PUBLISHED 28 July 2017
We're stoked to be sponsors of the First Annual Lowbrow Con in Sunny Portland (Milwaukie) - August 5th & 6th 2017! I talked to organizer Kevin of the Lifeform Podcast about his hopes, dreams & nightmares for the convention!
SEAN: How did the idea for LowBrow Con come about?
KEVIN: It seems like a lot of the artists that I follow on Instagram participate in conventions, art fairs and group shows all the time and it always looks so fun to participate in events like that. Unfortunately because I am not in the position where I can just attend these kind of events whenever I want because of work and where I live it seemed almost easier to just create one myself instead of trying to get involved in someone else's event. The idea for Lowbrow Con specifically came about because no one was doing a convention style event that was solely focused on artists in the weirdo art scene on Instagram and I thought it could be potentially be a huge and really fun event. Through doing the Lifeform Podcast and running the Lifeform Drawing Club on Instagram I had grown a network of really cool artists that all seem like super fun people to hang out with and they all seem to follow each other as well so it seemed like a logical step moving forward to try to bring this community out of the digital realm and into the real world.
SEAN: LowBrow is an art term coined by Robert Williams to describe his work - but as associated with 80s Juxtapoz it covered Hot Rod art like Ed Roth's Rat Fink, circus & carnival art, comic books & opened up into surf & skateboard art - it is a populist, ephemeral, street-level, American folk-art form - what does LowBrow mean to you?
KEVIN: We have had the criticism that the term Lowbrow art represents an older, more specific style of art (such as Robert Williams and Ed Roth like you mentioned) and that we should have named our event to represent what's currently going in the art scene instead. Something that can represent the future instead of the past and I totally agree with that sentiment! That being said, I think the term Lowbrow has morphed into a blanket term that represents all manners of outsider, underground, trashy art, etc. With that in mind, we wanted to use a name that would explain exactly what kind of event we were putting on and felt that the co-opted term Lowbrow was the best fit. Going ahead in the future I think we will operate under a different name as I can't begin to explain how much of a hassle it the name Lowbrow Con has caused us!
SEAN: What makes a good Lowbrow Artist?
KEVIN: I like a combination of great style, humor and a dash of gnarlyness (or a lot)!! I am also really impressed by artists that can figure out how to stand out amongst the masses and make common themes that appear in the scene seem fresh and original. I also think a good Lowbrow artist is someone that is good at embracing all of the varying aspects of creating and promoting art, is supportive of other artists and learns how to cope with the demons of following a creative pursuit.
SEAN: Most of the artists featured at this first LowBrow Con are active on Instagram - Instagram has been great for people to connect with all types of cool stuff - BUT - what about people who aren't on instagram but also aren't in magazines - etc - is there somewhere else to find people's art?
KEVIN: It is safe to say that every artist at the first Lowbrow Con are on Instagram as that is the platform that was used to connect with everyone in the first place. If you are not getting your art on the internet or in magazines then you had better hope to have a good local art scene that you can connect with. Something that is a goal of mine now that I have connected with a great community online. I kind of feel like I am doing things backwards in that respect. I see a lot of cool work where I live by checking out all of the art walk events that happen where I live as well as seeing a lot of cool work hanging in the coffee shops and restaurants around town. I have discovered a lot of really great local artist with a mouth full of food and hope to start connecting with those artists soon.
SEAN: Instagram art operates off of some elements not unlike graffiti & tattooing in that there is an emphasis on style & repetition - it is prone to shallow & superficial thinking as it is difficult to convey depth on there - to me, I look for depth in art - what are some ways that artists can bring depth to their work while using instagram?
KEVIN: One of the drawbacks to Instagram is that it makes art seem like little digital blips that may or may not register as one scrolls quickly through their feed. At least with the ability to post little galleries rather than single pics it is now possible to show your whole piece and detail shots in the same post. I also find time lapse videos are great for reminding people that someone's work actually took time to make which is easy to forget with the ability to consume so much art in so little time. I feel if someone can create a fascinating story with a single piece of art that is truly the best way to bring depth to someone's work and I think that can be done regardless of the size of the work.
SEAN: Who are five artists that are really blowing your mind lately?
KEVIN: I am always really stoked on the work of Joseph Harmon. Zach Taylor's work also really does it for me. Naoya Muga is really cool. Dripface has long been a favorite of mine and I really dig Parker Day's photography a lot lately.
SEAN: What are three of your favorite conspiracy theories?
KEVIN: Lately the Flat Earthers have been a big one!! I used to joke about joining the Flat Earth Society back in my early 20's and would have never imagined that it would make a comeback like it has. I am baffled by it's resurgence.
I recently heard that Chris Cornell and the dude from Linkin Park were murdered because they were going to expose a pedophile ring which was really good for a laugh.
The best thing about conspiracies though is that people and governments conspire all the time and that a lot of crazy shit that you hear is actually true. Coups, false flags, and fucked up experiments are all over the internet and a lot can be proven. Disinformation, trolls and gullible people have made it hard to sort out what is true and what is bullshit but a few google searches will definitely lead down some true, provable conspiracy rabbit holes. Read The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein is a good book to read if you want a taste of a lot of shady wheelings and dealings!!
SEAN: Do you have a special recipe that you have to cook for people? What is it? What makes it extra special?
KEVIN: Our go to is a green leaf salad with beets, carrots, strawberries, candied ginger, toasted almonds, chicken with taco seasoning (sometimes) and a really great local(ish) salad dressing. Gets em every time!!
SEAN: What are some ways that your love of LowBrow Art bleed into your life - weird shit that you do - etc.
KEVIN: I feel like I have always worn my influences on my sleeve and constantly quote weird movies, sing bizarre songs and have a generally fucked up sense of humor. I feel like I have always been attracted to underground culture in one way or another and so the art doesn't really bleed into my regular life but is an extension of it if that makes any sense.
SEAN: How does music figure into this stuff for you?
KEVIN: I feel like music is what got me interested in art in the first place. Some of my earliest memories as a kid are of checking out my brother's vinyl collection. My twin brother and I loved looking at and listening to Number of the Beast, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Shout At the Devil and Kiss records as infants. Later in life thrash metal cover art was a huge influence on me. The sound, attitude and DIY ethic of punk influenced not only my music preference but also my whole attitude on art and life in general. Playing in bands got me into graphic design, making websites and screen printing. I have had a lot of interests over the course of my life but music has been the only constant over all of my years and I would be nothing without it.
SEAN: What are some things you're excited about with Lowbrow Con?
KEVIN: I am the most excited to hang out with everyone that I have been in contact with on Instagram over the last few years in person. It will be great to solidify all of those friendships with a shared real life experience like Lowbrow Con. I am also stoked to meet all of the artists that are attending the event but aren't vending that I have had contact with online and fans of Lifeform in general. I can't wait to see what all of the artists are bringing to the event as far as art, merch, installations, etc are concerned and to see the event in full swing and see the birth of an idea that has been over a year in the making!
SEAN: Final Thoughts?!?!
KEVIN: Being a part of this event is both really exciting and scary all at the same time. I am excited to see what does and does not work with the event and to use that knowledge to make the next one even better. I am grateful to be part of such a supportive, creative and rad art scene. I am also really grateful to everyone that is taking the time to travel to this even and spend their money getting there. I also want to thank Matt, Olivia and Bree for all of their hard work making this thing a reality. Plus Rockin' Stickers, Rad Buttons, Sizzle Pie, Gigantic Brewing and of course Pork for supporting the event. See ya at Lowbrow Con!!
SEAN: Thank you Kevin! I expect to see everyone at LowBrow Con!
- Sean Äaberg