James「難しいな。年取ってから影響された人もいれば、若い頃に影響された人もいる。例えば12、13歳の頃にはOperation Ivyにすごく惹かれた。20歳の頃はThe Olivia Tremor Controlっていうバンドにハマっていて、LSDをたくさんやってワイルドな生き方をしていた。彼らのライヴのためにアトランタに行ったんだけど、その時に17ピースのDark Meat Vomit Laser Family Band Galaxyというサイケデリックバンドに加入して、Daniel Johnstonの前座をやったんだ。彼にもすごく影響されたね。いろんな縁があって、誰かに影響されると人となりを知ろうとするんだ。友達や偶然出会った人にも刺激を受けているよ。Joseph BeuysやCy Twomblyにはとても大きな影響を受けた。今はAndy MinsterやB. Thomとか、友達で身の回りにいるアーティストたちの影響力が強い。パートナーのAlex Patrick Dyckの影響は言うまでもない。他にはKarlheinz Weinberger’sの写真もインフルエンスだね。彼はいろんな人に影響を与えているよね」
James「彼の作品は大好きだよ。面白い話があって、2年前 に共通の知り合いを通してミーティングに誘われたから、作品について話す場だと思っていたら実はアルコール中毒の人用の集まりに呼ばれてたんだ（笑）。 教会に行きたくなかったから、集まりには行かなかったよ。変なエピソードでしょ。彼は最高だよ。先週も、僕とパートナーの写真を撮ってくれたんだ」
James「特に最初の頃はDashから強い影響を受けていたよ。似た過程を歩んできたしね。彼の作品は最高だし、歴史的に見ても偉大だ。クールだと思うならどんな作品を作ってもいいし、作り続けるべきだということを彼はアート界に伝えた。彼のアートはすごく価値があるんだ。若くして亡くなったから、一気に価格も高騰した。小さな子供もいるし、亡くなったのは寂しいよね。僕は17、18歳の時に彼の作品を初めて見たんだけど、ちょうどアートにハマり始めたこと頃だったから影響を受けた。だから、よくいろんな人に彼と比べられる理由も何となく分かるよ。2013年に彼の奥さんのJadeと展示をしたんだ。彼の作品と、雑誌から切り取ったものを合わせて作品を作ったんだけど、続編という感じで楽しかった。Dashの他にはJack WallsやSkyler Feinが恩師のような存在だ。Skyler Feinは常に疑問に答えてくれたし、命の恩人とも言える。亡くなったアーティストや、ある時代に目立っていたアーティストにも影響を受けているけど、やっぱり一番大きな存在は身の回りの人かな。身近に素敵な作品を作っている友達がいて、彼らに刺激されている環境にいる私は、恵まれていると思う。パートナーにもいつもインフルエンスされている。似ている物を作ったり集めたりしているし、同じような視点から世の中を見ているから、お互い影響しあっているよ。あとは、戦争や、人体の知覚や脳の動きなどにもインスパイアされる。興味を持ったものは、何でも独学で学ぼうとしている。人類、現実、人間関係などのテーマに興味があるんだ」
James「若い頃に“Eternal Happiness”というカルトを始めようしたことがあったよ。スローガンは”Everything forever”だった。でもカルトを作ったその日に、ある女の子がそのスローガンを胸にタトゥーしたんだ。それを見て人を洗脳することがどれだけ簡単か分かってしまったから、すぐに解散した。人は他の人間に影響されるよね。僕は独自の世界を作ったんだ。そのネット上にあるリアリティとミステリーに人々が興味を持ってくれてるんだと思う。そのおかげで幸せな生活をしているし、それをサポートしてくれる人がいるのはとてもクールだ」
Instagram : @jamesconcannonart
photography Diego Garcia
interview & edit Ryoko Kuwahara
coordinator commune http://www.ccommunee.com
——What do you create ?
