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Gavin's Underground

June's Gallery Stroll: The Oyster Pirates

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2009-06-22 -

Back out onto the Stroll I go, featuring the largest amount of galleries so far this year, most of which are playing off as a sample of what to expect this week from the Arts Fest. But until then...

This month I made my way over to South Temple and the bi-monthly showing from Alpine Art who brought in San Francisco based Oyster Pirates. Showcasing sculptures and several works that had anywhere between 1-5 artists working on a single piece, accompanied by a shoe-shine, a DJ and free massages from Boku. I got to chat with two of the residing SLC artists, Jason Wheatley and Sri Whipple, as well as SF's own Shawn Webber about their art and the show at hand, as well as thoughts on the local art scene. And got lots of pictures to boot.

Jason Wheatley, Sri Whipple, Shawn Webber

http://www.sakada.net/theoysterpirates/

Gavin: Hey guys! First off, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Sri: My full name is Sri Zeno Wamba Zanga Rema Whipple. I was born in Los Angeles, California and raised in Utah since the age of three.

Jason: I was born and raised here in Utah. I have been exhibiting my work for over twelve years and work under a variety of names.

Shawn: My name is Shawn Webber and I have spent the last twenty years in San Francisco.

Gavin: What first got you into art, and what were some of your early inspirations?

Shawn: I have always drawn from an early age but after dropping out of school when I was 15 and spending some time in a punk rock squat in Berkeley I was sent to a small quaker boarding school where a teacher named Deward Drollinger encouraged me to paint and sculpt and basically let me live in the art barn for a year.

Jason: I have always been compelled to create. I would hand paint every thing I could when I was young. My mother was always very encouraging and would buy me paint even though I painted one of the family cars and my bedroom had murals all over every square inch, even the ceiling.

Sri: I was exposed to art (more specifically painting) since I was born. One of my earliest memories is of my father and I painting large canvases on a rooftop in Boston. Naturally my mother and father were the heaviest influences on my work. Through my childhood I digested a lot of art history, classical masters where my favorite. Comic books and cartoons have always had a huge influence on me. Specific artists are hard to name because of the multitude that have influenced me. The biggest influence has always been my family and friends.

Gavin: All three of you have your bachelors in Fine Arts, Sri and Jason specifically from the Us. What were your experiences like with their program?

Sri: Excellent teachers, gained a great deal of experience and knowledge. Also gave me a foundation to react against. Education is good, institution not so much.

Shawn: I got my BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. It was an amazing experience but defiantly more oriented to concept than technique.

Jason: The U was an amazing experience. I was especially influenced by Tony Smith and was part of a group that would go to Helper, Utah for the summer program. It was an intensive workshop where we painted from dawn till dusk.

Gavin: How did you all of you meet up and start collaborating?

Sri: Jason and I started the art program at the same time but didn't get to know each other until our last year at school. We became acquainted when Jason had a show at the U of U's Union Gallery where I worked. Soon after we both attended an art workshop in Helper Utah where we became friends. After graduating I got a studio at the Marmalade Studios with Jason. We have collaborated and shared studios or worked out of the same studios since then.

Jason: Sri and I began collaborating over ten years ago. One day he showed up at the Marmalade Studios on his bike, which turned into Poor Yorick Studios, and we started splitting studio space and have been running mates ever since. It has been wonderful to have such an inspiring and gifted artist to work around and with.

Shawn: I met Jason through a mutual friend Michael Page about three years ago and shortly after met Sri.

Gavin: For Srti, what inspired the misshaped bodily figures you paint most frequently?

Sri: Art History, Dreams, years of figure study, comics, cartoons, music, relationships, Sex, social norms etc... the style of my figures is and has been in a state of constant change as is the inspiration for it.

Gavin: Is there a process you go into with any given work or is it more freeform?

Shawn: My process usually involves a general idea of what I want to paint but I but I generally start with a background and let the paint inform me of whats next.

Jason: I love to experiment with a variety of approaches and a variety of techniques.

Sri: It changes from piece to piece, there are some things that I rely on but I change it up for the sake of freedom and knowledge.

Gavin: How did you come to move into Captain Captain Studios for a workspace?

