The Seth Bogart Show
- Seth Bogart in conversation with Peggy Noland, August 2015
Conducted on the occasion of Seth Bogart’s solo exhibition at 356 Mission
Peggy Noland: So Seth, we’re sitting here…
Seth Bogart: I’m sitting here with my dog, Stix!
PN: With Stix, in the middle of your show and I’ve been thinking about a couple of different ways to do the interview, maybe the best place to start is telling us what the initial jump was from what people usually know you as Hunx on stage, who is typically associated with the music world…how did this show come about?
SB: Well, I think that I got burnt out on music and touring.
PN: How long had you been touring?
SB: Literally, almost 20 years.
PN: What do you think burnt you out?
SB: It’s just so boring and non-creative. You just travel and it’s not conducive to creating new things and it’s kind of like Groundhog Day. I partied a lot and it would make me all depressed because I don’t really do that normally… so I started painting a couple years ago and got way more into that.
PN: Was there something specific that got you into painting to begin with or did it just feel like a natural progression?
SB: I think that I kind of had this moment where I regretted not going to college. Well, I went to beauty school, but I regretted not going to college. Well not regretted but I felt like I missed out, so I decided I would take some classes.
PN: Is there something about the idea of college or art school that made you specifically feel like there was something there that you were missing out?
SB: Mostly from watching Legally Blonde and wanting to live living in dorms and stuff like that- like it seemed really fun. But then I realized I can’t be like, in a dorm with teenagers and I’m thirty-something. So I decided to enroll in just a couple classes and painting was one of them and computer art, or something, was another one, which I dropped out of. I never bought real art supplies and I always had used kids stuff because it was cheap. Which I loved too, but my teacher was like “You need to buy this like nice paint and nice brushes” and it opened a new world for me.
PN: You’ve made visual art for your stage stuff- like making backdrops for your videos or props – but that’s always been a part of your practice. Do you feel like there’s any difference at all between the visual art that you have made for years now and the visual art that you’re making now in a gallery, opposed to being on stage?
SB: I feel like this show is special to me because it’s based around this new album I’m recording, so I wanted to create a whole world to present it in. So there’s music videos projected with songs that I’m making, and I wanted it to be more special than seeing a touring band – like I wanted to like have someone step into a world I created. So I feel like it’s different in that way where it’s more intentional to be everything all in one – like more of an experience. Which is what I would do before, but it was just like – oh, a painted backdrop. So it’s not entirely different really. I think it’s just more focused.
PN: I think one of the most annoying questions that people ask is how would you describe your work. But how would you describe your work?
SB: Kind of like beauty school meets Pee-wee’s Playhouse and very plastic and I guess it’s just like a place for fucked up adults who are kids…like us.
I like the way it looks and feels and it feels like a safe place to hang out. I remember when I was younger I got really stoned and I suddenly was like I have so much pink stuff and I put everything pink in my bedroom like into my closet.
PN: Wait, because you were like, ashamed?
SB: Because I was stoned and freaking out. Just like, I’m so weird, why do I like pink so much? I put it all away and then finally I think I was like, you should just accept what you’re into and your look.
PN: Wait, when was that?
SB: I was 22 or 23 or something.
PN: Did you feel like the pink stuff was a gender thing?
SB: I feel like the next day I brought it all out.
PN: So it was a momentary questioning…
SB: It was sort of a gender thing, but I don’t even know if it was that.
PN: Do you feel like what you are making is important and has a message?
SB: No. Hahaha…no, I feel like my message is to be creative and create you own world. If anything it’s a good cure for, like, depression and hate. So that’s mostly my message is that you can do it, you should do it and not even worry about technique or skill or any of that.
PN: So, you make videos, you make props, and you do paintings and ceramics and clothing. Do you feel like all of that stuff informs one another? Do you feel like there’s one medium that’s like is kind of leading the pack and the rest is filled in around that? Is one more important than the other or more fulfilling?
SB: I guess my new thing is just trying to combine all of them into one thing. Which I think video is a good way to do that. I feel like it’s more important to have things to run between because I can’t really focus my mind on one for too long.