I make a lot of things. There’s the fine art aspect of what I do. The art shows and galleries, which I don’t really make money from and that’s kind of my love or the thing I enjoy doing. To me, my favorite form of creation is found object re-animation. Jade Berreau turned me onto it being called combine work, but it’s basically the act of picking shit up off the street that I find and combining it into one self. I’m able to create an art piece that, to me, is at least thought-provoking and something that I enjoy. And that’s my favorite form of creating artwork. Like fine art will always be cool, Yeah, I’m also a follower of the world and like to me, fine art is of this upper establishment that I haven’t yet achieved, the notoriety I have in fashion and other things. So that’s the highest pedestal to me, fine art gallery shows. Always in my mind. There are many forms of creation I use. Like I make music. I have solo projects of music that I created, and that’s only to express my emotions and I’ve never once tried to capitalize on it. And that’s just a way I’m able to purge myself and purge through certain thoughts and certain moments I have. And then, playing in bands. Those have never been of a capitalistic reality to me. So, that’s kind of a free artwork and free creation.
The clothing to me sits in the middle. There are things that allow me to live as an artist. It just started out with me painting my own shit. Like, I wear my own shit and then a friend would have a jacket and be like, “Can you paint this?” and I just started out doing it like that. It was really organic and just an extension of my artwork, you know, and at first, there was definitely a thing in fashion for myself. I could create abrasive imagery on a T-shirt and immediately shock someone without having to talk to them. It was a really organic thing, and then just spray-painting on clothing is something that’s always existed since the 70’s and like rock and roll subculture. I enjoy doing it, but a lot of times, it feels like a job, you know. I have deadlines and people pay me money to design shit. I mean, it’s cool because you know you can put yourself in a situation where you’re making money on the fact that people want to look interesting. You know everyone wants to be an interesting person in the world and like there’s some of us that are able to make that interesting object for them to wear. And I guess that’s a void that needs to be filled. But also, you know, like in the fashion industry, they have the largest amount of waste out of any industry. There’s deadstock that just exists for fucking years and years and years and rots into itself.At least in fine art. people either throw their stuff away, or it ends up in a storage locker and that’s like it’s own real estate or whatever, but yeah.
——I heard that artwork in churches has been one of your big influences.
Oh yeah, I was a Christian for a lot of my upbringing so like the first massive expansive artwork that I saw that really influenced me was just artwork in the churches. You know, through the generations, they spent so much money and time on curating this like massive epic fucking art saga, which is amazing, so for many many years, I was drawn to the iconography and how it touched me when I was younger. Then, I tried to rework it into stuff because as I grew older, I realized how much religion affected my life and changed me when I was younger and stunted me in my growth because religion is toxic and you know fucking basically subserviating people and putting them into little corners where it’s like, “You gotta do this.” It’s like a way to control the masses. And as I became a free-thinker and my own being and understood that it was a controlling device, I started to revolt against it through artwork, which was a way and is a way I am constantly able to work out my emotions without having had the conversation, you know, just in my head and creating these things. That’s usually how I work many many different emotions.
——Did your near-death experience with a drug overdose affect your art in anyway?
Oh no, it wasn’t an overdose on drugs at all. I’m a type-1 diabetic. So I went into a coma because I didn’t know I had diabetes. Yeah no, it looks like I was a junkie and a lot of people who surrounded me thought I was a junkie because I didn’t know what was happening. I wasn’t really talking about it much. But yeah, that absolutely affected me completely. At that moment, I was living in New Orleans in a house that I turned into a museum and I lived a very free freak lifestyle that I was interested in. But I had to uproot myself and go to the northeast because I went into the coma up here. I lost everything. I didn’t have any of my art collection to look at, and I became sober at that point for two years. Well I had been a big drinker before then, but I never did junk. So yeah that was hard because I was so used to just being drunk and making art and then I was like “Oh god, I can’t drink anymore or this is fucking weird.” That was like a hard time to get into a process of creation where it was all new to me. Now though it’s just a part of my daily existence so. Yeah that fucking sucks. Diabetes is like a shitty shitty shitty disease. It’s not a fun time, but I’m alive and that’s cool.
——Is the reality you portray in art different when you’re sober versus when you’re under the influence?
