Tell me about your collections. If there were a fire, which thing would you grab first?
I collect natural, organic things like stones, skulls and interesting driftwood, and mechanical things like old film projectors, odd antique mechanisms and hood ornaments. I’m fascinated by things that are designed by both nature and man. And I like robots. I think because they’re the best of both those things: designed by people but designed to mimic natural forms. There are a couple things of my grandfather’s plus some original art by others that I would try to save first. Now I’m worried!
I have always thought of airbrushing in two categories: urban or carnival. You are creating airbrushed work in a category that is unfamiliar for this medium. What do you think about that?
Oh, you mean “fine art?” I don’t really worry about that too much. An airbrush is just a tool and medium the same as any other. The airbrush allows me to paint and develop imagery that is not possible with other tools. In the end, the image and the piece is what matters to me, not the process.
What originally inspired the metal work you are doing?
In the early eighties, I stumbled across an old appliance repair scrap yard and became interested in the fridge handles, stove knobs, etc. I thought it would be cool to scavenge a bunch of those and apply them directly to paintings, as if the painting could be “opened” up by the handle or “turned up” with a knob. I also tried painting on old car doors. Well, it turns out car doors are for cars, not walls.
Ten years later, in a gallery near Union Square, I was struck by dynamic, colorful paintings on aluminum… brilliant! After a few false starts of my own with aluminum, I developed techniques. I absolutely love the possibilities this medium holds. Plus, I love scrap yards. I’m fascinated by the level of design, machining and processing that aluminum undergoes only to be recycled.
Your work seems to be a combination of magical, celestial and techno. What inspires the celestial images in your work?
I’ve always been into space, spirit and nature. To me they are the same thing. The visions and concepts I explore with my aluminum relate to all three. I love the conceptual and visual tension that exist between the natural forms and the industrial quality of the aluminum. I draw a great deal of inspiration from Native American cultures and the way they relate to nature and spirit. I also believe that humanity must evolve and reach for the stars. We are doomed if we don’t. So, space and science are also very important to me. I find the aluminum ideal for communicating these concepts. The dynamic quality and color I develop with aluminum is perfect for creating spiritual, meditative or zen-like pieces. The depth and movement draw you in, like you’re entering a gate or seeing through a window into another space.
Your techno imagery is intriguing but a bit unsettling. I can’t decide whether you think technology is oppressive or in concert with nature. Maybe you’re not commenting about these things at all.
I don’t know either! I’ve thought about that so much and from different angles trying to understand why I’m interested in both industrial things and natural things. I was hoping you knew. I think technology unchecked is destructive. Technology is also the only thing that will save us. I definitely don’t think our current technology and nature exist in concert with each other. I don’t tend to make big political statements about that. I just like the complement and tension between the two. Makes for cool stuff!
Adam Mankoski is a recent North State transplant who feels completely at home here. He enjoys experiencing and writing about the people, places and things that embody the free spirit of the State of Jefferson. He and his partner own HawkMan Studios and are the creators of Redding’s 2nd Saturday ArtHop.