Recently i interviewed artist, Makeal Flammini and these are some things i asked her and some things she responded with…
Caroline Iles: So you’re in your studio right now? Are you in the same space as your partner Colin Matthes?
Makeal Flammini: Yeah I’m on the fifth floor and he’s on the seventh, same building. I’m sharing this space with two people but we just moved in so we don’t have any stuff here yet.
CI: Speaking of Colin, what is it like to have a partner who is also an artist? Do you go to him to critique your work and things like that?
MF: Yeah! It’s like the main part of our life together; making art is both of our lives. Actually Colin was much more serious of an artist well before I decided to work more, he’s a really hard worker. I really respect Colin and what Colin does. I think he’s amazing. He’s super supportive of me I’m kind of less supportive, but that’s only because I’m more self absorbed…so like I’ll forget to be as supportive as he never forgets to be. But yeah, our whole life is based around who’s doing what project, when it’s going to happen, helping the best we can, or just talking about each other’s stuff. It’s like all consuming of our life. There’s a really good balance between the two of us.
CI: Do you think that’s a rare thing between two artists?
MF: I don’t really know. I mean all relationships are hard. It’s easy to take this for granted but I mean I can’t imagine if Colin and I broke up or something…it’s so good to have someone to share [art making] with so that you understand how hard it is, or how much work it takes or weird hours, we’re both on our own time scheme it’s not like either one of us go to work at 9 and come home at 5 or whatever people do. I don’t know how I would cope with that, it’s really, really good.
CI: That’s really cool. So would you rather have a dragon or be a dragon?
MF:Because if I was a dragon I wouldn’t know I’d have something as awesome as a dragon.
CI: I bet people would probably hate you if you were a dragon too, you’re just this fire-breathing huge lizard.
MF: Yeah and they would kill you. To have a dragon people would just think you were wicked.
CI: How did you feel about the Justin Beiber/Anne Frank thing? Did you hear about that?
MF: I thought that was disgusting. I feel like he is the worst example of a no history, uninteresting person, appropriating cultures and things that came before them. Like he is appropriating black culture in the most privileged, lame, way. So first to be appropriating cultures that you don’t know anything about, that you have no ties to no relevance to, and then to go up to a place and say that someone who did something more incredible that you could even come close to touching in your entire 18 years of life on this planet…I don’t understand what kind of moment he had. He’s a stupid dumb kid who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It comes down to that.
CI: I read one article about it that showed some of his fans tweets, most of them being “Who’s Anne Frank?” and one of them even saying “Who’s Anne Frank? Why can’t Justin visit my house??? : (“
MF: People are really into him. I don’t really know what he sings or what he does I honestly have no idea because I live a sheltered isolated life but people always like to say “you know I really think what he did was cool…I mean I think he’s ridiculous, but what he did was cool” What did he do?! What did he do that was so cool? Did he survive the Holocaust?
CI: He had a youtube video of him playing music and singing songs and then I guess Usher saw it and reached out to him and made him a star.
MF: …so what he did was be at the right place at the right time. What’s so amazing?
CI: I guess people look at it as a Cinderella sort of “rags to riches” sort of story. But speaking of you living in isolation, I’ve been listening to your radio show the Wild Wild Midwest Variety Show and your last episode was all about the Midwest, the “flyover zone”, and I was wondering how do you think living in the Midwest has influenced your work? Do you think your “place” has influenced your work?
MF: Yes, I think so but that’s because I think there’s a certain Midwest experience, there’s a feeling in the Midwest that you are pretty isolated from what would be really contemporary art. Look at it like clothing, a trend starts in New York, and then maybe three years later it would hit Milwaukee and then maybe five years later it would hit Rapids, Wisconsin where I’m from. And art is even more intense than that. You’re kind of isolated in this way where it’s easy to be honest about what you’re doing because you don’t know any different and I like that and I feel like there’s a lot of good artists in the “flyover zone” of America.
CI: I did Google you, and I was reading an article written about your show ‘The Bricks are Dipped in Marble Dust” and the author mentioned something about how you like to make your work about stories, so I guess from what I understand your “place’ would revolve more around the people than the actual geographical location, is that right?
CI: So speaking of living in the Midwest, I think a big part of the answer to the “why” question of art making comes from one’s childhood or general upbringing and I was curious if there was a sort of moment from your childhood or past that you would attribute to your artwork now?