Yeah, at first, it was, for sure. And also a lot of it had to do with where I was in life. Before I went into the coma, I was massively depressed because I was so sick and I didn’t know why, and so a lot of the work from there stemmed from this severe sick sadness that was in mind. But after, there was this big new lease on my life where I was still creating like pretty Nihilistic work based on it. And it definitely took a different form, and then it also took a different form when I realized I couldn’t even work for anyone again in my life. Because for a year, I basically didn’t leave the house scared of the world with diabetes. There are certain things that affect the body and I would constantly think I’d go into a coma on the street or something. So, I became really really timid of just the actual world for a year of my life. I wouldn’t leave the house and then yeah, it changed the way I created things and it changed the fact that I needed to be of a financially supportive system that I had to create. There were certain things that I realize were taking off better than other things, so I had to put time and energy into that. Because that was like a way to survive myself in the world. Because, you know, for so long, I just wouldn’t leave the house, and I didn’t have a job, and I was extremely poor and that was really hard mental times for me for sure. But it pushed me in a different direction. Before, I was able to live such a wild, free lifestyle and then I needed to become immediately regimented because a lot of the shit that I have. I had to eat at a certain time every day for a year straight, and I weighed all my food and every single carbohydrate I ate and I got really methodical about it. I kept these really intense diaries and then that streamlined into other aspects of my life where I was really able to compartmentalize in my actual life certain things I wouldn’t have done or have been able to do prior. Beforehand, I was like “I’m a piece of shit artist and I can just enjoy this lifestyle of being a poor dude or whatever,” but after that, I was like, “I need to eat everyday and I need to do all these things that are really important.” Also, I have a two-and-a-half year old son now, and that was another big one where I was like, “I need to be able to have like a fucking backing of money,” which is weird. Money changes shit. You need it, I guess.
——Everything that you do, even just putting out ashes on your jeans, looks artistic, but do you think you were a natural-born artist?
I don’t know. That’s a hard thing. Because when I was younger, all my friends were the artists and I dabbled in artwork in my youth, but I was really just influenced by punk rock and skateboarding a lot in my younger years. Those were the cool things to me. And my other friends did a lot of visual art and then all of my friends went into art school except for me. I went to like a liberal arts program at a Jesuit college. And I don’t know I found it through one of my best friends, this guy Collin, really, my love for it. Earlier on, I knew I was influenced by it, but I never made too much stuff. I wasn’t a very confident child and a lot of people put me down and I was like small. I didn’t grow and hit puberty until later, and so I think because of that, I wasn’t really self-confident enough to make my expressions.
But yeah, probably around like 16, 17. There are a lot of things I did. I was a creative child for sure, but I wasn’t making kind of visual fine art. And then probably around when I was 17 was when I started off. So yeah I’ve been making art for like 14 years now? Or some shit like that. For a while. I was creative, i was just really stunted and really lost and you know, religion was a really big factor in like not allowing me to do things you know because you have all this suppressed guilt and things like that through it. So, it took me a while to become confident in my childhood. But yeah, since then, I’ve always been making shit.
——Who, especially in the punk scene and skateboarding culture, influenced you a lot?
Gosh, that’s so hard to say. There are like really big influences I latched onto, like later in life, and of course, there are things that influenced me in my earlier phases, you know. Like hearing Operation Ivy when I was 12 or 13. I was so drawn to it and that was a really big influence earlier on. I was influenced at 20 years old by this band The Olivia Tremor Control and I was taking a lot of LSD at the time and really enjoying the freak side of life. I traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to see them and then I joined a 17-piece psychedelic band called Dark Meat Vomit Laser Family Band Galaxy and opened for Daniel Johnston, who was a person I was really influenced by at the time. There have been all of these cyclical moments that have dominoed, in which I have been influenced by certain individuals and I brought myself to that individual and knowing them as a person and it’s been a really cool thing. And I also just stumbled across people who’ve influenced me and all my best friends influence me. And then there’s like dead artists like Joseph Beuys, the Dada’ists, and Cy Twombly who were a really big influences on me. And then a couple of contemporaries,like Andy Mister who I’m hanging right there. The love of my life, my wife, Alex Patrick Dyck is a gigantic influence. And I love B. Thom and all my other art friends. He and his wife are such good people. But it’s certain artists that I’m surrounded by influencing me now, like past realities. Karlheinz Weinberger’s photographs really influenced me. They influence a lot of people these days.
