Interview with Michael Rea

‘Put a monkey in space if Remo Williams can’t do it,’ 2005, with ‘In to the wild blue Yonder,’ 2005.

A while back I did a blog on this guy because his art is totally rad. I was recently able to catch up with him do a quick interview. Here it is.

Me: Tell us about yourself. What’s your artistic background?

MR: Well I am 32 years old, I was born and raised in the South suburbs of Chicago. I attended Northern Illinois University for undergrad, and University of Wisconsin -Madison for Graduate school. In between undergrad and grad I lived in Chicago and I work as an Art teacher in the public schools, 1-6th grade. During undergrad and the first couple of years in Chicago I primarily worked as a painter. towards the end of my stint in Chicago I started to build objects. Around the time I attended the Charles Ray retrospective, as well as the Sol Lewitt, and H.C. Westerman retrospectives. Painting became boring for me, and I think I really wanted to give building “things” a try. I actually love painting and drawing, but for the most part only collect them now. I really enjoy trading work with an artist who makes 12″x12″ drawings on paper and leaving them to carry home a hundred pound wood thing. I currently live in Milwaukee WI, where I work at a small art college as a sculpture tech. The pay is terrible but there is health care and they let me use there shops to build. I sort of split my studio between the school and the studio apartment I rent. Not the best arrangement, but you sort have got to make it work.

‘Who Knew Starman Would Answer Back,’ 2005.

Me: What was it that sparked you imagination into creating these larger than life wood sculptures?

MR: Like I said I was a huge fan of the Charles Ray retrospective, and i guess I just wanted to make something with a a bit of muscle involved. I like to dare my self to do something. I will mention the idea to a few friends, and after awhile people will ask “well where is that big idea you were talking about?” At this point I have to hussle to a build the thing so I do not sound like some sort of loud mouth pussy.

“Wood Load in” 2004

Me: You obviously work on a really large scale. Your studio must be massive. What exactly goes into making these sculptures? how long does it take? do you have an assistant? and how do you transport your work to galleries?

MR: As I mentioned before the studio is not really all that massive any more. The key is to build things in pieces. I also have a large chunk of worked stored in my parents garage. I am not sure how long that will last , but I will have to worry about that later. As far as what goes into the sculptures: well, I start with an Idea and simply begin building. I am a big fan of “I will fix that later”. I am not concerned with perfection so that can speed things along a little faster. With that in mind it can take up to a couple of months to finish a piece. I like to have a couple of projects going at the same time. This way something will finish, which provides a little self assurance, which can be applied to another project which is the up hill phase of the project. It is also nice to get away from a project; for your own sanity and so you can make good decisions about the piece. I do not have a assistant, but I will occasionally hire out some help if I have the funds and time is short. When I was working on the ‘Olympia’ piece I made the decision that I could finish the piece in a month. Well it turned out that the learning curve for latch hooking sort of tops off and you are stuck with a terribly tedious process. Needless to say i hired two students of mine at the time to come in a latch hook with for a week or so. To answer the last question, I usually rent trucks and drive the work out to the show. Sometimes the gallery will hire art shippers, which I prefer. This however rarely happens.

‘Lysistrata’ 2005

Me: Your work follows certain themes. What inspires you to come up with these themes?

MR: For the most part pop culture, I watch a lot of movies and TV, listen to lots of music, and read lots of books. This year has been a bad year for books and I have only read two or three. I am a little ashamed of myself. I like to think of myself as an American artist, for better for worst, and I think my work reflects the love hate relationship rather well.

Me: What’s next for you as far as your work is concerned?

MR: Well I have done about eight shows this year and I would like to focus on my studio right now. I have a few new pieces but I would like to generate enough work for a solo show next year at this time of entirely new work. I suppose you would like to hear about what exactly is being made. well, I have a finished version of myself in carbonite (Star Wars), i am about half way finished with a bolder of Kryptonite (superman), and I just started a pair of the back packs from the movie ghost busters.

Thanks Michael!

‘A Prosthetic Suit For Stephen Hawking w/ Japanese Steel’ 2007.