look inside the art-obsessed mind of an ex-shut-in
Between the busting
population trying to conduct business in downtown San Diego and the giant
airliners nearly clipping the roof of the building where Randy Janson's
studio-New Pop Art- is located, I was surprised that he gets any work
done at all. Most artists would be so distracted by the surroundings that
they would have a hard time getting anything done, but Randy isn't like
most artists. In fact, I would have to say that Janson isn't like any
other artist I have ever met.
That's because Randy thrives on the chaos that his life. He gets stabbed
and nearly dies - he paints. He nearly gets killed in a skateboard accident
- he paints. He gets run over by a car while riding a bicycle - he paints.
And with each one of these near-death experiences that seem to come his
way every seven years, Randy's art, as with his heavily tattooed and scarred
body, becomes more interesting to look at.
After meeting up with
Randy at his New Pop Art Studio late on a Friday afternoon and getting
a quick look at some of the works in progress, he decided that the studio
wasn't the best environment for an interview. So, we piled into Randy's
'65 chopped Dodge pickup and headed south. Doug Thompson, one of Randy's
fellow artist friends, came along for the ride and for a little insight
into Randy's mind. Before long, we were crossing the border into Mexico
and heading towards Tijuana.
In the truck, I became aware of Randy's constant tendency to look at things
from a slightly different perspective than most people would. And as we
slid into a booth at one of the numerous exotic dancing clubs on the dirty
little Mexican street where we parked Randy's truck (and paid a kid to
watch it), I got the feeling that the night was about to get very interesting.
So, I started the tape recorder. Here's what it picked up.
So, Randy, what
possessed you to start painting women?
RJ: Well, after I got stabbed in a girl-related incident, a fatal
attraction type deal, I was afraid to go out of the house. I really didn't
have access to any women without going out, so I began to paint them.
And since I was painting them for nobody but myself, I figured that I
would paint them exactly the way I wanted them to be-a tad bit exaggerated.
DT: The first painting I ever saw by Janson was a chrome dildo
nearly five feet tall. It was at an erotic art show put on by the folks
running the Museum of Death, in downtown San Diego. After speaking at
length with Janson, I came to realize he is even more eccentric than his
Kinda like creating
images of your ideal woman ?
RJ: Sure, why not. Hold on a sec'. (Randy got a little distracted
at this point, as he began digging in his pocket for some one-dollar bills
to tip the dancer who had been standing at the end of the table looking
at the two of us.)
Where were we here?
Oh yeah, the interview. Why did you pick the pop art style for your paintings?
RJ: Because of the bright colors and the boldness. You never have
to guess what you're looking at. I don't want to pussyfoot around with
pussy, I want to put the pussy in your face. Enjoy
DT: Recently Janson did a series of paintings portraying cigar
aficionado Monic Lewinsky as heroine. While he would probably say that
these are political statements, I know otherwise.
RJ: They are; politics are America's junk food-media, the whole
DT: Some of these pieces were splattered with a milky white substance
suspiciously resembling bodily fluid that Janson still insists is only
Yeah, a lot of
your pieces are really in your face. Has that ever been a problem?
RJ: Yeah, a couple of my pieces have been a little over the top
for some of the art shows I have been invited to. I guess that some people
don't appreciate me putting the pussy in their face.
DT: He would say that what you get out of the painting is what
you bring to the artwoak in your own neurosis. More of his jargon. The
viewer is the pervert. What about this Donut series? He claims that these
donuts represent the decline of western civilization via processed food
stuff; substance with no valuable or necessary vitamins, minerals, or
a single shred of goodness. It doesn't take anymore than a dime store
Freud to figure out the significance of a hole. Some go as far as to include
a hot dog that he insists represents more processed food. Maybe I'm the
pervert, but Freud is on my side.
RJ: I blatantly admit these paintings are and were intended to
be erotic. If I can turn someone on with my artwork, good or bad, I think
my job is done. Rock on.
I was checking
out the list of shows you have been involved with in the past 10 years.
You have been on the walls of some pretty influential galleries like La
Luz De Jesus, Rico, and even some mainstream stuff like the Sony Art Walk.
RJ: Yeah, I've been pretty lucky; a lot of shows. I'm always painting
new stuff. So I'm always looking to show my stuff no matter the gallery
situation. The mainstream shows are fun because of the pure shock value.
So you're always
RJ: It seems like it.
With all of the
stuff going on, what keeps you going?
RJ: I'm obsessed. Painting is more important to me than anything.
When I am working on a piece, I won't sleep, I won't eat- I just can't
stop. It is like having a disease sometimes. I start painting and the
next thing I know it's done and my wife is mad as hell because it's late
and I'm still not home.
You come to clubs
down here often?
RJ: Only when I need a distraction. And a good freak show. Love to
like this inspire some of your work? Like the piece with the woman in
the Mexican wrestling mask with the pistol?
RJ: Most of that stuff is just a product of my imagination. I mean,
look around. Do you see any of these girls with a pistol or a wrestling
mask? Would be great if they were. I'm sure that things like this contribute
to my work, but it is only a little part of what goes into a specific
piece. Mostly my art just deals with the things I see every day. Elements
from TV, magazines and advertisements all contribute to what ends up in
my work. Love that porno junk mail.
So what's next?
RJ: Well, it looks like they're about to bring in the donkey.
DT: Another Bean and Coke.
No, not here. I
mean, what's next for you?
RJ: More painting. Part of a show at La Luz in March. New stuff for
my website, newpopart.com. Blow up
DT: Keep your eyes open!