Elbow Toe Interview
Elboe Toe at Electric Windows
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to label Elbow Toe as a bit of a workaholic. If he’s not physically working on his art, then it’s fair to say that he’s at least thinking about new ideas and techniques for future work. Although he grew up in Texas, Elbow Toe’s now justifiably recognised as part of the contemporary art scene in New York. We caught up with the artist to discuss a little about whether his surroundings have an effect on his work, the dark undertones to his art and news on future visits to the UK.
Read the interview
A recent visit to New York struck me that the Brooklyn district provides some interesting scenery. The Manhattan skyline being an obvious choice, but a quick walk around areas like Williamsburg and you are hit with a glut of eye catching graffiti. Do you gain much inspiration from your location and its surroundings?
I actually live south of the trendy area of Brooklyn (at least for street art). I am closer to an area know as Redhook and the Gowanus Canal. I find that the calibre of street work in this area is a little more interesting, as the neighbourhood itself has more character and it is a little more isolated. In terms of drawing inspiration from the location, I would not say that the location is the impetus for the pieces I make. The work is very personal in nature. I just keep an eye out for the appropriate settings.
You’re living amongst some creative fellow artists with Skewville, Judith Supine, Anthony Lister and quite a few others based around the Brooklyn district. Do you get much time to catch up with each other, either for social or work? Is there much collaboration of ideas?
Though I am quite fond of all of those artists as well as many others, due to pressures of upcoming shows I don’t really have much time to socialize. Thus I have decided to fully embrace the hermit lifestyle. In terms of collaboration, I am so compelled by what is pouring out of my mind these days, that there is really no desire to pursue any other ventures.
It sounds as though you’re always on the go, either working in your studio or considering new ideas. What do you do to unwind, to take a break from your artwork?
I try to get some time in exercising every day, and meditating. I also love reading. I am currently enjoying The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño. And finally I have been slowly cultivating a garden in the backyard.
Any local up and coming artists that have caught your eye recently?
There are a couple folks that I have been enjoying presently. One of them being the artist OverUnder, and the other being an artist called White Cocoa.
At first glance there has been a quite gentle feel to your recent art; Squirrels, Owls, Rabbits or images of characters who display intrigue but very little threat to them. However ‘Move It On Over’ featuring an unleashed, ferocious animal with bared fangs delivers a more powerful and overt image of menace.
Actually my work has had a quite dark undertone for quite sometime, think of the Oedipus and Cassandra woodcuts. Even in some of the children’s literature inspired pieces of last summer there were dark undertones. I can certainly understand how one might confuse the works of last summer as being rather serene because on the surface I suppose they were. They just required closer inspection and perhaps some research into what was driving the images. In the case of the Squrirrel Nutkin image, if you read the story he gets his tail bitten off after severely pissing off Old Brown, the owl. The Move It on Over piece is just more overt and in your face, because that particular image demanded that type of presentation. My next image I will be presenting is much more subtle, I promise.
You chose to exhibit with Black Rat Press in London during 2009. I remember chatting with you the day after the show and we discussed how quickly the paste ups had been removed. Granted, street art is supposed to be ephemeral, but how demoralising is the rapid removal of your work?
Actually it is not too demoralizing. I suppose there is a bit of regret in the work not lasting, but I got to experience the piece in its initial installed state, which is one of the great motivating factors for me. How long the work endures after I exit the scene is of little concern to me.
Any plans for a return to the UK in the near future?
Actually I will be out in Warrington in December for a solo exhibition at the Warrington Museum and then in March of 2011 I will be doing a solo exhibition with Black Rat Projects. I am really looking forward to getting back over and, if only briefly, leaving my mark.
Thank you, Elbow-Toe