Artist Michael Alan’s first performance in Jacksonville is titled “Life, the Universe, and Everything.” A bold title that might strike fear into the heart of a more “serious” artist. But after interviewing Alan and learning more about his playful, joyous, startling and dynamic performance, it seems this show may, in fact, include everything that lies between life and the universe. He talked with us about his upcoming event, how his shows started, and what exactly that title means.
Michael, can you tell our readers who you are and where you come from?
I’m Michael Alan and I’m a native New Yorker inspired by old New York and the city happenings! A cat! A human! A drawing machine! I’m originally from Brooklyn and the city. Now I’m back to Bushwick, where I was born and where my family is from. A full circle! But to describe myself best, I would say I am a free spirit! The earth is my home for now! I spend most of my time in my studio in Bushwick or working on projects like the one coming up in Jacksonville. I spend my nights with my dear mom in Bushwick, or I float around NYC or go draw in the woods.
How would you describe yourself and your work to someone who doesn’t know you?
Shy in real life, honest, silly and a kid at heart. I love toys, my mom and pranks! Generally wacky times. My motto is “We all die, live for FUN!”
You draw but you also create interactive performances. Are you an artist or a performance artist? Or both?
I am an artist. I would say I draw and paint about 14 hours a day and create happenings, performances and drawing events. I also teach because I love to see people create and have experiences in art. My work is based on everything from outer space to my cat. Whatever inspires me in that moment. I am also creating a visual language that I have been working on since I was a kid until now. I have created over 8,000 drawings and paintings that are all extremely complex. The live shows are a spin on my 2D work. Then I use the photos, video and experiences from the show to inspire more 2D works and sculptures. Each informs the other, and it’s constantly evolving. I love working full circle.
How did you come to this type of performance?
I used to run many legendary NYC clubs as a kid. I grew up in the ’90s hip-hop, rave and club era, and I gave that up. I did that work so I could pay for night college at SVA. I grew out of it naturally and during that time, I was drawing at all the clubs in NY as my job and it naturally progressed into having shows in Chelsea, Dumbo and all throughout the city. Started out needing a job because I was poor, and I would draw at work and it ended up being in my favor without me trying and emerged into my first shows in NYC. I created my first drawathon in Brooklyn that was so epic around 2003. Then it became something I started doing more and more. I started collaborating almost weekly with models, artists and musicians.
Had you ever performed before?
I have been making music since I was 10 and actually spent years touring worldwide with albums, so I knew how to tour and perform in front of people, to put a show on stage.
What can a guest expect at this type of event?
To have no expectations! If they expect anything then they are at the wrong performance. My events are an endurance happening. I want them to experience rather than want. If guests can be open to receiving the performance but also contributing to it and letting themselves open up and then just zone out! I want people to leave their life for a bit and come have a day vacation where they watch art come to life!
How have the shows evolved over the years?
There have been so many and there is no set kind … I go from music shows to a drawathon, to straight performance and then everything mixed together, all the way to me on the phone with my mom in a gallery.
What is the catalyst for this type of immersive, theatrical art? Why not just sell drawings?
The catalyst is the human body. I sell much art, I do the live shows to give back. I don’t see too many big artists that are accessible. Very few artists where you can go into their studio weekly and you can be a part of some artistic happening. A lot of artists have to be removed from public artist projects because money is god. But for me, I have to balance out being a good human and also being a good businessman. Public art for me is a wake-up, shocking and ongoing experience.
How do the models and the space contribute to the experience?
Every single part of the space, audience and everything can make it amazing but also make it not work! Just like a painting. We gotta roll the dice and see what happens! That’s the risk with these shows. The excitement, the experience, the experiment.
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