~An Interview With Frank Rozasy~
~ INTRO ~
On a daily basis, you encounter countless creatures doing what it takes to survive. Is survival simply getting enough to eat and protection from the elements, or does it go deeper? According to the commonly accepted breakdown, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it evolves to a certain level. More levels could yet be uncovered. Winding down the classic Highway 1 into Southern California and dodging raging wildfire mayhem, Moments Of Truth has arrived in Los Angeles.
As we’re all too well aware, this rotating hunk called earth is in a state of constant flux. Winds that hurl flames in any and all directions is current proof of that. Some of us may fuel the fantasy of bodies frozen in stasis while the mind establishes believable illusions of a life. Though that doesn’t provide an answer, questions abound about life, from youth until adulthood, as a person seeks to comprehend their purpose on earth. Maybe it’s a lot simpler than we want to believe. One factor that seems to remain constant, no matter how much oatmeal you consume, is that certain geographic locations are attributed a particular status. A person who survives and achieves success in New York, Paris, London, or Los Angeles has. . . well, ‘made it.’ The rest of us, well. . . I guess we’re still trying to figure ‘it’ out.
In a cozy Venice Beach one bedroom apartment Frank Rozasy lives, breathes, and dreams among the materials he develops into expressions of his passions. Is your purpose survival, and survival as simple as following your passions?
~ BACKGROUND ~
Moments Of Truth ~ Hello Frank, thanks for taking the time to share with us. To start off, please describe the creative medium(s) you focus on.
Frank Rozasy ~ I’m a painter, a photographer, computer graphics artist and I do installations.
MOT ~ Has this changed or evolved over time?
FR ~ Oh yea, absolutely! It’s always been figurative, but it’s evolved especially with the computer. Once you start working with the computer, it’s like a pencil or anything else, it opens up infinite different venues and creative ideas.
MOT ~ Is there one you really enjoy focusing on? I see you have a lot of nice wood, do you use that for your paintings?
FR ~ Well, yea, if you’ll walk up with me I’ll show you. . . (Frank takes the opportunity to introduce me to his studio space. I love getting into workshops, I don’t know if it’s because of growing up with my dad as a carpenter and his woodshop being a place to explore with adult equipment and ideas or what.)
I’ve been working with my friend and model, her name is Doe, doing art of her for the last 25 years. That’s her, that’s Doe. I don’t know if you went to my website but I have hundreds of pieces of fantasy art and it’s all her. I’ve taken probably tens of thousands of pictures with Doe and make a lot of fantasy art. Also, I do nostalgic stuff which is – my father was a photographer – I take the old family photographs and do a whole bunch of different crap to it and then paint those.
Then I’m a jazz photographer, do jazz and I like old bebop (jazz brought out in the 1940’s that is described as fast tempo and improv based on harmonic structure rather than melody) Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and that kind of stuff.
MOT ~ Did you take all of those pictures?
FR ~ I’ve taken some of them, but more so I work with a famous jazz photographer called Ray Avery (Murray “Ray” Bertrand Avery) he gave me the use of his archives to do all of his stuff in my style. And the same thing, I got hooked up with Tom Kelly who did the naked Marilyn Monroe and the Michael Lopes archives, which gave me use of these other Marilyn Monroe photographers so I got the copyrights to use. Then I do beach scenes, landscapes, wilderness camping… I like to go out and camp, take pictures and my passion is the beach. I do long distance ocean swimming and I’ll take a ton of stuff on the beach and make art of that.
So basically that’s what I do. There’s my little art attack thing which shows all the shows I’ve been in since 1990.
MOT ~ That’s a cool map, I’m gonna have to get a photo of that! What do you think it is that draws you to this… this element and medium?
FR ~ The jazz, I’ve always liked jazz. My parents were into jazz and they introduced it to me when I was real young. Along with rock-n-roll and all that. Doing the woman fantasy pieces, I hooked up with this lady and we’ve been together and making art for 25 years sooooo, that’s that. The old nostalgic stuff, that’s family stuff. And the Marilyns just happen to hook on. It’s basically I just do art of my passions, where the passion is. It’s sort of a no-brainer, you do what’s in your heart.
MOT ~ Awesome. Joseph Campbell said it best, right?!
