Dan Colen Makes Chewing Gum Art - Art Talk - VICE

Uploaded by vice on Sep 1, 2011

INTERVIEWER: When did you first realize you
wanted to be an artist?
DAN: I really wanted to be in the NBA.
That didn't work out.
And then I skateboarded, and I didn't really think about
anything else.
And then, just go to art school, because you can't go
anywhere else.
And you just start taking it seriously at some point.
I didn't assume that I could make a living off of it as
quickly as I did.
It's fortunate that I didn't have to figure out
something to do.
I don't think I'm that good of a painter, or
anything like that.
I just figure it out.
It's not natural.
It's all really formulated.
Painting from a photograph, you just study it.
And you just figure out.
If I just keep putting dots down, really, really slowly,
forever, it'll just work out.
People really like my candle paintings.
That's what they really like.
The last one I finished, it took me a year to make.
So they take a long time.
I just found this image.
I was looking though a Disney book a long time ago.
It's just a still from Pinocchio.
It's Geppetto's work table.
The candle's just extinguishing in all the
paintings, and there's smoke coming out it.
And there are those words up there.
I don't pick them randomly, but there's no
theme to the text.
One says, "fuck,." One said, "so long." This one says
I made a "blow me" one.
And I really liked it.
And I must be a moron for it not having occurred to me.
But when somebody pointed out the double entendre to it, I
really started disliking it.
But it was already gone.
I don't really know what it's about.
But it's not that.
INTERVIEWER: How many of those candle
paintings have you made?
DAN: There is two hung over there, that are
being worked on.
And I have one really tiny one that I'm still working on.
And that'll be 13, I think.
I don't really know if 13 was a number that has any
relevance to me.
But I just don't need to work on them anymore.
And I can't take it, also.
It becomes really painful painting the same one over and
over again.
And in terms of--
I'm not even really working on them that much anymore.
I did the first lot of them.
But hen you can just show people how to do them.
And you work on them with them.
And basically, what the assistants enable me to do is
that I can work on multiple things at once.
Maybe I'll fiddle with stuff or think about stuff.
Or, I don't know.
And I stay here all night.
And I go home in the morning, and I come back.
I mean I'm in here everyday, messing around with
something or other.
The bird shit, the kiss, and the gum all kind of come from
the same place.
I just started trying to pursue other ideas of making
paintings or using a canvas.
INTERVIEWER: It's real gum, right?
DAN: It's all real gum.
This is just moving them from one canvas to another.
I'm just messing around.
I don't really touch them at all.
I just like them to look as random as possible.
So I just have them transfer them between canvases.
I try to get them to do it really quick.
And then I come over and finesse it
a little bit, maybe.
It's pretty idiotic.
You want me to try to talk about why I make them, and--
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, absolutely.
DAN: I don't really have [INAUDIBLE] like that.
But on the rocks, the rocks were about, they looked like
these things that you come up to walking through the woods.
And teenagers would set up camp around there.
And drink beer.
And so there's spray paint all over them.
And people stick gum on rocks and trees.
So that's were it came from, from rocks and trees, or
underneath desks, all that kind of stuff.
INTERVIEWER: Can I stick my gum to this one now?
DAN: Yeah, go for it.
INTERVIEWER: All right, awesome.
DAN: Anywhere you want.

DAN: Thank you.
INTERVIEWER: How do you go about making this?
Do you look at a lot of bird shit photos, or something?
DAN: I actually would walk around Chelsea,
underneath the High Line.
Because you know all the birds hang out over there.
And take lots of pictures.
I've made a lot of them, like 150 maybe.
Some look really real.
Some remind people of these kind of paintings, and others,
abstract paintings.
You learn new techniques, but you're just throwing paint at
the canvas, basically.
INTERVIEWER: So this kiss one, is this one
person, or many people?
DAN: This is one person.
I thought they had really close to a
perfect set of lips.
INTERVIEWER: That must have taken them forever.
DAN: Took her a long time.
INTERVIEWER: And it's lipstick?
A lot of lipstick?
DAN: Yeah, it's all lipstick.
INTERVIEWER: How many tubes?
DAN: She wears a little wrestling
mask so that she doesn't--
she was getting these horrible rashes on her nose and chins.
But after she did this she said she would never ever do
it again, which is too bad, because I really, really like
this painting a lot.
I think this is really pretty.
And I feel like I never really make straightforwardly stuff
that [INAUDIBLE] beautiful.
But it still has enough dirty implications to satisfy that
side of me.
This is a Jewish prayer shawl.
It's called a tallit, and it's hanging off a boner.
It just came to me, randomly.
Not through--

it's pretty easy for somebody to think lots of different
thoughts about it.
But I didn't have one particular one.
INTERVIEWER: Well, you're Jewish, right?
DAN: I'm Jewish, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Did you get any feedback to it?
DAN: People in Berlin reacted to it.
And they were all ripped down really quick.
But you don't know if it's Jews ripping it down, or
neo-Nazis ripping it down.
I couldn't say.
Nobody's said anything in depth to me about it.
Some people think it's silly.
And some people think it's funny.
I don't know.
INTERVIEWER: I see another Jewish biblical theme.
DAN: Yeah.
I am who I am.
But I still like--
there's something really straightforward about it where
it's like, you know, a bunch of animals
bummed on Noah's ark.
But beyond that, I don't have anything I can
really say about it.
But there's tons of religious things.
Even with like something like the candle.
When I first saw the image, I'm thinking something
God-like about that.
This is actually just a giant Constable
painting that I copied.
And I put in all the signs and stuff.
I'm not a spiritual person, necessarily, but I think about
stuff like that sometimes.
So it will come up in my work.
There are millions of people running around the world
talking about some God.
I'm curious about where he is, and stuff like that.
I'd like to find him.
INTERVIEWER: What do you think about the art world?
Do you like the art world?
DAN: I'm collected seriously.
I'm in really big, important shows, especially
for somebody my age.
I work a lot, so I produce a lot.
And people seem to like it, too.
But I feel like writers and people like that would rather
like not take me seriously.
But I don't know exactly why.
And, yeah, you could speculate something about--
because my lifestyle is fun, or stupid, or whatever, that
they think that I don't take my work seriously.
Or maybe they're just unhappy themselves.
There's things about the art world that I
don't really like.
There's lots of stupid shit with market, or collectors, or
curators, or bullshit like that.
But I try not to think about it, and just make my work.
I don't see a point in constantly bashing it or being
bummed out on it.
Because I'd be depressed all the time.
So I just pay attention and make my work.
And sometimes I'll go to a party where I have
to deal with them.
And I find a way to have fun.
I think that if I was walking around bummed about the art
world all time, I wouldn't be able to be a part of it.