Michael Alan – A Candid Interview with the Genius
Recently we caught up with Michael Alan and discussed doing a candid interview with him. Here’s what we put together from the Artist and wanted to share.
For Michael Alan, art is a combination of harmonious opposites, close observation, catharsis, a means of communication and a radical juxtaposition of dimensional elements. He challenges everything: concepts of figure, composition, media and movement, including the language of drawing. Exploring the ambiguity of time and history, Alan’s work focuses on translating energy into images.
Alan was born in the summer of 1977, in Bushwick during the New York City blackout. His work has been featured in 9 New York solo shows, over 200 group shows, and over 200 Living Installations. His work has been discussed in over 200 publications, books and media sources, including the New York Times, The Huffington Post, Bomb Magazine, Art 21, NBC’s Today Show, Marie Claire Italia, Frank 151, Art+Auction, the New York Post, Fox Channel 5, the Village Voice’s “Best in Show”, The Creator’s Project, Art Forum, the Gothamist, Time Out New York, Vice, Frame, American Artist, Animal, Hyperallergic, Curbs and Stoops, Cacao and many more.
In addition to his work as a multi-media artist, Michael is the founder and director of the Living Installation, where human beings are transformed into unique, living art objects. These happenings are set to Alan’s original music, which is recorded featuring artists such as The Residents, Tommy Ramone, Ariel Pink, and Meredith Monk.
Saster: When did you first get interested in art?
Michael Alan: Art was my first love. My Mother, AKA Raindrop and my Dad, AKA Woof Woof helped start that course right away. We had a small family ,no brothers no sisters, and my Grandparents and Aunt passed away when I was young, so basically all I did was draw. They were all for it. I drew all over the house; I was a lively silly kid!
Saster: Did you attended the School of Visual Arts, and did you teach there? What did you study there? What did you teach?
Michael Alan: I went to S.V.A. and got my BFA in Fine Arts. At that time there was night school, which was one-fifth the price. Since it was night school and you could graduate when ever you wanted I took every kind of class that was available. I spent my free time after school using all the facilities and diving deep into S.V.A. I lived there. It was great!
The teaching opportunity was a blessing from Peter Hristoff, who recommended me to international fine arts. I taught intensive experimental summer drawing classes similar to the Draw-a-thon that I run. Wild and fun!
Saster: You have a long history of hospitalization due to health problems, what exactly is going on?
Michael Alan: Not everything is clear and I’m still in the pursuit of answers; going through the United States health system. Things move slowly since we have such “great” health care. A couple of years back, I was hurt during a performance, and on the way to physical therapy I was hit by a car and shattered the bottom of my spine. My vertebrae had to be carved down surgically and shards of my disc had to be removed. This surgery also created additional nerve damage. The healing process didn’t go so great and left me with spinal instability and permanent nerve damage from the scar tissue. Recently in the last two months I was diagnosed with Deep Vein Thrombosis, and they found large blood clots in my chest and legs. This led to a pulmonary embolism on the night before my solo show.
Saster: Have all of these health issues influenced your art?
Michael Alan: Yes, Severely. I have learned to create several bodies of work in locations including my bed, hospitals, waiting rooms, and on my friends floors. Discomfort, working through pain, turning it into power on paper. I’m forced to literally live in the moment, and my strength as a painter has become truer. Each mark is intentional because time and energy has to be used correctly. The work is very emotional and also understanding. Before the accident I was making work about the power and strength of the human body. Now I’ve had the chance to see my own body being broken down and working through it. I’m really learning how to value my time. There is so much perspective when you are forced to slow down. At this point I’m learning how to be a better friend to myself, and the world around me. I’m literally living proof that art heals, and I want to spread that message as far as I can.
Saster: Your immediate family seems to be a subject, and has also participated in your work. How did this come about?
Michael Alan: My mother and father got pretty sick recently, and I wanted to collaborate with them on music, videos and such. They really get a kick out of it. They have collaborated without really understanding who Jello Biafra, Meredith Monk and The Residents are. They do this work for fun, jokes, and family which is a secret ingredient lacking in a lot of art. The end result is powerful, strange, funny and sweet.
Saster: Is family a big influence in your art? Friends?
Michael Alan: Hell Yeah.
Saster: Do you feel there is a void in the art world?
Michael Alan: There is always a void, there is always light and dark, this is “our” life, it’s the artist’s job to push through human bullshit and fill it with color and power. Too much pain exists. The void is strong, and when there is money and the potential to be famous, egos will do what they need to eat.
Saster: I’ve heard you have beat death several times and have always been able to pull through with a great recovery. To what do you attribute to being able to do this?
Michael Alan: It’s beyond me. When it’s my time it will be my time. Right now I have a lot of work to do. These dramatic lessons only make me stronger and I try to ok at the big picture.