An eye for surrealism
Studio X @ Surrealestates2320 Cantalier St.
Sacramento, CA 95815
A case of brain cancer isn’t enough to dissuade Rik Tillson, a.k.a. Rik Maverik, from hosting an all-day arts happening. The recently diagnosed artist and deejay has been undergoing treatment and is doing well, but 100% Pure Love is apt to make him—and everyone else participating—feel good, too. Beginning at noon, the event at Studio X @ SurrealEstates will include plenty of eats (barbecue and soul food), live music (Jackson Griffith and Cricket Culture), spoken-word (Debora Iyall) and dance performances (Red Tent Belly Dance troupe). In addition, there will be a slew of visual art on display—John Stuart Berger, Buddy Bates, Michelle Bornt, Shepard Fairey, to name a few—including an open studio of SurrealEstates resident Kim Scott.
Scott’s paintings are known for her realistic execution of surreal combinations, such as lively human eyes unexpectedly placed on birds, slabs of meat or skulls.
Some of your paintings with birds remind me of Audubon illustrations, except, of course, when there’s an eyeball on the bird’s anatomy. What are your source materials?
I’m definitely influenced by anatomical drawings and the Audubon style. … I [also] look at nature photography, and then I do my own nature photography. Sometimes I’ll just take them and sketch them directly on the canvas and modify them for the size and shape and stuff. And sometimes I’ll put them in Photoshop, and I’ll twist them around until I find something that works for what I want to do. Or, for, like, the one I call “Old Crow,” I just sketched it. I’ve been doing birds long enough that I can kind of mess them up in my own way. (Laughs.)
Where do you do your nature photography?
Well, I’ve been taking some photos in my backyard, and I’ve gone other places, too; but I’ve lived in north Sacramento for three years, and it’s a bird-migration fly-over [area]. Because it’s so close to the river, there are quite a few different birds there. So I’ve been watching my own backyard and taking some photos there, and just observing birds generally to get a better idea so they don’t look so stiff, although I’ve never been stuck with the idea of making things look really correct. I do modify pictures of animals besides just putting eyeballs on them. I do modify the color schemes and things like that just to suit myself, so if you showed them to an expert in ornithology, they’d go, “What the heck is that?” … It’s not really accurate. I play around with [scale], too.
Do you play around with meat as well?
Yes—but I don’t eat meat—and I don’t actually play around with it physically, but I do look at meat counters. I just choose not to buy it to use it as a model. I look at butchers, butcher sources on the Internet, then I do the same thing as I do with the birds: I switch them around, change the color palette, I distort them in Photoshop, and sometimes I just make them up in my head. So the same kind of thing; if a butcher would see it, he would go, “Pardon me, that’s not the right bone, and that’s the wrong cut of meat!”
On your website, you wrote about Sacramento being a vortex that everyone keeps coming back to. I’ve been saying that for years.
I had heard years ago about the “curse of the two rivers.” And then, for a long time, I couldn’t find anybody who knew what the heck I was talking about. [Everyone] thought that I was in some sort of drug-induced coma and made it up. Then, finally, I ran into some people who had heard of it before. What my understanding of it was is that it’s like a vortex where people keep coming back over and over again to learn their lesson. Then I heard there actually was a historical basis for that “curse of the two rivers”; downtown Sacramento was a place where people that were insane or were criminals were brought to be held, and that it was difficult to leave once you got there. I don’t even know if that’s true or not.
Do you have any plans to leave?
I leave all of the time, but I come back. Most of my shows are out of town, and I’ve lived in India for a while and I’ve traveled quite a bit in my life, but I’ve never really had the desire to entirely leave Sacramento.
What do you think about the status of lowbrow or pop surrealism art in town?
I think there’s a really strong foundation here for that type of work. I’ve been producing it way before the lowbrow or pop surrealist title was given to it. … If you step back and look at the pop surrealists, they are all over the world now, but they are heavily located in California. You see them in major publications. … Skinner, Justin Lovato, Ben Walker, Robert Bowen—there’s a bunch of artists here doing quite well in that genre, and I’m really proud of them.
Any last words?
For many years, Sacramento felt like a stepchild somehow. But artists from other cities come here to show now, and they come here to look at art now. Juxtapoz [magazine] is looking at Sacramento. … The spotlight is on here, at least giving people a chance. And a lot of the artists here deserve it; they’re really good at what they do. So I’m proud to be from here. I don’t need to move to have good company.