The next Artist Interview Project installment features artist Teddi Fuller. The first part of this post includes a student’s reflective summary. It is followed by the interview summary.
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.
Vibrant, bold, abstracted colors provide a glimpse into particular moments at rock shows, especially Phish shows. This is the subject matter for artist, Teddi Fuller, who works hard to merge the line between fine art paintings and collectable rock show prints. Some might say these are two very different mediums but, for Fuller, they are one in the same.
Fuller is a Phish phan who produces her art independently of the band. She is very much influenced by the band’s colorful performances. When I say colorful I do literally mean influenced by the vibrant color combinations and color choreography of the band’s light director, Chris Kuroda. To create such vivid works of art Fuller combines the mediums of oil painting and spray painting to really drive the works into vibrant colors and designs. My favorite of her works even seem to include an abstracted version of the audience interacting with the bright lights on the painted stages.
Fuller’s work seems to pose interesting answers to a number of the philosophical questions that my Phish School of Philosophy course at Oregon State University has been asking all term long. The first of these questions may seem the most basic, and that is the age-old question, “What is Art?” When considering Leo Tolstoy’s take on this question, the answer seems to come down to artist intentionality. For this reason, I was lucky to able to interview Fuller about her artwork in order to get a sense of the intentionality that goes into her paintings. When asked about what her artwork is capturing, Fuller talks about the emotional moment that Phish creates as being the encapsulation of her Phish paintings and prints.
This emotion being captured is similar to another theme from our philosophy class, the idea of ‘affect.’ Affect, when talking about art, is the idea of the emotional aspects that art can bring about in the audience. For Fuller, the goal of her work is to replicate a similar affect to the one that Phish creates during their shows.
The final theme that Fuller talked about in our interview was that of the sublime. In other words, she described the profound moment that is brought about in finding new knowledge in an art work. In my studies, we see these profound moments as moments of mystical experience, but whatever we choose to call these experiences, they seem to have a commonality. What I mean by this is that the moments that really interest me are the moments of interconnectivity that pull different aspects of an audience’s life into the moments of a Phish song, or even a painting of a show.
For example, Fuller talks about a time in the recent past where there were a number of doubts that she was having about different events that were occurring in her life. That night, at a concert, Phish played a song with a lyric that seemed to only be speaking to Fuller, connecting her with the to which she place was moving. In this moment, there seemed to be a connection to some higher knowledge that everything was going to work out fine. For others, at the same moment the lyric would not have meant what it did for Fuller, because there was a kind of vulnerability of Fuller opening herself to the music. The moment become profound and had an effect of the sublime.
Interviewing Fuller was a real pleasure. She has turned her two passions– Phish and Art– into one. I find the philosophical themes significant in showing that though philosophy can seem out of touch with the everyday moment, there is an interconnectivity between things that seem somewhat disconnected. In reality, philosophy is much closer to the everyday then many people might assume.
[Note: The following interview was conducted over the phone, though do to a recording error the following is the paraphrased and quoted answers to this verbal interview.]
Can you tell me a little bit about your process in creating art work? Specifically I’m interested to hear how you translate your Phish inspiration into these vibrant mixed media paintings?
Spray paint works started with oil paintings. Fuller is a long time oil painter but she wanted to get the neon colors just right and the best media for that was spray paint. Fuller began using painters tape as kind of relief sculptural aspect to every work. Fuller made smaller reliefs just with tapes, then began using stencils (made of transparent mylar). There is a lot of experimenting with color combinations, creating a bunch of different studies. Fuller goes on to explain that this process is able to create a “learning experience of color,” though the spray paint limits the color combinations possible.
Fuller started a new set recently that incorporates style and medium within the market of Phish shows. This means that the works are somewhat smaller than the originals, poster art inspired in some ways. The change came after the 17 shows at Madison Square Garden. Fuller picked up on these kinds of connections and people got to see the originals. They were big paintings, 3 feet by 3 feet in most cases. So Fuller wanted to make a change toward more commodified works, smaller works that would be based off the poster scene so that more people could take home her works of art. This was the creation of prints that focused on the market place and having these smaller works to share in the market place. Fuller went on to explain that this really pushed the idea that the “value of art is subjective” and that this applies to the art scene in general, not just to Phish fans’ art.
