Photos by new contributing photographer, Ian Tuttle/a>.
Artist Writer and Poet, San Francisco
Gary Turchin is a poet, writer, and visual artist living in Berkeley. Gary’s writings, books, and visual art can be found on his site.
What force most clearly inspires your work?
The force of the universe itself inspires me. It is the force of pure creativity. The Mystery of it, the complexity, the miraculous nature of it, the impossibility of it, and yet its ever IS-ness, inspires me. I am in awe of the cosmos, of life itself, of the 96 percent of the Universe that we don’t perceive with any sense, other than intuition. The 4 percent we do perceive is pretty awe inspiring, too. Hundreds of billions of galaxies filled with hundreds of billions of stars. Do the math. That’s a miracle. That is what inspires me. And beneath all that is the magical little bit of bio-engineering called the human heart. And it yearns. Art is a yearning to say something. Art too is a praise. That we are discovering and praising some aspect of experience or the universe. So I’m inspired from within and with out.
How do you usually choose as a subject or muse?
The process is different depending on what medium I’m working in. I have trained my mind to notice ideas as they percolate. Every one has ideas, but not everyone recognizes them or knows what to do with them. I try to recognize the good ones, the ones right for time and place and person (me). Often, I just intuit phrases, sometimes I say something to myself and I notice the poetry of it. Then I play with it and see if it is a seed. Usually they are, but not every seed blossoms. In writing lately, I’ve come to a new place with poetry. I’m not even working from ideas. I have many times recently just sat down and wrote off the top of my head, a phrase, a sentence, and just followed it to its intuitive conclusion. These have been some mighty fine poems. I feel really blessed when that happens. My channel is open. With visual art, I usually start with photographs, that was my first medium, and I still do it. Again, I just follow my intuition. What visually interests me. Follow hunches, play, and out of that playfulness, ideas and directions follow.
Who are some of your artistic heroes in general?
I have had different heroes at different times for different reasons. I started out as a photographer, and I loved the classics: Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange. But it was the conceptual but narrative-driven photographs of Duane Michaels that really inspired me early on in my career. And Robert Frank. And Diane Arbus. Bob Dylan inspired me, and maybe even more, Paul Simon. Kurt Vonnegut inspired me. Jerzy Kosinski. Lawrence Ferlinghetti inspired me. In 11th grade I came across The Coney Island of The Mind and it blew me away. All genuine art inspires me, in any medium. Picasso inspires me. Van Gogh… Calder, Rothko (I have spent hours in front of one of his pantings at the SF MOMA), Warhol. Woody Allen. Will Eisner. Shel Silverstein. Dr. Seuss. Charles Schultz. The list is a lot longer.
My heroes in general: Hmmm, not big on hero worship, but Nelson Mandela has to be the most inspirational man on Earth. People who stand up and pay the price, these are people I look up to, in any walk of life, famous or obscure. Most of us play within the lines, even when the lines are wrong. People who move the lines by force of their will, those are my heroes.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Linden, New Jersey. Linden is just across a bridge from Staten Island, one of the boroughs of New York City, But it is a thousand miles from NYC culturally. An industrial suburb. My dad owned a luncheonette in East Orange New Jersey which we operated as a family. I was the last of 3 kids. Everyone in the family had a strong presence. There was no air space for me when I came on the scene, so I was the quiet internal one. Probably why I’m an artist is that I’m trying to get my word in edgewise.
Do you have any supernatural or other powers?
I have more than once seen the future, and gotten messages from what I call “the unfathomable sea,” which is the immense ocean of the unknowable universe (that other 96 percent).
“Show what you found, not what you were looking for…”
It is my creative mantra.