We sat down with local artist Ian Bode to ask him a few questions about his life, his work, and his art.
Tell me a bit about yourself and the path that led you to your current position in life?
“I was born here in Charleston, a total child of the 80’s and 90’s. I was pulled towards all things visual and artistic from an early age, so I never felt like I really had a choice about drawing and painting from childhood on. Everything from then until now would just be a biography. I imagine it feels the same for every person who is passionate about what they do. They didn’t have a choice from the time it first struck them.”
What would you say are your strongest influences?
“My strongest influences would be the Sunday funnies pages to all of the greats that you study in Western and Eastern art history. Its influences are everywhere. I’m particularly drawn towards things that have more emotive or narrative context. I could go on and on from Charles Schultz to Hironimus Bosch, Harvey Pekar, Peter Max, Jackson Pollack, and Jack Kirby.”
Your artwork, what do you attempt to convey to the viewer, as well as the masses?
“I’m not trying to tell anyone anything. I’m just sharing the questions I have with them. One of my favorite things is when people give me far differing opinions of what the same piece is conveying to them. I feel like when I do it right, everyone has a different answer to a different question from the same visual piece.”
How and where do you see the local art community going in the near future and beyond, ten or twenty years from now?
“I don’t care where it goes, as long as it stays local and thrives. I see plenty of seeds and roots everyday doing alright, so I have faith that there will be something plentiful here in the decades to come.”
Is there any aspect of the local culture/region that really “speaks” to you? How does that influence shape your perceptions and, inadvertently, your art?
“My mind is a bit of a net that has picked up things and carried them along all through my travels to come settle in the port that is Charleston. This is where those experiences and memories simmer and permeate into the landscape that is West Virginia. All you have to do is take a look at my work to see all of the mountains in it. They’re what called me back from my travels.”
What are your top favorite personal pieces? If you had to choose one that would sum up your very existence as an artist, what would that piece be?
“I’ll dig a tunnel from my window to yours,” which is taken from the Arcade Fire song “Neighborhood #1” from the album Funeral, was the first time I juxtaposed imagery in my head to influences from the outside world in a different context. It’s the first time I was consciously trying to use the visual imagery to suggest a story, not just make an interesting picture. And what I mean by suggest a story is really just asking more questions. The title of the piece ended up being “I Wish I could Dig a Tunnel from My Window to Yours.”
Why are there no faces in your paintings?
“The keyhole shaped figure you see in almost all of my work is called the Passenger. The faceless cartoon is a vacuum into which the viewers identity and awareness can be filled in. They are very much a part of their world but with the viewer in the emotive driver’s seat, much like a passenger. Using repeating themes and icons, I aim to establish a visual language that makes each piece relatable to the other creating a universe with loose laws and a sequential narrative that does not intrude or contradict itself and refrains from intruding on each individual work itself.”
Are the paintings in your art a form of escapism for you?
“It’s hard to say if it’s escapism, self-paced therapy or an involuntary action. I’d guess it’s probably some of all of those things and some more I’m unaware of. I try to keep evolving and collaborating with other artists to make sure I don’t escape too far away from where I need to be and become overly formulaic.”
Why do you chose the palette that you use in your artwork? Is there a special significance or link to something in your mind or past? Do the colors conjure up a specific emotion with you, or memory, and are you attempting to expose the viewer to that, that part of you?
“The colors are something I get asked about a lot. My original Passenger were black and white with splashes of red. Over the years color has certainly moved in. It’s more of an OCD number theory than anything. If I’m using two warm colors then I will add two cool colors and two greens to balance it out. If I add one of any of kind to one group I add one to the others as well. Whatever number of colors you see in my work will usually be divisible by 3. The other general rule is that no color can be touching itself. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy the monochromatic side of things from time to time as well.”