Human Cannonball is whimsical, complex and endearingly hokey. Printmaker and street artist, “Clown Soldier” crosses traditional boundaries of formal and street community art, pushing forward the notion of what is “accepted” or coined “good art” and how those standards are set and practiced by artists, curators, art historians, enthusiasts, collectors, and all the other art players.
During the interview, Clown Soldier mentions that a large inspiration for the work created comes from the ideology and execution of autonomous art practice–not from intentionally following standard styles or trends. Referencing two major art historical movements, Dada and Surrealism, it is an interesting way to draw inspiration from standard busting artists that have been “canonized” in our art tradition to create a fusion all his own.
Working and living in New York, this is the first time this artist has shown a body of work in Chicago.
Nicolette Caldwell: Where are you from?
Clown Soldier: Originally? Or in my previous life? I really don’t know.
NC: How did you get involved with making art for the street? Did you ever receive formal training from an art program?
CS: I was sharing a studio with other street artist’s such as Imminent Disaster and Gaia who showed me the ropes as far as getting up. I studied Fine Arts at a State University in New York concentrating in Painting in Printmaking.
NC: Do you participate in shows like this often or is this one of the first times you have shown your work inside four walls?
CS: I’ve been showing in group shows with other street artists such as Living Walls, Vandablog and M.A.N.Y. Up Close and Personal, Leo Kesting Gallery “Dead Letter Playground” Street Degrees of Separation Abztract and Crewest Gallery. Seems like a lot is happening and things are moving very fast. In August I’m showing with Brooklyn Street Art “Street Art Saved My Life 39 Stories” in LA with ThinkSpace and Cave Gallery. In September is Living Walls Albany.
NC: What has the experience been like so far; creating unique work for the show and the installation process?
CS: It was a lot of work and organizing and people have been really supportive. I’d like to Thank Fugg Screens, Zissou Tasseff-Elenkoff and Billy Craven for letting me use printing facilities and helping to run editions. Nick and Seth have been super supportive and got behind me on everything. They have had a very hands off do whatever you like but at the same time Nick is sensitive enough to listen and take in adjust things and chime in when he feels he can see the best solution for the space. Seth has a good understanding and has had some brilliant suggestions.
NC: What were your thoughts when Nick and Seth approached you about doing a show at Pawn Works?
CS: I was super excited. I had just gotten work up on Ludlow and Delancey and it was a dreary January morning when it seemed like nothing was happening. I got an email saying they were scheduling this year’s events and wanted to know if I would be interested in doing a show. I thought wow I guess people do care about what I’m doing.
NC: What are your expectations for the show?
CS: Great! Love Chicago! People are cool and it is very chill. At the opening last night I was overjoyed by how many people seemed genuinely enthused about the show.
NC: How do you think your work will impact the Chicago street art community? Or not impact?
CS: I have really grown to like some of the work here. At first I didn’t really get it…it’s different then the work in New York. It has a more personal touch like you could know some of the artists first hand. The work doesn’t seem jaded. I’m hoping that there can be some kind of exchange between Chicago Street Artists and New York Street Artists.
NC: What has influenced your work?
CS: People. People doing artwork. People upping the game. Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Cornell, Hannah Hoch, The Bauhaus, Paul Klee, How and Noism, Futura, Banksy, Swoon, Gaia, Aakash Nahalini, Neo Rauch, Hunter Thompson, William Burroughs, Clowns, The Circus, NYC
NC: How long have you been a maker of art?
CS: All my life.
NC: What do you think about the programming that Pawn Works is providing to artists?
CS: Pawn Works is on top of their game. I’m impressed and feel honored to work with them. The line up of Gaia, Spector and following me will be Skewville is an impressive roster and I’m psyched to be part of it.
NC: I know it is early and the opening is tomorrow but what has your experience been like so far?
CS: Chicago is real chill. I’ve been working nonstop and Thanks to my friend Billy Craven I’ve been able to manage not to wind up in some bad corner alley.
NC: How did the style-aesthetics of your work develop?
CS: I started out as a fine artist and have been working within this same aesthetic for quite some time now.
NC: Could you explain the theme for this show?
CS: The Human Cannon Ball is Clown Soldier’s take on Street art bombing-hurling himself at walls from New York to Chicago.
NC: Your name, Clown Soldier—could you tell me a little about how that developed?
CS: It just came from the imagery I had created in this collage with a clown head and a 18th century French soldier…I needed a name to go with the work I was putting up so it worked. Some of my friends wanted me to go with Schmoe instead but I insisted on staying with what I started with.
NC: Is there anything that jumps out at you when you think about Chicago street art?
CS: Chicago Urban Art Society (CUAS) are very involved in supporting local artists. NICE ONE, Don’t Fret, The Grocer, and Goons all have a refreshing unique style, and I look forward to seeing more.