Wednesday, June 4, 2008
WOOF! An Interview with Sparky by Amy Sadao
Amy Sadao: Hi Sparky, I’m a longtime fan, probably since your collaborator Nelson Santos first raved about a “rising art star” who had moved to Brooklyn. Off the bat, we should address some gossip. How do you answer the critics who say you’re selling out the underground arts community that nurtured your work early on?
Sparky: Bite me. I’m kidding. They’re just jealous of my big bone anyway. Oh, when I was a pup, I was more of an ankle-biter. Back then “detractors” might end up with an unnecessary series of rabies shots. But now, who has time for haters?
AS: You weren't always a famous artist. Tell us about your background and how it influences your work?
S: Well, I come from a very working class background. Don’t know my real Dad, taken from my Mom young, lived in foster homes, never fit in. I ran away. One day on the street, I injured my paw. There I was bleeding and scared, and this artist type took me in. I wasn’t sure about Nelson at first, but we hit it off. My work definitely reflects my outsider roots.
AS: So when did you realize your true calling was as an artist?
S: I have some early chew pieces, but mostly as a young pup I just wanted to run wild. I thought artists were sissies in berets. But Nelson took me to galleries and I started digging performance and conceptual art. I collaborated on video and photo pieces with Nelson but quickly realized my calling was bigger, ready to involve more artists.
AS: So much has already been written about your most ambitious work, The Sparky Project. What do you think is most often overlooked in critical analysis of this piece?
S: It’s not easy looking glamorous and inspiring artists. I work in subtleties, finding expression for my many sides: butch Sparky, princess Sparky, destitute Sparky, dandy Sparky. But I’m more than a pretty picture. The project creates relationships between artists and viewers as a vehicle for unconditional love. And when you take a Derridian approach to deconstruct the authorship of this project, I think you begin to see the real meaning of it all.
AS: And how long have you been collaborating with Nelson? Can you tell us a story about your partnership?
S: Well, it is The Sparky Project, not The Nelson Project. Sometimes convincing him of the larger vision is hard. He thinks he’s essential when I know the artist just wants me. I humor him. This one time, the photographer was framing me and Nelson actually put a rubber ball in his mouth and nuzzled his way in. I shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds me but he is riding my coat tails. He’s a good kid, but this project would be nowhere without me, and he knows it.
AS: There’s a New York show up soon. Where can your fans keep track of your work?
S: I’m happy to announce The Sparky Show will be at Schroeder Romero / Winkleman Gallery Project Space (637 West 27th Street, NYC) through June 2008. And, even though MySpace shut down my page, you can still find me online at www.sparkyandnelson.com.
AS: Do you identify as a gay artist?
S: It’s nobody’s business whose butt I sniff, but I’m not ashamed of it either. I’ve had some good bitches, but I tend to fall for those Alpha Dog types. There have always been amazing dogs whose sexuality was known in the industry but kept quiet publicly. Lassie was certainly the Rock Hudson of the four-legged world. As far as labels go, I prefer Queer Canine – I’m here, I’m queer, I’m peeing on your lawn, Get use to it!
AS: How about when you are described as a dog artist?
S: More pigeonholes! I’m an older, gay, white (with black spotting) dog working in a homosapien-dominated market. I have a lot of friends in the animal kingdom and we don’t judge based on the color of our fur or even whose balls we like to lick. I show in non-dog contexts. You have to move beyond dog parks and kennels if you want to grow artistically.
AS: Particular to this publication, I have to ask, how do erotica and gay culture influence your work?
S: My work is erotic but I’m not making puppy porn. It’s A.R.T. Why make a big deal over a little extra exposed fur?
AS: The Sparky Project turns on you not only as subject but as a presence, a phenomena and, at the same time, decenters the single artist as independent creator?
S: Finally, a real question. I was beginning to feel awfully Page 6. The project is challenging. Of course I’m the star but the work is more than headshots, it is a investigation into collaboration.
AS: Who are some of the other artists you would like to work with?
S: William Wegman, the early work. I have a few ideas for Matthew Barney, Jeff Koons, and Cindy Sherman. Hey, if you are reading this, give me a call. And anyone interested in participating should visit www.sparkyandnelson.com
AS: Thanks so much for your time Sparky.
Amy Sadao is the Executive Director of Visual AIDS and a sometimes art writer who lives in Brooklyn. She began her career as an intern for Sparky.