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My KOFY Break with Nicolas Caesar

I have a special place in my heart for horror hosts. I grew up watching programs like Creature Features in the San Francisco Bay Area with hosts Bob Wilkins and John Stanley.

Creepy KOFY Movie Time is a throwback to the early days of live TV where hosts would show classic horror films and cult oddities late at night to an eager audience of fans like myself. The show currently airs every Saturday night at 11PM on KOFY TV20 or CABLE13 in the Bay Area and theyíre about to kick start Season 5 of the show. Hosts Balrok and No Name introduce the movies and during breaks colorful guests including local bands, erotic dancers, comedians, magicians and ghost hunters entertain viewers. Itís a fun program and local artist Nicolas Caesar has been a guest on the show numerous times. Heíll be appearing on Creepy KOFY Movie Time February 19th and I recently had the chance to talk to him about the program as well as his art, which is often inspired by the movies he watches.

 

Q: When I learned that you were taking part in the opening episode of Creepy KOFY Movie Timeís 2011 season I couldnít resist using the opportunity to ask you a few questions about your involvement in the show and your horror-themed artwork. I know you grew up in the Bay Area and like myself, you were a big fan of local horror hosts like Bob Wilkins and John Stanley, who entertained Bay Area audiences with programs like Creature Features and Capt. Cosmic in the í70s and í80s. How did you get involved with Creepy KOFY Movie Time?

A: When I saw that they were bringing back local TV programs I pitched to them an idea I had about a local arts showcase. I had pretty much showed with every local artist and knew most of them personally. A few days passed and I got an email from Mark Baker the Promotions Coordinator / Producer replying ďBetter yet, letís have you on the show!Ē and Iíve been back ever since. My most recent appearance is for the Herschell Gordon Lewis film Color Me Blood Red and I talk about the perks and liabilities of painting with blood (Ed. note: All in fun of course!). On set, the best way I can describe it is being at a BBQ where all your friends are either in costumes or are nearly nude. Itís both comfortable and surreal.

Q: It always looks like the folks at Creepy KOFY Movie Time are having a good time. Itís like a party on set. Color Me Blood Red sounds like the perfect kind of horror movie for an artist like yourself to talk about since itís basically the story of a tortured artist. Are you a Herschell Gordon Lewis fan? And who are some of the other filmmakers you like?

A: I can remember renting Herschell Gordon Lewisí films in those giant plastic clamshell cases. Mom and pop video stores were awesome because films were more regulated by the people that owned or worked there rather than Blockbuster and itís two thousand copies of Shrek 3. It was a treasure hunt. Every video store carried different titles. Youíd find Cannibal Holocaus at one and Suspiria at another. Video stores in the 80′s mixed Attack of the Mushroom People and Dumbo. It was great! If you were lucky youíd find a Jodorowsky or Richard Kern film on the shelf. There was no limits to how far down the rabbit hole you could go.

Creature Features really introduced me to film. As a kid all I wanted to see was robots and monsters. It also taught me philosophy; theyíd kill a giant bug and start on with ďMaybe itís manís arrogance to think he is superiorÖ etc etcĒ. Most horror/sci-fi was written by beatniks because they could get away with it. Romero will tell you about all the parables in Dawn of the Dead. That really planted the seed. I love cotton-candy horror like The Killer Shrews and Giant Leeches but I also yearn for films with a philosophy like Videodrome, Cemetery Man and The Most Dangerous Game. Iím a ritualistic film watcher. Troll 2, Attack of the Beast Creatures, Cane Toads, Okie Noodling, Dirt, these are all party movies. Same with TV Carnage and Everything is Terrible compilations. Other films I have VERY intimate relationships with. These are the films I watch by myself with a bottle of wine or a 6 pack of Fat Tire beer and just take everything in. Lost in Translation is perhaps one of my favorite films and everything Wes Anderson does. Somehow these films are able to create artificial nostalgia in my psyche. Itís possibly the closest I come to a religious experience. For an hour and a half things are right in the world. When it comes to favorite filmmakers itís hard because every filmmaker is hit and miss for me. I love Tim Burtonís Beetlejuice but hated Sweeney Todd. I love Sophia Coppolaís Lost in Translation but hated Marie Antoinette. I love Charles Bandís Terrorvision, in my top 5, but he makes some crap too. I love John Carpenterís The Thing, Escape From New York and Big Trouble in Little China. I even liked They Live. Itís really a mixed bag. When it comes to film I can go on forever.

Q: Movies seem to inspire you a lot. I find references to all kinds of films in your work from classic horror like The Creature From the Black Lagoon to Wes Andersonís Darjeeling Limited. You mentioned that sometimes watching a film can almost feel like a religious experience and I think I understand that. Some movies have had a profound effect on me as well and afterward I see the world with new eyes. Artists are inspired by all kinds of things. Some spend their lives painting landscapes or portraits. Why do you think you find so much inspiration in movies?

