On November 9, 2018, Skidmore students Bailey Mikytuck ’20 and Emery Spina ’20 interviewed artist Geoffrey Chadsey as part of the course “The Artist Interview,” led by Dayton Director Ian Berry.
Emery Spina ’20
What was the process to make Global Dandyism?
It’s a slowly built-up composite of different source materials that I was working with. One was a photograph I had been carrying around with me for probably fifteen years of a basketball player standing in his living room. He’s in his boxers with his hands on his hips in a Mark Spitz pose. I knew I wanted to do something with that pose. And I had a Chuck Close photograph of Kate Moss, and I was recognizing this repeated gesture. I think I was trying to make up my mind between them, and I just put them all in there. I honestly can’t remember. I think those are Grace Jones’s lips. Then I started inserting myself. I cannot remember where the face came from. Those are my eyes. I think those are my hands. My hands are almost always in the work inevitably. The bottom ones are Kate Moss’s hands.
A lot of my portraits are in various stages of undress. There was something about clothing decisions that I was fascinated with. And I was joking with myself about how you get implicated by what you look at or what your source material is. I’m constantly looking at clothing. I decided to start bringing that into the work to question how clothing choices project an identity or class or sexual aspiration or perform masculinity and so on.
There’s fashion in my work, popular culture, and rock and roll or hip-hop fashion where you have a lot of permission to be performative. So putting on lipstick, putting on a crazy hat, whatever. That space is fun for me to fantasize within. And Grace Jones is the ultimate source text. I just think she’s incredible.
The phrase “global dandyism” is from an academic conference that I came across online that was specifically looking at black dandyism. It was about a culture of dress in black culture that was happening in France.
Bailey Mikytuck ’20
Are there multiple figures depicted in this work?
Yes, three, I think. I was drawing, and I kept changing my mind on the figure. I decided to keep the change of mind within the figure, so that it ended up being multi-armed. I like that idea of a shiftiness of this character who can’t quite seem to figure out what pose they want for their final portrait.
Is it supposed to be read as one being?
Yes. We can go into multiplicity of identities or the idea of a person aspiring to be another person, and there’s a degree of appropriation that’s happening in the image. It’s this mixing and matching of identities that I think we all carry in ourselves. As I’m drawing, I build up, and then afterward, I make guesses as to what it’s about.
Can you speak about the appropriation aspect of your work?
All my drawings are appropriations because everything comes from a massive archive of images that I steal off the Internet. There’s no real people standing in my studio.
I didn’t want to just stick to white bodies. So as I was drawing this, somehow this African American face came in. And it was only later that I thought, “Oh, is this a blackface rendering?” There’s something about being a white artist. The second you draw a black face it’s like, am I making a commentary on blackness or is this just me trying to bring other faces into this drawing? I don’t want to just be drawing white bodies. For a while, I was drawing green bodies, a goofy way to get around it. It’s an irreconcilable question right now that’s clearly driving me to make more work. I keep waiting for someone to be pissed off, and then I could figure out how I’m going to respond because I can figure out how they’re reading it. That hasn’t happened yet.
How many different reference photos go into one piece?
Global Dandyism is about eight. There are probably five to eight photos that I’m working from per image.
And you find these all over the Internet?
Yeah, Google image search is the best thing ever. I’m an enormous thief on the Internet. But the operative word isn’t “Google”; it’s “search.” It’s like looking at a blank piece of paper. A bunch of artists do collaborative drawing parties, and part of that is realizing that you have this archive in your head. If you start making marks on a piece of paper, you start recognizing images, and then you sit there trying to bring them out, and it’s not so much about rendering something that you’re looking at; it’s just coming out of your head. In some ways, what I do is the same thing. It’s just that my imagination is now taking place on a computer screen. I’m waiting to see what comes up.
Sometimes I’m active about going out to find something very specific as I’m making a drawing. I’ve had two drawings where I thought, this clearly needs a fanny pack. I couldn’t tell you why. I was doing all these searches, and I could not find the right fanny pack. I went on Amazon and bought four different fanny packs. And then I sat in my studio with the fanny packs with my hands jammed in them, photographing myself trying to get that image in my head. Sometimes there are those moments where I’ll get an image stuck in my head and if I can’t find it, then I’ll make it.