One concept that has come up when thinking about what it means to have artwork inspired by another form of art, in this case music, is what makes the work you are creating a unique expression. What parts of the Phish experience have the biggest influence on your work? What aspects of your work do you think make it truly unique?
For Fuller, listening to the music has been the biggest influence on her work. Fuller has been listening since she was 15. Fuller explains that you can learn something new every time you listen to the music; the lyrics can all of a sudden make sense. Fuller recounts how she listens to the music at the shows and dances with her eyes closed. “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Fuller says as she recalls the colors of the lights as a translucent kind of life; Kuroda’s lights are visually inspirational and a passionate part of her life.
Fuller comes from a fine art background and focuses on the lights, specifically abstracting the lights less as illustrations and more abstraction of the moment itself. It is a simplified experience that she has seen. Fuller goes on to say the lights at the Phish shows are “unlike any other lights.” Her goal is to capture their uniqueness.
Having attended a three-day Phish run, my classmates and I were really struck by the community aspect of the Phish world. Can you tell me a bit about the Phish community itself and the emotional aspects of this community?
To Fuller it is apparent that the Phish community knows that it is inherently a kind of strange community. Overall, the Phish community has normalized the experiences of difference that really draw people together. Fuller remarks that she is “so lucky to have found this.” The Phish community is not self-conscious, non-judgmental and they have a large focus on play and spontaneity. Fuller continues saying that there are lots of lessons to be taken away from these experiences. For example, during the Baker’s Dozen shows last year (2017) Fuller spent time with a kind of mobile family and as time went on she became protective over these relationships. Everyone is a stranger until you start talking with each other and you have this deep connection to each other. There is no reason to be intimidated by strangers, they are just friends you haven’t made yet.
It’s a pretty small world in the Phish community. It is also tightly knit. There are magical connections when people come together. Fuller talks about how at the Phish PhanArt show on New Year’s in 2017, out of 25,000 people, the people that she had met at the PhanArt show that day had seats right next to her at the show that night.
Can you tell me a little bit about your relationship to the Phish community as a fan, and your relationship to the Phish community as an artist? How do these two roles intersect?
Fuller explains that all the artists making PhanArt are in fact phans themselves and that there is something cool about being able to make this meaningful music a part of their art lives. Fuller says that she is there for the shows first and then as an artist second, but that it is fairly easy to be both a Phan and an artist. Fuller even talks about how these shows can be a kind of reunion for friendships.
Have you ever had an experience at a Phish concert that you would describe as being profound? If so, what was happening during this experience?
Fuller takes her time to think after I asked this question, then she goes on to say that she has had many profound experiences at Phish concerts. I ask her to pick one of these particularly memorable moments and she chose last summer (2017) in Colorado on the first night. Fuller says that part of that experience was processing her emotions. Before this show in Colorado she had been having a lot of self-doubt in some life events; she was in the process of moving to Hood River, Oregon. During the Colorado show, one of the songs that was played was Harry Hood, and that the lyrics ‘feel good about hood’ made her have this kind of realization that through Phish there was this awesomeness and positive affirmation as emotions were kind of peaking. Fuller felt one with the world and that there were a number of mini-profound moments throughout the whole show.
When you are creating Phish inspired artwork do you see yourself as trying to capture a particular moment or emotion at a concert? What moment/emotion do you see your work encapsulating?
Fuller sees herself working with the colors that Phish’s lights create as a tool for inspiration on colors and shapes in her art work. Phish’s light director, Chris Kuroda, creates a very distinct atmosphere with the lights at the Phish shows. Fuller, inspired by Kuroda, takes some of the familiar color combinations that resonate with her, combinations like red, yellow, and purple and Fuller recalls the atmosphere that was created. Other times Fuller works to create her own colors and color combinations. Fuller finds this fun and was grateful to be inspired by this, also finding a way of connecting and being really reliant on the community that makes Phish shows possible.
Fuller says the more effort you put into Phish, the more you take out of it. Fuller also mentioned the Gorge Phish Studies Colloquium, which took place about a month prior to this interview. She referenced Dr. Paul Jakus’s talk, which presented a statistical analysis of the motto, “Never miss a Sunday show.” There are deep meanings to Phish, if you put in that energy into thinking about it, she says. It’s all about how much you put into the world of Phish which determines what you can get out of it.