So it’s the end of February and I’m walking to The Open Lot for what is to be one hell of a show. Not only is this the second gallery show I’ve every displayed my artwork in, but little did I know that I would get to meet the always-generous Dustin DIRT!
As soon as I enter the showroom I’m greeted by this huge piece of artwork that kicks me right in the teeth. The piece depicts these two green monsters, similar to that of the Americana Rat Rod characters and monster artwork of the 1960s. I continued into the showroom, put my artist hat on, and began to do what all artist do: Look, listen, and observe.
When I was stopped by a fellow artist who complimented my work. He introduced himself as Dustin Waltke. Putting the pieces of the puzzle together I realized Dustin Waltke was the artist Dustin DIRT. Fast forward one year later, and not only have I had the chance to showcase my artwork in numerous shows alongside Dustin’s, but I am still an avid fan and supporter of the work and monsters he brings to life. As a token of his appreciation he has given me the privilege of having a little sit-down with him to dish out some DIRT on this whole art thing.
SP: So where do you come from, sir?
I was born in the middle of the cornfields in Sturgis, Michigan… Nothing much happening in that town except a lot of good people living out their lives. No real culture going on. It is dead for art…Dead for music…Dead for anything… but like I said, real people. I do miss the land though… Flat and calm…There was peace there, and plenty of lakes to throw a fishing line into.
SP: What do you think growing up in the “cornfields” did for you as far as your artwork
I think the small town living has affected my art. My pieces seem to be a rejection of that “let’s play nice” kind of small town semi-Christian, semi-conservative way of looking at life. My work is often showing contortions of the human face through monsters…They seem to show the real emotions that are covered up in the small towns that I grew up in and lived around. And, as a kid I was quiet as fuck, now I try to make the loudest art possible…I think it’s an effort to balance the quiet life I led as a child. I was the good kid, and it got old.
SP: What affect has living in Nashville done to your artwork?
The best thing about Nashville is the community for art…Any direction I look I can find support for what I am doing. There are lots of little groups that help each other out like Cadillac Tramp Designs, Untitled, and the loose group of lowbrow artists that seem to be always hustling their work together, and competing with each other to push the limits of our craft. I can’t say how Nashville changed or created my work, but it has helped to keep me going.
I think what really created my artwork, and my pushed me to be an artist was the time I spent in the “Corporate World” helping design office furniture. That shit sucked. Period. The process of creating was slow, and management squashed creativity at every turn… which was disheartening, because I felt like the corporation I worked in was actually more open than most. But, like all corporations, money is behind every decision…This leads to decisions that don’t bet on big wins but go full out for the safe sales.
The job tore me apart emotionally…And I started searching for what was going to fulfil my need to create at a quicker pace. After quitting my job and moving to Nashville with Anne, Art began to find a way into my life more and more, until it has become an obsession and quite possibly my life’s work.
SP: When did you start creating your artwork?
I have been creating art since I was a child. I can still remember taping pieces of paper together so that I could work at a bigger scale… I would often have someone trace my outline on these taped together canvases to create a full-body self portrait… but then at some point I guess I believed the world when they said art doesn’t make money (I’m not convinced this isn’t true) and I started looking for a way to make money with art… that’s how I ended up in design.
Umm… I don’t know… I guess I don’t like this question because it almost devalues all work that anyone might have done before the point that they consider themselves professional. And I think that is a big problem in the States… nobody can be just okay at something anymore and do it for the feeling you get while doing it…It’s like everyone has to be great, and that is bullshit.
SP: Your monsters are a big part of your work…where does that come from?
As a child I really looked up to Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Von Dutch and the 60s monster painters that infiltrated the hot rod culture… and it definitely shows through in my work. Sometimes I hate this link, but then I realize that all work is in some way derivative of something else… To try to somewhat escape the problems of inspiration that doesn’t leave your psyche I have grown to really appreciate musicians because I have no chance of copying or making derivatives of their work… and even if the art is influenced by the music the gap is so great it won’t be seen as a copy.
I draw inspiration from everything in life, everywhere you find unbridled emotion I will be there soaking it up to put back into the world. I love great deep blues music, gravely traditional country, and rap that preaches its truth… it all seems to get the right kinds of things flowing through my mind, and enables me to make art that will make other people feel something when they see it.
SP: What do you think about the artwork that this generation has to offer?
I don’t know. It’s strange I don’t pay any attention to what is going on in the art world except for in my little corner of the world and maybe some of the street art that has been blowing up lately. But, I will tell you I think we are all feeling a little separated from the world, we are losing touch with the current moment, with the actual present moment. By that I don’t mean what is happening that day… but what is happening in the exact moment. For me, right now, that is the bad fluorescent lighting in my studio, the new Kanye album playing on my computer, the way my fingers feel touching the keys on my keyboard and the somewhat warm Dr. Pepper that is waiting behind my computer keyboard. I think the art of our time might be asking us to stop and think and to stop living on autopilot through our social media, cell phone, big screen TVs.
SP: So…what’s Dustin DIRTS’ agenda? What’s the end game for you?
I hope to change people’s perception of the world. Sometimes I do this in a backhanded way with my monsters… I want them to know that we are all a little fucked up when we are home and no one is around… we all feel like hell sometimes… and that’s alright. And sometimes I want people to see the world’s craziness, or I want to expose some hypocrisy and I try to do that through my textbook propaganda work.
I want art to continue to be real and uncensored… I hope that it always acts as small scale rebellion… as a way of changing the minds of the viewer…But like all things I can never hope to know how that will look, it will always be the work of its time… it could never be anything else. I can’t wait to see it.
SP: Does Mr. DIRT like long walks and/or talks on the beach?
Fuck no. Hah, I have never even seen the oceans. But I will tell you that in Michigan we have the great lakes… and they have beaches… and I hated them too. For me the equivalent of a long walk on the beach is a small little northern lake, a rowboat and a fishing pole… I spent so many hours as a kid fishing on these little calm lakes and they always give me a peace of mind. I think that is what nature does for everyone if they are willing to really see it.