In the lead-up to CARBON festival 2013, we’ll be running a series of interviews with the lineup of speakers appearing at the festival of contemporary design, style and culture. Returning for its third year, this inspiring mix of creative entrepreneurs and artists will gather in Melbourne over the weekend of the 13th and 14th of April for a collection of forums and creative events. First up in the interview series is Barry McGee, the San Francisco-based visual artist.
Barry McGee began exhibiting his art in the late ‘80s, not in a museum or gallery, but on the streets of his hometown of San Francisco. Known also by the name ‘Twist’, his work is immediately recognisable and enormously poetic and evocative. Motivated by concerns of urban life and issues of ownership, McGee draws inspiration from the contrast and tension that exists between the city and the suburbs, between wealthy districts and the slums. Communicating his strong empathy with people who have been left behind by contemporary society, his works seduce passers-by with their potency. Working across endless mediums, his drawings, paintings and mixed-media installations incorporate elements reminiscent of urban life such as empty liquor bottles, signage and scrap wood or metal. Although having long resisted showing his works in museums and commercial galleries, McGee has recently become more active in the conventional art world context. As one of the most prolific and highly applauded contemporary artists alive, McGee’s impact on the art world is incalculable.
How would you describe what you do to a stranger?
I think maybe by doing rather than describing. We could start by cutting some holes in fences, throwing paint at billboards, and maybe have a swim in the ocean.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the arts industry?
I failed miserably in rudimentary math.
Where do you find inspiration on a day-to-day basis?
Hmm… I think I can be inspired by so many things. I like meeting people who have a strong character and a scrappy appearance. The kindness of person… a good tag in a prime location.
What is the single most important skill in what you do?
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
What are the biggest challenges you face in your line of work?
Staying alive and staying messy.
See Barry McGee as he speaks at CARBON festival over the weekend of April 13 – 14 at RMIT’s Storey Hall Auditorium on Swanston Street, Melbourne CBD. For more information on speakers and ticketing options, head over to the CARBON 2013 website.