After my conversation with artist, Tony Farfalla, I learned about three things: 1. Developing a balance of sparse but consistent posting can lead to amazing results in creating your online presence and narrative. 2. Finding stillness is hard to come by and has to be created. 3. Following your gut will take you to strange and interesting places.
Sometimes you find what you're looking for when you stop looking. Simple enough, right? Eh, it's harder than you think. Finding your artistic voice can be a frustrating, circular process winding you back to where you started. Square one is a common place when searching for your creative vision and inherently part of the process. However, there's truth to this notion of not looking and simply creating. That perfect piece that you have in head won't be created until you've created 100 other pieces that aren't what you're looking for. Your art finds you after a while. There's a great short piece from Ira Glass about this, if you haven't heard it already, check it out here. Another voice that comes into the mix is from New York artist and anthropologist, Tony Farfalla. His work immediately intrigues you in how there's an otherworldliness steeped in familiar scenery. When looking at his photography, it's visually strong and there's no doubt about a clear voice in his work. It's colorful, surreal, interpretive and owns a sense of magic to it. I asked Tony a couple of questions about how he uses social media as a tool in his creative career, why he creates art, who he's creating it for and how he landed on his vibrant artistic voice in the belly of New York City.
A little backstory: Tony's an old friend of mine from high school. We were in a hardcore band and played house shows in basements. After a time, we each moved to opposite ends of the country out of Denver. I moved to Portland, OR and Tony went for New York City. Over the years we've kept in touch. I would see pictures from his travels to strange territories every now and then on Facebook (including a time visiting witch doctors in Mexico). Once a mysterious letter came in the mail for me in the form of a brick that said 'break me' on it. At first it scared the shit out of me, but after following the instructions, there was a small letter encased in it. I found out it was from Tony and I have no idea how he did it and I don't question it. There's real magic. After a while, we recently reconnected and I looked him up online and found his collection and treasure trove of artwork and photography. He still writes songs and they sound much better than the ones we wrote.
What do you do in the world?
I mostly create. Whatever form that takes. Most recently my art has been shown through my photography and sculpture work. I’ve also been continuing my work exploring various forms of faith and shamanism throughout the world.
How was your transition to New York?
New York is like a wildly seductive lover, that draws you in with beautiful promises, and then throws you around a bit—almost an abusive relationship—but you are so infatuated that you stick around. And anytime you leave, you start to long for the city, like the sirens song seducing you again…
Then you meet all the others who have been seduced, and find that we have all arrived in this place to fulfill something inside us. New York has always possessed this gravitational pull, that continues to allow this city to create such brilliant things.
How do you feel New York has inspired you art?
New York is not an easy place to be. The summers are too hot, the winters too cold. We pack ourselves into small apartments, and the rent is too damn high. For me, it was the ability to find stillness in the madness, that offered me insight into the larger lesson from the city. With my work I try to explore this lesson, and offer a kind of stillness to the viewer and myself.
How do you think physical landscape influences your art?
Great question… I’m really into the idea of form and landscape resonating with us on an energetic level! The way certain landscapes make us feel, and how we respond to certain forms. Keith Basso wrote an amazing book about this called “Wisdom Sits in Places,” exploring the roll of landscape in native Apache culture.
I think there is a very basic connection between us and the landscapes around us, that we often disregard, but is occurring subconsciously. I like to examine this connection by presenting landscapes in a non-typical setting, offering a kind of clue or puzzle that will engage the viewer to reconnect with the landscapes and forms around us.
You use human form in a lot of your pieces, why is that?
The human form is a constant point of exploration in art, because it is the common thread among us. We all have a body, and it is the basis for our engagement of this world. So, there is an intimate connection that occurs when working with the human form. Much like a landscape, we respond to the form we engage with on many levels, and in my work I’m trying to broaden this exploration.
Often the human body is displayed in very cliche forms, with a focus on formulaic expressions and pose. We are often focused on the face and it’s expressions to explain an emotion or idea, but this is a very default form of communication. I work to remove the default form, and use the body in a different way, to draw a different understanding or feeling from the viewer. To force the viewer to engage the work.
How is it working in collaborative projects with other artists?
I am a huge supporter of collaborations. Between artists, musicians, scientists, bird watchers, everyone! There is such brilliant alchemy that occurs when you meld your ideas with others. I also believe everyone should make art with there lover.
What was a turning point in your life where you knew you found what you were looking for?
The moment I realized that I should stop looking.
How do you justify making art in a time of political turmoil?
Art is a part of the human condition. Creativity exists in all cultures, for all time. It is a kind of language and expression that we need in our lives. Whatever form it takes, be it dance, painting, song, sex, pouring concrete, surfing… there is a basic human need to express ourselves in a means outside the conditions of this world. In many ways art is a great salvation because it allows us to see and feel something outside of this ‘time of turmoil.’ The artist can be a shaman for a culture that is possessed.
How do you view art as activism?
I really believe art offers a safe space for communication that can reach beyond the political scope of the world. Art can connect people with ideas and feelings without the use of language, and it can explore concepts beyond the limitations of the current paradigm. In this way art can be a tool for real liberation, beyond political agendas and war. It is a conduit that runs through all of us, no matter who we are or where we are from.
How do you feel social media has helped your career as an artist?
Social media has certainly assisted my art career by opening an international platform for sharing my work. It also allows for a more direct correspondence with viewers, that can offer a more sincere display of work. I dig the directness of it all. I’ve also sold work to galleries and collectors through social media…always something to be stoked about.
What do you feel the benefits of using social channels?
Social media can be a great assistant or a dreadful ruler, it all depends on your engagement. It can be an endless inspiration board, or become a black whole of mind-numbing pet videos; it is a tool that needs to be used appropriately. It offers a massive platform to share you work, communicate ideas, and connect with others.
I notice that you sparingly post, is this an intentional practice?
Yes. My feed is not a personal window into my life. It is a collection of my work and processes. I am very aware of the imagery I put into the world, and try to cultivate a certain flow within my posts.
I also limit my use on social media each day. While I am a proponent of technology and social media, I am also a huge fan of the real world, and want to spend time in it. I think a balance between worlds is the key.
What do you see coming up in technology and how it meets art?
The virtual realm and AI are quickly becoming a wild and beautiful new area for art to thrive. Soon we will honor programers as great artists, and praise art work created by robots. I am also fascinated by the role neuroscience could play in creating inner-mind projects!
Who are you making your art for?
My work is personal, and is very focused on the process rather than creating a ‘finished product.’ But I think the roll of the artist is often one of sharing and communicating with others, and I am very aware of this roll. I want my work to instigate thought and feeling, and engage the viewer on a personal level.
What would you tell an artists just starting out?
Work on developing a connection to your sincere self… that deep conscious self that operates apart from your head. Whenever you doubt yourself, or your work (which happens everyday), connect with your sincere self and follow that feeling. Always follow your gut.