Visual Art 3-26-2003

Douglas Padilla on Art and Passion

This interview with Douglas Padilla, one of the several souls of the Minnesota artworld, was conducted largely by email and partly in coversation. Klefstad's questions are numbered, and Padilla's responses are in bold.

From: Douglas Padilla
Date: Wed Mar 19, 2003 10:08:27 AM US/Central
To: Ann Klefstad


enormous questions! enormous questions!

1. In a couple of sentences, what’s the story of your life? How has your art played a role in it?

How in the world can a megalomaniac like myself condense my bio (see my
website, down from eight pages to a few sentences?

2. Why do you do art? Has this evolved over the past 10 years?

Sorry to get zen on you, but this is like asking me why a duck flies or a fish swims.

3. In what ways have you collaborated with other artists? Has this been a good experience? Why?

Collaborating with other artists makes me nuts. not many alternatives tho. world needs art.

along with xavier tavera i created Grupo Soap del Corazon which has done art events up and down Lake Street as well as at the MIA. i helped create Art-a-Whirl in Northeast Minneapolis. i partnered with The Space to put on art events. I worked with CreArte to exhibit local latino artists. I helped put together various co-operative art events over the years. i created the art jones project to use art and artists
to infuse art into the community.

previous to my art career i helped start food co-ops and co-operative living experiments. during viet-nam i participated in many collaborative anti-war events. our friend joseph beuys called these “social sculpture” as i remember.

4. In what ways has collaboration failed you? What would you do differently?

everything has some stench of failure in it, otherwise why would we move on to anything new?
i would be less idealistic about collaboration (of course, if you weren’t idealistic, you wouldn’t attempt these crazee things, would

5. What’s on the agenda for the future? (news list? Painting? Soap del Corazon?)

I have a solo show at the Musee Halle Saint Pierre in Paris for next year (if the french are still speaking to us.) I’m working on a solo
show at a museum in Monterrey, Mexico. I’m working on a show for Grupo Soap del Corazon in Chile for next year. I’m in a group show at the new gallery Outsiders and Others (which opened last weekend in Minneapolis). And I’m putting together a solo show for myself somewhere here in
Minneapolis/St. Paul thru my “sometimes venture” Art Jones Gallery for this year. I plan to disappear in the countryside and paint for large
periods of time during the next six months. Plus…

The Art Jones list is currently in hiatus as i revamp and remodel The Art Jones Project.
i’m pushing my work globally via my website,
I’m still on the MAEP panel at the MIA.
I’m on a committee to help transform the Downtown YWCA into an “arts” Y.

I mentor young artists at El Colegio, the bilingual arts charter high school.
My wife and i are planning to build and sell work-live studio buildings in and around the twin cities.

i may do a north american tour in 2004 for grupo soap del corazon (with xavier). this might boil down to me in a van. we would have shows in minneapolis, st. paul, juarez, chihuahua city and mexico city with other sites to be announced ten minutes before they happen.

and i’m pissed off about this war thing and am implementing a nasty ass art response to it.

6. What role do you see for artists’ collaborations / cooperatives in the near future (related to current repressive political climate, losses of funding, etc.)?

i prefer art done by artists, alone and in groups, that has an interior fire. that has a call. let’s call it passion-driven art. if i can’t feel your passion for your art, i’m not interested. funding is irrelevant to passion driven art. (it is relevant to feeding artists
and people in general tho.) however, i don’t like artists griping about money. myself included. just get the work done. or go do something else. there are much better ways to make money in this world.

therefore, i look to younger artists to come forward and do all sorts of wild and wooly crazy endeavors that will energize and rebirth the
arts world. all hail the crazy wisdom energy of youth and it’s power to transform.

on the other hand, i would like to take a moment to take the the larger visual arts institutions to task for their unwillingness to put artists
and art patrons in the same room together, thereby crippling attempts at a thriving local art scene. and preventing money from moving into
the hands of local artists. the mia has done well with its MAEP program and its backing of local galleries. but NO-ONE is collecting regional artists in any kind of reasonable fashion! and the walker’s sudden turnaround from anti-minnesota artists to pro-minnesota artists
(read is still suspect in most artists’ eyes.

collaboration needs to happen at all levels for a successful cultural community. it can’t just be top down or bottom up. it must rise from
all places and at all times. the stew must deepen and become richer with cooking. and people must actuallly talk to each other, listen to
each other, and empower each other to be brilliant.

7. Do artists have a changed role given the politics of the past year?

i was a participant in the anti-war movement during the 60’s and 70’s. artists have been pretty much asleep throughout the 80’s and 90’s. and are just beginning to wake up. in minneapolis, the poets and theater people seem to be leading the way. i say it’s time to give up a little on the art as masturbation thing and kick some societal butt.

there is no more important time for political art than RIGHT NOW!

8. What would you recommend for artists who want to work together? How much of this can be left to chance? What needs to be written down or explicitly agreed to?

i would recommend that artists that want to work together that they be prepared to have plenty of loving compassion in their hearts. and a willingness to bear the Other patiently. the process of co-operating is a difficult challenge. i suggest, also, that studying buddhist meditation would be beneficial.

it is always helpful to write things down in a co-operative situation. so that you can remember where you were at before everything changed.

serendipity is a great blessing. but it cannot be planned. it can only be allowed in the process of working and creating.

9. What, in your view, is the cultural value of artmaking? Of looking at art? Is there a difference?

great, a koan! an art koan!

a zen master once said, “drinking a cup of green tea i stopped the war”.
one could just as well have said “watching a zen master drink a cup of green tea i stopped the war.”
i, however, prefer “painting in my studio, the heavens stood still and i remembered the smile of my father.”
or, “watching me rant and rave during a museum talk about my art, the young woman in the class was inspired to finish high school. after which she decided to attend college where she made a decision to become a lawyer and work on behalf of immigrant peoples. later she became the first latina attorney general in the state of minnesota.”
or, “watching the political anti-war street theater troupe dance and chant and sing, the poet conceived an epic poem that later touched the
heart of a young congressman who would eventually become the first american president to build an international peace coalition thru a re-invigorated u.n.”

anyway, when we are truly here, in this life, we can bring beauty to everything we touch. everyone we touch. or truth. we can bring truth to everything.

two faces of the same moment. but it is important to try to live in this place.

i hope i didn’t answer this question.

10. In what places would you most like to see art? How would you get it there?

i would like to see more public art. but not the stuff i see in minneapolis. it’s mostly p.c.and dull. the public art in chihuahua city, chihuahua and mexico in general is much better. much more moving.

additionally, i would like to see more alternative art galleries spring up again. lots of them. representing lots of different perspectives, not just the current academic positions.

i would like to see art back on the street. where nobody cares about your resume. but where you are seen and heard by folks that need you.

i will try to set an example by bringing art jones gallery back at some point in some fashion. otherwise i will continue to encourage
> others to behave in wild and mischievious fashion. PUSH ON TO LARGER AND GREATER MISTAKES!!!

11. What role do you see the Web playing in collaborations / cooperations between artists?

i adore the web. and how it makes a big world small. i’m more interested in using it as a networking tool than i am in the technology of it. (ultimately, i still prefer the touch of the human hand in art. the aesthetics of technology leave me fairly cold.) and tho i’m also not infatuated with conceptualism, i do love the way the web has affected the group mind and our ability to talk to ourselves.

therefore, i have expanded my world globally. and will continue to do so.