——I see you have his book right there, but how about Ryan McGinly?
Yeah, I like his work a lot. He and I know each other through different pathways and different moments in life. I have a really funny story where Ran got a hold of me through someone saying that he wanted to set up a meeting. And I was like cool, we can talk about artwork. And this was like two years ago and we met at a coffee shop and I got there a little beforehand, and was talking to this guy who tried to burn one of his ex-wives’ name off of his chest with hot metal. He had a tattoo on his chest and was like, “I have 7 children with 3 ladies on this block.” So wild. He had like glaucoma and a milky eye. And then, Ryan showed up and then we started talking and he’s like, “is it your first time going to a meeting?” and I’m like, “What are you talking about? I have art meetings all the time.” And he was like “Oh no, are you in the program? And then i came to the realization that he was bringing me to Alcoholic Anonymous. And I was like “Fuck this shit. I don’t want go to church,” because to me, that’s synonymous with church, and I was like, “Fuck this.” So yeah, that’s my funny Ryan story. But yeah, I love Ryan. He’s great. He shot me and my partner like a week ago something like that. And I’ve done a couple photo projects for him and yeah of course, I enjoy him a lot.
——How about Dash Snow?
Dash was a big influence on me early on for sure. We traveled the same routes and stuff. You know, Dash’s body of work is great. He’s a great person to dissect art historically. People love to do that with him and that’s cool because he exuded this reality in the art world where you can be creating anything, if you are creating enough of those things that are of interest to you. And they’re all worth a lot. Financially, for his body of work, prices rocketed because he died early on, which is always sad when people like that pass for sure. Especially when they have a young child, it’s like a sad thing. But yeah, Dash’s work definitely influenced me absolutely because was like formative maybe when I was like 17, 18. I saw his work right when I was getting into artwork. And I’ve been compared to him in certain ways, which I understand. I did a show with his child’s mom Jade in 2013 and that was absolutely a cool experience in my life and a big influence. I definitely have drawn shit from Dash’s stuff, and I made a piece from a clipping of his I found from one of his pieces in a magazine once, and I showed that with Jade. So that was a fun continuation to show it like that. And Skylar Fein is my big influential mentor from New Orleans. I appreciate him a lot. He’s hands down one of my favorite artists and people to ever exist. He is always there for me to ask questions, plus, dude also saved my life. So, I am alive because of Skylar. Jack Walls is also a mentor. We did a show a year ago in Hudson NY. You know, Jack’s a cool character. Jack has definitely helped me learn certain things about the art world that I didn’t know before. So there’s been people, but it’s like there’s dead people that I’m influenced by and there’s people who have existed in a spotlight in time that I can be influenced by, but mostly, it’s my friends and companionship and things like that that I’m influenced by. And maybe I’ve been blessed to be able to make a lifestyle where I am able to meet people who are making really influential shit, so I can say I’m influenced by my friends. I’m definitely influenced by my partner. She’s like one of my biggest influences for sure because we hoard the same kind of stuff and we create the same kind of stuff and have the same kind of eye, so we bounce off of each other all the time, which is great. It’s super cool. But just, yeah friends. And I’m influenced by war, influenced by human perceptions, and kind of like the brain workings of the human, you know. I like to be like an autodidact and study as much as I can about everything that I possibly can. Humanity and reality interests me, and human interaction really interests me. That’s one.
——I think it’s really fascinating how your fans really worship you almost like a god.
