On your Tumblr page, you have several photos of wooden boxes. As a matter of fact, the images are labeled “Professional photos of bandsaw boxes.” What’s the story with these?
Bandsaw boxes are a type of vessel made from one piece of wood and are not constrained to right angles. They have this secret form to being made that is playful to me. By which I mean to say, they use techniques that strengthen the structure– somewhat magically– while being indistinguishable from the piece as a whole. The project resulted in containers for the chap books–self-published books of poems– of my friends to sell at their merchandise tables. Woodworking has become my newfound intrigue. In the past two months, I have been working on a writer’s table out of ash wood and a skateboard out of birch.
If you had to take an objective look at your own sketches on your Tumblr page, how would you characterize them? In other words, if you didn’t know the artist who’d created them, what impression would you get from them about who that artist is?
I’m proud of my oeuvre. Put in perspective, the sketches seem to be of different com4munities, structures and ideas. Though, yeah, drawing is immediacy– an artist from their window jotting down the kids playing in front of the hydrant. My hope is for the drawings to be products of pride within the community they represent and not sideline observations. I hope that they seem to be “nothing about us, without us.” You should know that the drawings ground themselves in the room of kids doodling in each others’ black books– that is how I would like to be seen.
Also on your Tumblr page, there are sketches that appear to be various bodies and what could be seen as detached limbs and people rendering aid to others on the ground. Have you noticed that the dates on these drawings is April 10, 2013, five days before the Boston Marathon bombings?
Wow, no. I remember coming home from class to that on TV. Those sketches were from a larger project about dance and stem from Movement as Material through Improvisation, a course I had been taking at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. I would set up in the studio and rapidly sketch as dancers moved about the room. Through dance, I learned immensely about the body, its capacity to heal and strengthen, and its use in provoking the art-making process. Retrospectively, the communal response to that day can certainly be seen in the sketch.
You did a painting called “Drunk Dial to God.” There is a line in one of your poems that reads, “I drunk-called God.” What did you say to him when you called him?
The only alteration I would like made to the question is to not refer to God in your question as “him.” To clarify, that is an excluding question. My response is non-gendered. I once went to this party on Halloween. There was a two-story party happening, and the second floor had a central space that looked down on to a first-floor courtyard. A crowd of people on all sides– both floors– cheered, in Thunderdome fashion, while these two guys in costumes wrestled. I watched a panda pile-drive Super Mario while everyone cheered and red Solo Cups spilled beer on them. I couldn’t believe I had seen that. I wish I had taken a photo. I called God in the alley outside to talk about it, but the person on the other line just kept saying, “There’s no one named Earl here!”
I find that painting “Drunk Dial to God” quite intriguing, by the way. The perspective is just slightly askew, and the point of view is a rather odd one. It’s almost as if the viewer is standing on another chair looking down on the chair, telephone and stool. The objects are almost unsettlingly familiar: a yellow telephone, from the 1970s perhaps, sitting on what appears to be a black, metal stool; a blanket tossed casually over a wooden chair; and a cup that appears to be one of those red, disposable, plastic ones. Together, it all reads like an area in the apartment of a student or a bachelor who is making do with what is readily available to him. And these things are presented within the confines of a circle. Initially, one might see it simply as a still life. But, with a title like that, there’s got to be more to it. Am I right?
Thank you for the recognition. A lot of my work for the past five years dealt with the drinking culture of Madison, Wisconsin– an unimaginably overwhelming waltz to navigate. The painting, for me, works with old-school figurative oil painting techniques and rage-life party dynamics. It marinated on being present and absent. How complicated it is that some of the most marvelous, accepting, and liberating memories I have take place in a basement party.
You did at least four drawings that each feature a different person with the word “monster” written above and along his or her left shoulder. What inspired these drawings?
Cycles of hegemony. I created this image of Monster, a torso with a mouth on its belly. It was childlike and said things like “I ate a man named Geoffrey who was full of hurtys.” To me it was a way to check certain invisible chains of oppression that are perpetuated. We grow up and have these factories that tell us so much about how to think and respond, that I felt a need to create a character who could vocalize what he ate and then what he would spit out. It culminated in drawings, an art show, a poem, and even my tag for a while. But I got into some trouble with that in Madison, and I had to let the image fall off, finding other ways to bring the idea out in my art. The portraits were versions of Monster in ourselves.
When we met, you mentioned something about artists needing to have a sense of social responsibility. What exactly do you mean?
Where I’m from is a place where the battles to be fought must combine art, activism and education to be won. Artists need to be a part of the organizing movement, aiding and recording the struggles of their community. You can be dope, and then what?
You’ve lived in Southern California for a little more than a week. Overall, how does the culture here compare to that of Madison, Wisconsin?
Conversations move faster. People seem to make jokes quicker. And I sense that most people weren’t shoveling snow all last week. But there are youth everywhere, there is poetry everywhere, and there are activists everywhere.
What drew you to Long Beach?
I was talking to a guy at a party in Madison, and it turns out he used to deejay some shows for the poetry scene there before moving out to… Long Beach, California. We began sharing about the scene, and I bragged about my friend breakdancing on the cruise ships over on the West Coast. So, I guess, every Tuesday the cruise ship docked at the Port of Long Beach. He would have a few free hours, and him and this DJ would meet up downtown and talk about what they had worked on in that past week, about plans they had, and the projects they were creating. Then my friend would get back on the boat. I heard that beautiful story, and I felt that if collaboration like that is happening in Long Beach, then that’s where I’ll go. If you can believe it.
What do you hope to achieve by living here in Long Beach?
To be able to support the community through art, activism, and education.
To view more of Iosbaker’s work, visit natiosbaker.tumblr.com .