Marlos E'van [Interview]
Interview with Marlos E’van
June 2019 Digital Resident
MHM: Tell us about your art: What do you make? What mediums do you use?
ME: In my opinion, my art is like a form of film-making that touches on a wide variety of subjects and characters. The work interchanges across different genres, from action blockbusters to blacksploitation films, & widely addresses societal issues that plague our environments, asking how we can move forward, together, through the 21st century. I also feel that my work is a form of music. At times, delivering informative lyrics similar to NWA and Tupac Shakur, but through visual art. Well, through many different mediums actually; painting, sculpture, music, films, custom made clothing/apparel, performance.
MHM: In what ways are you involved in the community with art?
ME: Thanks for asking! I feel like Me & the Community are on a journey together. Whether we realize it or not, we’re in the same car driving down the highway trying to get to a destination. Freedom/Bliss. It’s interesting because Courtney Adair Johnson and I have maintained a studio practice at the McGruder Center (family resource center) in North Nash for the past few years, while also co-building an artist residency program which has seen collabs with creatives from vast walks of life and cultures. These creatives have all incorporated community interaction and community building thru our time together; Creating opportunities for each other to grow and learn from one another. These interactions help us all identify the strengths and assets that we all bring to the table to help uplift a thriving community. I tend to also listen to the community because sometimes people really do need to tell someone their story and just want someone to listen without judging. Some of these stories show you just how real life is & how deep of a concept perseverance is.
MHM: Can you tell us your story of what happened to your book that was published with Extended Play while traveling?
ME: Maaaan, that’s a looong story! So basically, my book publisher had a nice quantity of Skull Microwave books with them while trying to leave a NY book fair. TSA saw the books then pulled them in the back room and interrogated them and labeled the book as propaganda. Had us living like revolutionaries. Hyperallergic did a story on it and it’s well worth the read. Heres the link but the got my last name wrong most of the story! I Love Hyperallergic tho! https://hyperallergic.com/tag/marlos-evans/
MHM: What art events do you have coming up? Or are currently on exhibit we should keep our eyes our for?
ME: Hmm, well, I have a show up at Atlanta Contemporary right now, and a piece going up at the Frist Museum on August 10th. After that, I’m doing my first solo as a represented artist with Red Arrow Gallery on the East side. After that, I might go do something in Japan, NY, LA, MS.
MHM: What arisit(s) to you aspire towards?
ME: The ones that got/get to wake up and live this dream/nightmare everyday. The ones that take chances and fail from time to time. The ones that transcend.
MHM: Describe your work art in 10 words
ME: ITS THE LAND OF THE BRAVE, HOME OF THE SLAVE
MHM: What's next in the studio?
ME: Welll, Im most def in the studio hard right now making this new work for the Sep show. It’s called Slightly Dangerous! I’m pushing the work to new places now, or rather it’s pushing me and you don't wanna miss it! I'm also about to finish the Velvet Castlez debut album and start performing music live. I’m very excited about that tho. I’m also about to write a film; a Romance Vampire film. Oh, and the we’re wrapping up the cookbook too!
MHM: If you had a million dollars to fund an art project what would you do?
ME: Maaan, let me brace for this because it sounds like you’re about to give me a million bucks right now! But seriously, I got a few things in mind that I’d like to bring to life and a million would help make that happen on another level. That type of cash allows you to reach further in your bag and bring other people up in the process to truly make some great work! Get back with me when that million comes in and let’s see what we come up with.
MHM: What is your perfect Sunday?
ME: Cuddling with a cutie!
MHM: Tell us a story about your life that relates to your current work?
ME: One of the earliest memories in my life is when I was about 3-4 years old living in north mississippi on a farm. Me and my mom were walking down the road which is named after my family and the only person not related to us on that street was a corner house where an older white dude used to live. When me and mom were about to pass his house, I remember him sicking his 2 German Shepards on us. My mom was an All American Track Star at the time and she quickly grabbed me in her arms, tossed me on her shoulders, and darted out with lightning speed. The dogs never caught us but it was then that I knew, I am a Black American. Not only am I a Black American, I am of an Oppressed People in America. Stories like these and stories of redemption fuel my work.
MHM: How does expressing your voice in artwork affect you?
ME: Greatly. Expressing my voice where it should be expressed;especially thru my work, is one of the greatest gifts known to humankind. Our expressions are our voices; Our voices are our communication; without it we die.
MHM: When did you know you wanted to be an artist? What drew you in to art making?
ME: There were 2 moments in particular where I knew I wanted 2 be an artist. The first was during an elementary school field trip to the Walter Anderson Museum near Biloxi, MS. Walter Anderson was kinda like a Van Gogh figure that had died a long time ago but I remember being in his museum/house and saw all the borderline manic paintings he did all over the walls and ceilings in some of the rooms. Seeing that freedom of expression inspired me immediately. The second time I knew I really wanted to be an artist was when I was working in a hot factory in Mississippi. It was there that I made plans to be a full time artist and change my situation to something that made me happiest.
