A conversation between Artist Huxley Maxwell and Artist Mia Farrell.
Transcribed by Bridgett Harvey.
Works by Huxley Maxell at The Lift Des Moines
On view now through July 31st
Huxley Maxwell: So I was at the lift the other day and this person was there and they’re all like “Luke this your show?”, and I was like “yea”, “well tell us about it”. And I sat there for a second and I didn’t like mean to say it as a joke or anything I just like genuinely asked “what do you want me to say?”
Mia Farrell: No, I think that’s … I think that’s valid because first of all you said this person which means I don’t think you knew them?
HM: I like vaguely know them, I’ve talked to them like 2 or 3 times before.
MF: Okay, so I think that’s interesting that people see a work of art and like don’t do any investigation on their own enough to have a question for you, cause the thing is that’s not a question.
HM: No that’s not, like tell us about it.
MF: A question could be, do you have something that you want to say about your pieces- that’s a question.
HM: Depending on the piece- maybe. But you gotta put out the interest first, I can’t guide your hand through the whole thing because I barely know what’s going on in half of them anyways.
MF: I think it’s amazing too because like there’s a million things to talk about when we make anything, like I could talk to you about the coffee you made.
HM: Yeah, I just heat it up in the microwave, Patrick made it this morning
MF: See exactly, but like everyone is coming at things with different information and different interests, so like someone could be interested in what kind of materials you use, but it’s like people a lot of times- here I am doin my first interview and I’m criticizing people and art.
HM: Yeah, fuck em.
MF: but so many people will approach a piece of art and do no work on their end and that’s why so many people will dismiss art because they haven’t even thought about ‘what am I seeing?’
HM: And I feel like when I was growing up I did the same thing, like when my grandma would take me to the Art Center and I would see something and be like ‘oh I just don’t get it’ and I wouldn’t put any other work into it and just look at it and be like (gesture) and then walk away. And it’s like in order to appreciate art you gotta put the effort in, it’s like a two way street, it’s not like the artist is always gonna be there to tell you ‘you should feel this way about this’ cause half of the time, especially in my case with the show, I don’t know how I feel about a lot of things. They all stir up different emotions and feelings and imagery for different people.
MF: Yeah and that’s the thing is like when people are engaging with the art they will tell you their interpretation and you will be able to talk to them about that and it might broaden your own vision because really art is a communication, so they ‘I see this in this’ and you might not have interpreted it that way and it grows you.
HM: That’s happened with my show at the Lift, which has been interesting. I have learned things about myself in these paintings that I wasn’t aware of from other people pointing them out to me in the paintings and I’m like aw fuck you’re right.
MF: I think that’s the point though in sharing art because you can make a bunch of paintings and never show them and it won’t do anything to you
(sucking a juul)
MF: Like it’s therapeutic
HM: it’s therapeutic to like
MF: to create but until it’s shown to other people it’s not art in that way.
HM: That’s like going back for the second session.
MF: For people who want to know about your show and if you were to describe your paintings to somebody who can’t see them?
HM: It’s pretty much what you could imagine, being like, if you were to just like sit in my head and kinda close your eyes and see the things that just randomly appear like the symbols and colors that appear, what is it, like stream of consciousness imagery. Ya know, just thoughts and feelings on things or whatever, that whenever I would feel manic enough I would just throw them down on the canvas and compile them in way that I felt looked visually pleasing.
MF: It’s interesting because composing from your imagination in that way seems really hard to me because a lot of the time I have like a concrete idea when I’m making a piece of art and I’m trying to show that idea. It’s like painting a sunset, while you watch the sunset it’s changing so it’s easier to paint from a photograph of a sunset. So I can’t imagine being that in tune with my own dreams, like painting your dreams seems really hard for me because they move.
When you’re working on your pieces and you have this idea about this, like I see this chair and I’m putting this chair here. Are you able to freeze a mental image while you paint it or like as you paint it your mental image changes?
HM: It depends on the piece, some of them it’s just like there should be a chair right there and then there is a chair there and then that holds no specific ground to the rest of the piece other than that now the chair is there and the chair is probably important because it’s there, ya know. But there’s other pieces, like some of them, I think one in particular, called ‘It sounded better in my Head’. I knew that there was gonna be a skull at the top right corner I knew there was gonna be this red blob in the background in front of like a black background with like wood floors and there was gonna be a chair with a puddle, a puddle of blood and that’s all I knew about it. But then it wasn’t until after the show was up and I was talking to people about it that like it was a painting about if you had killed yourself and regretted it.
