Monday, April 1, 2013

A Few Minutes with Artist Ryan LaMahieu

I discovered Ryan LaMahieu’s art at the new Double Dutch at the corner of Lake Avenue and Superior Street. The pictures immediately drew me in, like coalescing designs through unshuttered windows. I like ink drawings, linear movement and expression conjugated into imagery that is discernible while remaining fluidly complex. LaMahieu's work will be on display at Pizza Luce in April/May. He recently did the cover art for the new Low album cover which was released on March 19th.

EN: What’s your story as an artist?

Ryan LaMahieu: I have always felt a creative drive. It started with coloring in between the lines, then out of the lines.

I was never athletic as a child. I remember in 6th grade, the last Friday of each month an art instructor would come into our class. We did these still life drawings... she saw what I had done and used my piece as an example. I will never forget that. In a world of faceless people, I became a face. I found my voice.

I have been working on it ever since. Looking back, I know I was terrible, in fact maybe I still am? There is so much to learn and absorb. What makes a person an artist? Everyone I meet is an artist. It’s so vague and easy to say. I do what I do from the heart. I would do it for free. It is my true love.

EN: Did you have any formal art training in school?

RM: Sort of. I took all the classes at a community college and then dropped out. I knew at that point if I wanted to do this I needed to do it on my own. Self discovery. Also I was aware that classes can be beneficial, but they can also make you into a clone of other artists. I really would like to believe that I am an original but I guess we are all thieves in one way or another. You can only lie to yourself for so long...

EN: How did you come to find your style?

RM: I have battled with mental illness since my early twenties, struggling with depression, anxiety, agoraphobia etc. I needed a way to combat these emotions. I needed a release, an escape. The energy that pulses through my veins, heart, feet... it needed to be let out and that is where the line comes in.

I love the line. It makes up everything. All we our are lines. Movement. I like to think that I capture that with every motion of the pen. A pulse. A moment.

To be able to draw an erratic pile of lines and see something in them, pull something out, I would like to believe that it is a form of therapy. No matter the situation, I can pick up a pen and feel at home.

Style comes from working on something over and over, then one day you have a style more than you even realize till someone says something. But really, maybe I just ripped off Picasso or Steadman? I don't know.

EN: Who have been your biggest influences?

RL: My influences? The easy answer: Basquiat, Picasso, Miro, Steadman, Warhol.

But really my influences are my family. Generic. Yes, but I would not be doing what I’m doing without their support and influence.

My Mom always wanted me to have memories. In her eyes that was her job, to create memories. After she passed away I realized that was all she had left me. Memories. However, there was nothing I was able to touch, read. I searched and found very little. At that point I knew that as an artist I wanted to leave something behind. There was a strong desire to capture this moment either with words or visual art. I truly believe that none of us want to be forgotten. Maybe as artists we have an advantage, even if our work ends up at a Goodwill it exists. Immortality.

As a child no one ever said what I was doing was crap and really... it was, but they gave me the courage to continue.

EN: Do you have a personal “philosophy of art” that guides you in any way?

RL: I really don't know how to answer this question. It’s weird that I am writing about myself. Why would anyone care? I live in Duluth MN and I paint pictures.

I just want to be honest. I feel the world lacks honesty. We are all trying so hard to prove something, to be something when really this is all there is. You might as well do something you love, hold your breath and jump in to a school of piranha's.

EN: What advice would you give to college art students as they begin to explore the fine arts?

RL: I am not the person to ask about college and the arts. If you have a free ride and can go to school, I say, why not go? But to bury yourself in debt to go to art school seems silly. As I stated before, everyone is an artist. I take pictures, I play in a band, I paint pictures. The world needs more artists like they need lawyers. If you are doing something that truly comes from the heart it doesn't matter if you go to college or you show at the MOMA. It will be real and that's what the world needs, more real people, real emotions. We live in a disposable society and when I meet/see someone who is really doing something with honesty behind it, something that is truly heartfelt it shows and those are the people we need, not some college clones with an art degree.

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