Tim McCool lives up to the name. Artist, Illustrator, Zinester, Curator; he’s been barnstorming and brainstorming Boston since his graduation from two of our city’s learned Art Institutes (BC and SMFA). This month alone he participated in Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE), Boston Zine Fest and soon, if you are a fan of his popup shop IRONYLAB, you will be able to buy direct from the artist at our upcoming Black Market (@Cambridge Elks Lodge 10/26 11am-5pm All Ages $1). He’s had solo shows at Bentley University Art Gallery (“You Will Love This Someday”, planchardia) The Hallway Gallery (“Trouble”, drawings) and Carroll & Sons Gallery (“These Things Take Time”, drawings). Next up in this running rogue’s gallery onslaught will be Cambridgeport’s groovy GALLERY 263 where PEOPLE OF EARTH, opens Thursday Oct 23rd. This three-stage rocket of a show will feature the space-age works of Alexander Squier, Chris Cavallero and co-contributor/curator Tim, who graciously agreed to beam us his answers to a few questions we had for him.
Chicken or egg? Did you, Chris Cavallero and Alex Squier want to do a show together and jointly formed the concept for ‘People Of Earth’ or did you start with the central idea and then went looking for fellow artists to suit that theme?
TIM McCOOL: Chris, Alexander and I had been talking about doing a show together for a while (the three of us were classmates in the SMFA grad program) so I’m happy this came together. I think Chris may have been the one to initially suggest having a show themed around space travel and exploration. We all identified the parts of our work that would fit around that theme and so we drew up a proposal to send to the gallery. At the time of the proposal all of the work that’s in this show was either in its early stages or not yet even made, but we were all so interested in making something around this theme that it wasn’t difficult to come up stuff for it. I think part of the reason we wanted to do a show together is that our work is so different, stylistically and in terms of medium (Alexander works in screen printing and installation, Chris does very fine graphite drawings, I’ve been painting more recently), and we wanted a bit of a challenge, to see how it could all fit together, while beginning with a common theme.
What sort of media did you tap into for inspiration? Are you informed mainly by literary science fiction, the history of space exploration, fandom, TV, film..?
My work is definitely media inspired, especially when it comes to this kind of sci-fi/outer space type stuff. When I first planned the show I assembled a list of things that I wanted to base the work off of, to serve as a target to aim for in terms of mood and atmosphere. The first thing I picked out was the music of the Gorillaz because I love Damon Albarn and the atmosphere of his songs and albums. The first Gorillaz album got remixed by a group, Spacemonkeyz, and it’s called Laika Come Home, which I like. The Gorillaz second album is very spacey, there are tracks like O Green World and Every Planet We Reach is Dead. I’m also a sucker for any kind of electronic retro/futuristic sounding music like Com Truise. I should stop myself before this turns into just a really long boring list. Star Wars and Blade Runner definitely, Children of Men and other dystopian futuristic films are good. There’s some heavy handed Futurama references in the show as well. I also really like some Arthur C. Clarke books, Philip K. Dick, and there’s one really interesting J.G. Ballard story about explorers getting lost in a gigantic space station. I tried to refresh or re-associate myself with all of these things either before or during the time when I was making things for this show.
Overall probably the biggest influence is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. There’s a lot of stuff in the show that’s either directly or indirectly inspired by that series of books. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish contains one of my favorite love stories in fiction, the relationships between Arthur and Fenchurch. I wanted the mood of my pieces to match the mood at the very very end of the entire series itself. At the end of the final book there’s a kind of resigned happiness and acceptance in the face of overwhelming, crushing defeat which I for whatever reason really enjoy.
What are some upsides and downsides of Boston as a base for you as an artist? Where do we shine and how could we improve?
I’ve had a pretty good time in Boston so far, there’s a lot about the city that I like in a very general sense. More specifically the artistic upsides are proximity to a lot of art spaces, museums, universities, etc so there’s really no lack of things to go see if you want that out of a scene. There’s also lots of grants available here through the Mass Cultural Council and other organizations. But this is a tough question for me to answer at this moment because I’m starting to ask myself where do I want to go next or what else is possible in terms of making art, and changing cities always seems to be a factor in those types of decisions. I know people always make the comparison between Boston and NYC but I really don’t see living in NYC as a necessity in terms of creating things, because there is an artistic environment here in Boston that you can immerse yourself in if you want to. There’s also possibly more opportunities for an artist that is intent on sticking around because, if Boston has more of a fluctuating artistic population, the people that maintain their connections or network here can solidify them over time which is valuable. If you want some hard, scientific data based on what people seem to be saying on my Facebook feed, it looks like a lot is happening right now that is making people go “Wait a second, what? How can [some cool thing] be happening in Boston?” Which is a good sign, there’s stuff happening that is surprising people and getting them excited on a somewhat consistent basis.
A year or so back there was a callout for volunteers to train for a Mars colonization program. Would you ever consider becoming the first artist to live on Mars?
Haha, this is good. Who is on this mission with me? Do they have wifi in space? I’d be intrigued by it but I would be ready to go back not too long after we got there. I’m not really equipped to be locked into a space capsule with a couple of people on a life long mission. I’m also too addicted to social media to be cut off from the rest of humanity, what if something happens to Drake while I’m away? Also, how would I listen to podcasts? I would study abroad on Mars but I’m not ready to move there yet. There are just too many unanswered questions.
Much of your recent work highlights quirky human characteristics and seems related to personal story. How does the work you produced for ‘People Of Earth’ compare to your earlier stuff?
I think there’s a progression from my earlier work to this recent show. Thematically and visually there are some similarities, but more so thematically in terms of the kind of mood that I want to create when someone looks at my pieces. And then there’s the trouble with how I’m always struggling against my influences, because when I see a piece of art I like I kind of want to just make that piece over and over again. I have to resist the urge to just recreate pieces by my favorite artists like David Shrigley and Harland Miller, which is difficult because sometimes they get to such a great place with their work that I have to move on for a while before coming back to see if there’s anything else that can be said about a certain topic or idea. I can also never live in the moment artistically because I’m always thinking about and planning for the next body of work. I always do compare my present stuff to the previous stuff and I should probably just stop to reflect for a little bit about what in my art is working and what’s not working, but I think maybe I will just continue repeating the same mistakes and randomly stumbling upon things that are accidentally good and see how that goes.
Coming up for Tim...
Friday 10/24 Artist Reception: People of Earth! @Gallery 263 263 Pearl St., Cambridge 7-9pm FREE // Show runs 10/23 – 11/22
10/24 Opening Reception: Broadside @13FOREST Gallery (Arlington) 7-9pm FREE // 10/21-11/14
Sunday 10/26 Black Market @Cambridge Elks Lodge (Central Sq) 11am-5pm $1 Suggested Donation