CHICKENHEAD PAST: MARK RYDEN
interview by vinnie baggadonuts

DURING OUR FIRST YEAR, FROM SEPTEMBER 1999 TO AUGUST 2000, WE WERE KNOWN UNDER THE MONIKER CHICKENHEAD. DURING THAT FIRST YEAR, WE INTERVIEWED A LOT OF PEOPLE. NOT ALL OF THEM WERE GREAT INTERVIEWS. YOU CAN TELL THAT WE WERE JUST STARTING TO FIGURE OUT OUR STYLE. BUT WE'VE PICKED TWELVE INTERVIEWS OUT FROM THAT FIRST YEAR THAT EPITOMIZED WHAT WE WERE TRYING TO DO. DURING JUNE, JULY, AND AUGUST WE WILL BE PLACING THESE OLD INTERVIEWS ONLINE FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE. THERE WILL BE FOUR NEW INTERVIEWS EACH MONTH. ENJOY THIS BLAST FROM TASTES LIKE CHICKEN'S PAST!

INTERVIEW: MARK RYDEN

ORIGINAL PRINT DATE: JANUARY 2000


JUST AS HE SHARES A SIMILARITY IN STYLE WITH THE CLASSICAL MASTERS, SO TOO DOES ENIGMATIC PAINTER-EXTRAORDINAIRE MARK RYDEN SHARE THEIR OBSESSION WITH UNCOOKED MEAT AND SPIRITUAL LINK WITH THE LATE COLONEL SANDERS. HE ALSO SHARED SOME INSIGHT WITH CHICKENHEAD'S RITALIN-STARVED RENAISSANCE MAN, VINNIE BAGGADONUTS, ON EXISTING RUMORS, WHAT'S IN HIS WALLET, AND THE AMUSEMENT PARK BUILT AROUND A LARGE STATUE.

Name one accomplished painter from the canons of art history who gained said recognition while still living. That's what I thought. Though it is strongly believed to be a damn near impossible task, the humbly ubiquitous Mark Ryden has done it, and done it well. While generally mislabeled as a "contemporary pop artist", Ryden displays a skill and style in the vein of classic masters like Michelangelo and Leonardo DaVinci. His bizarre, delicate imagery has been everywhere: from album covers to gallery walls (most recently at Detroit's illustrious C-Pop Gallery), and has even graced the cover of Rolling Stone. He paints what he wants to, how he wants to, and I pity the fool who can't respect that. So, while you stand in some posh warehouse gallery staring introspectively at a big blank canvas, I'll be effortlessly enjoying Mr. Ryden's modest masterpieces full of raw meat, Abe Lincoln, and wide-eyed nymphs.

Vinnie: Is this the first time you've been interviewed by a magazine named Chickenhead?

Mark: There was a magazine called Duckbutt, and I believe one called Buffalohead; but this is the first Chickenhead.

V: Are you familiar with the artist Chickenhead (no relation)?

M: No.

V: While we're on the subject of chicken: We both share an affinity for his holiness, Colonel Harland Sanders. Unfortunately, we've had to sever all ties with the name and likeness due to the possibility of being sued. Has Kentucky Fried Chicken ever threatened you with legal action over the Colonel's likeness appearing in you paintings?

M: Colonel Sanders came to me in a dream and told me he didn't mind my using his likeness in my paintings, so I figure it is okay. In fact, sometimes he tells me what to paint.

V: Do you ever get the urge to say "fuck it" and just paint giant portraits of raw sirloin?

M: I thought that is what I did.

V: Where do you pull inspiration for your work from? Other art? Pop culture? Personal life events?

M: Swap meet ephemera, old photos, old books, old anything. Pictures of bugs, paintings by Bouguereau and David, books about Phineas T. Barnum, films by Ray Harryhausen, old photographs of strange people, children's books about space and science, medical illustrations, music by Frank Sinatra and Debussy, magazines, TV, Jung and Freud, Ren and Stimpy, Joseph Campbell and Nostradamus, Ken and Barbie, alchemy, freemasonry, Buddhism, Alice in Wonderland, Charles Darwin and Colonel Sanders.

V: Are you at all influenced or inspired by your art world peers, like Derek Hess, Glenn Barr, or Frank Kozik?

M: Sure. You never know where you may get a little bit of inspiration. But I tend to look at old imagery, rather than contemporary.

V: Do you think they are at all influenced or inspired by you?

M: I couldn't say, but I would hope so. I think that is one of the most rewarding things in making art; to provide some inspiration for another artist.

V: Do you think this interview will at all influence or inspire you?

M: It has already inspired me beyond words.

V: Do you work in any mediums other than paint?

M: Yeah. I used to work in acrylics quite a bit, but have been working more and more just in oil. It is a superior medium. I also like to sculpt and work with three-dimensional mediums as well. I like to sculpt with clay, build with wood, sew fabric, glue and paste and sprinkle glitter.

V: Do you ever miss being a kid, and, if so, does that push you to make the paintings you make?

M: I think you hit upon the big secret to making art. You have to become a kid. When messing around in your studio with your art, you really have to feel like a kid. It is really tough to do that when you are a parent of kids yourself. It is hard to forget about bills and taxes and all the crap of being an adult. But that is exactly what you have to do.

V: Has building a family changed your approach to your work or subject matter?

M: I am surrounded by children's books and toys. When the TV is on, it is usually a show for kids. It is not hard to see how it influences you.

V: Are there any life or career goals, outside the realm of the art world, you have yet to achieve?

M: I want to build an amusement park around a huge statue.

V: What's one rumor about yourself you would like to start in this interview?

M: Well, here are the rumors I always hear about myself, which you can perpetuate:

1.) I have a shrine to Christina Ricci in my basement.

2.) I paint with strange concoctions and mystical mediums that I add to my paint. Alchemy.

3.) I paint in a sealed, plastic hyperbolic chamber to keep my paintings pure.

4.) Like a vampire, I only paint late at night.

I don't deny or confirm any of these rumors.


V: Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers about the wild world of Mark Ryden?

M: I carry a picture of a sad mouse in my wallet

VISIT MARK HERE.

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