FR ~ Yea. And I never try to make anything for sale. I try to make it for art, and if I luck out and somebody buys it, cool, if not. . . ya know. Cause I tried one time to do stuff that I thought would be sellable, and it didn’t sell. So I let that go early on. Why bother to try and make things sellable that don’t sell, might as well make what’s in your heart and have that not sell and at least get some sort of reward out of it.
MOT ~ Where exactly did you grow up?
FR ~ I grew up here in Los Angeles, so I’m a native. At 18 I moved to London for awhile, then moved to the East Coast living in New York for awhile followed by Massachusetts, back to London, eventually around 1980 returned to L.A.
MOT ~ Did you notice different creative communities while living in these locations?
FR ~ Where I grew up was right near the hub of Los Angeles during the 50’s and 60’s. Like the Ferris Gallery there, and all these galleries. When I was real little, Thursday night they’d have these art walks. I remember leaving my house at the age of 12, 13, 14, with my parents and going out and checking the art. (His voice changes to express the awe of a young man) Seeing these artists, their galleries, and their lofts and everything. I was like, “Oh yeah, I wanna be an artist.”
MOT ~ So that was the moment when you really knew the direction you wanted to go?
FR ~ Well no. My earliest memories are drawing from going through “World Book” encyclopedias. I always knew that I was going to be an artist but it helped when I saw their lifestyle. I was like “yeah, this is cool.”
~ INSPIRATION ~
MOT ~ How have you managed to stick to it and continue to make art? Have there been obstacles?
FR ~ It’s like “why do you make art?” And the answer is “well, why do you breathe?” You just make art.
MOT ~ To put it succinctly, it sounds like your passions inspire your life of art.
FR ~ Yes, yes, it’s just whatever the passion is and it serves as an outlet.
MOT ~ How do you think swimming long distance in the ocean influences you?
FR ~ The long distance ocean swimming has something sort of magical about it. Basically I’m just a poor artist – not a struggling artist but a poor artist – sometimes when I get down I go out to the ocean, swim a mile. Before I may be thinking “man, life sucks,” and after finishing it’ll switch to “oh yea, life’s good.” It’s good, I swim on my back so my face is always up and there’s dolphin and sea lion encounters, along with pelicans and a lot other sea life out there in the bay. From swimming there for years I know a lot of the people out there. Overall, it’s sort of magical.
That’s just one of the reasons I would identify to make art, it sort of rejuvenates you. It doesn’t cost anything to swim in the ocean, and I’m on a reeeeal low budget (Frank breaks into a chuckle as he reiterates) I gotta find things for a low budget. There’s nothing to hurt you out there: no sharks, no jelly fish. Well, there are, but they’re all juvenile and not really going to do anything, these guys are afraid of the sea lions. Seeing as the sea lions are afraid of me, there’s nothing to hurt you out there. The only thing that could hurt you are boaters, but since I swim with my head up I know when the boats are coming.
MOT ~ Through the process of growing into art from a young age have you had various mentors or specific folks that have really helped guide you?
FR ~ When I was 18 and first went to Europe it was with my friend and his father. His great uncle was a very famous artist named Leon Hindenbaumer who went by Leon Hinden. He lived in Paris and was a contemporary of Modigliani (Amedeo Clemente Modigliani an Italian artist known for his work in painting and sculpture) and they knew all the Jewish artists that were living in Paris at that time.
When we got there he was about 89 years old; we lived with them and hung out. He took us to the museums there and was just a poor artist who had been very famous. One thing was, he couldn’t speak very much French, but what he said that stuck with me was that you have to persevere. It wasn’t until years later when I realized in college, reading art history, that his name popped up all the time. I was like “wow, uncle Leo, he’s the man!” No matter what happens you just persevere. He was an influence and I also like to read art history.
MOT ~ Any particular stylistic influences that before you settled into your own brought you closer? Can you describe how you came into your style?
FR ~ Probably the style that really caught me when I was young would be Edward Hopper. That American Realism, and I paint realism: photo-art realism, computer art realism, etc. I liked him because he was sort of loose but distinct and realistic.
MOT ~ Could you touch on your overall philosophy that may not just encompass your work but how you approach life?
