Interview: Jaime Molina's "Inner Lives"
Jaime Molina recently opened his latest exhibition at SVPERORDINARY gallery in Denver, Colorado. In another iteration of undeniably charming yet wistful characters, Molina's "The Tells" features beautifully distressed man-creatures with cacti blooming from their bodies.
Jaime Molina recently opened his latest exhibition at SVPERORDINARY gallery in Denver, Colorado with collaborator Wes Sam-Bruce. In another iteration of undeniably charming yet wistful characters, Molina's "The Tells" features beautifully distressed man-creatures with cacti blooming from their bodies. We caught up with Molina about his work habits, the soul behind his sculptures and the influence of his hometown Denver on his work.
Lauren YS: Your upcoming show with Wes Sam-Bruce is entitled "The Tells." Can you tell us a bit more about this title?
Jaime Molina: When Wes and I started to talk about an overall concept for the show we discussed the title, “Inner Lives”. It seemed to encapsulate our respective current bodies of work just right, but as I began to work on my own pieces the direction shifted slightly. The idea of having inner, or even secret lives, is interesting to me because no matter how shy, or quiet, or guarded a person is, it seems like bits of their personality shine through. In this way, I started to think of these slips as “tells”. Like in poker when you have a good hand and you start tapping your foot, or biting your lip or something. It might be the way you inflect a certain word, or your bright red shoes, or the manner of your stride. These things are all tells of sorts. They help to tell the story behind a person even if they are too shy or quiet to tell you themselves. I like to paint patterns and colors on my characters because to me, it's like they are wearing this intricate quilt of all of their life's experiences. It's like a very colorful shadow that is always with them to tell their story.
In the last few years, you've been bringing your characters into the third dimension with wood sculptures. Many of these sculptures open to reveal hidden characters. How does this play into the concept of your show?
I've been working on this series for a while and it is still very inspiring to me. It is limitless when you think of all of the things that can be revealed if you were able to peal back the layers of a person. The first piece I did in this fashion was for a group show titled, “Cut” I took the title literally and imagined one of the nail heads I had been making, only cut open. What would be inside? The pieces have evolved a little bit, but the overall concept is still intact. The piece, “Treasure Maps” is about the improbability of uncovering the truth in any memory. If one had a traumatic experience, their perception of the event would obviously be affected. One would almost need some kind of map to locate the objective truth in the memory. I'm not sure that it would even be possible to locate and to me, that is fine. We as humans are wired that way and that's why we are humans and not robots. It's these complexities and tiny universes that would be revealed that interest me.
What, if you could choose, would be the soundtrack to your characters/sculptures?
I think they could each have their own soundtrack. It's like they are each different scenes in a movie and they each have their own score. A few years ago, I made a character out of a bottle that was holding a smaller bottle that he drank from. I placed a speaker that was rigged up to an ipod inside of the character. I recorded myself turning the record, “Night Moves” by Bob Seger, by hand and had it playing on a loop. It sounded really off kilter and drunk and the sound of it echoing inside of a bottle sounded really interesting to me. With these new pieces I imagine some really loud bass thumping from inside and once you crack them open the sound just knocks you over the head. Like opening a heavy door and walking into a warehouse party or something.
There is a subtle somberness, shyness to your characters, though they all have a dreamlike sense to them. Is there a reason for this? Have your characters always had a quieter attitude?
I always like them to be a bit mysterious. It's difficult to size someone up when their eyes are closed. If the eyes are the window to the soul, what happens when the eyes are closed? Are they sleeping? Are they dreaming? Are they sad? Are they in ecstasy? I like the narrative that the viewer creates when they are left to determine why he looks the way he looks. I've been told a lot that they look sad, but that's not always the case. To be honest, I think that my little cuttys are an extension of myself. The way they wait or dream or just simply absorb the world is pretty close to how I operate. I'm not as terribly shy as I used to be when I was younger, but i'm definitely more comfortable being in the background most of the time.
Does the landscape/atmosphere of Colorado play into your work at all? How so?
Absolutely I think so. To me, it's the sky and the intense sun that really play a big part of my appreciation for Colorado. The clouds here are so dynamic in the summer and spring. They create the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. All day long they are changing and bursting overhead. In the fall and winter, clouds aren't as dynamic, but that just makes the sky all the more vast and dramatic. Even in the middle of winter when there are no clouds, you get that perfect yellow blue fade sunset. That as a backdrop for scattered seemingly black dormant trees, you feel like you are in a Salvador Dali painting and it is perfect. Also the quality of light here is really special to me. The harshness of the sun keeps me happy year round.
You've also been doing a lot of large-scale mural work lately. How does that compare to doing small paintings and sitting sculptures? Is there one medium you prefer, and why?
They are both very different, but challenging in their own ways. The challenge with large murals for me is just battling all of the external factors that just don't exist in the studio environment. It's usually one thing or the other; extreme heat, or extreme cold, or getting your wall taken away, or getting your lift taken away. It's not like every time I do a mural I face some huge adversity, but there's usually some obstacle to deal with. Conversely that's the beauty and joy of it. It's being outside in a community and getting to know the vibe of that particular location you are in, it's getting thumbs up from the folks in the neighborhood because they are stoked to have you doing what you're doing, it's real life and it's a lot more unpredictable than going into my studio to make work. When i'm in the studio making sculptures and paintings, it's more of a sanctuary. I just get to build stuff and go back to that place that I've been going to my whole life where I can transform one thing into something else. I know that sounds really vague and boring, but ultimately that's what I love about art and creating. It's the transformation of things that is endlessly enjoyable to me.
Which X-Man would you be, and why?
As far as comic characters go, I'd say Wolverine. I think him because of his super healing powers. Doing sculpture I'm always cutting my hands and fingers. Then the cut gets all full of dirt and paint and junk and it takes forever to heal. If I were Wolverine I wouldn't even skip a beat. I could just keep on making stuff without even stopping to lick the blood off my finger. As far as all-star X-Men DJ's go, Most definitely, Rob Swift. His beat juggles are just, A ok hand emoji, dope. He is pretty nice at scratching too.
What are you working on next?
I will be having a show in May 2017 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I will be showing with my friend and future collaborator, Pol Corona at Galeria Union. I will also be doing an art residency with Pol while I'm in BA. I am a huge fan of his work so it is exciting that I get to show with him and hopefully do several murals with him while I am down there.
Anything else you'd like to share with us?
HUGE shouts to my wife for all of the assistance in the studio and for always holding things down. And HUGE hugs to Asela and Telmo for all of the inspiration and motivation. Thanks for having me, Lauren and Jux!