Sharyage – Chris Shary talks about art, music, comics, and life

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Donut Man (September 28, 2014)

Like a lot of fans, I was excited about the Descendents releasing not one but two new slabs of vinyl. Making them even sweeter, the art on both was supplied by Chris Shary. I’ve been amassing records and shirts with his designs since the ’80s, and we finally met at a few years ago when the Descendents played with The Vandals at a tattoo fest. We’ve kept in touch ever since, so how could I not ask my friend about his latest work and endeavors?

Did you know Hypercaffium Spazzinate was going to glow in the dark from the beginning?
Well, when we were nailing down art for Hypercaffium, I knew there would be X amount of limited color vinyl editions and I really pushed for a glow-in-the-dark version. My idea was that the vinyl would glow and so would the cover. As it turns out all the covers glow, so I guess it was one better than what I was after. If you inspect the album, you can feel that a raised surface and that’s the glowing element.

Since you’re a teacher, do you have students who are punkers asking for you to sign the new Descendents records? Or do they listen to younger bands?
It’s funny because kids really don’t talk to me about my art and I don’t really bring it up much, either. They know I draw for bands, but I don’t often say who or whatever. The last thing I want to do is look like I’m trying to impress them and I don’t think they really care what I do outside of class, anyway. I know I didn’t care about what my teachers did. It’s almost like having a secret identity that isn’t very interesting to high school students.

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How many album covers have you made now? What was your first? Have you ever made a mix tape with nothing but records with your art on it?
You know I haven’t really done a ton of album covers actually (at least I don’t consider what I have done to be a lot). My first album cover was the Libido Boyz’ Hiding Away. I drew it and three other Libido Boyz designs the night after I saw them for the first time. They made that much of an impression on me. My first 7″ was for the Stupids, my old Ipswich pals. I have never made a comp of albums I’ve worked on, but I’ve certainly made many a mix tape with bands I love (who I have since done work for).

You’ve amassed work for so many bands and all of them seem to be awesome. Have you had to say no to a lame band yet?
I fully agree. I think I have worked with some absolutely incredible bands over the years. In fact, I have worked with most of my favorite bands. Part of why it seems I have done so much with so many good bands (as opposed to forgettable ones) is that art is not my full-time, paying-the-bills job. I have been able to be selective and choosy because I don’t do it to keep a roof over my head.

Now I have worked with some stinkers here and there. I have also turned down a few. More often then not, bands who are lame simply cannot afford me in the first place, so it’s really not much of an issue to turn people down. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s just the way it is. There’s only one of me and I cannot spend an inordinate amount of time working for a band I don’t know when I need to focus on getting a ton of new shirts for a band I’m friends with who are leaving on tour. I have done hundreds of T-shirts and I think that’s kinda what I’m best known for.

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I was going to ask about T-shirts. Do you keep one of each? How do you store them?
I try to keep at least one of each. I have done so many at this point, I honestly have no idea on quantities. But hundreds, for sure. I wear a lot of my more recent ones and others are stored in clear tubs in our attic. I’d like to think that when I croak, my wife and son can make a bit of spare change selling off my massive collection.

I love how you’re an advocate for bands, comics, and cosplay and involve your son in all of that. I like to share everything I’m into with Eloise as well, but do you ever feel like your dooming your child to a life of being a nerd?
Having Lori as his mom and me as his dad, Sam was doomed to be a nerd from the start. No need to lament it now. Luckily, he’s his own person and his own nerd instead of being a copy of Lori or me.

It’s funny, my wife and I agreed that when we had our son Sam that we would not force any of our interests on him. We’d let him explore things on his own. Having said that, we knew he’d kinda naturally be influenced by our tastes, but not because we were “making him.” I’m happy we have similar tastes, but I applaud his differences as well. Before we had Sam, I only had a passing interest in the Gorillaz, but he’s a massive fan who exposed them to me!

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I love how you go for ALL with your dedication to punk rock and art but still balance and prioritize family and teaching.
Was that a question Martin? Wait, I’m not the one asking questions–or am I? But I’ll address what you’re getting at.

Thanks! It sure isn’t always easy, but you know I have many things that are a big part of my life, and while family is most important, I gotta make time for the rest. Luckily, I have an amazing wife and son who are very very supportive. And, fortunately, they also need a fair amount of solo time themselves. We all seem to work on many things independently, but will always drop everything to hang out. It’s a great balance. My wife Lori’s art career has really taken off in the past few years, so it’s super exciting to be working on similar things.

You’ve shown art at more than a few group shows. Who are you blown away to be hanging next to?
Although I don’t really seek that kinda thing out, I have done a few art shows. I’m happy to do them, for sure, but it’s not really my main venue. Having said that, I am always in awe of Rich Jacobs, my wife Lori Herbst, Brian Walsby, Tim Kerr, and Rick Froberg. Those five astound me and make me feel like I need to work harder, and it’s a good kind of encouragement to be included in a group with such talented and kind people. I love all of those people very much and I consider myself lucky to be able to think of them as peers.