PN: Who are your favorite Instagrammers right now?
SB: Oh my god.
PN: HOW ARE YOU GONNA CHOOOSE?
SB: Who is?? I really like @lookatdatbod.
PN: Ok, what is it?
SB: It’s, like, sexy guys.
SB: I like @rapperswithpuppies.
PN: Cuuuute. Do you follow @chillwildlife?
SB: I follow @same_pic_of_jim_carey_everyday.
PN: Thank you!!
SB: I’m like obsessed with these like #mantyhose and pantyhose Instagrams,
PN: Okay, is that where mantyhose came from?
SB: Well, no I like made that up, I thought…until the hash tag had like 4,000 posts. It’s a really relaxing hash tag to get, like, involved in.
PN: What do you mean relaxing?
SB: I don’t know, just visually stimulating – it’s just makes me feel chill.
PN: Oh my god, it’s just like dudes in pantyhose?
SB: Yeah but it’s even, like, girls, I don’t know, I mean I feel like people are just getting people to look at their shit. It’s definitely, like, hairy legs and pantyhose and it’s cool.
PN: It’s called #mantyhose?
SB: yeah, it’s cool.
PN: Have you found working in Los Angeles has like changed your aesthetic, your motivation, or any sort of collaborative spirit or individual effort about your work. Has Los Angeles changed anything about what you do?
SB: Not really, but I feel like maybe, there’s way more people here doing interesting things. But I feel like my basic essence, or whatever, has not really changed much…like ever.
PN: Mmhmm. You think you’ll always be a kid?
SB: Yesss…I’m a stupid kid!
PN: There’s nothing wrong with that! Right?
SB: No, I mean who cares?
PN: Hahhaa. Like…you take care of shit.
SB: I’m responsible.
PN: You’re a responsible child!
SB: I should watch the news, but…
PN: Ok, so let’s talk about that. I mean, your work isn’t necessarily about current events at all, but there is a ton of cultural reference in all of your work that means that media is somehow like, affecting you and getting into your brain and becoming a muse somehow, when it comes to products or the celebrity stuff that you do. How does that outside influence affect what you do? I would say that there’s such a pop element –
SB: Yeah, it’s definitely pop.
PN: So do you feel like whether it’s music, or tabloids, or celebrity, do you feel like your inspiration feels internal or external? If you weren’t listening to music, or reading magazine or knowing anything about celebrities would your work look the same? Like whether it’s old music or new music, you know what I mean?
SB: I feel like it would look mostly the same, except for it would be a little less retail and product-based, but I still feel like the colors would still be the same, and the shapes and stuff because I feel like that’s what’s inside me and what I’m drawn to and what I like.
PN: Do you feel like when it comes to influence, like something that you and I talk about a lot, is like copying or being inspired by – how do you sum up that conversation? When it comes to you feeling inspired by people or when you come across somebody on Instagram, someone who’s maybe-
SB: Who’s copying?
PN: Or not even copying, but maybe cutting it a little bit close to where it doesn’t feel like a genuine inspiration, it feels more like a copy? But how do you navigate that?
SB: First of all, I’m like, terrified of copying people. Which, I feel like I do copy people, sort of without realizing? It’s not intentional, you know. And then when I see people doing stuff like I made and usually like aw- that’s cute, but once in awhile I’m like, oh, that’s annoying because it looks bad, because it doesn’t look the way it’s supposed to look.
PN: Like you could’ve done it better? Haha.
SB: Yeah! Or if they are trying to make something I would make, but like, you did it too good…or something.
PN: Uh-huh. We can see your hand and you can see the actual effort that has gone into the work, whether it’s your paintings… none of this looks sleek like a machine made it.
PN: Sorry to break it to you! Why does that aesthetic excite you more than like something really clean, sleek and professional? This is an opportunity where maybe you’re able have more resources than you usually have available to you. So what do you think about handmade nature of what you do that is important to you?