MF: I guess I feel like it’s all been a series of coincidental choices and decisions that I made that have brought me to where I am now. I know I always liked [making art] but I don’t think I had a moment where I knew I wanted to be an artist. I was the most confused person in my high school, and even after school I never wanted to be anything but I do remember from a really long time constantly being very aware of being aware. Just documenting myself, or what I’m doing, or remembering stories, just constantly replaying my life. I always did that and still do that, so I get really trapped in my childhood just thinking about it and so all of my drawings are based on things that I’ve done and I don’t think that was a conscious thing, I think it’s just a weird obsession with my life…I just remember I never wanted to chose what I wanted to be. I never wanted to grow up, I never wanted to be anything, I never wanted to have a job. That’s an appalling idea to me. It feels like a kind of death, and choosing felt like a death so I never chose. That’s why I think I failed school. Committing to something and making a choice is scary, so if I don’t make a choice it’s like I don’t exist. That’s the best way I can explain that.
CI: I feel like I can relate to that actually, it sounds a lot like my thinking during high school. Have you ever considered giving yourself an “artist name”? Something instead of Makeal Flammini?
MF: I really like my name. I feel I have not done a good service for having such a good name. My parents gave me this really amazing name and so far I’ve just blown it for them. So no, I wouldn’t. I’d just like to be able to live up to how nice I think my name is, and actually deserve it.
CI: If you were given a yacht what would you name it?
MF: I would name it after the person that gave it to me, “Benefactor”. No I would call it “The Dakota Vagina” I think. If my parents came on it I’d have some sort of sticker to put over it like “The ‘Lil Skipper” or something.
CI: Okay. What is one misconception people have about you?
MF: I feel like people have told me many times that they thought that I was intimidating because I’m “too confident”, but I’m super insecure. I’m just loud, that’s how you mask it. I’m always shocked by that. Or sometimes I get “Oh I’ve always thought you hated me because you gave me such a mean look” people always think I give them mean looks, but that’s just how my face looks.
CI: That’s actually happened to me before too, and I guess it’s because I’m loud…but I’m half deaf so I just talk loud because I can’t hear myself.
MF: You have a legitimate excuse, I’m just loud because I’m the middle child and everyone would always talk over me.
CI: Okay so dead or alive, what five people would you want to share a truck-pool (a truck bed covered with a tarp and filled with water) with in rural Wisconsin?
MF: Alright, Roseanne Barr for sure.
MF: I love Roseanne Barr.
CI: You know she ran for president right?
MF: Yeah I do
CI: Did you vote for her?
MF: She didn’t actually run though. It was just like a…thing.
CI: No I’m pretty sure it was real…she was on my ballot. I swear she was on my ballot.
CI: I’m pretty sure she actually ran for president…
MF: I don’t really think so…I thought that was just a sort of stunt…Well anyway Roseanne Barr for sure. I just finished reading her book Roseannearchy it’s riveting. She has a huge influence on me. I think she is amazing. She changed the way this country viewed women in the 90s and late 80s. Seriously not joking she’s amazing. So I would take Roseanne, Virginia Wolfe, Howard Zinn, Zach Galifianakis, and I would take Colin. Not because it’s cute but because if everyone pissed me off I could talk about it with Colin, he’d be an ally…because I feel like Roseanne might get annoying and Virgina Wolfe is going to get really depressing for sure but she’ll be nice. Zach’s going to be mean to everybody, Howards going to make us feel like we can change the world. Actually I don’t know.
CI: I feel like Roseanne would kind of steal the show and I don’t know how Virgina Wolfe would feel about Roseanne.
MF: Okay I’m keeping Roseanne but she might have to sit in the cab sometimes. You should read this article on Roseanne sometime, it’s actually really beautiful…
CI: I was actually going to ask you if you had anything recommendations for things I should read
MF: Geek Love is a really good book, by Katherine Dunn, that’s a fantastic book. James Baldwin, Kurt Vonnegut…One of my favorite writers is Franz Kafka and he’s sort of miserable to read but after it’s over it just hits you in this weird way. Room With a View is one of my favorite books. Sometimes I like to read books like 19th century Daskalovski, because the writing is really intense and I feel like writing now is written to be digestible and back then books were not made to be digestible and sometimes it’s painstaking…but I like it.
CI: What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?
MF: Tofu. I don’t know. I’ve never eaten something like a fish that was alive…I know Japan has this weird delicacy of fish served still alive so it’s flopping on your plate. I think I’ve eaten calamari, but I haven’t eaten some endangered exotic animal or something, nothing really that strange. What about you?
CI: I don’t know I was just trying to think of that actually. I guess for me it’d be more of a weird combination of foods than one weird food.
MF: Okay I would have Andy Kaufman in my pool. So let’s keep Roseanne, we’re going to get rid of Virginia…sorry Virginia she’s just dragging down the truck pool. Okay so, so far I’ve got Rosie, Andy, and Colin…and Zach. But he could be axed off I’m not sure…
CI: Wait you still need one more person, that’s only 4…
MF: Okay I have to think about it still.
