Sometimes when I’m wallowing in a warm bath of hopelessness and angst about, well, everything, I take a moment and remember that there are people like Brendan Donnelly, and my existential misery is momentarily lifted (then I visit with my friend Jack Daniels for a while). I don’t know fuck-all about art, but I know that the magical awesomeness that Brendan creates, often deriving inspiration from all corners of the Internet and teenage pop-culture, is the best art I’ve seen in a long time. Without Brendan, there would be no one to bring to light the overlooked wonders of Craigslist, to highlight the beautiful escapism of games like Second Life, and to generally remind us that no matter what, there will always be a world full of people who operate on a plane much weirder and darker than we can even fathom.
In addition to his personal art, Brendan has done designs for FIDLAR, Grizzly Bear, Altamont Apparel, and Converse, amongst others. He is more than just an artist: he’s a cultural anthropologist, a hoarder, and the guy who runs one of the best Instagram accounts in the land (Follow him @brendan_donnelly).
This interview barely scrapes the surface of melting pot of perversion and despair that lives in Brendan’s soul:
Let’s talk art.
Let’s talk nudes?
Do you think that you are the preeminent Craigslist-inspired artist? Like within the genre of Craigslist-inspired artists, are you at the top of the game?
B: (Laughs) Umm. I don’t know! I started when I had my blog years ago, and I always posted the free objects you could find on Craigslist. Recently the other day, I was looking for an apartment, and I was brought back into Craigslist, and started searching the dark, deep shit, like the Missed Connections and the Meet-Ups and all the free giveaways. And now in California, it’s a lot of religious stuff, stuff having to do with Jesus and Christ being found in a piece of toast and stuff like that. So I got roped back into being on Craiglist all day, trying to find source material.
How did you first get into Craigslist deep-diving?
B: It was really the Free section. I found stuff like baby coffins, dirt, I don’t know, really bad artwork. I know someone did a show off paintings acquired from Craigslist. But now I don’t even know if it’s real anymore, or if it’s jokes. I can’t tell if people are being serious. I’m still confused. It’s definitely brought me back into the Internet though.
Because you had taken a break from the Internet?
When did you ever take a break from the Internet?
B: Officially? Never. I’m always on there looking at kids’ Tumblrs and stuff like that. I think teenagers and I share the same brain, in our love for Beavis & Butthead, and The Simpsons, and weird digital art. But now I’m getting brought back into like, the Services section of Craiglist. Like there’s this whole thing where straight dudes want to meet up with other straight dudes and just jerk-off together. They’re called JO parties. Jerk-Off parties. So now I’m back looking at that stuff, and BBWs who are looking for flings, and then people trying to give away Jesus paintings.
And for the record, someone is actually marrying you?
B: Yes! Unfortunately, she is. We are two polar opposites.
B: Well I was searching for alien abductions the other day and found the guy from Alien Ant Farm, who was offering his bass playing abilities. Also someone who was searching for their friend who apparently got abducted by an alien, a guy in Arizona that was selling alien paintings. I searched “alien” and I found a lesbian who was looking for other lesbians to go watch James Franco’s character Alien in Spring Breakers. So you just put in one word, and it brings back so much.
What city returns the best results in your experience?
B: Really anywhere in the South. I think it was some city there where I found a guy who was selling his dead son’s crutches, and he wanted a pack of smokes for them. It’s just such a dark, depressing website. But, I found my house on there! So my fiancée searches it for furniture and stuff for the house, and I search it for free shit, jerk-off parties, and weird Christian comic books. I bought a bunch of those recently, and I met the lady in a library parking lot in Arcadia, and one of the comics was this one called Hansi:The Girl Who Loved The Swastika, and that was only a few bucks. She had this whole stack, so we’re sitting there going through them at like 4pm, and school gets out. So all these public school kids are lurking around, and that Hansi one was in my hand as all these kids are walking by. And she kept telling me about how her husband got saved, and now she has no need for these comic books.
What would you say the best thing you have acquired through Craigslist?
B: My house now.
Really? Boring. How about number two?
B: I know it’s so boring and yuppie. Okay, number two? This guy is trying to sell a piece of wood for a million dollars that has Jesus’ face on it.
Yeah but you didn’t buy that. We both know you don’t have a million dollars.
B: No, I don’t. But I’m using that for a piece for the show, taking that idea and incorporating it into a piece.
A few of Brendan’s t-shirt designs. You can buy them HERE.
Have you been taking a break from Second Life then?
B: Yes, I’m officially off Second Life. I am in real life now.
Is it a break or are you done for good?
B: It’s hard because I really wanted to show all the different weird scenarios you can get into on that site, and do prints of them. But it’s really hard to get high-res digital prints made. I sound like the biggest fucking dork right now.
You are pretty much Second-Lifing and Craigslisting your life away. Can you tell us a little bit about the themes in tour work in this upcoming show?
B: I noticed the other day a lot of the work still has to do with, I don’t know, I went to Christian school and Sunday school and all that growing up, and they always instilled this fear of death. So the work has undertones of living a certain good lifestyle, or else. It was the same thing with AA, when I used to go there. “If you do this you’re going to die.” And the meetings are usually held in church basements… I get panicky when I go to church, which is the reason I stopped going to AA. There’s just this looming fear of death and negativity. There’s a smell of guilt in there, so much to do with guilt. Like growing up if you said or did anything wrong, you’d get whacked by a nun. So fear and guilt and pop culture, that’s my work in a nutshell.
Brendan’s work will be shown in a group art show tomorrow at Paul Loya gallery (see flyer below for info). Stop by and pick up a special limited-edition Brendan Donnelly x Cultist Zine t-shirt.
HIT THE LIGHTS
April 27th – June 1, 2013
Opening Reception: April 27th, 6-10 pm
Joan van Barneveld