Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Old Stubborn Punk Kid: An Interview With Alyssa Mocere

Alyssa Mocere, the talented in-your-face tattoo artist at Living Out Loud, recently granted me the opportunity to interview her. If you don't know who she is already, get to know her, and while your at it, get her to tattoo you. I know I'm long overdue. Here she tells me about her influences, her current taste in music, and why she got into the world of tattoos.

So, just for starters, how would you describe yourself and your work?

I'm an old stubborn punk kid who gets real tired of wasting time. I'm married to making art for people, and having an affair with making art for myself. I would have been a political scientist if I didn't know how to draw. Art is my way to address the issues without involving myself in a specific organization. I've always valued people's independence and respected those with a strong, relatively objective opinion. Art says much more than my words.

The style of work is classically rooted in intaglio/engraving, but with subject matter that defiles normal concepts of beauty. Goya and Dore are probably my favorites to reference. They captured violence and the grotesqueness of human nature, especially Goya. "Disasters of War," and "The Black Paintings" are where a lot of my work draws influence. The mind has the ability to get trapped by fear of all sorts, whether it be death, evil, family issues, poor health, crazed-lovers, uncertainty, stress, anxiety, society, pure insanity, etc. I get those feelings a lot, and rather me bottle them up, I exploit them for all they're worth. For me, the execution process is meditation. The work is very methodical and poised after the drafting stage is over. The fluidity allows me to get lost and feel little to nothing, which is relieving. The less I feel, the better I focus. Apathy isn't my goal…but it helps achieve a real lack of shame. When I'm done 20 hours later, I'm feeling pretty great.

When did you first start making art?

I was three years old. My Grandpa, Dominic Maucere, gave me crayons and a piece of paper to draw on. "Draw your breakfast, since you're not eating it." I drew my breakfast in perspective and everything was colored correctly, no scribbling, no non-sense. From there on out, grandpa and I would spend all of our time together drawing things we saw. He nurtured my love for it, along with teaching me new ways to see. He got my parents to keep me sharp and in after school drawing programs. I spent majority of my life in some kind of arts program thanks to his talent.

What mediums do you prefer to use?

At this day and age, it's pen and ink with watercolor. I've been going out on a whim and plotting to do use organic materials to create textures in the paintings. Particularly blood, soot, dirt, etc. The other medium right now is tattooing, but that's a career choice. It's an amazing medium all and all. The depth and permanence is a lot to handle in reality. It's so technical and incredibly challenging to interpret at this stage. Tattooing pig skin is my next move. Really allow me to explore more experimental approaches to the medium and be able to preserve it so I can at least keep the art I make rather than watch it walk away.

When did you first get interested in the world of tattoos?

I was getting into punk/hardcore scene back in the late 90s. That's when I started to see tattoos I liked. During college it dawned on me that my debt would become so alarming, that financing my own art projects in the future would become practically obsolete. Having a good paying job would give me the financing, but not the time it would require to dedicate to art. So I completed my education and went right into a tattoo apprenticeship with an artist named Jason "Taco" Verdone, who's band, Ominous Black, needed artwork. The band was happy about what I had made for them and in turn invited me into the tattoo industry. I'm incredibly grateful for that opportunity and glad I can draw and help people for a living.

When you are working on a piece, what are some bands you like to listen to? Does music inspire your artwork?

Music's a huge part of my creative process, and really depends on my mood. When I'm making artwork for a band, I'm making it to their music or what they're influenced by. It's important for me to understand the sound and the lyrics they're using.

For my own work, I'm usually listening to:

Neurosis - Through Silver and Blood

Om - Conference of Birds

Drudhk - Blood In Our Wells

Lurker of Chalice

Horna - Sanojesi Äärelle

Acid King - III

Grails - Burning Off the Impurities

Wolves in the Throne Room - Two Hunters

Sigur Ros

That's the tip of the iceberg as far as bands. I'm productive to anything that I can feel came from the fiery depths of someone's heart.

What influences you and your art? Where do your ideas come from?

A lot of Japanese, Norse, Finnish, Germanic folklore. It was meant to scare the hell out of you, to the point that if you were about to do something "bad," you remembered the Troll would come to eat you later as punishment. Catholic guilt is a big part of it, too. Since the Bible was the most boring story I ever heard, Ancient Mythology and folklore the next best option. So folktales about mortality or impermanence and meshing iconography from unrelated cultures makes up most of my influences. I also take rotten or withered elements and emphasize their beauty. A decaying carcass is more beautiful than a cow eating grass.

You’ve played in a couple different bands. What were there names, and can you explain the style of music?

Point Breeze is the current band. We're moving in a strange, heavy direction. Angry, deranged hardcore music that listens to a lot of Dischord bands.

Shitty Knees was my first active live band. We had hardcore/punk in mind, but we were really obsessed with Shellac.

Grigax was a solo project that I really hated then but now that I look back on it, it was not too bad. It was a reaction to the music I was really into at the time (2008).

Did being in bands help you get your start doing artwork for local bands?

Honestly, it was the other way around. I made

tons of artwork for bands because I loved them so much, and was so hyped on getting merch as payment for making the posters/flyers. I would make them unofficially and give them at least 60% of whatever I sold, let them keep a bunch of posters, meet them officially, and trade for a record, or admission to the show, or a shirt, or another poster they had for their tour/show. It was hard because sometimes for bigger shows, the other artists would get mad about it. "Guerrilla Poster Artist" I was once referred to as. Doing art for bands made me want a band more!

What was one of your favorite projects you have done to date?

That's not that easy to say. Hmm…all of them? I guess the best would be the only art show I ever had at Vwvoffka Gallery on Frankford Ave (called "Speculative Ecology"). I built a giant wall of cardboard and screen printed cathedrals. Random tree branches/limbs jutted out of the ceiling. My half of the room looked like the gallery was falling apart. In the center I hung my works from that past year (about 25 pieces), rang

ing from a drawing of a woman masturbating over a mirror to carvings of wood made to look like sedimentary rock. It was drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, and installation in one. I also got an excuse to put dirt everywhere.

You just participated in the Skulls and Snakes show at Tattooed Mom in Philadelphia. Any more shows coming up soon?

"Skate or Die!" also to be at Tattooed Moms I believe in April. I just got my board today!

Any more comments?

Answering questions is hard! Thanks Lindsay!

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