I did try to start a cult once. I was younger and it was called Eternal Happiness and the slogan was “Everything forever.” Within 24 hours of me coining it, a girl had gotten “Everything forever.” tattooed on her chest and I was like “Oh no, it’s way too easy to control people like this.” And I shut the cult down. You know because like with religion. So like, but yeah, people are influenced by certain people. I’ve created a world. I think people are influenced by the fucking reality that they see on the internet and the mystery that’s involved in it or whatever. But I don’t know. I’m happy people like what I do, that’s cool. And I’m happy that I live the life that I live because people like what I do. That’s a fucking privilege that not many people get to experience at all. Being able to float through the world and do what you wanna do the half of the time at least. There are like things I don’t wanna do. Like, I don’t wanna sit here and design a book. But I get to live a very happy existence and it’s cool that people want to support that and have pieces of that. That’s a cool thing.
——I know you really love your hometown in Connecticut, so why did you come to NY to do art?
When I was a kid I fucking hated my home town. These days, as an adult, I can totally find appreciation in where I grew up but when I living there in my youth I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. I started coming into NY when I was 13. I’m from like 45 minutes outside of here, so it was a really big influence. I came in at like 13 once and I saw this show and the guy was screaming “Fuck religion” and I was so into it. And my friend’s dad was a private investigator and he let me play with his gun. It was like Lower East Side in the late 90’s and I thought it was so cool and I told my mom and she was like, “You can’t go to the city,” so I couldn’t come back by myself for like 3 years. But at 16, i starting dating this girl whose dad is this artist Ray Smith, and that was like a really actualizing moment of my life where I started understanding art and the draw of it and the creation. And being able to have it as a way to sustain yourself nd do cool shit because this artist ray smith is like one of my favorite artists and it was so cool growing up seeing that. So yeah, it was a massive influence. Like NY was such a big fucking influence. And then 18-21, I lived like LA NY LA NY flipflop and was like a part of that whole world that is able to be created in this bicoastal reality and then, I got totally over it. Like I did stupid things like model and did these things that everyone kind of dreams of doing in NY. And I was like, “Fuck this world. Fuck these people. Fuck the industry!” and I had to get out. I lived in New Orleans for 6 or something years and didn’t talk to anyone up in NY or LA and completely distanced myself from any kind of that scene that exists. And then I came back and now, I just touch on it slightly, but yeah, NY is so supportive and I have like a family here and you know, I live with 35 of my closest friends and it’s cool. It’s family.
But I don’t really partake too much in the art world of NY. I mean all these cities like NY and LA to me are dead. I’m all about a small town somewhere with real people. There’s like cool people creating, but also like its hard to tell because there’s also a globalization effect and a lot of people all around the world are creating the same kind of imagery and artistic work because everyone’s able to be influenced by this whole global lexicon that we built through social media and everything.Maybe we’re just in a cool time in life right now. I guess every generation has like a cool style and a bad style or whatever, but I think that’s a big one. People are making cool music again, people are making cool artwork again, we’re just in another time of art. I think in times of upheaval government upheaval, like the world’s going to shit everything and every aspect and all the fucking earthquakes and hurricanes and everything happening right now, people strive to do cool shit when they’re like, “The time is coming.”
——Any exciting news or information about ongoing projects?
I’m releasing a jacket in a couple weeks with this company in Shanghai called Eth0s. They have a spot out there and there’s a guys who runs a company called Salute and he helped form the jacket idea I had. And then I’m creating all these accoutrements for it like a pocketbook and all this other cool shit. It’s an edition of 30. And that’s coming out in two weeks. I’m releasing clothing shit. I’m in a process now where I’ve worked with a bunch of certain people on clothing and I’ve realized that I’m able to afford a lifestyle through that, so I’m kind of looking for an investor to back me so that I can go full-blown on any creation. Because right now, there are so many limitations with what I’m able to do. A lot of it has to do it with internal costs and putting money into things and there are a lot of things i wanna make, but I can’t afford to make 100 of them. And then make 50 of these 100 things I’m excited about wanting to make. So I have to make everything one at a time and hope it works out. And then I make money off of that and throw it into new fucking things. So I’m in a process right now, where I’m just looking for an investor.
Instagram : @jamesconcannonart
photography Diego Garcia
interview & edit Ryoko Kuwahara
coordinator commune http://www.ccommunee.com