Art, Food, Sex and Trauma: Mark Maynard shoots the shit with the most important artists to ever draw breath on the planet earth… Episode 4: Chris Sandon

    Continuing our series of conversations with the world’s most successful artists living within walking distance of my house, today we’re joined by my frequent collaborator and friend, Chris Sandon.

    CSandonFashion2

    MARK: How’d you first learn about sex?

    CHRIS: Hmm… not really sure I can pinpoint one thing. My guy friends and I had a typical stash of nudie mags hidden out in the woods. I also remember being fascinated by the highly realistically rendered illustrations in my Dad’s old 1940’s anatomy books.

    MARK: Why’d your dad have anatomy books? Was he a doctor? An artist? Or was that just what guys did before the advent of National Geographic and Playboy?

    CHRIS: He was an optometrist… and, yeah, I think those books were certainly gateway imagery for me.

    MARK: Did your dad ever have the sex talk with you? I can remember mine. It only lasted a few minutes. We were walking across a mall parking lot, headed toward a theater, and he told me that, when I have sex, I should pee afterward. I told him that I would.

    CHRIS: Ha, that’s great… and true. Do you remember what the movie was? One day my Dad very formally sat me down and simply said something along the lines of, “I know you’re probably starting to fool around, but just remember that there is a point that you reach, where it’s really hard to turn back.” Then he told me this amazingly endearing story about his first time that I eternally appreciate him for.

    MARK: Care to elaborate, or is that the kind of thing you’d rather keep to yourself? And, no, I don’t remember the movie. It was in New Jersey, though. Likely at the Rockaway Mall. And it would have been around ‘84. So it could have been The Terminator, Star Trek III, or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. All movies that my mom and sister would have had no interest in.

    CHRIS: Splash was made that year, and it’s an all time favorite of mine. As far as the story my Dad told me, it’s one of those vulnerable stories that make you love your parent as a human being. Those moments of completely humble honesty really shaped what I look for in relationships.

    MARK: What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?

    sandoncheeseCHRIS: It wasn’t really a meal, but, when I was a kid, I have this really vivid memory of being the hungriest that I’d ever been. I begged my babysitter for something to eat, and finally, she gave me one slice of that individually packaged yellow cheese. I remember how slowly I ate it. I savored every morsel, even though it was just some shitty processed food.

    MARK: It’s funny how deprivation drives these stories for many people. My best drink story is similar. It wasn’t anything special. It was something like Hawaiian punch, a bright pink kind of drink, overly sweet, and full of ice. I was probably about 18 and my friend Dan and I had gone into Manhattan to walk around. And we’d gotten lost. It was August, I think, and we’d been walking for hours and hours. I’d never been so thirsty. We’d been lost near the docks, and we were sweating our asses off. It was one of those days when you could see the heat coming up, off the asphalt. And finally we found this place with a big tank of bright pink juice-like stuff. It was heaven… What’s the worst meal you’ve ever eaten?

    CHRIS: I’ve only had food poisoning a couple times, but those meals seem like the worst. The most recent was a couple years ago. It was bar nachos. I ended up twitching and convulsing on the bathroom floor all night.

    MARK: How would you describe your work to someone who refuses to look at it?

    CHRIS: I’m imagining some movie scenario where a pretentious Soho gallery owner is ignoring me as I try and show her my early portfolio of creepy baby paintings. I’m trying to convince her that there is a market for wealthy art collectors who would most certainly hang them in their bathrooms… anyway. I do get asked a lot what my artwork is like and it’s not quick and simple to answer. The last few years I’ve stayed busy collaborating with other artists (Spontaneous Art, Bodies and Beats). In the last year, though, I’ve gotten back into working again as an individual. I began by painting a series of academic nudes compositionally masked with painter’s tape. At the same time, I’ve started playfully experimenting with paints in an abstract way. There’s an exciting freedom (accompanied by a painful anxiety) that comes from working in such a psycho-self indulgent way. The fun part of the process reminds me of when I was little, and I’d combine different shampoos and lotions into one clear bottle to see how they react to each other. The result was always this useless potion, usually dominated by blue swirls of dandruff shampoo.

