Interview: Suburban Sleep

Name: Suburban Sleep
Age:
26
Years an artist: 5 years
Place of birth: Los Angeles, California, USA
Current city: Los Angeles, California, USA
Primary occupation: Retail

I know your real name but you decided not to share it in this interview. Why the secrecy?
I don't want to materialize. I separated my artist identity from my ordinary identity to be able to observe and create unburdened by my ordinary superstitions, predispositions, and social pressures.

So is this second identity a part of your larger work of art?
I guess you could say that.

Tell us about your work.
I’d say that all my work is just observation driven by the dark themes in my psyche. I am drawn to the night, to the darkness, to the kind of stuff that’s underneath plastic fairings, glamour, chitchat. A drunken bum singing in front of a closing supermarket at 11pm is interesting to me. It’s so dark.

I think that kind of darkness certainly translates through your work. Do you consider yourself a dark personality?
Um, it depends.

How do you make your work? How do you go from an idea to finished product? I think a lot of artists are struggling with that.
You just gotta do it, man. It’s scary as fuck but you kinda have to not care about that fear. I think it’s scarier to see what happens if you don’t do it, if you never make what you feel you need to make, you know?

I remember when we collaborated on a photo shoot in the past you had a very clear idea of the final image. Do you always have a strong visual/idea ready before you go out and do something?
Sometimes. Oftentimes it’s all about following that initial curiosity. It kind of draws you in and then you have to focus on it, to hold onto it. If that makes sense.

ADVERTISEMENT

So a kind of creative impulse?
I’d not necessarily call it a creative impulse. Well, for me it isn’t, anyway. Just an impulse, a drive to do or capture or make something. This strong wish to just dive a little deeper. For me it’s kind of like a life impulse. I can be doing the most boring routine shit and then something within me grows heavy. It’s heavy and I have to get it out.

And how do you get it out?
That’s the difficult part. This is where you meet reality.

Tell me more.
The only way to influence reality is to take action.

Who or what are some of your inspirations?
I don’t really know. I just love some photos, some songs, and I admire the artists who made them. I admire their ideas and their efforts. I look up to them. And also LA. This city gives me so many ideas.

Do you have formal training in art?
Yeah, I have formal training in photography, but you know, the more I photograph or make art, the more I try to distance myself from that training. I think school teaches you to see everything with the same pair of eyes, teaches you what has worked in the past, what is working now. But at one point you have to develop your own vision.

So are you advocating not going to school?
Go to school, but make it your own. Get what you need out of it.

But in your case, do you think that formal training has been helpful in some way?
I am sure it has been in some way, but it can also be quite limiting. Say your friends didn’t think your idea was that great, or you got a lower grade on your project than you were expecting. If that makes you doubt yourself, you might be in trouble. I am not saying ignore feedback, but art is subjective, meaning that every opinion is valid, but you are the artist so your opinion before you show your work is final.

What are your future projects? What’s in the works?
Haha shit, I dunno, man. But there is definitely more stuff coming. I am always observing, and things are starting to grow heavy inside once again.

ADVERTISEMENT

What are your commercial ambitions? Is there an audience for your work?
I don’t think it’s a large audience, but I am certain that somewhere out there it exists. Will that audience ever see my work? Who knows. But even if just one person looks at my work and truly feels the heavy power of the brooding undercurrents of life that I am trying to capture, then that is enough for me. Of course I want to be successful commercially and say fuck you to my mind-numbing retail job, but as of right now I am trying my best to make my art as true to myself as possible. If I ever feel like I am faking it or like I am beginning to depart from my own vision in some way just to expand my audience, then I will know it has come time to readjust and refocus. After all, if I don’t make art that is mine, like, what am I doing? 

Do you find it hard to make art that is yours?
Yes, the difficult part is dealing with that paradox between what you need to make and what circumstances, society, social media, your friends, your grandma, and your fears are trying to make you make. In the end you just gotta not give a damn anymore and have some confidence in the validity of your ideas. That validity is questioned and put under fire all the time, so you better grow some balls because it ain’t going to be easy to protect and to grow your vision. And I mentioned circumstances, friends, family, etc. but the main obstacle is you. Your fear. Real artists are much braver than they seem.

You mentioned LA as one of your major influences. Could you make art somewhere else?
Yes, of course. There are always things to become aware of. Always enough darkness. Always enough unknowns. My art is within me. Where I go, it goes.