going to do art. I always drew, but on my mission to Taiwan I was so starved for any sort of fucking outlet. So I started painting while I was there.
Anthony: It wasn’t looked at as a profession at all.
Adam: No, it wasn’t looked at as a profession. Within Mormonism, if you were going to be an artist, you were going to be a Mormon artist, which meant painting Jesus and shit like that, and everything you did would be for God, which just wasn’t a part of my personality. Even at college I didn’t study art because it wasn’t valued in my upbringing with my family, but I always painted. Growing up you hear people say, “Do what you’re passionate about and you’ll never work a day in your life,” or whatever, so one day I was like, “Screw it, fine! I’ll do it, I’ll do what I’m passionate about and I’ll move to New York City and be an artist. That’s it!”
William Buchina: I was drawing very early. I would fill up those marble composition books, which I always liked. I would draw the same naval battles, with all the ships and the helicopters and planes, and then I would write the names of all my friends showing who was in which plane and ship. Everyone would get a different color crayon or pencil, and I would just start drawing the lines representing fire from each of them. So it would end up looking like I just grabbed every color with both hands and scribbled all over the page. But you could see the ships and everything underneath. And just page after page after page... I still have those and just rediscovered them recently.
Jason: Were these based off of real battles or imagined ones?
William: Well my dad was a big World War II buff. So I got interested in that really early – not interested in war and the causes and all the politics, but just the aesthetics of it. I just thought battleships and tanks and fighter jets were the most amazing things. We used to have these old VHS tapes and twenty-part Time/Life series books. I still probably know much more about World War II than anyone else my age, and when I start talking about certain things people are like, “...why? Why do you know the names of all these generals and ships?”
Anthony: And did this figure into the aesthetics of your work?
William: Well, all these kinds of weird scenes that I do now are just things that I’ve always wished would happen in real life. I always wanted to wake up one day and just have things be a lot weirder than they were. And it never happened. So I just keep drawing pictures of it instead.
Omar: It still might happen.
William: It still might, yes. But anyways, it was the only option, when I finished high school I was just like, “So... art school?” I didn’t really want to go to any school, but the only option is art school if you don’t have any interest in anything else at all. And that was it, I just continued on from there. I still draw a lot of the same shit I drew when I was a kid, just a little nicer and more detailed I guess.
Sam: So in terms of these group exhibitions that we’ve done in New York City, versus out in Los Angeles, and now this upcoming show at Stagecoach, can you speak to what your experience has been, from an artist’s perspective? How is that for you all, doing a group show in a new environment, thinking about last summer in LA, for instance?
Omar: The LA show was fantastic. I was familiar with William’s work because we had shared a studio and were working together for a couple of years. I hadn’t seen Adam’s work, or Jason’s work, so it was fantastic to be in a show where there were no expectations, it was just arriving at this place and having to put up a show and perform. Shows are kind of tricky, it can be a lot of people drinking and surrounding the artwork, but at the same time the whole purpose is to get an opinion and see what people are thinking of it, to understand how they are interpreting it. In my own experience, one man immediately recognized a few of the obscure world leaders featured in my work, and that was a bigger payoff than anything else. It was a fraternal thing.
Adam: The interesting thing is that we all work as individuals, but then we come together as a group for these shows, and with Jason for instance we have a close relationship so there are times he’ll call me up and I’ll go over to his studio or he’ll come to mine, and we can just talk about our work. Or like leading up to LA, William and I were talking and discussing our problems and fears, and when you do it as a group, we have a group of artists who are all very individualistic, who are coming together strong for an event.
Jason: Yeah and we’re all like-minded, and serious about it – dedicated to working our asses off.
Adam: Arriving in LA, I left all expectations at the door because I did not know what to expect. Just the pleasure of working in a new space with all these new people, being able to introduce what a lot of us have been working on here for years, to a completely different audience with a different lifestyle and wavelength, but still being able to connect with people. Making those connections was great, and that’s kind of what I expect will happen up in Treadwell too.
Anthony: Exploring a different environment, and you still want to tap into the human connection of it all.
