Artist Interview: Scott Young
By Phoebe Celeste Thomas & Jamie Nadel
Scott Young is a visual artist and musician in the Olympia area (whose art is featured on our cover). He uses a variety of mediums such as drawing, collage, painting, and, more recently, photography, and is in the bands GAG and TransFX. He grew up in Washington and got his degree from Evergreen with a focus on art theory and philosophy. He has exhibited his art around Olympia, Seattle, L.A., and Atlanta, and has also owned a couple shops/galleries (Jackpot Olympia and Ghost Town Gallery). He is currently a nanny and runs a daycare with his girlfriend, while supplementing his income by creating artwork for various bands and commissioned projects. In the near future, he will be working on a mural with artist Jean Nagai near the Artesian Well. You can check out his work online at scottyoung.us.
What role does typography play in your work?
I don’t know if I’d say “typography” (I don’t understand letterpress), but I’ve always been interested in the placement of text in pieces of art. It changes the work so much. When words are paired with images, the viewer is directed in such a specific way. That’s why works that use text in a more abstract way can be so funny and engaging. I’ve made a lot of flyers and I’m always perplexed by how easily words can ruin or make an image. Most of the texts I make is fucked-up script and old English letters that are hand drawn with a quill tip and bottle of ink I got at a garage sale. So I guess I’m interested in making letters and words appear to be more personal and specific… I guess at this point it’s more uncommon to see an image without text though. Most the images we see in advertising, in books, or on the Internet are surrounded by text.
Talk to me about the Internet. The Internet’s role in every aspect of our lives feels pretty saturated at this point. I think that it’s great that people have access to such a large percentage of art that they might never have had the chance to ever see 20 years ago. That being said, the Internet provides such a mediated and contained version of art. It’s all experienced on similar sized screens at home or phone. The rate at which people look at art on the Internet is also kind of alarming. Maybe I just speak for myself there, haha! I think that the Internet as a concept in art is relevant and interesting. Just as landscape painters sought to evoke a sense of the sublime through depicting nature, contemporary artists are taking a shot at envying a sublime experience through depicting…?
I’m not a smoker, but I wish I was.” -Scott Young
Tell me about the band you’re in. I’m in two bands right now, GAG and TransFX. GAG is a hardcore punk band. We’ve toured a fair amount and that has provided me with a lot of opportunities to go to some amazing museums and art spaces around the country. Once we played in Lil B’s manager’s art gallery. A lot of my ideas about art and drawing styles are informed by punk, so I really value the experience of being in this band. TransFX is the other band I’m in. It’s more of a open-end genre. We are always expanding upon what genre it is. Right now, my main focus in the band is writing classical music. I guess at its core it’s pop music. It’s more of a process piece, which is really fun because I don’t really have to worry so much about outside expectations. But it’s complicated because I worry more about internal expectations.
What do you think about the Olympia art scene? I guess like a lot of other things, it is what you make it. That being said, I think we have made it pretty shitty. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of space for contemporary art here. There have been a few shows in the last few years that are exceptions to this, but as a whole I’m pretty underwhelmed. But I think this is inspiring in a lot of ways. It pushes me to make more work; it pushes me to appreciate the engaging work that is here more fully.
How has your involvement in the Olympia music scene influenced your art? It has influenced my art in so many ways. The music scene is the scene in Olympia. Outside of the spring and fall Arts Walks there isn’t a lot of energy surrounding visual art. So it’s very fortunate that there is a long history of bands in Olympia that have a real involvement to visual art as well as to music. It can be frustrating at times, but I think overall it tends to push people to make more engaging work.
Are you going anywhere? I’m here for a while.
What are some of your inspirations for making art? I don’t pretend to understand half of it, but Kant’s ideas about art depicting or invoking an experience of the sublime has always been something that keeps me on my toes… In the last 6 months I’ve been really excited about Matisse (who hasn’t been?). I feel like I never really appreciated his work, or even thought about it beyond a form of decoration. I’m currently in a digital photography class, and it is a really new medium for me, so that has been pretty influential. I have been really influenced by Lori Nix’s photography in the last few weeks. She builds very intricate sets that she photographs. Her series “The City” beautifully depicts a crumbling city in such a captivating and sad way. I’m also very influenced by the Internet as cultural landscape.
What do you think about the high rise next to New Moon Cafe? I think it’s great that there will be more available housing downtown. I think it’s great that potentially more people with money will be downtown. But judging by the image of the high rise on the building sign it will look ugly as sin. They should go with a different design.
How do you feel about smoking? I’m not a smoker, but I wish I was.