The next Artist Interview Project installment features Oregon based artist Jamie Lee Meyer. The first part of this post includes a student’s reflective summary. It is followed by the full interview text.
Find more information about Jamie’s work on her website.
Learn more about the Artist Interview Project course assignment in Dr. Jenkins’ introduction to the series. You can follow the Philosophy School of Phish on Facebook, Twitter (@phishedu), and the course’s public website.
As part of the course work for the Philosophy School of Phish, I had the opportunity to interview Oregon-based artist Jamie Lee Meyer. Meyer, who makes gig posters for the Phish community, describes herself as a “graphic designer by day – freelance gig poster designer by night.” Her prints are beautiful, colorful, and highly symbolic. They reflect her interest in astrology, numerology, and the divine feminine. She combines these influences with references to Phish lyrics, mythology, venues, and more.
It took a while for Meyer to get into the Phish scene, until her friend brought her to a show in 2004. When they played YEM, she finally “got it.” She said, “with complete confidence that the vocal jam was my ah-ha moment…and suddenly it just clicked.” There is no doubt that the community of Phish phans are able to entice any newcomer. I was one of those people that was overwhelmed and enveloped in their values and beliefs being surrounded by the music and atmosphere during my first Phish concerts on our class field trip to the Gorge Amphitheatre.
My interview with Meyer gave me a closer look at the connections between the Phish community, music, and emotion. She describes her experience of live Phish performances as “resonating” emotions such as love, connection, and joy. “How fortunate we all truly are,” she continues, “to love this band and to be a part of something so positive and inspiring.” In her book Why Music Moves Us, philosopher Jeanette Bicknell calls these intense experiences “strong emotional responses” to music that facilitate intimacy with ourselves and others.
Attending Phish shows, as Meyer explains, is a way of liberating oneself from the routine habits and pressures of everyday life. Concert space is a social environment that doesn’t conform to what philosopher John Drabinksi describes as the encroaching monotony of “one dimensional” modern life. Drabinksi’s concept of the “occasional community,” based on his analysis of the Grateful Dead lot scene, applies to the Phish scene as well; both communities offer “important space[s] of hope” that challenge modern concepts of community. Phish’s music and culture brings phans “needs beyond what the one-dimension offers” (Drabinski). Meyer’s interview indicates that the Phish community departs from Drabinksi’s idea of the occasional community in one important sense: the phan community is anything but occasional. She explains, “When we leave Phish, we take our elevated vibes back into our own personal communities with us and share that love with those around us whether we consciously realize we are doing it or not. It’s such a beautiful thing.”
In a brief summary, can you explain what you do?
I’m a professional graphic designer by day – freelance gig poster designer by night. My day job is in marketing, where I follow brand guidelines and client requests to design a wide range of printed collateral for business purposes. Creating posters allows me freedom to try new things, be more creative, and connect visually with what inspires me in the music. I design gig posters for bands, and started participating in PhanArt during the Baker’s Dozen run in NYC.
How did you get started creating gig posters?
I grew up in Michigan, where it seemed I always had friends who were musicians and in bands, so about 13 years ago I offered to make a poster for a friends’ gig. I was learning graphic design and thought I’d like to use a poster as a means of trying out what I was learning. It ended up being really fun, and my friends were extremely thrilled with the result, so I offered to make a poster for a different band of friends – and they were so pleased with it that they insisted on paying me! That’s where it all began and I’ve been creating gig posters for bands ever since! Shortly after I moved to Portland, OR, I began working for the band Shafty – Portland’s Tribute to Phish – and that really changed things for me. Because Phish is my favorite thing ever, I absolutely loved making posters that revolved around the music of Phish … and Shafty fans began loving the posters in return. That eventually sparked my desire to get involved in PhanArt and expand my Phish-inspired prints beyond Shafty and on to Phish tour.
How many phish concerts have you been to?
As of July 28, 2018 I’ve been to 117 Phish shows.
How were you introduced to phish?
My very first recollection I have of Phish was from 1996, my sophomore year of high school, and a girl in my gym glass was wearing a Phish shirt. Hahaha. It was just a basic tee with the classic Phish logo, but I was drawn to the colors in it. I wasn’t yet a fan of their music. In college, I had friends and roommates who were Phish fans. I even remember some of them going to Big Cypress for NYE 1999, and although I was a huge music fan at the time, I still wasn’t super into Phish just yet. I owned some of their music but it hadn’t totally connected in me yet. Finally in 2004, a good friend of mine told me I HAD to come with her to see Phish and that she was going to buy us tickets. We went, and I absolutely fell in love with Phish when they played YEM. I can say with complete confidence that the vocal jam was my ah-ha moment. I’d never heard anybody do anything like that ever before, and suddenly everything just clicked.
What inspires your art?
My inspiration comes from a variety of sources both seen and unseen. I’m putting many ideas and concepts into a single poster which range from rather obvious to quite subtle. I’m very much inspired by the music itself and the imagery invoked when I hear the lyrics. I’m also inspired by geography and location, as well as seasons, astrology, numbers, energy, love, spirituality and lately, the divine feminine. As I evolve on a spiritual level, so do my interpretations of Phish lyrics. What once may have sounded corny or silly in the past often now sounds like a metaphor for something larger … an insight gained or a lesson learned. I’m inspired by consciousness and my soul, your soul – the oneness within us all. We are all very powerful creators and I’m thrilled to be here, now, and feel inspired to offer up my art as a vehicle for a greater message to humanity.
How do you relate to the phish community?
Phish is therapy for me. When I go to shows I’m in my happiest place and my vibration is high. The collective vibration is elevated and magic happens. Strangers become instant friends and synchronicities run wild. Phish fans have quite a sense of humor as well, I just love that. I go to as many shows a year as I can afford and get time off for – it’s literally just about everything I use my vacation hours at work for, haha! Sometimes I go with friends and sometimes I go alone – both ways are great and in either scenario I’ll be flailing and dancing. It’s really fun to meet other fans in the community while I’m there simply as a fan in the audience. Now that I’ve started participating in PhanArt, my relationship with the community has expanded and I’ve connected with so many more fans who stop by to view or purchase my prints. It’s been absolutely amazing resonating with so many other souls out there. Everyone has the best smiles and I’m forever reminded how fortunate we all truly are to love this band and to be a part of something so positive and inspiring. When we leave Phish, we take our elevated vibes back into our own personal communities with us and share that love with those around us whether we consciously realize we are doing it or not. It’s such a beautiful thing.