Adam: Often times in New York, as big as it is, it’s also a small community. When you take things outside and leave your comfort zone, you meet people that you’re not ever going to necessarily meet any other way, and you have these conversations you wouldn’t have. For me, that’s the exciting part. Also being able to spend time with people who I respect, and whose art I respect.
Anthony: And you can be so busy here in New York that you don’t get to spend time with those people as much as you’d like to, so a show can bring that out. It’s also interesting to see the work on the wall alongside the person who created it, so when the artists are there it can add a dimension.
Adam: And working with this group, I’ve been able to see William develop over the last few years, and see the journey that he’s progressed on. Often when you have a group show, maybe it’s a month long, and you never see these people again. But working with all of you guys, I get to see Omar developing, Jason developing... everyone moving along.
Omar: A lot of it is thanks to this 312 Bowery collective we’ve formed, and Max’s ability to put people together who can exist in the same space together and work. That’s what I would say is the beauty of a group show, you need to have a perspective from outside. None of us would have had the idea – I mean, we didn’t have the idea – to do a show out in LA, it was Max.
Anthony: This way, somebody’s always got something new and exciting coming along, so it stays fresh with more than just a single artist.
Jason: Being a former hockey player I’m very competitive, so if I see one of you doing really well, I have to do really well too!
Anthony: It keeps it a healthy competition then.
Jason: Oh yeah.
Adam: Well for example, William just brought over these four new paintings I’m looking at right here. And it’s that good jealousy, when you look at something and think, “Ahh, fuck. Well okay fine, I’m gonna go back to my studio, and I’ll show them up!” The worst thing is when you go to a show, and you walk out of there and you go, “Ehh.” [shrugs] You don’t like it, you don’t hate it, you feel nothing and you leave.
Jason: You know what’s worse than leaving though, is when you just end up standing there in the corner thinking, “What the fuck am I doing here?”
William: There is that competitive thing where you want to be the best, but you also know that you’re going to enjoy everyone else’s stuff.
Anthony: You want to push each other.
William: Yeah, but I mean, you’re always going to like your own work the best, otherwise you’d be making someone else’s work.
Max Teicher: I think Colin put it the best way...
William: Colin puts everything the best way.
Max: Yes, well, I remember when he first came over to my place and looked around at everyone’s work he said, “You know what... if these people were in art school with me, I’d be really mad at them.” I think there’s something to be said for that, that it had that effect. And for Sam and I, we know this only works when we all do it together. It’s not just one person. It’s all of us together, and in some odd way it works.
Adam: So often, you are alone in the studio with your work, pounding your head against the wall, and then I’ll have Jason or Max over at some points where I don’t even know if the work’s good anymore. I’ve seen it too much, and I forget where the idea even came from, and I’m asking them, “Please, look at it – am I wrong? Should I just jump out this window? Should I start selling Skittles? Help me here!” It’s important to have people around who you respect and trust to say, “I don’t like it. Try this.”
Anthony: You have to keep those people around, with an honest critical eye.
Adam: Exactly. It means way more if you get that kind of feedback, than if they were just like, “Yeah man everything’s cool.” Then I’d think, “Aw man, why’d I buy this guy a beer?” It’s okay in this group to say what you honestly feel, and not try to stroke each other’s egos.
Omar: Something that I felt when William and I shared a studio, was that – just as much as you see every frame divided in his paintings – that is how he lives, that is how things are arranged and organized. There is not one inch of his space that is not organized with a similar filter as his artwork. It’s not a style – this guy actually lives like this, this is how he thinks. And that is pretty special to me.
Anthony: When you see that portrayal of an artist and that’s how they are in their own life, you’re seeing a level of passion that you really respect. And you don’t always see that in every show, with every artist’s work.
Omar: Virtuosity is a marvel. And that’s something I feel that we managed to unify within this 312 Bowery grouping. Everybody really knows what they’re doing. There’s not a lot of experimentation in the sense of, “I’m just gonna do whatever, I’m having fun,” you know – it’s serious shit. It’s dedication and it’s discipline. WM
Anthony Cerretani is a self-taught visual artist, musician, and avid conversationalist. He grew up in the finger lake region of New York in the village of Waverly. Currently, he lives in Brooklyn, painting and making music that he hopes will inspire others of all ages to keep creating and living the life you love.
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