I’m not entirely sure what exactly led me into art making, because it came as natural to me as talking, or making sounds, laced with the fact that my early years of art making were done in private (in my bedroom) as a way of coping/escape without worrying about judgement. These were like letters to myself and practice. Before I knew what canvas was I was painting on wood and fabric. I even sprayed a whole can of blue shaving gel on a wall in the teachers lounge where my mom taught, so I guess that was my first mural. When they walked in and saw my “mural” everybody asked, “why did you do that?”, I never had an answer. Maybe it was just in me.
MHM: Is there a certain way you want people to feel when they encounter your work?
ME: I just want them to feel. Whatever the emotion is, just feel something. And maybe after you’ve had an encounter with the work, you’ll go home and talk about what you just experienced. So like, having dialogue with each other.
MHM: How do you think about politics in your work?
ME: Good Question. Politics suck mostly! I tend 2 think about the absurdity of it all on one hand; like the misuse/uneven scales of leadership, power and justice. On the other hand, my work considers what the outcomes could look like if we kept up this resistance and actually get to a place where we can positively change the world for the better. I personally want to live in a world where the people have the power, and all these old outta touch dudes & sometimes ladies, stop tryna make decisions for us all; telling you where you can be, what to do with our bodies, and how to live your life. Those limiting mindsets are all outdated and should be laid to rest now so we can actually enjoy the 21st century. Sometimes I think they dont want us 2 grow!
MHM: Could you tell us about your experience with food deserts, and how those memories affect you and your work?
ME: Sure. Let’s look at my time in North Nashville for example. Food Desert. While going to college there, Kroger was up across the highway, None of us really knew about the farmers market at the time and didnt have the money to really shop there like that anyway. Save-A-Lot is back off in the neighborhood but we question the food there sometimes. It’s kinda like getting food from Dollar General in a way, but some folks really dont have the resources to choose different. With all this being said, most of us ended up going to the places that gave us the most bang for our buck; McDonalds, Wendys, and Taco Bell! These three are all in the same circle in Metro Center and became our holy trinity where we can get bags of food and huge drinks for 5-6 bucks. A totally destructive way of life but that’s a component of my work. Destructive Identities. There’s still a part of me that loves the idea of Fast-Food chains, so in my work, I find myself highlighting them for both the positive and negatives that come with it.
MHM: How do you see gun violence being talked about in politics and in art? Where does your work come into that conversation?
ME: Maaan, gun violence is one of those things that heavily affects us but the political folks keep skirting around it. This is exactly why I present it back; to take action while they turn the blind eye. I also address gun violence because it’s something that has directly affected me and people I know on numerous occasions, kinda a From Tha Cradle To Tha Grave situation.
The first person to pull a gun on me was my old man when I was like 11, after that, I kept ending up in situations where guns were always there. A close friend of mine got shot and killed by his sister a few years ago over a few dollars and my favorite cousin got shot 5 times last year but survived. He just got the colostomy bag taken off him a few weeks ago. Over the years I’ve stared down the barrel way too many times, or had one on me and ready for whatever; I know i'm not the only one. Therefore, guns are in my work in some form or another as a way to address the bigger issue around gun violence, which I believe to be Mental Health. In the Black Community, it’s a well know fact that Black Men historically avoid the idea of therapy and counseling; but how would things differ if we tore down those stereotypes? I feel that any violently oppressed people suffer from PTSD and if left unchecked or unidentified, leads to wild situations. Did I just rant?
MHM: What role does gender play in your work and your life story?
Gender identity “what is gender to you?”
Gender fluidity as a Black Male “what is your experience?”
ME: Thanks for asking about this! Gender politics suck sometimes too. Once, as a teen, I was about to wash clothes and I remember my pops coming in there and saying to drop the clothes because that’s a woman's job. I knew right then that the scales were all messed up. As a Black Male, the stakes are high. You’re expected to be an unemotional drone, that finds a woman to wash his clothes, to never shed a tear and work himself to death without fully loving or receiving love in healthy ways. I definitely feel that gender is performed in some ways, which is why people end up looking like a caricature of what they think a man or a woman is (CRINGY).
As a Gender Fluid Black/Brown Being, I’m not sure that a lot of folks know how to take me sometimes haha and that’s a good part of it. I’ve seen how some straight black males act around me, the uncomfortable movements they make, not sure if indulging in a convo with me will make them gay or not. I feel it’s ok to wear women’s leather pants and blouses sometimes because I love the feel and look. Plus mens clothing gets boring and I get jealous because women have the best clothes. I love make-up too, and painting my nails pink, gold, or glittery. I mean, I got really sexy hands and a good glitter gold nail polish makes me feel like a startlett from the Golden Age of Cinema (not really but kinda). Im just in touch with both masculinity and femininity I guess. We need qualities from both to survive.
Overall, do any of us really know what gender is? Maybe it changes with some people from situation to situation. I don't know really, but I am sure that I don't wanna be put in a box based on gender, therefore I am fluid. I also stopped going by age and keeping up with time but that’s another story.