SB: I just feel like you can really see someone’s personality, like when you go to Salvation Mountain and you can tell that that guy was just obsessed doing his thing. When you go to Disneyland, you don’t like…I get the same feeling, well not the same feeling, but I get a really cool feeling, but don’t think – oh wow I can totally see a person making this. You know what I mean? That’s why I like a lot of your stuff too. Like I see bad copies of yours on Instagram and I’m like, ugh that’s not right and then I see yours and I think oh that’s how it’s supposed to look.
PN: So both of those are good examples of exactly what you’ve done here, how you’ve created this entire world and they visually mesh in a photo and you’ve created this entire world. So like Salvation Mountain – totally different than Disneyland.
SB: But, also so great.
PN: Still so great, both cool worlds and both passion products and one is a bajillion dollar industry. How do you feel about that element of consumerism? When it comes to the art you’re making there’s so much of it that’s based in consumerism. The name of the show being called “The Seth Bogart Show” is a product in and of itself.
SB: And I love a product.
PN: So what do you think about that? Why products, why consumerism? Why buying things?
SB: Because I just love buying stuff and I love going to a concert and seeing what they have for sale, and going to a gift shop at Disneyland and I think it’s cool to take home a tiny part of that. I’m also just a product of America.
PN: It’s interesting because – Is the ultimate joke on us? Like we maybe consider what we are doing subverting this a little bit- yeah, I’m affected by this, these colors, these images, this message – I spend my money on it. But I’m also in my creative world, doing whatever I want with it. We didn’t ask for it to be in our brains, its there so it’s inevitable that it comes out. But that’s the ultimate goal of advertising to think that you actually have a choice when you don’t. I’m choosing to mess with this logo or brand. But in fact we’re-
SB: We’re the same!
PN: We’re the same but maybe even worse. We’re not just purchasing it, but we’re also contributing to it. Do you think that’s true in any way or maybe that’s like thinking too hard about it and not actually what’s happening?
SB: I hope someone writes a paper on this!
PN: I know like a THESIS!
SB: I’d love to know.
PN: I would love to know too because I’m like, do I know what I’m doing? Or I’m just like example A: like that worked. Now not only does she think she’s anti-‘that’, she’s ultimate ‘that’.
SB: Let’s read a college paper about it.
PN: Aw, I love the eyeball window!
SB: Eyeball Window – Oliver helped me! Well he made it, but I designed it.
PN: Like what do you think about Oliver being hot, does it affect like how you get stuff done?
SB: It’s hard to work because he’s so sexy. Especially when he takes his hair down.
PN: He looks so nice too!
SB: He’s the sweetest, best – he’s made all of this shit for me. It’s like a dream.
PN: Really good at it. Do you think his name should be on the show?
SB: His last name’s Sweet.
PN: Oh my god!
SB: I mean, yeah, if anything sells, we’ll give you just half the money, bitch.
PN: Who came up with “The Seth Bogart Show” as the name of the show?
SB: I came up with it. The shows kind of started around a live thing I did in France, where I was like OK I’m going to do this new project alone, but I didn’t want to be called Hunx, and Seth Bogart sounds boring.
PN: He sounds hot!
SB: He sounds hot, but boring. But then I just love the Pee Wee Herman show. It’s more like a kids show, variety show, and TV show type thing.
PN: Do you know anything about art history?
SB: I saw the Mona Lisa?
PN: What did it do for you?
SB: There were all these people… and it was behind glass and it was small.
PN: So you weren’t feeling it
SB: I was like get me out of here!
PN: Do you feel inspired by… old shit?
SB: Not art, but going to fancy, historic museums with historic art – I think when I was a kid I thought that’s what art was. And I thought, I’m not an artist. That is so boring. I just don’t care because of the colors and it’s all really great paintings that are super realistic. It doesn’t say anything to me.
PN: Have you ever gotten into an individual artist and they’re like, maybe not what they make but their reason for making things, or anybody that you feel like you’ve ever identified with from an art history perspective?
SB: For me art history would begin with Matisse and David Hockney, which is not even that long ago, but those are people that I feel like somehow I could relate to, but other than that…I don’t want to watch Game of Thrones.