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w/ David Stowe of Vannen Watches at Steal Music, Buy Art (March 19, 2015)

Los Bros Hernandez, Pettibon, Pushead, Holstrom, whoever drew the Meatmen or Circle Jerks–who were your favorite punk artists when you were a kid?
As a teen, Pettibon, Pushead, and Shawn Kerri along with Brian Walsby were all kinda my idols. Brian and I have become very good friends through the years and it’s fun to push one another in drawing. More than punk artists I was most influenced by people like Jack Davis (of MAD Magazine) and John Byrne and George Perez who drew my favorite comics (Uncanny X-Men and New Teen Titans, respectively).

Have you ever thought about drawing comics?
I thought about drawing comics when I was a kid, but nowadays I don’t think I have the skills. I’m not being hard on myself, I’m just trying to be honest. It’s tough work and I don’t think I could keep up with the load. I’m very happy doing what I do and rarely wish things were different. If I want to do something different, I do it.

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w/ Milo, Tony, and me at Donut Man (September 28, 2014)

Check out chrisshary.tumblr.com/ and chrisshary.bigcartel.com/. And buy his merch from the Descendents when they come through your town! I need to hang out with Chris after the Palladium show and take some new pics. πŸ™‚

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An interview with Chris Shary

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Oh crap, I forgot to link my recent interview with Descendents/ALL/Chemical People/Big Drill Car artist and pal Chris Shary!

http://www.imprintculturelab.com/8-questions-with-chris-shary/

Dave Naz on Identity and Genderqueer

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When I met Dave Naz more than 25 years ago, he was the drummer and principal singer for the Chemical People and I was a super fan. Since then he’s gone on to become a self-taught and highly respected and collected photographer who has assisted Richard Kern and been appropriated by Richard Prince. Me? I’m still a fan who has become a friend.

Dave’s newest works focusing on “transgender, intersex, pangender, and every shade in between” are a bold step from his more traditional Legs and Panties and even his bondage work. It prompts one’s reassessment of sex, gender, and self-identification and marks an academic and artistic turning point for the photographer.

I had some questions and he was kind enough to provide answers.

How did you get into the subject matter of transgender?
I’ve shot transgender models since my first book: Lust Circus (2002). This book features models who identity as: Genderqueer, trans, queer, gender non-conforming, gender-fluid, butch, femme….

Did you know a lot about the culture beforehand?
Not too much. I didn’t even know the term genderqueer before I started shooting this series. The project was a learning experience for me. There is a great queer community in San Francisco and I took a couple of trips there to shoot for the book. I also shot quite a bit in L.A. The book took five years to complete.

Tell me more about the research…
There is a lot of terminology and it’s good to get familiar with it. There are websites like itspronouncedmetrosexual.com that are good for reference.

I wanted to be respectful and it’s very easy to offend people if you don’t use the correct terms. Pronouns are important and they can change so it does get confusing. Still it’s important to be who you want to be and being trapped inside the wrong body is no way to live life. There are some great communities out there with lots of support. Even still, many encounter a tough time with family, friends, and surroundings–depending on their location.

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What made the topic suitable for the zine format? Have you always had a knack for interviewing? It’s a great, informative read!
Thank you. I’ve always been a fan of the zine format. The zine has photos that weren’t used in the book: Genderqueer: And Other Gender Identities. When I started shooting subjects for the series, I wasn’t sure how I wanted it to look. For the first couple shoots I used a curtain and it really didn’t work (color or texture-wise). Turns out those photos look great in B&W zine format, so I found a home for them. I love the expressions on Drew DeVeaux and Jiz Lee in those photos.They look so different from the ones in the book. The zine photos seem more innocent and the images in the book both have more of a confident look; I like both very much.

I started interviewing the subjects my second trip to San Francisco. Since then, I have better equipment to document them. I wish I had interviewed from the beginning, but I didn’t think of it. I’m not a very good interviewer. I got the questions from Jiz Lee and Wendy Summers. I thought it was important to go to the queer community to get help with the questions. I also ask questions that pop into my head while I’m doing the interview.

I think it’s cool how your blog demystifies the photos and shows you on the other side of the camera. Is that something you do on purpose?
I always enjoy watching how photographers work. I’ve spent many hours on YouTube and Vimeo looking at photographers I like shoot. A couple of years ago Eric Swenson asked if he could photograph and film me while I was shooting. Normally, I would say no but I liked his work. Eric has a huge collection of art films he’s made documenting artists and his own documentary film work. It’s been two years now and he’s done 50 short films of my photo shoots. All of the music is from In The Red Records. Larry Hardy, the owner, has been a friend for many years and lets me use the label’s music.

I love that the blogs have a punk rock soundtrack! Are there other ways your musical past has informed your visual art?
I think it has. I have the music blasting during all of my shoots. It helps my creativity. I am not a loud person, so a lot of the time when I’m asking the model to do something, they’re like, “What? I can’t hear you?” I just motion with my hand or get in the position I want them to get into, but I don’t turn down the music.

The Coagula show is coming up soon… What can we expect?
November 8 (opening night) will be the release of my new book
Genderqueer: And Other Gender Identities (Rare Bird/ A Barnacle Book). There will be several large 30″ x 45″ color prints. I’ll have a few 16″ x 20″ B&W prints, too. It’s been a lot of work, but I’m really happy with the book and show.

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Check out davenaz.org, where you can check out the photographer’s latest work (much of it is NSFW) including the Identity zine and the trans interviews. Dave’s Genderqueer book release show will be at Coagula in Chinatown on Saturday, November 8. Hope to see you there!