A: Artists are visual people. We become artists because we feel or see things outside the box. When weíre born weíre forcefed language and feel constrained and limited by it. Every emotion canít fit into a trite definition. Filmmakers, actors, actresses, puppeteers have to express intense moments non-verbally. When an artist paints a picture theyíre trying to pull you into an experience. Minimal art to me expresses loneliness, portrait painters are very much like Frankenstein and obsess on achieving the impossible, pop art is entertainment, collage speaks to the packrats all of us and surrealism is that exploration of something more. Weíre all creating out of nothing and are producing something. It in itself is alive and at the same time doesnít exist. Art lives more and mutates in the mind. It expands through memory. If you see a piece of art and it provokes you enough to remember it then the artist did his work by planting the seed. The seed grows inside the subconscious and expands into the network. This may seem insignificant at the time but it colors choices, memory, ideas, everything. We identify our world in patterns and or brains will reference that piece of art over and over again in both feelings and design so itís no surprise that artists around other artists influence each other regularly.

H.R. Giger is a good example. All you have to do is open a tattoo magazine to see his global influence. Artists like Camille Rose Garcia, Tim Biskup, Gary Baseman, and myself are visual mutations of Fleischer cartoons. Film, music, and art are all complementary to each other. The Brothers Quayís music videos are great examples of all three. And youíve got to paint what you know and I know cartoons and monster movies.

Q: You started out making enormous sculptures for night clubs and Halloween theme parks but shifted gears about 8 years ago and started concentrating on painting. Why the switch? And do you still enjoy working on sculptures occasionally?

A: Space was a big issue. Everyone loved the sculptures but few bought them because most people in the Bay Area live in tiny studio apartments. Iíd been struggling for years with my sculptures, which I poured my blood and everything into and even with magazine and news coverage I think people embraced them more as a traveling sideshow than art that they could own. I did like shipping them though, nothing like asking the fine people at U-Haul for a box big enough to ship a body in.

I had to re-teach myself how to paint. Sculptures were pretty much assemblages of strange things Iíd find while walking train tracks where as paintings were more Rorschachs. I would throw paint down, sculpt it, layer it, repeat. I never know what theyíll turn out to be until Iím done. Sometimes theyíre goofy, other times theyíre frightening or melancholy. Itís polishing an idea. When I showcased them for the first time at The Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco I sold out! It was a weird feeling. I think itís because theyíre like records. You can buy a lot and store them easy. Itís easier for people to hang a 16◊20 painting than it is for them to clear space for an inanimate spikey roommate.

Currently Iím focusing on puppets for The Mosquito and Spider show. Itís the marriage of the two. I like that I can build the entire cast and animate them. Thereís something creepy and funny about puppet shows. Art is a journey, not a destination and it takes on many forms. In 10 years I might be building amusement parks.

Q: I know that youíve shown your work in all kinds of venues and participated in group shows as well as solo shows. Youíve also curated some art shows. One of the most recent art exhibits you curated and participated in was the Scream 4 exhibit, which is also part of Wes Cravenís upcoming Scream 4 film. Can you tell me a little bit about the Scream 4 exhibit and how you got involved in it?

A: Iím represented in LA by the Hyaena Gallery, which caters to collectors of unpopular art, true crime artifacts, pin-ups, and dark art. Patton Oswalt, Guerillmo Del Toro and others frequent there because itís your one-stop shop for everything weird. Skip Crank, who had done props for Firefly, Cursed, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and the previous Scream movies was looking for a sketch artist for the film adaptation of the video game Clock Tower. Martin Weisz, who made Grimm Love was directing it and he had a reputation for changing his mind every 5 minutes. I was able to keep up. Sometimes I even posed as 10 different artists. The project was to create a sketch book for a crazy woman. I think some of the other artists did them too polished. Hyaena is flooded with talent but itís hard for someone who is a perfectionist to let go of that and let the flaws happen. My ability to work under pressure and being versatile got me the job on Clock Tower. I was excited! I lost my chance to have my art in a Charles Band film, but now Hollywood! The writer of Jason X! I was going to be Milla Jovovichís sketch artist! Then it was shelved. It was then that I learned two hard truths about filmmaking. 1) Anything can happen and 2) As long as youíre paid itís all good.