CI: What about Kati Heck? I know she’s one of your favorite artists/people
MF: I do love her, I was thinking about her
CI: I think she and Roseanne would probably get in an argument…I feel like everyone is going to argue with Roseanne.
MF: Yeah, but Roseanne’s a feminist so we’d all just agree with her…I don’t know. I feel like I need to have someone really serious. Someone intensely serious to kind of go in this soup…someone who’s just not going to laugh at the jokes, be unimpressed…like maybe Bill O’Riley. I just kind of want to see him in his swimming shorts, cold, you know maybe feeling kind of insecure, really judging us, angry, totally wants to get out of the truck pool…I don’t know.
CI: If you were a kitchen appliance what would you be?
MF: An immersion blender.
CI: What is that? Is that a brand of blender?
MF: It’s a kind of handheld blender, and you can just kind of put it in a cup. No mus no fuss. I really like kitchen appliances. Maybe I’d be a zester, or a garlic press that’s a really nice kitchen tool…or the crème de la crème of kitchen tools the Kitchen Aid stand still mixer.
CI: Those come in so man different colors too.
MF: Yeah! Or maybe a spring form cake pan, those are nice. Egg beater…I just love ‘em.
CI: I think I’d just be a food processor.
MF: Good one!
CI: Because you can do so many things with a food processor… Okay so what cereal box character would you be?
MF: Like I’d have to become it?
MF: Count Chocula.
MF: I don’t know why, it just sounded good to me. What would you be?
CI: Cap’n Crunch.
CI: Well I love Cap’n Crunch and he’s just a captain…like the Lucky Charms leprechaun is always being chased, the Trix rabbit never gets his Trix, and the Coco Puffs bird is just “Cuckoo for CoCo Puffs” but the Captain just gives people Cap’n Crunch.
MF: Yeah he’s a good cereal host.
CI: Would you rather be able to run at 100 mph or fly at 10 mph?
MF: I mean flying sounds really awesome but just the idea of running at 100 mph is really hard to pass up. Even though I can run, and who doesn’t want to fly? But just to see or feel running 100 mph…Oh my God. I think I’d choose flying though. You can’t pass that up.
CI: What are your general feelings about Beyoncé?
MF: I think Beyonce is really talented and somewhat irresistible to not like. I think she’s a good artist. I think she’s slightly annoying in that I’m tired of hearing about her lately. I feel like I’ve had a little bit of enough of Beyonce. But I think she’s really talented and beautiful and she kind of has basically won the lottery of life. She has won so hard in just being born in her circumstance…like the way that she looks and what she is capable of.
CI: So I know you’ve recently started your own radio show, how did you get that opportunity?
MF: Well, the bigger feat would be if you asked me how I kept it because that is yet to be determined…But how I got it, the radio station that my show, the Wild Wild Midwest Variety Show, is on is really struggling right now and they were looking for new ideas and everything just came together in this perfect storm of timing. I had this idea, and I knew Tom who is the station manager from him interviewing myself and my costar of the show, Ella Dwyer, for art projects we’ve done around the community. So I proposed a show to him and after a lot of meetings he got really excited about it and he let us go ahead. It’s still a trial right now though. People actually complain about it a lot, because as far as the radio station goes it’s a pretty weird show. Keeping it will be the feat.
CI: Well I really like it, I think you guys are funny! I try to listen to it online whenever I can. So I was wondering if anything you’ve done has stood out as a favorite to you?
MF: The radio show.
CI: Do you consider that to be part of your artwork?
MF: Definitely. I think it’s the most exciting thing that I’ve done. The drawings that I did in Ireland are definitely some of my favorites too. Having that amount of time to work on something uninterrupted for nine months was the best thing that ever happened to me. I really have a deep connection with those drawings because they changed how I draw. It was like finding what I liked to draw all of a sudden, something just clicked.
CI: Do you have a general philosophy about art?
MF: I feel like whatever is honest can’t be bad. I think being honest is most important. Being honest about yourself…I feel like that’s the one thing in art I can find right away. When I look at something someone has made, that’s the first thing I think about. I’m obsessed with people I like to think about people, and so when I look at something they make I just like to see them. I think the most important thing you can be is sincere. I think there’s a lot of art that’s based on this weird idea that’s about being an artist or saying you’re an artist or having all these exclusive art friends and talking about what you don’t like. I think it’s important to like things and to know what you like and care, and not act like you don’t. I feel like a big part of art is a “scene” and that kind of disgusts me. Maybe that’s a Midwestern thing, I don’t know. I think you should just really like to make things; I just hate the “coolness”. I hate it so much.