Photographer, artist, ritualist
What was meant to be a quick visit, turned into a lovely hangout. We sipped mate and mezcal, played records, and chatted about art, travelling and former lovers of ours. Then Tony burnt palo santo incense and gave me a stick and poke tattoo... All totally unexpected!
These are traditional hand-made bowls from a woman in Oaxaca, Mexico. When I was transporting them back, one of them broke, but I did not want to get rid of it. I like including it in the set, because it really lets you appreciate the idea of form and function. To me when you are drinking out of the bowl, and you see the broken one, you appreciate the form of the bowl even more, and at the same time the beauty of the broken bowl itself. It takes on a new form. It is something else, but it still resonates. You have a dialogue between both forms. There is a Japanese concept called 'wabi-sabi'… that draws attention to the defects of a form. I am fascinated with the idea of embracing defects. Rather than discarding something because it is broken and defected, to keep it and appreciate it for what it still says to you. Embrace the destruction.
That is an old Peavey amp that my sister’s boyfriend gave to me when I was fourteen. At that time I was learning how to play a guitar, and I think I could play a Bush song, and a Blink-182 songs. So I plugged in my crappy electrical guitar and I played on that amp for a really long time. And it never died. The style is so classic, it is so simple, and I can’t get rid of it, it doesn’t break. Now I just play records out of it.
Greg Griffin is a super amazing shaper. I didn’t start surfing till I moved to NY, because I am from Colorado, but I knew I would love it. It totally changes your life; it is one of the most meditative practices I've found. What other sport do you just sit, and watch, and wait? You are just out there watching the waves, and then you let one take you in, and then you go back out and do it again. It clears my head. But I bought this short board before I even tried, which is a terrible idea, and I got wrecked. But I kept with it. I was dedicated! I practically drowned a dozen times; and now I can ride that board and I feel fucking great about it.
The red one is a cheap board that my friend got rid of, because the fin sliced his leg. The fin box got torn out, so I glassed over it, and turned it into a single fin. But it is ridiculously hard to drive! I keep it because it is always nice to have a board for a buddy.
I tasted my first mezcal when I was probably sixteen and I didn’t know it. I was in Mexico and there was a little bar in a small town in the north. I remember the bartender was a small chubby man with little deformend hands, it was like something from a David Lynch film. He was just cleaning glasses, and pouring drinks from an unmarked bottle. He poured me what I thought was tequila. I drank it and it was like fire water! He could tell that I was surprised and I asked him about the drink. He told me it was mezcal. It wasn't until maybe ten years later that I found it again, while shooting a documentary on witchcraft in Mexico. And then I just fell in love. I went down to Oaxaca and I got lost in the desert for a month with a lover of mine. We found some rancheros who were making the most sincere, authentic alcohol you will ever come across. They were making about 30 – 60 liters only, and selling it only to their neighbours and cousins. The more we tasted it, the more we loved it. I met this family, that to this day makes the best mezcal I have ever tasted, and I think we bought about 100 liters from them on the spot. Then tried to figure out how smuggle it back to the US, and it took us about six months to finally do it. And from there Madre was born, and now we are moving forward with a brand.
Whenever I go back to Mexico I come back with so many bottles from these destileros, and I would have friends coming over for tasting which grew into these big events. I realized I was pouring off all these wonderful mezcals, so I started bottling a small amount of every mezcal into these little apothecary containers, and labeling it. I have an ongoing library for very mezcal that I have found.
Stick and Poke
The pouch came about due to my fascination with rituals, especially with scarification and tattooing across the world. Every culture has this art form, and it is always very ritualistic. I think in our society, we have moved away from it, and it has become more about aesthetic, fashion or trend. My friends and I were giving ourselves stick and poke tattoos, but based very ritualistically on certain parts of the body, for certain reasons, giving a lot of attention to what you are giving to your friend and what you are receiving. We wanted to put together a kit that highlighted these ritualistic aspects and put power into the hands of everyone rather than a certified tattooed artist. Therefore we made these kits that were really accessible. We have done a few rounds of them, usually in collaboration with a store or an artist.
These dots are half a constellation. An ex lover of mine has the other half on her fingers as well. When we were together it created a full constellation. I gave her hers and she gave me mine.
I have another tattoo on each arm, corresponding with masculine and feminine side of the body, and in correspondence with water and land. And this amazing artist Gemma gave me a tattoo on my leg, which was a part of a ceremony during a time when I was not really grounded. She did some Reiki on me, and inside the ink we put Palo Santo ash. Ha! Story of my life: hippie not hippie.
