FREAK OUT!! Debra Balchen
Tell us about your current series.
At the moment I am just finishing up a few things. I am very much in a transitional mode. I would like to play a bit more, maybe new materials, more experimental, narrative, a bit larger? Not sure. But, I am looking forward to delving into research for the upcoming Chevere Show at Sirona Fine Art, held this December during Art Basel week with the theme “Art inspired by the romance languages of Latin America.”
Do you remember the 1970’s and if so what are three highlights of that time frame for you?
Oh my god! The 70’s… Absolutely - it was the gays! (Sorry if that is politically incorrect or offensive to anyone, but that is what I remember.) And honey we where wild as the wind!
I was a young model working in Chicago, doing shows for all the major downtown stores. This was a time when all the major shops like Marshall Fields, Saks, Sears, would have group shows. First show was Downtown, then to all the satellite branches (up even to Milwaukee) same people in each show. We where like family and after each show we would all go out, drinking and dancing! Then wake up (or just stay up) for the next day and do another show. The places our gay friends would take us were a revelation to me - I saw my first transvestite! Everyone was having fun and just doing whatever they damned well pleased. I still could not tell you where those clubs where located, we just followed. Our fashion shows were not just your normal glamorous fashion show, because this was the 70s. Smoke machines, professional dancers, and we where told to just go on stage and dance! We went down the runway on roller skates even. One day the usual dance group, “The Gus Giordano Dancers” were replaced by 8 young men doing something new and dangerous and wonderful, like nothing any of us young white girls had ever seen before, Break Dancing! It was the most exciting thing we ever saw! I actually have too many highlights - all I remember is the energy.
Tell us about the artwork/poem you are submitting for the exhibition.
"Stairway to heaven” - All i could think about was how much fun we had, it seemed all boundaries were gone. I am a figurative sculptor who loves the work from the Italian Renaissance, I am also a painter who loves color and texture. In this piece I have used some unconventional materials, like nail polish and glitter. I loved the idea of taking a very classical posture and time traveling him to the middle of the 70's club. I can picture him, beautiful, dancing all by himself in the middle of the floor.
Do you use photography as a reference for your artwork?
I am not opposed, but I prefer to work from life when I am sculpting; so many angles to see. I truly believe there is extra magic, something more is added while having your model in front of you. (Of course having photo references can make life a little easier.)
Do you listen to music while you work?
Yes, but when I am finishing up a piece I prefer silence.
However, for this show I totally cranked up that 70s groove, and wondered why I had stopped listening to it in the first place. There is no way not to dance when that 70's music is on!
What collections would you like your work to end up in?
I love the idea of art as something for everyone to freely enjoy, to transport them
from the daily grind… so I guess I am thinking BIG.