We have been checking in with some of our grant winners in a series of interviews to see what they have been up to and what motivates them to make work. Scott is a writer that recently traveled on a Greyhound bus in the Southeast creating a collection of short stories inspired by his travels entitled Strange Temple.
Where were you born?
What are you favorite materials to work with?
Nouns and verbs.
What is your motivating factor in creating artistic work?
I like being uncomfortable. I like problem solving. I am motivated by the challenge of using language to bring images, atmospheres and feelings to life, and building narratives with those elements. Writing also allows me to share my experiences with people I’ll never meet. Even when I’m dead someone might find something I wrote and gain inspiration from what I imagined, what I thought, what I saw. The permanent presence artists can create for themselves is intriguing to me. Ultimately, however, I create art to protest laziness and contentedness. Even if nobody ever saw what I created at least I could say I didn’t waste all my time watching TV.
Who are your influences?
My influences are people who work hard. Musicians, skateboarders, rappers, builders. If they work everyday at getting better at their craft, then I want to be like them.
Some literary influences are Kazuo Ishiguro, ZZ Packer, Breece D’J Pancake, Lindsay Hunter, Maryse Meijer, Blake Butler, Denis Johnson, Anne Carson, Jean Genet.
The first art you saw that informed your practice and let you know this was possibility to become an artist?
Punk rock and hip-hop. Those movements were made by teenagers who were told their existence didn’t matter. Instead of falling in line and begging for praise they rebelled and used their passion, smarts and hands to create something the world had never seen before. Not only did the kids in the Bronx not have grant funding, studio space, institutional support (or whatever else people claim they need to be productive artists), they were being actively pursued by police/politicians and prosecuted for expressing themselves. From them I learned that there is no excuse for not creating whatever you want, that making art, or anything, comes down to passion and work ethic.
As an artist, do you think your work is political?
In the newest phase of my work, I’ve been trying to invert traditional power dynamics, which I believe is a political act. My characters often take extreme measures to gain control over their lives. The results are not always positive or predictable, but the characters prove they can change themselves and the world around them by breaking rules, bucking expectations, and abandoning their fears.
What is the connection between protest and art-making?
For me, making art is a form of protest against the idea that our value as people comes from what and how much we consume. We are told everyday that our lives can only be fulfilled if we drive certain cars, wear certain clothes, eat certain things. People are actively dissuaded from making things for themselves. I think that is bullshit.
I see making art as a protest against fear, fear of failure, fear of judgment, fear of ridicule, fear of embarrassment.
What was the seminal experience that got you to the work you are making now?
I found The Outlaw Bible of American Literature in a bookstore, which introduced me to William S. Burroughs, Patti Smith, Assata Shakur, Michelle Tea, Iceberg Slim, Gregory Corso—writers who differed radically from the literature I’d been taught in school. That got me reading. I started writing because I felt I had stories to tell also.