By John Hood
Painters have been obsessed with death since the very first artist took the very first breath. (Pretty much everyone else has too, but that’s another story.) But while successive generations of Futilists might’ve chosen to speculate on the finality of it all, the more compelling creatives concern themselves with what happens on the way to The Final Frontier. That of course means life. It also means living. And the lovely decay inherent in the day-to-day.
Of that more compelling camp is a cat named Christopher Maslow. Visually-driven and vividly-inclined, he’s a kinda cartographer of the sublime, and he’s especially intent on investigating (and representing) how it affects our lives.
Got doubts? Hit Violiphila for Christopher Maslow’s “Beautiful Death” and put those doubts to rest.
For those who don’t yet know, just who is Christopher Maslow and what’s he do?
Native Floridian, Resident Artist at Viophilia in Miami, Painter, Curator, and Designer. Also, I like to have a good time.
What did you do prior to doin’ what you do now (and how long were you at it)?
I lived out in Southern California from 2001-2011 and worked as a designer for several clothing labels before relocating back to Florida. During that time I did a lot of graffiti and eventually started painting murals and canvases. Shortly thereafter I started showing my work in art shows around Los Angeles.
When did you make the switch and was there a particular catalyst which caused it?
Until I started writing graffiti I didn’t really become obsessed with art, I had been working as an artist and designer for years but hadn’t yet discovered my passion for painting. Once I did however, I realized that painting (both in the street and the studio) was what I wanted to dedicate my life to. After years of work in the streets and countless arrests I’ve gradually gravitated more toward my studio work. My new years resolution last year was not to go to jail in 2014 yet managed to get myself yoked again January 2nd. That kind of kicked off a year of straight studio art making which has lead me here to Beautiful Death.
Speaking of catalysts, what’s the story behind Beautiful Death?
I had been painting a lot of still life pieces of flowers and was really enjoying them – mainly for the abstract color studies. Around the same time I bought a bouquet of roses for my girlfriend. After a week they started to wilt, and over the next couple weeks I would come home each night to see them looking a little sadder than the day before. Eventually they were all dried up and dead and I started reflecting on the transformation. Later I noticed my own face looking as old as I’ve ever seen it when I took a glimpse in the mirror. I thought about those dead flowers and all the other flowers I’d bought or had given to me over the years which happened to be all these hallmark moments in my life. I started thinking about how many more occasions they would be present and realized that my life was about half lived. The flowers were like this reminder of mortality, and my mind began running with how I could use them as symbols in my artwork.
Would you say the show’s more about how we die or how we live (or both)?
That’s a great question, the show touches on both, but the message I’d like the work to communicate holds more emphasis on how we live. For example, one of the works in the show is a large painting of a partly exposed skeleton tangled within a poppy garden. The painting pays homage to a close friend and crewmate who’s death was caused by a drug overdose. Though the subject may seem morbid the intension is more on emphasising appreciation of life to the point of it influencing our decisions and actions day to day. Rest In Paradise Dylan.
Do you see further explorations of said subject in your future (or are you next set on something wholly different)?
I already have some different explorations in mind, however I will be revisiting these ideas sooner than later. The body of work completed feels like its emphasized my intentions entirely, but the execution of the different work mediums will be revisited under a different premise.
Will whatever you do continue to get done at Viophilia?
Viophilia has been a great experience. I have been a resident artist there since November of 2013 and I’m fond of the other artists as well as the group that runs the space. This upcoming year Viophilia has a lot of awesome events and exhibitions planned that I am really thankful to be a part of.
What will keep compelling you to do it?
I am a firm believer of doing what you love and doing it to the best of your ability, I feel like that’s what keeps me striving. One day when I was down about my chosen path a good friend told me,”What the fuck else are you gonna do, start something new after all that time spent?” That hit me pretty hard but made realize that its all a sink or swim scenario. Then I thought, I’m a pretty good swimmer so fuck it, something’s bound to happen.