The Michael Walsh Interview
A while back, we introduced you to The Cosmic Carousel, a project created by artist Michael Walsh â€“ a Pittsburgh native and someone we covered in the early stages of NYO. The project debuted at this year’s Burning Man, an annual festival held in the Black Rock Desert, 120 miles north of Reno, Nevada over the week of Labor Day. This exhibition at Burning Man has afforded the Cosmic Carousel team with the opportunity to display the piece around the country, a reward for the tremendous level of effort put in to conceive and build the project. To view some breathtaking photos of The Cosmic Carousel, visit photographer Rick Egan’s website. The dusty profile and couple kissing are two of Walsh’s favorite photos of the piece. The Village Voice also has some shots. We had a chance to ask Walsh a few questions in preparation for his upcoming exhibit at The Gallery 4, titled “It’s a Long Way to the Top…If You Wanna Rock n’ Roll” which debuts this Saturday, October 6 with an opening reception from 7-11PM. For more details on the opening and exhibit, visit our event page.
Kymbo Slice: What was building The Cosmic Carousel like in terms of the team dynamic?
Michael Walsh: DO I enjoy working with others or solo work? The Team dynamic is definitely a fine balance. Like any team talent and experience are only part of it. You need a group that understands one another and can react to the moves the other members make. In this case we had way more good than bad. This equaled success. I had a very talented and dedicated core group. Most of us have worked together for some time and know each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Our diverse skill sets really compliment each other. I actually love working with others. You gain different perspectives and have the capacity to take ideas further. Most sculpture is a team sport just due to the materials and processes so I commonly work with the same people. When you are working with people you respect and gel with it makes the process enjoyable and fulfilling. Without this diversity of personalities and skill sets The Cosmic Carousel would have just been another idea on paper. It was the toughest project any of us have ever worked on, and there were moments where it was tense or we wanted to quit, but the proof is in the results and we are all extremely proud of the work and the effect it had on the people who interacted with it.
KS: How has the experience shaped the new art you are making?
MW: Well, I am still deliberating on this but the points that are clear are very clear. I am really interested in using computer technology with existing and progressive industrial technology to create artworks that people can interact with. I want these to have a very human touch and not look like they were made on an assembly line. We have developed construction methods and processes that will change my work and expand the potentiality of it. I am also very excited to bring this work into the public forum. Whether these works are kinetic or static I feel like my art wants to be out in plain view for everyone to enjoy. This could be my way of contributing to a more enriching experience for the people who touch it. I will also take the things I have learned into the studio on smaller scale works which will definitely expand the potential of my creativity.
KS: Tell us about your upcoming exhibit at The Gallery 4. What was the inspiration behind it?
MW: The body of work in “It’s a Long Way To the Top…If You Wanna Rock n’ Roll” is a diverse group with an anchor in its root influences and inspiration and its need to grow and expand. This group of work was created within the last 12 months and was created using very diverse approaches and quite a bit of different materials. I wanted to expand my visual dialogue and did so with whatever I was inspired to work with. You will see everything from fabricated steel to 3D computer prints and a lot in between. This is not a group trying to master one discipline, but an explosion of creativity and expression that had an all gas and no breaks approach to art making. I literally spent a year in my studio every moment I could exploring my ideas and trying new things. This has only reinforced my instinct to continue taking risks and broadening the scope of what I am doing. I’m not really locked to some convention or brand so I can explore any direction I choose, which is the benefit of being an industry outsider. Being an industry outsider is what the title of the exhibit is all about.
KS: Even though you are on the west coast, what is the difference between exhibiting in Pittsburgh and San Francisco?
MW: Hmmmm… everywhere you exhibit is different so I guess Pittsburgh is as unique as anywhere else. It’s my hometown so I really like to bring home the things I am working on and participate in the city’s cultural make up. I also like to see where I intersect the cultural community in the Burgh as it keeps growing. The Gallery 4 has been very supportive in the growth of my career and I want to continue to support it in its mission to bring a different approach to the contemporary art that it exposes to Pittsburgh. Ironically, I also get to show on the exact city block where my art career began unknowingly over two decades ago. It will always be unique coming back to Pittsburgh also because of its blunt honesty, something I think is important in its identity and makes it viable as a place to consider.
KS: What are some future projects you have in the works?
MW: At the end of October The Cosmic Carousel is going to be installed at an event titled “Ghost Ship“. We are in the process of negotiating other locations and events for it to be displayed throughout 2012 and 2013. We are going to partner with The Gallery 4 to present at the Fountain Art Fair in Miami as part of Art Basel Week 2012 this year. We will bring an international group of artists there to display their work. Beyond that I am going to keep making art. I am looking at a new shared studio with some inspiring people in the East Bay and more importantly I want to do all of this with a big smile on my face. I am truly lucky to be able to take this time in my life to follow my dreams and explore my creativity and I am looking to make the most of it.