Barbra J. Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Allan, first and foremost, our hats are off to you for the amazing work that you have completed in the Temple of Art project! For our readers who may be unfamiliar with the project, how would you describe it, as well as your creative process?
Allan Amato: Since early 2012 I have been photographing fine artists and inviting them to interpret those portraits through their particular medium. An artist's work can act as both bridge and barrier - at once deeply personal and highly distorted - the lens through which we present our perception of the world, and the world that in turn interprets us.
As a full-time photographer I engage in a daily meditation on art as a spiritual and alchemical practice; that nevertheless demands relentless hustle and a pathological immunity to rejection. During the shoots I found myself asking the artists about their processes and motivations, and drawing comparisons with my own approach to photography and portraiture. But, how best to surround and consummate the conversations, the artists and the work? This is what I hope to achieve with the film.
My own creative process tends to involve a simple conversation initially; it's my way of making my subject more at ease. Talking during the initial stage of the shoot, and letting the subject get familiar with the pop of the lights and my position looming in front of them. The first images are always odd with mouths agape and eyes half closed, but as the shoot progresses, I slowly begin to suggest movement and poses.
BD: What inspired you to collaborate with over 50 artists for Temple of Art, and are you able to share the names of a few of the artists?
AA: I photographed David Mack, the visionary writer and artist behind Kabuki. The images that resulted were and continue to be some of my all-time favorites, and we both got along fantastically due largely to our rugged, yet strangely vulnerable, good looks. I felt compelled to do a little brushwork in photoshop to one of the shots, but thought to myself (though I believe I was moving my lips at the time) - how cool would it be if David painted over the image itself, thereby making it one of a kind, rather than an infinitely reproducible digital file?
Shortly thereafter, David brought the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz to the studio, and what began as an attempt to enslave David for the next decade as my indentured artist and all-around valet, became the germ for Temple of Art, which has at last count enslaved and/or encouraged over 50 artists to sit for a portrait with me, then drawing, collaging, painting, etc. on the final printed image. Pillars of the comics industry like Dave McKean, David Mack, and Bill Sienkiewicz rubbing ink-dusted elbows with fine art giants Kent Williams, Barron Storey, and Jason Shawn Alexander. By merging the objectivity of portrait photography with the subjectivity of drawing, painting, and sculpture, the artist is contextualized within the constructed reality of their own work.
BD: Allan, in addition to working on such an incredible book, you have also initiated a crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter to raise money for a documentary pertaining to Temple of Art’s creators and their inspiration. What encouraged you to use this specific fundraising method, and how has the prospect of the documentary enhanced (or challenged) your work with the book?
AA: The book and show are a done deal, together with Baby Tattoo and La Luz de Jesus. But, those conversations, those are what began to obsess me. We all talked about creativity, the difficulty of our vocations, the flow state within art . . . 55 artists later, all I could think of was that a film simply had to be. I actually began before crowdfunding it but found myself in a financial hole almost from the outset. Hence, my hope through Kickstarter, that others would love the idea and maybe pitch in to make it happen. And, in addition to the book and film rewards, many artists graciously donated sketches and whole paintings to the project! The Bill Sienkiewicz/David Mack "Neil Gaiman" collaborations are my personal favorites!
BD: Finally, why should readers support the Kickstarter campaign for Temple of Art?
AA: There isn't much out there with this level of firepower to begin with, with a bird's eye view into the process of so many incredible humans. Here's hoping it resonates.