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7th November 2019

Q & A WITH SKYLAR WILLIAMS

Was growing up on the outskirts of Las Vegas as exciting as it sounds?

If you find digging holes and playing in mildly radioactive landfills exciting then yes it was as exciting as it sounds. I grew up on the outskirts of the city. its sunny 300 days out of the year so beautiful sunset with a glowing city off in the distance was the backdrop to how i grew up. Over the years I watched the city grow and new casinos pop up. Every few years they would shoot of fireworks when a new casino was finished. It was like watching a big celebration but from 25 miles away. my dad opened a small used car delaership when i was young. i had to clean engines of old muscle cars with soap and a toothbrush. i resented that work at the time but appreciate it now.

How much inspiration do you draw from your surroundings when it comes to constructing and concepting your art?

Ive been getting inspired for a long time‚ my surroundings both good (empty desert) ‚ bad (overpriced‚ soul sucking cities) or bland (airports) have helped me choose what to focus on and what I think is interesting. I spent a lot of my early 20s trying to refine my opinion on things. During that time i saw a lot of things and places. I learned that traveling doesnt always fulfill that lack of inspiration or self but it also takes a defined location to construct and develop ones own ideas into real objects. I think juxtaposing is a powerful tool in the process of concept building. i like the desert most when i see it in a large photographic print on a wall in a cold big museum in the city.

I think its important to pull inspiration from real objects in life rather than spending time pulling images from the internet which is why for example id rather build a car from scratch and then photograph it and then place that photograph on a wall to look at rather than steal an image from google and print it out to put on my wall. I think the two ways will lead to different inspirations when you look at that picture each time you pass it by. this goes a bit into the idea of real vs the hyper real and not understanding the line between‚ you may want to read some jean beaudrillard to figure that but the point is I like to pull inspiration from experiencing the real object or place rather than a picture of it on the internet but to do so takes a lot of effort and sometimes years of work. inspiration is very important.

We spoke about your post high-school education outside of the US and it was incredibly interesting to hear of your experience there.Can you explain the process of first gaining entrance to study art off shore and how it’s impacted your current process?

I had high hopes for studying in Switzerland at Ecal. I entered school at 25 after I had spent more than 5 years working on an off as a photographer abroad in Europe. I felt my choice to study there was pretty calculated as I wanted to see how Swiss art critism and structure would impact my americana leaning approach to art. I felt the school was pushing more towards creating advertising oriented photographers rather than my hopes to really dive into studying the conceptual aspects of art making. i really wanted to dedicate my time to deconstructing photography and art so that i could rebuild a new and interesting view that was completely unique to me. this didnt go over well with my teachers and “works” i produced for them were quite terrible. The contrast between my education and my subject matter helped me identify what interested me most in my focus on american west ideas. School helped me identify what out of american west culture interested me. I wanted to boil down my vision to the most basic forms of communication and what form that communication took specifically in a western landscape.

We can’t not talk about the cars‚ you’ve been rebuilding vintage machines for years and I know it’s probably impossible but can you name a favourite or most memorable experience?

Trying to come up with a memorable experience that tops all the others is hard. Ive been dedicated to learning every aspect of auto restoration because i admire the idea of a guy who can just fix anything on an old vehicle. Every time I get some crappy old car that doesnt run or is broken is so fun to work on because the pay off of fixing a old carburetor and then hearing the engine run for the first time in who knows how many years is a good feeling. My most memorable moments tends to be the bad ones though. I remember the first time I really started figuring out how to weld. I was replacing the front inner fender of a 1968 fastback mustang. as eye protection I was using a pair of sunglasses or something dumb and ended up with a tiny hot ball of metal that shot like bullet into my eye. I ended up having to go to the doctor a day later as I had refused to believe I had hurt myself. I thought i could fix my eye cuz someone told me to cut a potatoe in half and put it on my eyeball‚ which didnt really work. At the eye doctor‚ they pulled out a needle‚ they injected my eyeball with numbing agent and then used a high speed diamond tipped drillbit on a dremel tool to remove the metal from my eye. Pretty memorable indeed.

Skylar is wearing our Indigood 27MW shirt and 11MWZ jean.

Congratulations on the new bub by the way! Do you think being a new father has/will change the methodology/concept behind your work?

The biggest change I’ve seen is in regards to my schedule. Being a full-time procrastinator my whole life doesn’t seem to work with a baby. Its like everytime I sit down he needs his diaper changed again. Hes taught me to be much more reactive and quick to respond. As a result it seems like I’ve been a bit more reactive to all my work. I treat the artworks and car projects now as if they all have dirty diapers in need of attention too. My methodogy seems to change often and as for my new developing concepts‚ well they are in line just like the others but to put it visually‚ my mind has a mental image that went from a “1970 Roadrunner with black bucket seats‚ 4 speed with a pistol grip shifter‚ all the windows down‚ with the wheels spinning a mean burnout full of flames and billowing clouds of smoke” to now include my baby’s car seat buckled down on the back bench.

Can you give me a quick run down on the meaning behind the ‘Million Dollar Cowboy’ series?

I thought the words went together nicely and in the form of a billboard in the middle of nowhere‚ when you read it standing out there it begins to make sense. I feel like the words take on new meanings based on how they are presented. Its why I like to put billboards out in the middle of nowhere. Ive enjoyed working with the word cowboy because it does a great job of personifying any other word that its tacked on next to it. The MILLION DOLLAR COWBOY statement was the last statement out of a set of 9. The first statement is DOLLAR COWBOY‚ as you may guess the other billboards are any number in between dollar and million dollar. I wanted to consider what its like to be the dollar cowboy versus what it may be like to be the million dollar cowboy. Surely you can imagine‚ a low cost budget friendly cowboy available at your service for the low price of a dollar. Whats he capable of? Whats he actually do? What color is his shirt and how does to he carry himself? Likewise‚ what is the million dollar cowboy up to? perhaps he’s a casino owner or a hard working rancher whos earned every penny he ever had. I guess its really up to the viewer to decide and maybe which one do they see in themself. The two billboards are on display outside vegas if you can manage to find them.

We are big on discovering people’s concept of freedom‚ what does it mean to you?

Freedom to me is a truck. Freedom is having the knowledge and ability to fix that truck when it breaks. Freedom is to drive that truck where ever you want to go. I think freedom is a result of a lot of hard work by a large collective of people. You have freedom when you succeed in doing the things you wished and imagined yourself doing. I think freedom takes a lot of energy‚ work and effort if you want to make the most of it.

How are your Wrangler’s still fitting after a hot few months in Boulder City?

My wrangler have endured through some hard times like a champ. They are now spattered with various colors of automotive paint and oil stains from a 1978 chevy suburban that ive been fixing. They have some dirt on them from some dirt I just shoveled too.

Do you have any exciting pieces in the works that we should be watching out for?

My next exciting development will be on display in Miami this december it will be a collection of billboards‚ images and a book.

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