Cut to some later time, Wes Craven in putting together Scream 4, mostly for a family reunion for all the people who had worked on the previous films. The setting is very different, the Stab films have exploded, there are box sets, posters and fan art. Skip and I exploited the fan art idea and pitched Wes the idea. I have an arsenal of artists that I represent with The Scary-Art Collective. We work under tight deadlines regularly. Each month a gallery will hit us with a new theme and we have to create new bodies of work to match it. In Scream 4 we had a week. The variety was its strength, everything from portrait to raw was represented. Everyone was impressed. David Arquette twittered a bunch of pictures. Wes Craven was displaying them in his office. It was great.

Q: You mentioned The Scary-Art Collective, which is a a group you started and I also know you co-founded The Mail Art Consortium. You seem to really go out of your way to bring artists together and help them get their work shown and shared with an appreciative audience. Can you tell me some more about these groups and how they got started?

A: The Mail Art Consortium was started from us just mailing weird stuff to each other. We wanted to test the limits of the post office. Sometimes they were funny, other times socially poignant. Several members of the collective showed together a lot. Weíd answer the same calls and be part of the same themes. After a while it just seemed to make sense to start the collective. People already thought we were in one. We were just the girls who couldnít say no! The intent behind the collective was a network and support system for artists. Everyone in it is down to earth and someone you can have a beer with. Weíve kept it that way ever since. Being an artist is a hard enough job but there is strength in numbers. When I started out there was no one to give me real world advice. Artists were either too competitive, paranoid of just plain crazy. It was an Ďall about meí aesthetic. Itís stupid. I never wanted to be like that. Iíve always done the opposite and shared resources and connections. I havenít any delusions of ownership. Every good thing thatís happened to me was because I was there for someone else. The art world is a very different animal today than it was in the 80′s. Thereís no gallery owner in a big white limo to save you from your whoring ways. As an artist you are a whore by nature, youíre selling yourself to friends and strangers. Youíre always publicizing your availability and you never say Ďnoí to a paying job. Itís a hard life but itís the only life you have.

Q: I love the idea of The Scary-Art Collective and I wish there was something similar for writers or bloggers. Itís not easy building any kind of support system with other creative folks these days. Thereís a lot of competition and egos involved when dealing with other creative types so I admire your effort to try and bring people together and share ideas, resources, etc. Earlier you mentioned that Wes Craven had taken a real liking to your work for Scream 4. Has this led to any other film related projects or are there any more movie-themed exhibits in the works?

A: Itís unfortunate. But thereís a sort of intelligence that comes with being taken for granted. Artists, writers, musicians tend to get into these occupations because they are more challenging. Nothing comes easy, you always have to think on your feet, and the rewards are few and far between but again itís the journey. We do what we love. People love what we do. I think itís far more respectable being an artist, writer or musician than it is to be a number in a huge corporation apathetically destroying the earth. Artists scavenge for things to paint on be they in dumpsters or thrift stores. Writers use their minds and keyboards and musicians use minimal amounts of electricity. We were green before there was a green.

As for more movie-themed work, I auditioned to be Matt Damonís disturbed sons sketch artist in a new Cameron Crow movie. Weíll see what happens. And Iíve got more movie themed art shows on the way.



Top: Nicolas Caesar with legendary horror host, Bob Wilkins.

Bottom: Nicolas with Creepy KOFY Movie Time host, Balrock

Q: Speaking of movies again, Iíve noticed some of your art on display during episodes of Creepy KOFY Movie Time but I havenít caught any of the episodes youíve appeared in yet. How many times have you been on the program and do they display your work on the set a lot?

A: Funny enough producer Mark Baker told me ďPeople are beginning to think youíre a cast member!Ē. Iíve been a guest during showings of Color Me Blood Red, Attack of the Giant Leeches, Satanís Schoolgirls, White Zombie and Woman in a Girlís Dormitory. Thereís also random end credits where you can see me dancing with the gang. Sometimes itís showcasing my art, other times Iím sort of that guy who will do anything. Thereís even a commercial spot with me doing the cabbage patch and talking about TV 20′s dance party. Itís a surreal feeling to live in re-runs. Me and the Brady kids. I often imagine some alien life form with a powerful antennae being very confused about the human species.

Q: Before we wrap things up I thought Iíd ask if you have any advice for struggling artists?

A: I gave a lecture at the Kaleid Gallery in San Jose on how to survive as an artist on the outside and here are some points:
1.  Think outside of the box: Restaurants, coffee shops and every day businesses need art too. Directly represent yourself. Galleries can be great but donít limit yourself to them.
2. Listen to Danny Trejo. If youíre good to the people around you good things will happen for you.
3. When all else fails paint cats. Theyíre the safest bet in the art world. Thereís always someone out there who will say, ďOMG! Thatís my cat! They do that!Ē. Need to pay rent quick Ė paint cats.
4. Be the best you you can be. There has already been an Andy Warhol, H. R. Giger, and Picasso but there hasnít been you yet. Your success should be measured by your journey, not theirs.