    MARK: Did you suffer from childhood dandruff?

    CHRIS: I don’t think so, I did apparently have an under developed bladder though. I actually went to a urinary psychologist for some sort of treatment. I’m guessing that it was probably the most money my parents ever spent on me.

    MARK: I’m imagining you asking your parents to pay for college and them saying, “We already paid for the urinary psychologist.”

    CHRIS: I did pay for college… still am.

    MARK: And what’s a urinary psychologist, anway? Was the idea that you could enlarge your bladder with your mind?

    CHRIS: No, it was more behavioral than that. There were crazy contraptions that got plugged into my underwear and would set off a horrific alarm as soon as it detected the slightest amount of moisture. In the summer it would just go off from sweating. The alarm was so loud that it would make you piss yourself half the time. I also had to pee into a measuring container and keep a log. I also had to do Kegal exercises. Turns out I was just a really deep sleeper who drank too much water before bed.

    Screen shot 2014-06-14 at 10.11.25 PMMARK: Jesus, this explains so much.

    CHRIS: Probably too much.

    MARK: You recently curated a show in Ypsi. What was it about?

    CHRIS: TEMP was a group art show loosely based on themes of the existential, climate, emotional, natural… The Off Center Gallery, next to the Riverside Art Center, is an amazing space and I’m happy with the way the show came together. There was a lot of very diverse work that interacted in really interesting ways. We just closed the show and destroyed the largest piece, a 12-foot Piñata.

    MARK: You’re also in a band with you wife. How’d that come about?

    CHRIS: A couple of years ago Morgan and I became friends with a group of folks who are very talented musically. We went on a journey to the gulf coast of Alabama right after the BP oil spill. While there, we sacrificed our sunglasses and bras to the dolphin gods. In return, they got one of us pregnant and granted me the inspiration to write catchy music with the fervor that I had as a teenager. As anyone in a band knows, it’s hard to get a band together and stay together. Luckily not long after writing these songs, I married my wife Morgan. As her husband, I exercised my dolphin given right to make her learn drums. She picked it up pretty quickly, and her progress continues to amaze. Our friend Casey joined in on bass and channels her natural charm and enthusiasm for life. I feel lucky to play with them… they’re really fun to be around. We’re called Modern Lady Fitness. We’ve been finishing up a record with Dave Niles, who has also been excellent to work with.

    MARK: When not doing art, what do you do?

    CHRIS: Lots of things. I was just on a winter bowling league… I like swimming… bon fires… drinking tea… watching art documentaries on Netflix… the usual. Have you seen “Beauty is Embarrassing”?

    MARK: I actually have. What did you like about it, assuming you liked it?

    CHRIS: Yeah, I liked it a lot. I share some similar aesthetic philosophies, like using the materials that are around you, appropriating things in playful ways, incorporating humor into art…. plus, I just think I would just get along with him. I get the feeling that we could hang out. You know, like Dave Grohl or Cre Fuller… someone like that.

    MARK: You also work in a gravel quarry, like Fred Flintstone, right? How, if at all, do you think that influences your work?

    CHRIS: Yeah, I’ve had a number of jobs that involve dirt. I run the scales and print tickets for the drivers along with some other secretarial tasks. Like many desk jobs, sometimes things slow down a bit. It’s location is isolated enough not to have good internet, so I can’t check my Facebook or anything. So, at times, it allows for some creative productivity. Over the years, I’ve written puppet shows and film treatments, edited music videos, composed songs, designed posters….

    MARK: You recently lost the DirtyBros.com url, and now it’s a porn site. Do you still visit it? And, artistically speaking, do you think it reflects a natural progression from what you were doing?