FR ~ Like I said before, the most important thing is to have time, not necessarily money. If you have to work all the time then it’s extremely difficult to make art. My whole life I’ve either tried to sell my art or have a day job that I could make some money; as a cook, a packer, did landscaping. I’d always find something that allowed for free time to do my art. As long as that’s arranged and create the art from my passions, as far as working it out to make the art the pieces fall into place for me.
I’ve never had an art block or anything like that, I mean look around, I’ve got more then enough shit piled up to keep me creating. Although I know I’ll never fully get there, just make [art] and not get bitter about when you get all the rejections. Being an artist is worse rejection than being a baseball player.
Being a baseball player you get what, … three out of ten your batting .300, you’re an all-star, okay. An artist you send in your slides… well you don’t generally send in slides anymore, you send your jpeg’s and whatever to try and get into galleries and if you get one out of twenty you’re doing good. The rest of the time your receiving these rejection notices. Everybody who comes and looks at art – say you’re a brain surgeon, nobody’s going to say (Frank alters his voice to a duh) “Eh, you’re not a very good brain surgeon.” But everybody’s got an opinion about art so you need a thick skin and take the good with the bad, just don’t get bitter.
~ TECHNICAL ~
MOT ~ Even though you’re creating for yourself and expressing your passions, do you ever have an audience in mind that comes into play? Like do you consider who might be interested in viewing your work, or how to capture someone’s attention or change their mind about something?
FR ~ On some things, like my installation. It’s called “Walk On The Art,” and what I do is put these hundreds of pieces of art on the ground and make people walk on them. Walking on the art, destroying the art. . . for example I had one focused on species man has killed. The images are of species man has killed and folks are walking on my rendered images destroying them. I do one of my muse and model Doe. I’ve got thousands of pieces of art that range from 8’ x 10’ to 3’ x 5’, framed or images of fantasy’s. So besides walking on art and destroying art you’re walking on naked women and people get all bent out of shape. But, that’s the only time where I’m doing something for an audience. The rest of the time, I’m just doing it with myself in mind.
Sure, of course I know there’s a lot of people that like jazz, so there’s that audience there. I also know there’s a lot of people that like Marilyn, so an obvious audience there. Of course tons of men like the naked lady fantasy, another audience there. If you can see that picture there of Doe, I just finished it. I remember at that photo shoot I had her like that, screaming, and another, where her eyes were up looking very angelic, and I thought to myself “oh, the angelic one looks really nice and people would like it.” Then there’s the crazy one, and the crazy one was better for me, so I painted that one.
MOT ~ How do you go about gathering and building your relationship with your materials? Has what you use evolved over time?
FR ~ Usually when I take a picture, this here is a painting where I took a picture of Doe, then I had some other drawings and pictures from NASA and put them on the computer to work out the composition. From there I printed it, then drew it and painted it. That was the process on this one. Another is, I take the photograph and print it out in a half-tone photo screen, then paint it, and glue it on the wood or gater-board and you can see how it makes it crinkly giving it a textured surface. Some others are pastel images I’ve painted on. (Frank starts to rustle through his various works leaned against his walls to find one illustrating his description) Here you can sort of see some of the graphic art style, there’s one, there’s a sort of surrealistic type and there’s this one and this (imagine you’re sitting in his apartment getting to see different pieces, or flip through this posts accompanying photos again).
I’m always doing this, sort of the end result of the computer art, also the painted photography, and then the paintings with either oils or acrylics or both. I’ve got three main mediums or forms that I’m working in. The other ones are a series in oil pastels. As you can see it’s from the other image (blend of photography and computer graphic manipulation), but I did it where it’s crinkled. After doing about 30 of these I haven’t really done any more the past couple months. There’s lots of texture involved. Sometimes up to three layers, colored ink, oil pastel, and another oil pastel and I’ll crinkle it and press it out building up a nice texture. That’s that ‘push pull’ shit they’re always talking about. Although the base images may be the same as the photography and computer graphics, these are in the painterly style. They’re all just real personal for me.
Lately, I’ve been making art videos of my art and posting them on the internet. That way you can get people to look at your shit. On one site I get about 40,000 hits a month. Which is pretty good for art, nothing for porno, but for art that’s good. That means every month, I’ve got like 16 of them, folks are checking.
MOT ~ What do you think about the transition from art in the physical realm to the internet? I’ve noticed a general trend to really push the Internet, I mean, that’s what I’m doing here a little with this site. When I see some images on the net it might look great and then in person not so interesting, or vice versa.
