Things That Kill- John Fadeff

Things That Kill curated by Norman Lundin

“Consider, for example, such varied assassins as leaded water, pills, red meat, too much sun…. Consider, for a moment more, that of the many things that kill, countless are appealingly beautiful as well as lethal, seducing artist and viewer. How to handle these “killers” in such a way that the intended expressive implications are conveyed, is as formidable an artistic challenge as engaging the more overt content implied by the show’s title.” -Norman Lundin

Including work by: Fred Birchman, Brian Blackham, Marsha Burns, Joe Crookes, John Fadeff, Ellen Garvens, Jim Holl, Michael Howard, Amy Huddleston, Caroline Kapp, Dianne Kornberg, Riva Lehrer, Brian Murphy, Elizabeth Ockwell, Anne Petty, Glenn Rudolph, Graham Shutt, Kathy Vargas and Evelyn Woods

September 1 – October 29, 2016
Opening Reception: First Thursday, September 1, 6 – 8pm

Artist Interview #53: John Fadeff



1. Are you a full time artist, if not how do you support your art?
I have worked a number of jobs; printer, fishing pole repair, store clerk, sign maker, exhibition graphics fabricator, photo spotter, public works inspector, toy designer, and animator.

2. When did you consider yourself an artist?
I always liked to draw and make things.

3. What are your influences?
Well, everything; the good, bad, and ugly. Things often come up in the work that I didn’t recognize till later. It’s foggy most days where I grew up. Some days we couldn’t see the houses across the street, but a few blocks away, there was a declining seaside amusement park and you could hear the screams from roller coaster. A few blocks up the hill is the Legion of Honor Museum. My brothers and I were looking in the door one day and the guard invited us in, telling us kids were admitted free. The Norton Simon collection was housed there at the time along with the permanent collection. It became a regular haunt. The park and golf course around the museum had been a Chinese cemetery, relocated out of city limits in the 1930s, and we occasionally found bones and pieces of skulls. Around the corner was a carnival supply store, Royal Merchandise, that rented pinwheels and festival games, and sold gag novelties and grab bags. We studied that place as closely as the Legion. One of the old guys that ran the place had a padlocked plywood storage room full of shiny hard-plastic masks, floor to ceiling, he would occasionally invite us to view. Unlocking the padlock, opening the door, ushering us in to the pitch-black room, finding the pull-string to a single hanging bulb – a real performance – it was something to see.

4. How big is your studio, what kind of lighting?
I have a 12’ by 12’ room in a former flat that was broken into small apartments many years ago. Two west-facing windows look out at the building next door, late in the day the sun beats on the windows, but I can get a few good hours of natural light.

5. What is a typical day in the studio like for you? Do you listen to music, radio or tv in your studio?
It depends what I am working on: drawing, printing, or cutting stencils, or compositing on the computer. I listen to music sometimes, or the baseball game for the pace, and the crowd and the crack of the bat. The street outside is busy, with all kinds of traffic and the panhandle park is across the street. Most times I go with that.

6. What is your preferred medium? Do you work on one project at a time or several?
I like ink on paper. The light passing through the ink and reflecting back off the paper and back through the ink. Lately I have been making prints for animation and working on stand-alone ink drawings, going back and forth between the two projects.

7. Do you have any special or unique tools, devices or process that you use in your art making?
The drawings for the exhibit were done with a standard dipping pen on hot press watercolor paper. I start with drawing in pencil, and then hatch against the direction of the pencil lines in ink. Where ink covers pencil, encapsulating some of the carbon, it darkens the ink. Once the inking is done I erase the pencil.

8. What do you do outside the studio, aside from a job?
My partner Rebecca and I have been fixing up our fixer upper, that we swore we would never spend all our time fixing up!

9. In what way is your work a reflection of the theme “Things That Kill”? Is your work for this show in line with or an exception to your usual way of working?
I tried to get a sense of the immediacy of commonplace, internal and external, life and death situations.

Yes, I work this way sometimes.

10. How did you approach the subject matter?
Sort of like the Carnac the Magnificent bit by Johnny Carson. The drawings are in the envelopes.

11. Are there any anecdotal notes that may give insight to a new viewer about your work in “Things that Kill”?
Many years ago a relative and some of his colleagues had a plan to rob the coin depository from one of the old streetcar companies. On the way they decided to stop and get gas; once there they decided to rob the gas station. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, for many possible reasons.

My great Aunt Maude (given name Hundoume) died before I was born so I never met her. A few month’s ago I was buying tires and noticed Maude’s husband Buck (given name Adolfo) in a photo in the office. I asked the proprietor and was told that Buck was a relative of his and he also knew and well remembered Maude describing her movements and her laugh.

A friend has a theory that the Myth of Scylla and Charybdis refers to the relationship of dialectically opposing forces. The orbit of one draws you inward but if you give yourself over completely it will take you down with it. However, the counter force, like the attraction of the clashing rocks or the current of the swirling waters can carry you back from the brink. The myth emphasizing that there is no middle route, no stasis between the two forces, but a struggle.

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