Sunday, February 15, 2009

Visitng Artist Lecture: Gary Panter

I got to the lecture about five minutes late because I had a Human Evolution class. The auditorium was packed with a very narrow path to get through the bodies that obstructed the entrance. The atmosphere seemed so relaxed and jovial as Gary Panter was conversing with the crowd about how his daughter liked the Spice Girls and the fact that the youth should stop watching so much TV. His 'theme' for the lecture seemed to be advising young artists to find a voice outside the realm of popular culture. That media should not define who we are as individuals, as he gave the example of Chris Ware who doesn't watch TV, or read stacks of popular culture, instead he draws his cartooning reference from literature and personal hobbies like old period ragtime music magazines.

Panter's father was devout Christian and was frightened by his child's propensity toward the bug-eyed characters he mimicked from Low Rider Magazine art. He said "there's something about cheapness and lowliness in art that I enjoy." He worked as a janitor right after college, allowing him to draw on the clock and produce mysterious fr0g drawings for a lady that still doesn't know he drew them till this day. After that he got hired by a print shop and learned how to do 4 color separation. He encouraged all of us to learn the original traditional media first before relying solely on a computer, which I couldn't agree more with.

Some of the work he talked about included a pretty fascinating collaboration with an artist whose inking style was quite different from his. Charles Burns was an underground artist whose inking was so tight and methodical that Panter described "Charles would chuckle as he inked, knowing he was better than everyone else." They created Facetasm which I would very much like to pick up now. Aesthetically, it is a Jekyll and Hyde type book, with cross sections of faces drawn by both Burns with his tight inking style and Panter's looser more aggressive approach. He mentioned the Winsor Newton No. 2 series 9 brush as being the pinnacle of its kind. He also talked about how over the last few decades he's been trying to re-evoke the 60s through 'magic.' He started off with Psychedelic posters for light shows that he staged by himself. He produced these 45 minute light shows for several years and eventually ended up taking them to galleries in New York once he met up with a pretty prominent light show maker from the 60s where they garnered more attention. They looked like really surreal and atmospheric experiences in the slide, and I'm sure they are even much more in person, probably very mind boggling.
Rounding up the lecture he talked about how he like's to cut up random things and stick them in his sketchbook, like a "where's the beef" sticker. He mentioned some of his influences like Peter Saul, Oyvind Faulstrum, Yasuji Tenuoka,Jim Nut, James Brooks Eduardo Paolotzzi, etc. He advised us all to be makers of things instead of receivers, to Google Bower birds (with which somebody actually gave a Bower bird call out of the blue), and he said that sometimes "thinking coherently isn't a bad thing."

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