“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.”
Welcome to the Enigma Life Artist Profile series. Here, we will discuss process and inspiration with creatives at any and all stages of their career. We aim to show that there is no right or wrong way, no linear track in creating. First up is artist Billy Blumberg. His piece, Life After, is the featured photo of this article.
What are some of the influences on your work? My work is influenced by my life: often pain, often angst and fear of rejection, often emotions I don't feel like holding onto any longer. Sometimes a beautiful girl will influence me to write a poem. They usually like those... then get creeped out when they realize I actually meant what was in them... that I fell in love with some 'thing' I didn't even know yet. I read a lot when I was a child and I guess it helped with my vocabulary and word choice. I try to take aspects of my day-to-day life and incorporate them into what I am working on next. I take photos of interesting textures, walls, doodles, close-ups of random things... and combine them into a collage of effects. I take a snippet from a text conversation I just had and expand on it until it is stream-of-consciousness prose. I allow the ideas to flow. I use what is around me... that way... it is all there for a reason.
What drove you to what you do now? The drive to produce art came from within. I heard music in my head as a child walking home from school. Layers upon layers of music would unfold. Music is the medium I am currently rediscovering in an attempt to finally let my inner-self out with gusto. To project your voice, to really try... in front of others is terrifying... even singing to yourself in the shower can be. I have finally worked up the nerve to play guitar in front of a few friends... and it's nice. I am driven by discovery. I like to find new ways of blending effects, new processes, new paths towards undisclosed ends, new methods of altering things entirely or barely. What I hate is the amount of options this presents. What I love is that I always reach a destination - a piece. In the end, as is true with all art, the thrust of it is expression. I am an emotional person. I have found that writing out my emotions is a rant... but to a beat it becomes a song. All of my work is reactionary, whether it starts with a theme or not. I allow the piece to speak for itself in that way. I allow the smallest frills of the day or thoughts percolating in my mind to influence the outcome. I am always pushing myself to find new forms of expression.
What is most important for you to express within your art? The most important aspect of my art is its honesty. The world is BRUTALLY dishonest. I am now 27 and it still boggles my mind on a daily basis how full of sh*t everyone is here. Cover letters. "Did you try resetting it?" from Time Warner. "Actually my blatant friend is my girlfriend." I think I have reached the point where I would rather have a romantic interest tell me, "When I look at your face I don't see my future husband." Holy SHIT that would be refreshing. The alleged leader of the free world lies unabashedly and it comes off sincere to millions of people - because all the other lies are so rehearsed. It seems like sophisticated lies are lies, blatant lies are the truth and reality barely exists anymore. My art is a place to speak the truth. To admit defeat. We are moderately civilized apes pretending to be of immense value as long as we can. We are all afraid. We are all insecure. We are all horny for more. All men want a harem. All women want a man all women want. A part of us envies the family dog - free to hump couch legs as he pleases. Because ignorance is bliss. But the truth is the ONLY thing that will set us free. Even if it is terrifying. Like your foreign voice off the shower walls. Some of the above uses the word all when we all know I didn't mean all. As if I forgot gay people or asexual people or empowered women exist. This is part of what I am talking about. And this is art. And this is honest - because it is my art.
What are you working on currently? Currently I am working on finding a pertinent job. My art has yet to earn me a penny, not that I have tried very hard at making one - back to my fear of failure. It seems I would rather share my two cents than collect another.
What's the biggest risk you've taken as an artist? The biggest risk I have taken is classifying myself as an artist at all. It makes people take my endeavors seriously. It puts me up against the best in the world rather than self proclaimed hobbyists and amateurs. But it fills me with pride. I finally have a body of work that I can call my own even if I hate vast swathes of it. There are entire pieces I love! And there is always at least a line. Though it's scary - I'm glad I dropped the word aspiring.