FR ~ It’s funny, I’ve got a website and people will visit it and say “Oh, do you ever sell any art over the internet?” No, never. Why does anybody have to buy from there? It’s hard enough trying to sell from the gallery or studio. The Internet is sort of an in-between thing. Here in Los Angeles someone may see my work online and I’ll actually be able to get them over to my studio so they can truly see the art. I guess it’s like anything else, the better you know how to use it, say to make art or get it onto the Internet, make the jpeg image clear, nice, compressed, fast to come up, etc. I like all the Internet stuff, but just as another tool.
MOT ~ The titles on those works posted on your webpage are pretty interesting. I’ve had the question of how does one go about deciding on titles come up recently.
FR ~ Just the titles is what they sort of look like to me. Like I remember this piece where Doe is in these gears being ground up and I thought “Oh, that’s like Los Angeles, it’ll just grind you up.” Okay, ‘LA Will Grind You Up’ became the name of the piece.
MOT ~ Have you tried working around specific goals, say to build styles, techniques or anything really?
FR ~ I was pretty sure that if I put in a lot of time, that say by 30, that things would happen after I’d made all this art. That would lead to me being this blue chip artist by 60. Well, ya know, I ain’t the blue chip artist and I’m sixty now, still struggling, . . . well no, can’t use the word struggling, still poor. It’s like that’s the way it is. The one goal was to just be able to make art, and if I couldn’t make art, that’d be just horrible! Everything is about making art, if that means I’m poor but then I have time to make art, so be it.
MOT ~ In the process of you making art, how do you know when a piece is complete?
FR ~ Historically that is a problem with a lot of artists. For me it’s pretty straight forward since I’m doing realism. I sort of know when it’s done and probably like only one out of 20 pieces I do, those few I can still look at and say “that’s a great piece.” One piece here, I’d been looking at it and looking at it and somebody came over trying to buy some art, had looked at that one and mentioned they could see all the brushstrokes in the background and wouldn’t want it because they’d only see the brushstrokes. I thought I’d finished this one like two years ago, but after that person had left began to notice just how distracting those brushstrokes were. Right before you came up I was repainting the background. That’s usually not how it happens. Normally I’ll finish a piece and then go on to another. That creates the problem of having so much art. I have a storage unit, 6 ft by 12 ft and it’s just packed with art that I never even show anymore; I’m not really into destroying it. I know lots of artists that destroy their art, I figure I’ll just leave it.
MOT ~ I’ve been playing with the idea that some things don’t really have to be done. Plants keep growing, everything around us is constantly changing. It’s the realm of commercial or capitalistic interests that requires an image, article or whatever to be at that ‘done’ stage
FR ~ I guess it’s the artist’s personality that determines when a piece is finished or not. I think it was Rothko whose pieces were never really finished. He’d sell something and still keep it for a while.
MOT ~ As a final note, I like to ask if you have any glaring questions of your own for those that intrigue you, given you had the chance to ask?
FR ~ I read a lot of art history and think it would be nice to be around during certain times. Like to have been able to visit the Cedar Bar in the late 50’s and seeing DeKooning and Pollack hanging out together and shoot the breeze with them, or Lipan ne Gough where Picasso used to hang out in Paris. Maybe go to the dome with the impressionists and drink some absinthe. Maybe not question them about what they are and what they aren’t, but just hang out with them, listen to them talk about art. That’d be okay. The reverse thing would be somewhere a hundred years from now, like go to New York 2120 and listen to them talk. I think the bottom line is we’d all be together in the personhood of artists. Those with the desire to make, to get enough money they can make, how you handled the fame, how you handled the despair, and how you handled your personal life. I think we’d all be, say between 1800 to 21 / 22, it’d all be about the same. I imagine the stuff in the future. . . it’ll be cool.
MOT ~ I’d like to think that art and creativity resides within us all. Humanity didn’t start out driving to the superstore to buy things, and it’s unlikely art sat around contemplating what it is to be creative. Human kind followed the general guidelines of nature, survive, no matter where you are or what the conditions. Not an unheard of story, Frank Rozasy has managed to do the same, surviving to create art. Check out his website www.rozasy.com