artist, Columbus OH, Ohio, Painter

Mandi Caskey

12.29.2015 conversation

How long do you expect this mural to take?

I’m hoping until the end of January. But that’s if everything goes smoothly and if nothing else jumps on my plate. I’ve been up here since the day after Christmas, everyday. Only a few hours at a time. I’ve been taking my time. Playing nice music. Just enjoying it rather than, “Gotta get done!” Which is how I usually am. As I see it, [this mural] is going to be up here for 40 plus years. Might as well take my time on it.

How did you get this gig?

One of my really good friends’ mom works up here. I met his parents one day and his mom says, “There’s this opportunity, I don’t know if you want it.” Then she explained it to me. “Yea I want to do that! Are you joking?” Then there was this whole process. It took months to get to [the painting] point. We talked about it. [Went through] all the legalities. We’re finally here!

Is this the first mural that you’ve had to deal with legal issues?

Yes. Did you see the football players that I did? laughter My friend and I did really old school football players on [the Landgrant Brewing Co Building] in Franklinton. We hopped on that and just talked to the owner of the building. That’s usually how its been. For this, since it is a public space and in a government building, it took months to get approvals after approvals. [It had to be explained] why this was needed, etc. It was cool to learn how to go through those things. [To learn the difference between work that goes up] in a government building compared to abandoned spaces. 

Most of the stuff that you do is larger scale? Or do you work on smaller canvases too?

There’s a pretty drastic difference between my street art and the things I do at home. I find that smaller works that people can actually hold and really be intimate with it is more impactful in a gallery space. On the street, it [should be] something big and more eye-catching. The “wow how’d they do that?!” I guess is more impressive that way. I’m actually starting this new series, bringing my gallery work outside. I’ll be doing bricks, single bricks, all over the city… I’ve kind-of already started the series. I actually built my own brick walls.

Finished cabin and sky on the left. Underpainting on trees to the right.

"Blocking in" or "underpainting".

I saw those! I’ve wondered, “What’s going on with this?”

I’m really excited about it. A lot of people are stoked about it. Brioso, Landgrant. They both have said “We want a brick! Paint one of our bricks!” I want to do a location kind of thing. If you find one, you could do a hashtag, you know what I mean? Something like a hide-and-seek game. Where’s Waldo… I’m stoked about it. No one’s really doing that right now. No one is taking street art and doing it really small and delicate. Everything is in-your-face and large. I feel like it’s really important to bring it back down to earth. Have a conversation with it, rather than it engulfing you. 

A conversation instead of a statement.

Yea, I’m really excited about it. It gives me goosebumps every time I talk about it. To have 20 to 30 bricks and to see those in a series. And have people taking photos with them and interacting with them. I’m excited for all those moments people will have. They’ll look, then do a double take, and go up to it and say, “Whaat?!” You know what I mean? That’s so special. I live for those moments. 

Did you grow up making art?

Yes I did. There were two things I wanted to be when I grew up. It was either an archeologist or an artist. And here I am. I have a huge love for history. I base a lot of my work on the way the masters did it. Very traditional style. Very emotional. I watch a lot of documentaries while I work.

Your plants, like what you did for Brioso. And also your birds. I loved all of those. They’re very enlightenment and turn of the century text book style.

Yea that’s what I really love to do. Institutional. That look where you’ve been schooled. You know. I only went to college for two years. 

So you quit art school. Did you feel like it just wasn’t helping you?

I was in the fine arts program and I didn’t feel like it was really carrying me anywhere. I was spending 30 grand a year just learning the same stuff over and over again… I also just couldn’t afford it. I was paying for it myself and at some point you just have to say “I’m going to be more in debt than it’s even worth.” I feel that to be an artist you don’t need to go to school. If you have enough drive and are determined and obviously a little bit of talent thrown in there. You’re going to do something.

I was seeing all the other fine artists doing a lot of contemporary, abstract work. And then here’s me, really focusing on a very traditional look. It was really frustrating. Seeing other people get praised for something….I understand conceptually there’s something there. I respect it for it’s conceptual side. But do I value it as much as I do the master’s and more traditional work? No. I don’t. 

You have to have that strong foundation before you can jump into the more contemporary stuff.

Yes. And that was always my argument. With everything. At a point I got frustrated. The whole fine arts program is this when I’m trying to do this. I’m not going to try please a different crowd. I know what I’m supposed to do. That’s the little rebel in me I guess.

01.13.2017 Update

Are you excited to finally finish this mural?

Yes! It’s going to be bittersweet. I love coming up here, it’s relaxing. But I’m ready to be done with it, you know? I’ve got 6 ladybugs, some buckeyes, two bumble bees and these carnations to finish. I’m going to be done at 9 tonight. I’m ready to move on to other things.