What is your dream project? Ideally I would like to be an artistic director with lots of clout - enough to try out big, daring, abstract, abrasive, random, silly, and hopefully original ideas. I have always fancied myself a big thinker. Oftentimes I find my ideas surpass my ability. Some of them don't and my abilities are always growing... but some of them do. I now have a gigantic list of ideas and continually more on the way. My dream is to have the means to accomplish them. It will take immense collaboration, of teams of dedicated formerly autonomous individuals, with outside expertise, faith, money, time and probably my 'making it' in at least one regard. But if I ever do - I will share my ideas with whomever is capable of realizing them. And hopefully the world.
Have you had any exhibitions/showings? I have not had any showings. I have had a handful of opportunities that I blew up by hesitating. I haven't even printed my pieces yet. I keep saying one day - with more on the horizon. But I genuinely feel that day is near. I have grown a lot lately - especially my self worth. I chose to 'see' if I was an artist. Anyone who fancies themselves artsy should 'see' for themselves. The answer will be yes - even if it's not a profession or the same end result imagined and realized by classically trained painters and virtuosos. Anyone with something to say is an artist.
What do you consider your greatest success so far? My favorite piece is 'Life After.' I honestly don't remember how it began. Probably some smorgasbord of photos I took throughout the days leading up to it. At some point an effect I used created a spiral and sort of comically drawn profile - a thin chinned boy missing his one visible eyebrow - but he was there. It was completely random - and yet - it was far enough along that I saw what it was now meant to be. I proceeded to spend at least a hundred hours polishing it until it was the piece it is now. It is a representation of my father's afterlife. For all I know he has an eternal soul that entered an orphaned Bangladeshi girl - now eight... or a gated community in the sky. He could have been shot back a decade - now a star athlete off to college. He could be living it up as Cleopatra. He could also be a cold eroding skeleton in the ground. One thing I know for sure is that I am here - and he brought me here. That every action I do, including this piece, is a result of his time on this earth. That if I have a son - and he lives on as I would hope - my life will have a bit of an 'after' too. Actually, one that grows and grows with all of humanity. I finished the piece, despite its importance and my resulting perfectionism. I wrote an accompanying poem. I stretched it out a bit and framed it as the face of my business cards - for a few cents each. Some people excitedly ask if I made it when I hand them my card. Some people don't even remotely understand the point - or see an 'alien' or an 'eye.' But what I love is that it's here. It means something to me... and apart from some Russian hack, nuclear holocaust, Google and Apple and Instagram power shortages and hundreds of isolated fires happening at the same time... it can't be taken from me like my father.
If you had to choose a great artist to work with, dead or alive, who would it be? Firstly you gotta go dead - or what a waste of magic hypothetical right? There goes Marcia Lucas who tells it like it is and cuts your worst ideas (of which I have many). There goes Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, Matt Bellamy of Muse, Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Christoph Niemann the abstract genius, Scorsese, Nolan. Perhaps Leonoard Cohen could tell us of Hallelujah with death still fresh in his bones. Picasso could give me a lecture on form. I imagine Mozart would push me to the side as a stroke of genius took over - rendering me utterly useless. Asimov and I could come up with one hell of a short story - as our minds wandered to the edge of the universe and back. Perhaps Poe would cheer me up by comparing our woes like some Jerry Springer episode. Van Gogh and I could discuss the nature of art versus success - plus I just love his style! John Williams or Hans Zimmer could really help me score. Jim Carrey and Ed Norton have the range to pull off my most frivolous characters. George Carlin and I could ramble endlessly about corruption and the opiated masses. George Martin (oh yah he's still alive...) on the other hand could take my idea for a snippet of a scene and run with it until you'd taste the cracked pepper on the split pea soup in the diner across the street from the characters in question. As could David Foster Wallace. Pierce Anthony could dream up a whole world for me to play with... Nietzsche could boil that whole world down into a sentence. Then Roger Waters could take that line - shift a couple words around - and make it haunt you. However, despite all these wonderful, accomplished, famed, brilliant artists. The person who I would want to work with most... is the person with the most to say, dead or alive. Someone out there in history saw it all... they were too busy falling in love after their shipwreck to craft a jingly chorus. They never learned to paint like the masters. And I would like to give them a voice - to sit back and listen. To the song of the long gone, the unheard and those expressly taken by madness, blindness, fear and death.