Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mike Rea

Who are you? What do you do and why should we care?

Well, my name is Michael Rea. 32, brown hair and eyes, 6', about 190 lbs. , and I like long walks by the beach. I am a sculptor from the South suburbs of Chicago. I currently reside in Milwaukee. I am desperately working on an exit strategy for myself. Wisconsin is slowly crushing my soul. Why you should care, is beyond me.

What kind of work were you making at school as a beginner? How did it evolve into mammoth size, epic sculptures?

As a beginner I worked primarily as a painter, and it seems that everyone in painting will tell you to go bigger. So I guess I followed their advice and started making large-scale paintings. When I switched to making sculptures, about three year out of undergrad, I wanted to make things that were human in scale. More specifically my scale. I rarely sketch I simple start cutting something out. In most cases I will refer to my body to gage the scale. When I started, I built everything in an apartment I had in Chicago. Things became cramped very quickly. I had to put my bed in a closet. Shortly after switching to sculpture I left Chicago to attend graduate school. I think it might have been a mixture of the competitive atmosphere of graduate school and a large studio that really pushed me into what you refer to as an epic scale. A friend of mine has a pet python. I remember when he first got it; it was a little bigger than a worm. I asked him "how big will it get?" He replied, "lets just say you won't lose it in the lawn." I guess I want to make things that don't get lost in the lawn.

Since your projects are so involved and costly, how do you go about constructing one of your pieces?

Well, I start. It's as simple as that. I start at one end and work through the composition. I try to use cheap materials: pine, mahogany-luan, rope, burlap, and pink foam. This way I tend to get the most bang for my buck. I real don't plan anything. Yes I have an idea of what I want or what I am going to make but that's about it. It's a very linear process, much like drawing. I am never sure how much something will cost in the long run. If I did, I might worry. So I have about a hundred dollar a month wood habit. Since I quit smoking it has been really easy to afford supplies. The real problem is moving these pieces around. Shipping is expensive, and in most cases I have to drive the work out myself. The largest vehicle I can legally drive is a 25' truck. The twenty-five footer is a nightmare. The only thing that really kills me is the cost of gas and truck rentals. Building time and materials are not really an issue for me.

Do you find yourself facing a lot of limitations due to your style? How does making large sculpture affect your artistic career as opposed to say being an artist who works exclusively on paper?

I guess there are limitations, but the grass is always going to be greener somewhere else. It seems a little harder to sell large sculptures than lets say a work on paper, but if sales were driving me I probably wouldn't be an artist. I am not saying a sale or two wouldn't hurt. In fact I do sell a lot of the smaller pieces I make, which is great. I hope that someday there will be a market for the larger works, but I will have to wait and see how that plays out. There always seems to be a lot of support for large work in residencies and as a visiting artist. I like the idea of traveling somewhere and building something huge and leaving. All you need for that is a plane ticket. I have also found that large bold pieces tend to attract a lot of attention and this has helped a lot with getting more shows and and creating new opportunities. I really cannot complain. It seems every year I show a little more, and a little less comes out of my pocket. That's about all you can ask for.

It's surprising that you have all of your fingers left, any good studio related injuries?

A few, but for the most part I have been lucky and or smart. The key is to keep your finger away from the spinning blade. The worst accident I have had is I once shot a brad nail through my pointer finger. I was shooting down into the cross cut of a doll rod with a 1,1/4" Brad. The dowl was about the same in diameter. and a little less in length. The nail fish-hooked out and went right into the finger holding the rod in place. The nail entered the pad and exited under the nail bed. When I felt the impact I pulled my finger away. This worked well since I did not have to think about removing the nail it just sort of happened. I had not realized at this point, that I had shoot right through my finger. I looked at the palm side of my finger and wondered how deep the nail had gone. This is when I noticed that the other side was bleeding as well. Can you believe I didn't even get vicodin for that?

What kinds of things influence your work, besides Indiana Jones?

Well motion pictures in general are a big source of inspiration for me. I have always enjoyed how people will quote lines from a movie. I like how for a few seconds the line between fiction and reality is blurred. I tend to like horror and science fiction films the most. I also like to think about time travel from time to time. Television is a big thing for me as well. I love inappropriate jokes, and I like to incorporate humor into a lot of my pieces as well. Music is good. I tend to spend long hours building and when things are not to loud I listen to music. As I said earlier, I do not start with a plan. This creates an opening to develop or change an idea while I am building. While I am working on a project I am constantly absorbing the world around me and my

Name drop list, what is tickling your fancy right now?

Fergie, MIA, Folkert de Jung, Ben Stone, No Country For Old Men, Soft Pretzels, Peroni, Jens Lekman, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, Cloverfield, Jaws, Lolita, the 27th directors cut of blade runner, thongs, Alex Katz, Robert Morris, Hey Willpower, Paris Hilton, Klarbrunn water, Paul McCarthy, Grind House (in the theater)

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