JUST 5 QUESTIONS
INTERVIEW WITH WALT MORTON CONDUCTED BY GILES FANTON Summer 2014
Q: Much of your art now seems to show frightening images of women, how should we feel about that?
A: This is one of the first things I hear from ordinary people. They ask, "Do you hate women?" I am disappointed when I hear that. The reaction
tells me about the audience, how they have been conditioned to think, and what their fears and concerns are. But that is not what my art is about.
Growing up in America, I was inundated with images of beautiful woman. Advertising, film, television, beauty culture is everywhere you look.
Beauty is forced on you to seduce and control consumer behavior. So part of the exploration in my art is to combine something beautiful or
seductive with something repellent, frightening. Occasionally, other artists have experimented with ugliness as an aesthetic in the history of art.
Umberto Eco wrote a pretty good book about this called On Ugliness.
Q: So you would call it feminist?
A: The thing to understand is that I am sick of the tyranny of beauty. Yet at the same time I deeply enjoy the beautiful as a concept and that one of
the best things art can do is find and reveal beauty especially in unfamiliar places. There is dark beauty in the delicate skin of a crocodile or the
form of a scorpion. Humans respond to this beauty on a deep level, but it often comes out as fear. Children are taught to draw happy unicorns
riding rainbows but real art is found in exploring the darkness of humanity. That pursuit is not for the faint of heart. Because if you walk that road
beyond the fun of Halloween and zombie movies you are confronted with the true horror of humanity which includes realizing our savage animal
nature. We are all beasts inside and some artists see that.
Q: Care to name any names? Artists that see the beast?
A: In his time Goya was feeling exactly what I feel when he locked himself in the Quinta Del Sordo and painted his famous "Black Paintings" of
cannibalism, witches, and fantastic visions.
Q: Goya worked almost two-hundred years ago. Are there any modern or contemporary artists that you identify yourself with?
A: There is an academic tendency in the art community to categorize artists in order to understand them. One person is called a realist another
lowbrow. Someone else is abstract of conceptual. A person is of a certain school, atelier, or tradition. A lot of this is marketing by people in the
art world so they can have the words to sell the art to the public. But to go back to Goya, when he painted the Black Paintings on the
inner walls of his house he did not expect anyone to see them. They were private visualizations drawn from his mind's eye. My work is often like
that. I have an interior vision and the art is an attempt to get it out of my head onto paper, or canvas or whatever and then I feel "Yes, that's what I
saw." I am sure it is mostly like this for many artists. But I hesitate to name any contemporary artists, I feel surer about Goya than people alive
Q: There must be at least one contemporary artist you feel kinship with.
A: I don't know how anybody else's mind works and I am not a believer in the community of artists or collaboration or art schooling or any of that.
Art is an impulse almost like a madness or obsession. It follows no logic. You let go of control. At the border of control is where interesting things
happen: the smashing drunken car-wreck between a mature artist skilled and fully aware and 'master' of the medium and raw accident,
happenstance, luck, randomness, uncertain surface, dirty paint, unfocused lenses, spills and slips, problems, ignored warnings. All artists as
they mature get less interested in exact results and more interested in what jewels they can steal like a thief in the night. What do we even need
art for? Yet we are compelled to make it. This is a part of the mystery of being human.
|© MMXIV, The New York Optimist. All Rights Reserved. The New York Optimist & www.thenewyorkoptimist.com is a registered
trademark of The New York Optimist. The New York Optimist is a registered service mark of Thenewyorkoptimist.com. The New York
Optimist logo and original photos are a registered trademark of The New York Optimist . All other photos are property of the advertiser.
And are rightfully protected under their copyright protections.