THE MIGHTY JOE CASTRO
Collage is like putting on clothes, everyone can do it but few really have style
by Alessandro Esculapio
The self titled Mighty Joe Castro compares himself to a 9 year old delinquent, playing with knives. The artist makes collage that defies visual logic, challenging our idea of what an image should look like. All his time goes to his creative endeavors as he tackles painting, collage and graphic design, alongside playing in multiple bands. We talk to the artist about the parallels between his work and the lyrics of Bob Dylan.
KOD: So, what draws you to collage?
Joe Castro: I think it's the stark, graphic nature of collage that attracts me. I've always been interested in graphic design, especially design from the 1950s and 1960s and many of my pieces use images taken from that era. I also think the whole process is playful - cutting up magazines and gluing them down. It's very child-like in a way.
KOD: Do you find the process a mental challenge?
Joe Castro: Yeah, definitely. I think it's much more cerebral and calculated than other art forms. Photography is instantaneous - you capture the moment. With painting, you're creating something from nothing, it's more expressive - the pressure of the brush stroke can wield a great influence. With my collage, I'm constantly moving pieces of paper around, trying to find images that work with or against each other. It's a slower process which is very analytical.
KOD: Do you think collage is particularly suited to the period we live in - or has it always been relevant?
Joe Castro: I think it's much more relevant now for a number of reasons. Between the internet, digital photography, scanners and Photoshop, there is just so much more source material being created and so many more options for working with it. I always think collage is very similar to hip-hop - they're both taking samples of things (songs/images) and cutting them up into something original. I don't work digitally though - I do everything traditional; by hand.
KOD: Is collage becoming more popular then because we are surrounded by "normal" imagery online and the public wants to see something that breaks the laws of visual logic?
Joe Castro: Yes - I think there's something to that. With mobile phones, everyone's a photographer these days. "Selfies" are a good example. When people are creating images all the time the next logical step is "what else can I do with this." I also think (with the exception of photography) that collage is the easiest art form for someone to learn how to do. It doesn't really take any skill - anyone 4 years and up can be a collage artist. So I think there are more and more people doing it because it's easy (unlike painting). But it's like putting on clothes - everyone can do it but only a few really have style.
KOD: You’re a jack of all trades. How do you split your time and what do you enjoy most?
Joe Castro: I think I most just enjoy the balance of all of it. I look at all my mediums as just different forms of expression/communication. If I'm getting burned out on a collage, I can pick up a guitar and start working on a song. It's a completely different way of thinking so it helps prevent burnout and keeps things fresh. I also like working on the collages because it gets me away from the computer screen - especially if I've been struggling with a graphic design project or something - it's a nice break. If I only did one thing, I think I would be much less productive overall. And the devil makes work for idle hands, as they say.
KOD: Do you feel there are many similarities between collage and music?
Joe Castro: Yes - I think collage and music are very similar. With songwriting - especially with Bob Dylan or even Nas - many times the lyrics in the songs project a feeling or a sense of time. They're not necessarily connecting to each other in chronological order or they don't tell a specific story (like what is "Subterranean Homesick Blues" really about?). It just captures a feeling or a collection of ideas. And I think my collages are similar to that - the individual images, if looked at separately, might not appear to have any relationship to each other, contextually, but then when combined, hopefully the viewer connects to the feeling I'm trying to get across. Does that make sense? The collages are not literal, and their not true stories - songs are kind of the same way.
KOD: Does your collage help you understand yourself?
Joe Castro: Have you ever written something stream of consciousness - where you're just getting things out, then you go back and read it, and analyze it, and you start to understand what your were trying to say all along? It's kind of like being your own psychiatrist - as the patient, you spill everything out onto the couch, then you step back as the professional and look at it and go, "Ahh yes, I see. Now tell me about your mother..."