Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Interview with Artist and Performer Kyle Sturner

© 2011 Kyle Sturner
Actor, writer, painter, musician, comedian, and photographer Kyle Sturner is one of today’s most talented up-and-coming artists. Born in North Carolina and spending much of his life in and around Chicago, Kyle recently relocated to Seattle where he wasted no time in immersing himself into the local art scene. I caught up with Kyle recently to discuss his background, his work, what inspires him, what pisses him off, and what we might expect from him in the future.

Kyle, what is your background? Give us a little personal history.

A woman, Nancy and a man, Gary decided to make love again. I won the race and was birthed into an old fashioned working-Daddy and stay-home-Mommy kind of family in North Carolina. Along our family journey things got less and less old fashioned. We moved to a small corn town, Sycamore, in northern Illinois a few hours outside of Chicago. My parents stopped making love completely, or at least with each other and separated. Eventually I lived with my mother and her streak of burger-gulper-husbands and my two brothers lived with our father for the remainder of my stay. I did fairly well in school as far as grades go, but all I could think about was how I needed to get out of there and fast. I took a part-time job when I was young to start saving for my get away, and when I realized that I hadn’t saved enough upon graduating high school I took a second job in my first year of college. After a single year of community college I realized there were no excuses left. I wasn’t happy and I needed to start living the way I wanted. I moved to Chicago to attend Columbia College for a degree in Photography. Moving to the city sent me on a spiral of realizations that I was living in a tightly concealed box for a long time. As I let go of anxiety and self-consciousness from my past I began to see waves of inspiration headed in my direction. Apparently those waves were fast, unpredictable and eventually headed for Seattle where new waves awaited.

"A Head Full" © 2011 Kyle Sturner
How long have you been involved in the arts? What drew you to the arts?

Whenever someone asks me this I always think back to the 5th grade. I was the new weird kid in school and did not have any friends, but I was the first student to win the Artist of the Week award. I felt like a star, for at least ten minutes. The actual artistry started much earlier I’m sure, but that was when the ego jumped on board.

Who or what influences you most and why?

If I need some serious inspiration I tend to go for a walk or a hike in an area with a good amount of trees, or even just doing an impromptu dance in the middle of the room can help. It’s good to get the mind and the body on some sort of agreeing playing field before going at it. If I want to do something funny then all I have to do is read some headlines, some classifieds and listen to a few current top 10 pop songs, good to go. Politics and Pop Culture in our country has become so ridiculous that it’s hard not to mock.

You’re engaged in several different forms of artistic expression: acting, writing, drawing, painting, music, photography. Why is that? What form do you most enjoy?

One thing always leads to another, basically that seems to be how it has all happened. I started off painting which inspired me to take photographs as references for my pieces. I realized that the actual process of taking a photograph was another art form all on its own, and I was very intrigued. While studying photography in college I felt motivated to do several character-study projects, using myself as a model in many of them. Along this path I remembered how much I enjoy acting, something I always loved as a child but had not gotten back into for silly self-conscious reasons. The acting guided me toward the comedy which guided me to the music and back to the painting. Full circle. Art is clearly interconnected. I love each art form for what they are, and my favorite changes quite frequently.

You’re currently involved in live comedic/musical productions with your friend Sara Powers, called A Good Shit in the Morning. Tell us a little more about that.

This is something that started off as a bit of a joke really. I wrote a British rap based on a documentary the two of us had watched together. Before I knew it, it was a full on song we were doing at parties for our friends. While we were still in Columbia College we both enrolled in the same Biology of Human Reproduction class. The final was a creative project based on what we had learned throughout the semester. So, naturally, we put on our first A Good Shit in the Morning performance. Yes, in the class room in front of the teacher. Yes, there was a song about testicles. It went over well so we continued to write music and skits and eventually we drunkenly talked our way into getting a slot in the popular variety show, "Entertaining Julia" put on by the very entertaining Puterbaugh Sisters and Beth Stelling. We are currently getting our foot back in the door here in Seattle while we record a few songs for an EP and music video release in the near future.

"A Theophany" © 2011 Kyle Sturner
You currently live in Seattle, Washington. What’s the art scene like there? How has it influenced you?

I haven’t been here for too long but I have definitely noticed some big differences in the two cities. Chicago has a certain unmistakable aggressive energy to it, and it’s perfect for releasing into the comedy scene and performance arts, which is very popular there. In Seattle things are much more laid back (silly stoners), so there is a great deal of 2-D art and all kinds of great music. Maybe it’s all the clouds, but I have felt inspired more with painting and playing the guitar since moving here.

You must collaborate with some pretty interesting people. Feel free to talk a little bit about them.

Last year I did the improvisation program at Second City in Chicago and got to work with an amazing ensemble. It was such a diverse group of people, and we were all forced to open up with one another and become vulnerable. It sounds scary but once you get there mentally it becomes so much fun. While finishing up in Chicago I was lucky enough to tag along with the sketch-comedy troupe, Brown Line to the Loop, on their first full improvisational courtroom mock-drama called Justice of the Peace. These individuals were absolutely hilarious to perform with and surprisingly professional behind the scenes so it made for a very enjoyable experience that I would love to do again if we are ever reunited. Then of course there is my wonderful A Good Shit in the Morning partner, Sara Powers. She’s a very goofy and high spirited character who happens to have an amazing singing voice and great stage presence, and it’s all packed tight in a 5’1” frame, so cute. Since moving to Seattle I have gotten to collaborate with dancer/actor, Amanda Oie on a dance video that I did some voice-over work on as well as a photography project that is still in the works. You won’t find me on a dance stage with her any time soon, but look out for some exciting projects in the future with our names on it.