Sri: Our land lord had a studio at the old Poor Yorick studio, he built Captain Captain when Poor Yorick moved south. Jason and I were invited to move in as were several people from PY.

Jason: My buddy Skylar who had a studio in the old Marmalade Studio's and Poor Yorick approached Sri and me about moving from the Guthry Studio's to the new space he was building out which later became known as Captain Captain. Sri and I have had studio's in every art studio in the downtown area over the past decade.

Gavin: How exactly did you come to do album covers, like the ones for Vile Blue Shades or The Wolves?

Jason: There is great support and collaboration between a lot of the Musicians and Artist in the Salt Lake scene. We are all very inspired by each other. It seems that there is a deep understanding of an archetypal language that artist and musicians utilize in their creations.

Sri: I've been going to music shows since I was 14 years old and worked at a record store for five years so I've become friends with many musicians. Music has always been important to my creativity.

Gavin: How did you get involved with the Oyster Pirates, and what are some of the exhibits you've done with them?

Shawn: The Oyster Pirates was really just a weekly drunken painting collaborative night but then grew into a life of its own. The paintings have taken us to shows in SF, Venice Beach, Berlin, New York and Salt Lake City.

Sri: The Oyster Pirates started with Jason, Shawn, Michael Page and I collaborating on paintings in San Francisco. We have shown in several shows in San Fran, a few shows in Berlin and Two shows in Utah.

Jason: It was more a working philosophy that we all used to have fun with and see were the ride would take us. After three years of amazing camaraderie The Oyster Pirates Workshop has turned into an autonomous entity that has taken a life on it's own and it doesn't seem to be slowing down.

Gavin: Tell us a little about the showing at Alpine Art.

Sri: Jason and I have known Lindsay at Alpine for Years. We thought that Alpine would be a good match for our art, and we both love and trust Lindsay.

Jason: Lindsay has been an amazing force in the art community for years. We were very flattered by her invitation and had an amazing night. We are thrilled at the response to the work.

Shawn: The exhibition at alpine is a bit different as it really showcases individual work as well as the collaboratives and allows the viewer to explore the paintings with a bit of insight into which artist is responsible for which part of a particular collaborative work.

Gavin:
A little local, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?

Shawn: I love the Salt Lake scene. It is a real underground. In San Francisco the underground has become the mainstream and it is nowhere near as pure as it is here. As a west coaster it almost seems like this wonderful, subversive collective of people that is thriving underneath the oppressive Mormon overlords.

Sri: Salt Lake's art scene is great and I love being a part of the community. I have received so much love, inspiration and support from the community and hope that I can return the favor. The bad? No negatives.

Jason: There is nothing bad about the art scene here. There are amazing artist here and tons of support. The cultural root is vibrant and beaming, one can see on a micro level how the artist's visions mold and shape the contemporary culture. The counter-culture here in SLC is one of the most authentic I have ever seen.

Gavin: Anything you believe could be done to make it bigger or better?

Jason: It is our intention to export the unique flavor of Salt Lake throughout the world. We have been propagating from coast to coast and now have our sights set on Europe and Latin America.

Sri: More creation, more artists, more funding, more collaboration in the creative arts, cheaper technology, I think it will naturally grow bigger and better.

Gavin: How about what you think of Gallery Stroll and how its evolved over the years?

Sri: It's a great opportunity for the community to connect with each other. It seems like there are more artists and people getting involved.

Jason: Gallery Stroll has always been a fun time. It is great to see the efforts and hard work of friends and to reconnect with the community.

Gavin: What can we expect from you the rest of this year?

Jason: This year I will be heading back to Berlin and Mexico to push more Pirate Propaganda and reconnect with the artist and collectors I know there.

Sri: Lots of hard work and beautiful art, some art for local bands the invaders and eagle twin. A booth at SLUG's Craft Lake City and some art at Alchemy Coffee shop.

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Shawn: The Oyster Pirates have a show in January 2010, and I have a show with Carhartt Amsterdamn in August, and a show at Kayo Gallery in October.

Jason: I am hoping to get the DupPop ArtShop off the ground as a fully functioning online store. Sri and I will be spending some time re-establishing our original trans-modern workshop called The WWWorkshop. We are very excited to have a booth in SLUG's Craft Lake City.

Sri: Support local art, music and shops.

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