Mark Ryden: The Golden Child
by Duda Fernandez
TEAR. Do you make art about your childhood?
M: No, I just paint what life is all about. We are programmed to think when we're children that children grow up, make babies and do whatever else, we are shown symbols, and all sorts of images. Later on we see things that trigger those childhood memories.
TEAR: For example as a child you walk into a candy store, you just see colors.
M: Yes, colors really strike an emotion in me.
TEAR: Does watching your own children inspire you in this work?
M: It's been a big influence, having my own children, I see a lot more children's movies now than I do adult movies
TEAR: This must be a common question, Mark Ryden, but I feel curiosity in regard to these big eyes - what's with them?
M: I don't think I have a reason for it, they just kind of wind up being that way. It isn't like I think about it.
TEAR: You seem to be very interested in the subject birth.
M: I've always been amazed by the process of birth. Seeing my own children being born was so amazing, just indescribable. A lot of what I do is so much a product of when I was born I was born in 1963, and movies and popular culture were such a strong influence. One thing I vividly remember is 2001:A Space Odyssey. The fetus scene at the end of the movie really scared me. I've been drawn to paint about it because it does evoke emotion.
TEAR: What about the meat issue - is there a meat issue?
M: Yeah, I just wrote about that, really trying to define that whole thing. I don't really have a concrete way to answer why I do it, so I have to really think about it a lot, to get to the point where I'm comfortable with what I say about it. "A few years ago very late one night, the distinct smell of walnuts in the air broke my concentration, It was very quiet. A strange breeze gently blew through my studio. I suddenly became aware of something on my shoulder. Surprisingly, I was not startled to find a wee Abraham Lincoln sitting on my right shoulder. We looked at each other for just a moment. Then he very softly whispered in my ear " Paint Meat". Ryden's introduction to Anima Mundi
TEAR: You now have a book out and you're going to come to New York. Where are you exhibiting in New York City?
M: I will be at the Earl McGrath Gallery which is on 57th street, and the opening will be on November 8th. Before that, my last show was about three years ago. I've done a few things in between and I've been working on a new group of paintings.
TEAR: What are your new paintings about?
M: The name of the show is "Bunnies and Bees" which again just sort of evolved as I was working on the paintings. It's not a huge departure from what you've seen before, but I did kind of move away from the meat thing.
TEAR; Do you have any expectations?
M: I like the attention but it scares me having all eyes looking at me. This will be my first New York show, so I'm nervous but excited.
TEAR: Do you know about your fan base and who they are?
M: Yes, I started my website a couple of years ago and it's just been amazing. I never knew there were so many people familiar with my art until I started with the website, so I've been in contact with a lot of fans.
TEAR: I think that the paintings of Christina Ricci and Bjork contributed a lot to your popularity. Did you meet both artists personally to do the paintings?
M: No I just did it from photographs. I've always been mesmerized by Christina Ricci and her face. In a lot of paintings I've done, people thought it was her and I wasn't even intending to paint her - it's just naturally how I make a face look.
TEAR: Who would you say you are a fan of?
M: In regards to visual artists I really am inspired by classical artists like David and Rembrandt. As far as contemporary artists are concerned, there are not nearly as many. I look at old paintings and new comic books and I don't really give one more weight than the other. Whatever the source is, if it inspires me I draw from it and use it just as much as other things.
TEAR: What do you think about the world today?
M: Well it's hard not to talk about what happened on the 11th of September. To me the world has changed since last Tuesday , especially having kids. It's hard to go into my studio and paint; it seems stupid and pointless when something so huge is going on. I'm so saddened by it, on so many different levels. What blows me away is how everyone seems so automatic in terms of a military response - isn't there anybody out there who doesn't believe in that? How much of that will escalate into more violence? I'm scared of the people who are in control of what happens to us.
TEAR: What's your take on politics?
M: Recently, I've not been watching the news very much. I was very unhappy that Bush got into office and I've just sort of tuned out since then. I stopped watching the news and decided to concentrate on my family and any immediate problems, but boy, this kind of changed that. I've been watching the television non-stop since Tuesday
TEAR: Is family right now what's important in your life?
M: Family is the most important thing.
TEAR: Where do you draw some of your strength from having the kind of life you do with a wife and kids?
M: I don't know, that's an interesting question. Having a family forces you to be really serious about things.
TEAR: Do you have any religious beliefs?
M: A big part of my art has to do with just trying to find what's sacred in the world. I grew up without any religion and I'm a pretty logical person. I'm truly fascinated by that whole other side of life, the non-logical, non-literal part of it, and I'm really drawn towards what people have raised up to be so good, even if it isn't sacred to me.
TEAR: What are you recommendations for young painters?
M: Well, I think of the Picasso quote: "Every child is an artist, the trick is how to remain one when you grow up".