Arts & Culture / Mosaic / February 25, 2009

Source Material artists Applin and Baratta deconstruct their art

Isak Applin and Carl Baratta describe their work as using ideas and images from other sources. They do not consider this plagiarism; rather, they find images that they can use to inspire and transform their work.

For Applin and Baratta, these sources can be categorized in three ways. In one category, the material has a direct usage, where the image in the artwork can be directly identified back to the original inspiring work. It can have an indirect usage where the material will “[raise] your curiosity or has a spirit you want to capture,” said Applin. The third category is for material that is fascinating, but cannot be used.

To get their “base inspiration” the two “go to the library and take all kinds of Xeroxes,” said Applin. “We’ll often get source material together and share it or swap it. Usually I start hunting for something and something completely different happens.”

After they have a plethora of material, they work it into their pieces through drawing. They will take an image and work at redrawing it to see how it looks under their own hand. “Drawing is the way to translate this stuff to make it your own,” said Applin.

Applin’s work tends to reflect more of the natural world, and he blends the paint together smoothly. When he composes, he tries to have “paintings that have more than one story going on at once. Thus you will see interactions happening in multiple spaces of the painting,” he said.

Applin is also interested in memory as a tool.

In one painting, Applin referenced men with bird wings flapping near a river. In this painting there is “this attempt to return to nature, but things didn’t go right.” Applin grew up near a nudist colony and from this memory brings inspiration into the painting. He sees the similarity between the colony and these birdmen. To him, the nudists, too, seemed to be “people who are trying to get back to nature but getting it wrong.”

Baratta’s painting carried a different aura. “There’s a lot of blood,” he was quick to note, pointing to a slide of a painting depicting monsters battling in a house. Baratta’s source materials come from “glam-rock fashion from the 70s”, David Bowie, videogames, Japanese prints, “lots of kung-fu movies that are really bloody,” the band Frog Eyes, mythology, and his old roommate’s performance costumes.

Baratta took a more jovial attitude to describing his process.

“[I] just wanted to make a boat with a mustache…you understand, right?” he said. Of his practice at making a source art painting Baratta said ” I just keep working on it until I’m laughing like a maniac and then I’m done.”

His lighthearted amusement with the work shows in his pieces; though they may be covered in blood, the monsters are rocking sequined pants.

Klayr Valentine-Fossum


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