Once we chose our three artists for Unframed 2016, their lives became busier as they began to usher helmet designs through our many stages of production.
Artist Kyle Confehr, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, works primarily in acrylic markers and spray paint. His illustrations, his web site says, encourage the notion of familiarity with inanimate objects or colors.
Kyle took some time from his schedule for an interview and to ruminate on helmets, art, and life in Philly.
Nutcase: Where were you born or where did you grow up and how did that shape you into an artist?
Kyle: I was born and raised in NE Philly. When I was 13, I moved from what was essentially the inner city to a very suburban country school system. I really never knew that ‘jocks’ actually existed until then – it was weird, and like a whole other world. After college I took the first opportunity to get back to the city by moving to Brooklyn. I feel like getting back to the city helped my artwork. In college I experimented with bigger drawing and sketching but when I moved to Brooklyn my art turned from something super personal to something more observational, and now with my work I try to balance the humorous and the observational.
Nutcase: What was your biggest obsession when you were, say, 13, and how does that compare with your current obsession(s)?
Kyle: When I 13, I was was way into Pokemon and anime and drawing and comics and I was also hugely into skateboarding. I skated every day until I was, like, 22, it was just a huge part of my life. When I was 13, I was convinced I was going to be a professional skater and do art. Now I haven’t stepped on a board in about three years.
When I was in college I could take a week to create a piece – I was extremely detail-oriented. I think you kind of have to find a middle, and now my obsession, if you could call it that, is to balance the content and density in the work with meaning. In other words, marrying the typography that might be in a piece with the imagery in a satisfying way.
Nutcase: What is your goal as an artist?
Kyle: I feel like it is a bit terrifying to be a modern artist, and I take it as a reasonable yet aspirational goal to just be able to make a good living from my art. Someone who I admire, Gerhard Richter, is a good example of spending decades on a certain form, and then decades on another form, and being able to do limited editions of paintings that can make him a living for the next couple of years. Favio Moreno is an artist whose work I admire.
Nutcase: How has the helmet design process been thus far and how has it differed from what you anticipated or expected?
I wasn’t sure what to expect. In my day job (at Whole Foods) I’m an illustrator making gigantic art all day long to very specific parameters. For this project it was a great and surprisingly challenging to actually let loose and express myself more freely.