    CHRIS: I do think, early on, our philosophy of “anything goes” could have drifted that way. We work with weird folks and strange things happened at our art events. One time apparently folks were getting bent over and spanked outside as some sort of rite of entry into the exhibition and we had no idea. There was a “lust den” installation at another event. When you allow total freedom, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising… but then we started to get associated with the Dirty Show and a couple of performers in Detroit started calling themselves the Dirty Brothers. It got confusing for some, so we called it DBQP (Dirty Brothers Quality Productions) and tamed things down (a bit).

    MARK: Do you remember your first experience with death?

    CHRIS: When I was young I accidently left my pet newt in the garage on a summer day and he turned into an amphibious cracker. I was so upset that I climbed a tree, holding it’s remains, and cried for a long time. The story would be great if my guilt ridden tears miraculously reconstituted him.

    MARK: I think, the last time I interviewed you formally, it was after you’d appeared on some FOX show, like America’s Got Talent (AGT)… Your talent was shoving fake poops rapidly out through the silk-lined rectum of a giant plush cat… And we discussed the possibility that the exposure may have brought other opportunities to perform for free for the network’s advertisers. Did it?

    CHRIS: Ah, no… nothing yet… some YouTube hits. It was cool having Howard Stern believing in us and envisioning us as a potential giant puppet show. We rejected AGT’s contract, so they didn’t air that part on TV. The whole thing was surreal and confusing. We did get a lesson about how mega media outlets works. It forced us to look at ourselves both as individuals and as a group through a different lens.

    MARK: When you reference the contract that you didn’t sign, I’m assuming that you’re referring to a deal where the producers of the show, in exchange for giving you increased coverage, and perhaps making a few connections for you, would own a part of your company, right?

    CHRIS: Yep, something like 30% for up to 13 years.

    MARK: Wasn’t there talk of them perhaps launching an America’s Got Talent show in Vegas or something? Or am I remembering that incorrectly?

    CHRIS: The next round of judging, had we accepted the contract, would have been in Vegas.

    MARK: What’s the closest you’ve ever been to death? Have there be narrow escapes?

    CHRIS: I grew up in a small town and getting close to death was seen as a legitimate remedy for curbing everyday boredom. We would purposefully cut off cars on our bikes and skateboards or “human Frogger” our way across a major four-lane road. It was completely idiotic. When I was 18, I had a trashcan blow up in my face at the print shop I was working at. I recovered, but it taught me about random threats of death that can happen unexpectedly. Now that I’m older, I have all of these people and things that I love and I want them to last forever. I realize how fragile it all is, and I’m much more afraid and respectful of death. Sometimes I long for that young, brave ignorance to return… and sometimes it does.

    sandonflowerMARK: How would you like to be remembered?

    CHRIS: For none, any, or all of the following…

    …planting a fond memory in a stranger’s head by showing up in costume.
    …inventing an e-cigarette that smells like weed and battles cancer.
    …my paintings as magnets displayed proudly on refrigerators.
    …writing a song that other people can relate/emote to.
    …having good relationships with the people I love.
    …helping to make Ypsilanti a fun place to live.
    …telling and making entertaining stories.
    …being someone who tries new things.
    …helping to host interesting events.
    …being a hard working person.
    …shitting on NBC television.

    This entry was posted in Art and Culture, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

      4 Comments

      1. Eel
        Posted June 16, 2014 at 8:36 am | Permalink

        Electronic Underpants is a great name for something.

      2. Anonymous Mike
        Posted June 16, 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

        “academic nudes compositionally masked with painter’s tape”

        Images? I’m having a difficult time envisioning this.

      3. Posted June 16, 2014 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

        That Legends of the Hidden Temple meets Run DMC outfit really makes a statement.

        I’m glad he didn’t sign that contract.

      4. Mike
        Posted June 18, 2014 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, completely unrelated, but the title here forced me to search and watch this Flula gem again.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDCjPZ-6J7s

        “every place squirting!”

      One Trackback

      1. By Meanwhile in Ypsilanti on June 27, 2014 at 5:53 am

        […] not sure why Chris Sandon brought this particular local job opportunity to my attention, as I’m notoriously rude and […]

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