We caught up with the fascinating and multi-talented emerging artist Michael Alan who has returned to our shores after taking part in a successful and ongoing exhibition at the Spritmuseum in Stockholm, Sweden.
The exhibition entitled “Powerful Babies”, curated by Rick Herron and Bill Arning and co-curated by Alida Vanov, with the Spritmuseum’s curator Mia Sundberg and Museum Director Ingrid Leffler featured Alan in the company of art world luminaries such as Trenton Doyle Hancock, the late Lori Ellison, Steven Evans, Juliana Huxtable, and Scooter LaForge, and anointed Alan as one of the heirs of Keith Haring’s legacy.
The show will continue for six months, and is one of Alan’s very successful entries into the European art world.
I was curious to find out what is going on in the head of Michael Alan. He is all over the map, creating exquisite drawings, composing original and collaborative ‘outsider” music/ weird hip hop, making sculptures and helming the long running “Living Installation” a form of orchestrated madness that involves turning people into human sculptures.
What’s the method behind your explosion of sheer creativity
I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, Art saves lives. I run with all types of people and in my circle the common ingredient are people who want to do the best at what they are doing. The common ingredient in my work is the same. The only things I avoid and try to avoid are people who use alcohol and drugs to a level that isn’t healthy and I’m opposed to haters, copycats and users. I believe art is here for us to share with everyone, not to divide us, and that’s what keeps my rotation of tools open.My main interest is obviously old artistic traditions from Europe, personally, but I grew up on Old Dirty Bastard, and got the opportunity to remake some of his music, working with the permission of his brother, Ramsey Jones and his Mom.
My interests roam from drinking a 40 in the street with my friend Adam Tres to having dinner with really amazing collectors like Eva Livijn-Olin and museum directors and curators. I think once you close off and only become interested in one style you limit yourself from growing as an artist, for example if I only did the white ink on black paper drawings that I am known for, into infinity, they would only go so far. I would literally draw myself into a corner, therefore I work on sculptures and odd music and hip hop music, and hang out with my life drawing friends and my friends I grew up with from Brooklyn and Staten Island and Queens or to my collectors. I go to high end museum shows before they open, or I work with the Coalition for the Homeless or kids with cancer, or I do what I need to sell my works to survive in this big city, or I lie on my friends studio floors or park benches or in cafes or in my car, painting and drawing and making sculpture and collaging my works on top of my works, on top of my works, on top of my works.I’ve gotta keep my world open to grow as an artist and as a person.
Do you feel like you are rebelling against structures in the art world?
I’m keeping the roots of how I grew up in New York, and what New York stood for. I’m not giving in to a new system or becoming a diplomatic art character to gain popularity. I’m just being honest about what I’m going through in my life and the lives of people around me ,and being open. I would say to rebel would be for me to move to Nebraska and wear a three piece suit. I’m just trying to find myself and accept what circumstances have led me here, and try and help people with my work
You’ve been through a lot in the last months, how did it feel to lose your home to sewage flooding, travel Europe, return to put on a Living Installation, and then start a search for a new home?
It’s just way too much for me to handle, it was very confusing being in a beautiful country with beautiful people celebrating the show, while at the same time grieving over the loss of my home, and finding out that one of my good friends Peter Carrol who had a lot of similar injuries as mine passed away. it was quite overwhelming. It was really hard to be in the moment in Europe that was so wonderful while needing to come back to New York to find a way to deal with starting a new life. I didn’t lose an apartment I rented, I lost a space that I owned that was valued at $300,000. Anyone who has lost property that they owned knows that this is a horrible feeling. It was really emotional multitasking.
For those who are interested in helping as I have, Michael has a GoFundMe page to help him get back on his feet after raw sewage flooded his basement home, destroying over 2,000 pieces of artwork.
Lori Ellison passed away just prior to the show, which is dedicated to her. How do you handle the question of your own mortality, and what kind of legacy would you like to leave the world? How do you feel about her passing?
It was definitely a sad, but realistic awakening. I’m also dealing with possibilities of this in my own life, so the opportunity to show with her was uncanny, since she always posted on Facebook about her trials and I do the same thing I definitely felt it. I admired her for her honesty and felt at home.
I’m not really trying to leave a legacy behind, that’s a little egocentric but I would like people to say that that person was very real and did the best he could with what time he had.