Interview: Keith Dugas “The Season of Spring” at Flower Pepper Gallery

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Keith Dugas - Art Martyr“The Season of Spring” will be in full bloom at Flower Pepper Gallery when the Daniel Rolnik-curated show opens March 1st. Rolnik,”the world’s most adorable art critic” presents over 100 artists from around the world, after giving them only one guideline. We checked in with one of the artists in “春 [The Season of Spring]” Keith Dugas, aka KrossD, whose art we love and writings we enjoy both on his blog and here on CARTWHEEL, to learn more about the show. Plus we wanted to know more about him, he’s a pretty shy guy in real life. Bonus–he sent us previews of the art work!

Tell us a little about “春 [The Season of Spring]” and your work for it:

Well, the show was curated by Daniel Rolnik and it’s called “The Season of Spring.” Daniel, being Daniel, seems to know every artist on the planet, so there are well over 100 artists involved, including Anthony Ausgang, J.A.W. Cooper, Bob Dob, Ryan McIntosh, and Alex Schaefer. Those people I just mentioned are among my favorite living artists, so it’s a stone-cold honor for me to be hanging alongside them!

Daniel gave everybody two 8″x10” pieces of paper to do whatever they wanted with. Then those are being displayed in poly-bags (like they use for comic books), with whatever else the artists want to put in them; sketches, stickers, what have you. Ausgang told me he’s throwing in one of his novellas, for instance. Daniel wanted the purchasers to have this whole experience when they take the bag home and open these bags of treats. He’s kept the prices crazy affordable too.

I did a lino-block print of Van Gogh (who was born in Spring). It’s the second of my “Martyr” series. I’ve been doing a lot of block prints lately, and I try to make each print unique by adding an element of spray paint, watercolor, etc. The second piece is a watercolor/ink study for a wine label that will eventually go on a jug in a larger piece. The label features Persephone, the goddess of Spring. That mythology is kind of a long story, but I plan on painting her mother Demeter drinking from a jug with that label on it. I’m throwing signed slides of old work, a couple smaller block prints, past show cards, and buttons into the bags.

How old were you when “I want to be an artist” popped into your head?

I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember, but when I was five years old; my grandfather gave me a bunch of those old Walter Foster ‘How to Draw’ books. I tackled every drawing in those books, over and over again, until they fell apart. I’m still trying to unlearn some of the lessons in those damn things. My real ‘AHA!’ moment though, happened when I was about eight. My father took me to the Norton Simon, and I saw that bronze casting of “The Burghers of Calais” by Rodin. My dad was a technical artist for the aerospace industry, so he was always quick to point out the flaws. You know, ‘The hands are too large, the bones are too angular,’ but he told me the story too. How these six people were essentially marching to their deaths, nooses around their necks, holding the keys to the city. They were sacrificing themselves, to save the people of Calais. It didn’t matter to me that they were spared in the end. Rodin captured their grief, and their fear, in that single moment, more profoundly than any poetry ever could. It was a pretty heavy moment for me. I keep having those moments too. I went to New York eight years ago, and was brought to tears by an Agnes Martin painting.

And then what happened?

For better or worse, I became an auto-didact. Art became the catalyst for a rash of bad decisions. In high school I started ditching classes to go to the El Segundo Public Library. There I poured over the works of Caravaggio, William Merritt Chase, John Singer Sargent, Goya, on and on. The librarians became my enablers. They never once said, ‘Shouldn’t you be in school?’ In my senior year, I got a job making art displays for Tower Records (dream job), so I dropped out. I got my G.E.D. later, not that that ever opened a door for anybody. Some guy came into Tower Records one day and bought my Tina Turner display for a hundred bucks. As far as I was concerned, I was off to the races. I toiled in the coffeehouses, art walks, and flea markets for the next fifteen years, just showing my work anywhere I could. Toward the end of the nineties, I started getting into galleries. That was a rude awakening. I was naïve, and the art world can be pretty treacherous. I’ve had work stolen, had work banned from shows because people were offended, rejection becomes a fact of life. You have to develop a thick skin. I started writing about art four years ago, and my world became a lot more expansive. Through the writing, I’ve been able to meet some truly inspirational artists like Hudson Marquez, Matjames Metson, and Leigh Salgado, just to name a few. I’d be making art no matter what, I can’t help myself, but you need to meet people like that, to keep raising the bar for you. I don’t ever want to be too content with my work.

Music is a big part of your work. Do you have specific playlists for the subjects you paint?

Yeah, there’s no denying the influence of music on my work. Most of the titles are directly lifted from songs. I do make specific playlists to listen to while I work, or just specific albums. While I was working on “Persephone”, I listened to Nick Cave’s “Tender Prey” a lot. His songs are utterly dripping with Greek tragedy. For Van Gogh, there was a lot of Nick Drake. Neither of those guys could find an audience when they were alive. I did a block print of Thomas Edison that was inspired by Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus. Patrick was electrocuted on stage and wrote a song called “(I Am The) Electric Man” while he was recovering in the hospital. I listened to a lot of old school punk while I carved that block. Punk rock saved my life.

On Saturday night, you can seee Keith’s Van Gogh from the “Martyrs” series, his Persphone, and work from artists like Anthony Ausgang, Dev N Gosha, J.A.W. Cooper, Leah C. Dixon, Max Neutra, Septerhed, XVALA and so many more in person. (You can view the complete list  here). The artist reception is March 1 from 6pm to 10pm, and the show runs through April 4th.

Flower Pepper Gallery
121 E. Union St
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 795-1895
Open Tuesday through Saturday, 11am to 7:30pm, and Sunday 11am to 6pm

Top: Keith Dugas, Art Martyr

Keith Dugas - Electric ManKeith Dugas, Electric Man

Keith-Dugas-4At “Season of Spring” there’s a surprise in every bag

PersephoneKeith Dugas, Persephone

Max Neutra 2Max Neutra


Graham-Curran_MessyBabGraham Curran

HuseyinSami2Huseyin Sami

  JAW_Cooper_Blossom_web (2)

J.A.W. Cooper

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