Interview With Artist Gwen AP
Gwen, we have been following your career for the past year and it seems that you are on a meteoric rise. When I first interviewed you almost exactly a year ago you were still unsure about other people even seeing your art. Now you have painted on stage with the Disco Biscuits at Camp Bisco and durring their New Years Eve run. Does it feel surreal?
When you put it that way, it definitely does feel surreal, but from my perspective it’s been more of a steady progression. I’ve always been a little nervous to let people into my world, and my art is a big part of that. I’ve been doing drawings and paintings for friends and family for probably as long as I can remember. The positive feedback I received pushed me to look outside of my circle, submitting to logo and poster contests, drawing up images for bands, basically doing any kind of artwork that came my way because I just loved doing it so much.
This past year has brought me great success in many areas that would not have seemed possible one year ago. If you told me a year ago that today I would have my art displayed in strangers’ homes across the country, in galleries, coffee shops, and on stage with some of the most incredible musicians out there, I would have thought you were crazy. Last year at this time I was filing my vendor application for Bonnaroo, hoping I was good enough to be recognized as a serious artist, hoping that they wouldn’t look at my application and say, this girl clearly has no talent.
From there to where I am today has definitely felt like a wonderful adventure, with many surreal stops along the way. Painting on stage with the Disco Biscuits is on the top of that list. It’s beyond incredible to be able to feel their energy, to be so close to the chemistry they have together as a band. To get a taste of who they are as people and what inspires them, having had their music so much inspire me.
Well besides the obvious advantage of level ground and running water that the Best Buy has to offer, I would say it’s what happened backstage. In NYC, as well as a few times that I’ve painted with Conspirator, I was able to get to know the personalities of the guys in the band. I had a chance to sit with Marc at one point as he rehearsed lyrics and went over setlists, chatted with Magner a bit about being a new dad and his twins. Seeing them practice, banter back and forth about what songs should or shouldn’t be played, I think all of these small personal interactions were very impactful. At this point too, I feel a little more comfortable with the idea of talking to people that I very much admire, having been around them more than once or twice. At camp it was a very new thing, and I very much thought of them as rock stars instead of people. I was nervous to talk to them. I mean shit, they are the Disco Biscuits. But once you get past that, they are just normal people.
Camp is a different creature in and of itself. Nothing compares to Camp Bisco. It’s always a sick line up of the best electronic music for a three day ragetastic dance fest that can’t be beat. Camp Bisco is also where I fell in love with live music for the first time ever. A friend of mine in college invited me to Camp IV. I’m ashamed to say I’d only gone to maybe 1 or 2 concerts in my life before that. After that experience I was addicted. Love for music became a huge part of who I am as a person, and who I am becoming as an artist. The experience at camp this year was incredible. I am usually just one of the many in the crowd, but this year was different. This past year I got to perform, and share what I love with others.
My art documents emotion, how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking at the time. You get that in a song too, you can really tell what the artist was feeling when they wrote that song; the words, the beat, it all plays into that feeling. My paintings are the same way. I use vibrant colors, symbols, and movement to create a mood, to document a feeling. When you go to a concert it’s a very exciting and emotional experience. With my paintings I am able, in a way, to capture some of that emotion, some of that experience that you can’t necessarily get from a CD or live recording. There is an energy that exists between the crowd and the musicians, a pulse that you become a part of. I think Hunter Thompson described that type of feeling best… “but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant” There is no way to get back to that wonderful moment in time that has come and gone. For me, I am able to document that musical experience with my art, I capture that moment in time with thoughtful colors and movement. I think the audience understands that. They are able to come along the journey with me and see how my painting reflects what I feel in the music. Almost every live painting I’ve done has gone to someone that was at the show where it was painted – someone that felt what I felt about the music as it’s happening. Someone that knows what it felt like to live in that moment.
If you look at my piece from Camp, or my pieces from NYC, I think you can get a feeling of that experience. The piece from Camp, “Planetary Disciples” was a collection of three days of music, mud, and glorious mayhem. All the colors in that painting are intertwined, dancing with each other, just like the music; one constant dance party where it seemed to effortlessly flow from one artist to another. Some parts were light and graceful; others were dirty, dark, and twisted. At the end of the weekend, that painting represented what had happened emotionally for me at camp – the purple that drips down the background reminiscent of the rain during Conspirator and Shpongle, to the energetic lime green of Dirty Paris’s afternoon set, and the electric blue Magner suggested during the Disco Biscuits dayset. Having Marc Brownstein name it “Planetary Disciples” upon completion really sealed the deal as far as capturing the essence of that epic weekend of Camp Bisco X in Mariaville, NY.
The NYC paintings are no different. The painting on the 27th feels light and playful -like a collection of happy little patterns growing, soaring, swilling together. I always ask people to help name the painting once I finish it. There were a myrad of wonderful name suggestions including Mars Influx, Wormhole, Widgets, and Digital Splash among others. But I decided the name Fruit Chew somehow captured that show. The painting on the 28th entitled Melting Point felt quite a bit different. I wasn’t at the show on the 26th, but on the 27th you could tell as the show progressed it seemed to get better and better. There was that same fire on the 28th, and it was getting stronger. Musically it felt like this hot ball of fire that started with Brothers Past, continued for Orchard Lounge, and exploded with The Disco Biscuits.
I was excited to have my prints at the Merch Table. It felt like a nice little pat on the back from the Disco Biscuits saying they really support my art, which is great. Clearly the Biscuits have great taste, as they always come out with unique new merchandise, so it was great for me to be a small part of that.
As an artist, and a person, I am always growing and looking for new ways to be better at what I do. I think it’s important to take a little time to appreciate the small things, but I think my passion and love for art drives me to keep pushing, keep exploring, and just keep trying to get better and better with each passing day. I used to be scared to try because I knew I could never be the best. It seemed an impossible goal. Now, I just try to do a little bit better than the day before.
I have to ask, from one Biscuits fan to another, what did yo think of the shows on the 27th and 28th musically?
Musically the Disco Biscuits do it for me every time. There are points during a biscuits show where I feel like I can’t dance hard enough, like my heart is going to explode with the music. There are other times where I just can’t help but frolic around in circles looking for friends to hug and hold. From the beautiful ascent of Jigsaw Earth and Hot Air Balloon, to the smack you in the face MEMPHIS, a fresh and fun Digital Buddah, and a 42 encore that electrified the auditorium, the Disco Biscuits are a band that just has that spark. There is an elusive chemistry between them, a kind of magic that happens on stage. From one Biscuits fan to another, I’m sure you know just what I’m talking about.
Check out Gwen A.P on the Web.