PN: Why don’t you want to watch Game of Thrones?!
SB: It’s not my time…
PN: Yeah, It’s not anybody who’s living’s time! Oh maybe it’s because – do you read?
SB: Um, of course I read!
PN: But like do you like, read books?
SB: I read The Easy Way to Quit Smoking.
PN: Do you read fiction?
SB: Sometimes, yeah.
PN: Because maybe you don’t like Game of Thrones, because I feel like the reason to get into it is the writing, the story. Maybe the story isn’t like interesting for you to dig into.
SB: No, but it’s like, historic…
PN: It has nothing to do with that! Trust me, once you’re into it.
SB: I saw the first episode.
PN: The first episode??
SB: It was all like…ancient.
PN: Yeah, but that’s not what’s good about it. It’s not like everyone is just like whoa look at the old brick road.
SB: I mean I thought the guys would be hotter and more naked.
PN: I mean there is sex in like almost every episode! What’s your favorite TV show?
SB: What’s my favorite TV show? For reals or to sound smart and cool?
PN: For reals.
SB: Obviously, I love Ru Paul’s Drag Race, I love Transparent. I’m embarrassed but I love it, I love the Girlfriends Guide to Divorce.
PN: So good. I hope they do a second season.
SB: I’m sure – it’s like the best. What else. Oh Broad City, obviously that’s like my favorite show.
PN: What’s your favorite piece in the show?
SB: I was like, thinking about it and I don’t think that any one thing is just amazing on it’s own, it’s kind of all about like taking it all in. But I will have to say that the videos, I’m really proud of, especially this one called “Club With Me” because it’s like a cartoon.
SB: I do want to talk about the people that have helped me, if I can. The videos are done mostly by my friend JJ Stratford who has a thing called Telefantasy TV and she basically has like, every piece of equipment you would need to have a television studio in the 80’s and she’s just awesome and we’re totally in the same world or like our worlds met together in an nice way. My friend Hannah did do one of the videos, though. She made a stop motion video of all my ceramics.
SB: And Oliver who we talked about…
PN: So hot.
SB: Who’s a hottie. He helped me construct all these toothbrush benches and comb shelves and stuff like that. My friend Tina who used to do The Dog Show did the paper mache sculptures with me – “Compactie”, “Toothpaste” and “The Blob Chair”. Peggy Noland, this really hot girl, made some of the outfits you will see in the video and did the slop sculpture items I’m still painting.
PN: Uh huh.
SB: Oh my friend Cole produced the music that is seen in three of the videos. And that’s like literally my dream team. I’m sorry if I am forgetting someone but all these people are crucial and like, equally amazing doing their own damn things and I’m lucky that I got to work with all of them.
PN: We’re lucky to work with you!
SB: Besides feeling self-involved it’s been one of the fun-nest things I’ve ever gotten to do and everyone who works at this gallery is like so nice.
- Select Reviews"I wanted to make people puke! Just kidding. My goal was to create a world that would finally combine all of my favorite creative outlets - painting, sculpture, video, music and ceramics. My doctor wouldn’t give me a Ritalin prescription and I can’t focus on one thing." – Seth Bogart interviewed by John Tuite for i-D Magazine, October 2015"We’ve seen some shots of the installation going up, and it looks amazing. Like if 'Pee Wee’s Playhouse' were built on Salvation Mountain — with large-scale sculptures, ceramics, and a whole televisual spectacular produced by Bogart’s collaborator, analog video artist JJ Stratford. We have the feeling this will be the show of the summer." – Zac Pennington and Claire Evans for Take Two on KPCC, August 2015"In Bogart’s work, the remnants of salon life mix with objects of musical obsession. In the corner of the vanity that appeared last summer was a Miley Cyrus ticket stub and a Bikini Kill button. His clothing line, Wacky Wacko, features T-shirts with his drawings of artists like Marc Almond, Lil Kim and Darby Crash. In his art, pop meets punk is a cult-y collision that’s a lot like his music." – Liz Ohanesian for The L.A. Weekly, September 2015
Seth Bogart opening receptionSeptember 3, 2015