What goes through your mind when you’re in the creative process or performing?

Performing is sort of strange for me in the sense that, before going on stage I am typically a little nervous. The adrenalin is pumping, and sometimes I want to run off and barf. But then I get out there and I seem to somehow separate from myself in a way. It’s hard to explain. I’m there, but I’m also watching myself to make sure I don’t act a fool. Then after it is over I feel like I’ve just had an amazing multi-orgasmic experience. I give myself a lot of credit because in high school I couldn’t even talk in front of a classroom without shaking and turning bright red. With creating, it is a completely different experience. I try and make sure that I have a good amount of time to myself, because it becomes very personal and I probably would look insane to an outsider. Typically I am either feeling very relaxed and peaceful while I am painting or I am having an intense inner monologue, and that’s how I decide which piece is right to work on at the time. Painting is more like a gentle massage than the full-on orgasm, but rewarding nonetheless.

Do you have a favorite performance or piece of artwork (created by you)?

Whatever I am working on at the time quickly becomes my new favorite. I easily discard pieces mentally after I’m finished with them, too eager to start something else and see what is next.

Are you a romantic?

I’ve never thought of myself as a romantic, but have been told that I am on occasion. I have always made sure I have that one person in my life that I can share everything with. Even when I was a teenager I had no interest in having a bunch of friends and being popular. I just need that one special individual I can dig deep with. Then I am good and happy.

"Snake Eyes" © 2011 Kyle Sturner
What pisses you off?

Capitalism. Factory Farms. Chicago Police Department. Sycamore Shool District. Whaling. Sarah Palin. When people whip out their mePhones while you’re attempting to have a real live conversation. Working in the food industry. Money. Allergies. Fur Coats. Student Loans. Banks. Mainstream Pop. Hot Dogs. Prison System. The list could go on, I am quite sensitive.

What are your plans for the future? What are your long-term professional goals?

If I’ve learned anything in the past four years it is that you can really only plan so much for yourself. Things happen, things don’t happen, people leave, people show up and everything you thought was right is suddenly up in the air for questioning. I plan on trusting myself enough to stop the inner censor when I am creating. My main focus right now is painting and getting that out there for everyone to see, but I am most happy when I’m also doing some kind of performing as well. A Good Shit in the Morning seems to be gathering real live fans, so I want to kick that into full gear and let it take off before anyone forgets about us.

If you were not an artist/performer, what might you be doing?

A gardener…or maybe a park ranger. A traveling gypsy quite possibly. My father has always, always told me I should have a back-up plan to art. When authority figures tell me to do one thing, I always want to do the opposite and that feeling seems to be growing with age. I always thought it was suppose to be the other way around. I have tried to do a few other things but the interest is always forced and the universe directs me back to the artistic process anyway.

Coffee or tea?

I want to say tea so badly, but it’s coffee. Get’s the body moving, inside and out.

Cubs or White Sox?

Because I lived in Wrigleyville for over a year I have got to say the White Sox. In actuality I could not care less about baseball, but masses of Cubs fans are not the most pleasant bunch to be face humping on jam-packed Chicago transit, they reek of cheep beer and cigars.

Does music play a role in who you are as a creative person?

Most defiantly, music is the universal language after all. My next scary goal is to write some non-comedic songs of my own and see where that takes me. I’ve become so obsessed with my little acoustic guitar in the past year or so that it only feels natural to add it to my artistic endeavors. I don’t look to the music for the inspiration directly, but music is like a good friend there for comfort and support along the way. I tend to obsess over just a few albums or artists at a time, and maybe it is to get that familiar comfort feeling. Right now you can hear Giant Drag’s “Heart’s and Unicorns” and Liz Phair’s “Exile in Guyville” on repeat in my selection, followed by reggae for the mental cool down.

"iheartconsumerism" © 2011 Kyle Sturner
What does fame mean to you?

That word sort of scares me actually. I’m not sure I could handle mass fame, because I love my privacy. Then again, I also secretly love being the center of attention. I like the idea of being looked at with a curious appreciation, but I want the main focus to be on my random creations not necessarily on me specifically.

If you could create an image of yourself at the moment of death, at any age, of any death, what might that image look like?

I will be in my 60’s feeling lively, wonderfully eccentric, and totally satisfied with my life when suddenly Sara and I are, ‘accidently’ fed a large dose of hallucinogenics by some young hooligans. We have about five hours of serenity before we die peacefully in the woods where vultures and wolves eat our wrinkly flesh for nourishment and use our left-over’s as jewelry for fine occasions. You can pick any image from that strain of events. They would all be magical.

Sasquatch sightings are relatively common in the Pacific Northwest. If you came across one while hiking in the woods and he stopped for a quick chat, what would you ask it?

Oh wise Sasquatch…could you spare some change for a starving artist?

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts, Kyle. I wish you much success on your creative path!

You can see more of Kyle's work by visiting his website: http://www.kylesturner.com/

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