There is an incredible shop in San Francisco called the Sword and Rose. A brilliant man runs it; a total magic healer. And he has been making these oils since the 60s. They smell incredible and have really high energies and frequencies. The sweet grass oil has been my scent for so long, I love that stuff.
The incense is from the same shop. He makes it by hand and it corresponds to planetary cycles and he can make different incense for different times of your life. They are super easy to burn. I burn them every morning for my meditation and sometimes I burn one for a creative push.
My buddy Kyle makes those by hand in Brooklyn. His company is called d’emploi. He made me that bag before I left for a long journey to South America. It is perfectly designed and meant to last forever. I love that I bought something new that will be with me for long time, being able to watch it change. And I think honoring craftsmanship like that is very important, especially in this times of rapid disposal. To have something that is beautiful and is going to last you a lifetime.
Those are Mexican masks. They are all hand-made and hand-painted. They are all from one old lady in Oaxaca. I don’t know her name, I think she remembers me, but she never gets any nicer to me. They are so weird, they look odd and bit frightening, I love that. I really enjoy this complete imperfection and knowing that somebody brushed that paint onto them. It is beautiful. I think the idea of masks in general is very interesting. Every society has some sort of a mask-culture embedded in their history. We relate to each other primarily through our facial features and when you take that away we become very confused. We don’t understand each other in the same way, so we have to pull from other cues, from other forms of communication. In a lot of my work I like to obscure the face for that same reason. To solve this puzzle of communication with the really easy access, without the easy answer. Masks are great, you change your identity and then communicate from that other-self...
I think working with your hands is very rewarding. I was a gardener for a very long time and loved working with my hands. Being so directly tied to your work is incredible. But it is the same with creating art. Whether it is building a bed or whether it is creating an installation for people to interpret; you are using your hands as the translator between an idea and an emotion, into a form.
If my house was on fire and I had to grab one thing, it would be the guitar. It has been with me for so long. She is my oldest lover. She is always there, always distracting me from work. It is comforting, it creates, it is a kind of meditation. It is not a good guitar: it is half broken and I found it in a basement of an apartment and nobody knew where it came from, so I just held onto it. I play it everyday. I only play Sabbath Covers, 100%! [laugh]...Just kidding. I don’t know any Sabbath songs. Sometimes I just play, just surfing through the sounds…. Sometimes I write songs…
When I was young I used to play in hard core bands, and it evolved into folky music. I guess those songs are like me. They are kind of folky and ironic. I think the idea of folk is quiet charming. There is something about it, drawing from the past, but using it to express yourself in a contemporary context. We swing back and forth in society between what you might call a pixelated idea of the world and a vector idea. Pixeled ideas are things that can be blurry and if they are blown up too much become restorative. Vector ideas are formulaic and are always going to look the same. And we swing between these two. Art is the same and the same with music. There is something about this pixelated form, this blurriness…it has soul.
It came from New Mexico, which is one of the most magical states in the USA. There is a certain energy that exists in New Mexico. I was traveling through that state with a very beautiful, magical woman at that time. I feel like lovers are huge parts of your lives, and people often do not realize this. So much of what we learn is from lovers and so much that we give is to lovers. I really enjoy hearing people’s stories about their lovers and when you read about it… you realize love is the ultimate for us. That’s what drives everything. So yeah, let’s acknowledge that. Anyways… we were travelling through New Mexico and I found this jacket, and it is a very typical New Mexican style. They are made from New Mexican blankets; it is a company that existed in the 90s. It is a woman’s jacket and I love the color and what it puts out. People who are drawn to it are always incredible.
This is a pin representing the International Banana Society. It was given to me from my friend Tuyet, who is also a member. It is a secret society, that's all I can say.
Grapefruit by Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit is one of the most influential books in my life, and I think for any creative it is a brilliant companion to have. It is a little instruction book. Her work is conceptually on point and so inspiring. I think she is one of the great artists of our time. I always have that book with me.
One of the first photos I took, before I started taking pictures to document my work. It was a polaroid that was shot in the mountains of Colorado with my friend Jessica. One of the coldest moments I remember. We took one photo and ran. By the time we got to the car, both of our hands were frost bitten. So I keep the photo to remember the commitment needed to produce art.
Find out more about Tony
Photos by Andrea & Tony