MF: Yeah. I like that I just say yeah like of course it is and I think that’s just the way sharing and interpreting goes-when you hear the truth you know the truth. However, your title could have meant anything especially when you thought of it you didn’t think of that.
HM: Yeah, because when I thought of the title, I had just drawn a mock up what I thought the painting was gonna look like and when I was looking at it, it was almost kind of a joke where I was like, yeah you know it sounded better in my head and I thought it was kind of funny the more that I looked at it I was like that’s less of a joke but like a very harsh reality.
MF: I love that my brain didn’t go to suicide and I seriously like totally was able to imagine that moment of creating something and saying it sounded better in my head, that’s exactly what I thought it meant. I think too because like those are all like really strong symbols - it’s gonna have a puddle of blood, it’s gonna have this chair, it’s gonna have this skull, those are all very strong but the way that one was painted as compared to your other artwork it’s a lot more cartoon-like, very like solid and everything else has more depth in different ways.
HM: Everything else is kind of like sits more in a imaginary dreamlike realm whereas this one’s a bit more grounded but still kinda like halfway.
MF: To me it was kind of funny where it was like okay I’m gonna do this super intense painting but like to me it just looks like a still from a video game like a Gameboy video game or a very simple
HM: Or like a still from a Looney Toons cartoon.
MF: I loved the idea of like, this is gonna be heavy but visually it doesn’t feel heavy.
HM: It’s almost like a way of making it more palatable too because I guess that’s how I’m comfortable with things-I’m more comfortable with cartoons than I am like gritty reality a lot of the time not to say that, I’m like, I feel like I am pretty comfortable with hearing and experiencing dark shit but I also much prefer cartoons, so it’s my mode of communication.
MF: I would say everyone’s like that- I know that’s not true I know there’s a lot of people who love reality who have a super aversion to cartoons as well.
HM: Yeah, there are painters who only paint hyper realistic portraits and stuff and would never try and draw Felix the cat but I love drawing Felix the cat because he’s my guy.
MF: Oh, he’s such a good guy.
HM: Yeah, there’s that painting in the show that uh the flyer is called “there’s my guy” because there’s a little Felix the cat face on it because he’s my guy, I love Felix.
MF: Do you title all your works after you make them?
MF: It kinda feels like you make a piece of art-and this is my interpretation-you make a painting and then you almost like critique it but it’s not like critique as in like giving it judgement but it’s like you going ‘I get it’and it’s like you see this and it’s like ‘oh it’s my guy’!
HM: Some times it will be like halfway through I’ll come up with a title other times it will be three weeks later some of them was like a year later I came up with the title or something because there’s pieces in the show that go back two years, the earliest piece was done in August of 2017 when I moved back to Des Moines, yeah so the show Is pretty much a conglomeration, representation, showcase of my mental head space throughout the time I’ve been back in Des Moines, not necessarily in chronological order though.
MF: I was gonna say, would you think it would be interesting or beneficial at all to see it all in chronological order for you or for your viewer?
HM: I think for both because I never looked at them in order.
MF: Maybe you could do that at the closing, a parade.
HM: Yeah I might just take photos of all of them.
HM: And lay them out next to each other just have them and scroll, I think that would be interesting I also would have to think pretty hard because some of them I don’t remember where they land
MF: Yeah documentation man, write on the back of your paintings.
HM: Yeah I don’t do that though.
MF: Sometimes you revisit them though, you can work on one for a bit and then go back, so it’s hard to say when they were done.
HM: Yeah, there are some that took over half a year to complete because I would like paint on it and it would go into a closet or something and then like 6 months later I would look at it and be like ‘well this needs something else in the back. I’m gonna add more to it’. And to a certain extent some of them and maybe even all of them will never really be completed to a certain sense
MF: That’s fair, I hear a lot of people tell me that about their art
HM: I always feel like there’s something else that I could do, there are other ones that I just have to decide I’m completely content with. And I feel like when someone else owns it and it’s out of my hands, it’s complete because I’m not gonna break into their house and paint it.
As soon as you paid me the money for it I feel like they can do whatever they want to it, if you wanna buy a piece of mine and you feel like covering something up – go for it, I don’t fucking give a shit, as long as it makes you happy to look at it because it’s your painting now. It just has my signature on it.