Words by Evan La Ruffa
Existent within are double-brains with top hats and long cigarrettes, not to be outmatched by a conglomeration of foods that reveal utter malaise. Even winged hearts with hands and people made of clouds are part of the possibilities. Andrew Riggins is always looking for new modes, methods, and angles for creating something in the image of his most recent great idea. Collage, digital, photography, and apparel are all part of his repertoire, with each new update containing news about his latest favorite tool. He is one of those artists who can think across applications and bring things to life via computer, scissor, or lens. IPMM first linked up with his apparel company, Krank Empire, when we printed the 2nd round of Mandala Logo T-Shirts. After getting to know the quality of his apparel and printing projects, IPaintMyMind delved into Andrews’ personal artwork and were thoroughly impressed.
It’s the versatility he exhibits that peaks our interest most. Regardless of the tool, Andrew is intent on deriving and constructing his own meaning from what he sees in the world. His collages take visceral content and kick it up several notches, overloading the senses with food en masse, giving one that feeling you get when you’ve have enough food for 15 people. Whether lines drawn in hard drives for perusal on screens, or amalgamations of breasts, produce, and saws, Andrew Riggins is clearly resolute in his desire to actualize his own interpretations. The questions and quality involved in the resulting work are certainly a bonus. Ahead, we catch up with the dude behind Krank Empire, a dedicated artist who’s certainly helping keep Austin weird.
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EL: We were glad to be able to meet up when you came through Chicago, Andrew! How was that trip, I know you hit up a few locations.
Riggins: The trip was quite nice. It was the first time I had been to Chicago as adult. I was able to explore some neat spots, museums, etc. – as much as I could for an extended weekend anyway.
EL: Your art is all over the map, and I mean that in a good way. Various types of collage, digital works, photography & light. What do you spend the most time on? Which comes most naturally to you?
Riggins: Collage is the foremost consumer of my time and resources. The large collage pieces take up most of my art time with the smaller ones acting as a reprieve from the monotony of achieving whatever theme I’ve embarked on. The digital photography is the least planned and in my opinion the most disposable.
EL: It’s gotta be fun being creative in a place like Austin, TX. How does the city facilitate creative output? People seem to flock there to start a band, make great art, or cook great food.
Riggins: Austin is the liberal dot in a huge state of deep rooted conservatism. I was raised in Dallas but came here after school. I should say more escaped. Austin breathes fresh air into this stagnant south tip of America. There are more creative outlets and venues in Austin but there are also way more artists. Competition is stiff but support, culture and community thrive.
EL: Instead of put words in your mouth, tell us more about the idea behind “Land of Plenty”…
Riggins: Land of Plenty is made entirely from original food ads from 1960′s magazines. While looking through these for source materials I was struck by the contrast from food ads then and now. Today, it’s all about the packaging, the label and most importantly, the logo of the company and/or product. Fifty years ago, it was about the food itself, even though you see the beginnings of the throw-away food culture that permeates today, emphasize on frozen and quick-to-make food products. For example, on one page there is a wholesome, rather large, say 5″ in diameter, detailed, juicy orange hanging off of non-contextual leaves and stem, all photo-realistic in beaming color. This would be followed by an ad for frozen pizza with what looks like – an actual slice of frozen pizza – lacking depth, thin, sporadic cheese, minced undetermined meat bits with crust that looks like a stale cracker. And these are touted as equally healthy – the fresh food and the frozen, processed product.
The point I’m getting to is these ads are the foundation for the glut and backwards food culture that the vast majority Americans currently find themselves in. But of course I am aware of the multitude of factors contributing: no viable alternative to a corporate chain, or no grocery stores at all, not being able to afford decent food after paying rent on minimum wage and finally simply a complete dismissal of healthy eating regardless of income – apathy.
EL: How long did it take to complete that? What was the process like?
Riggins: The cutting took about a month of a few hours a night. I would leaf through every magazine I had, cutting out whole pages that contained the appropriate photo and color scheme I was looking for. Then I went through the pile of whole pages and cut down the actual image I wanted. After I cut each they were sorted into “red”, “white” and “blue” boxes. I glued the stripes and star background down quickly after finishing cutting, but stalled the completion of the rest of the stripes to buy the epoxy coating that sits in between the red stripes and on top of the white as well. Then, as things go in my studio, it got pushed aside for almost a year before I decided to finish it in a weekend. Funny how upcoming shows motivate.
EL: “Seamstress” is another collage series. It’s rugged, as if mosaic with intentionally missin pieces. What was the mindset in creating these?
Riggins: I came across a large collection of vintage Playboys and I knew I wanted to make a series with them. The centerfolds are what struck me the most. They are the mantle of the magazine, what readers turn to first. Magazine editors know this and thus airbrush, perk up, decorate and otherwise dehumanize that month’s “chosen”. As the editors and photographers alter these women from their true form into what they think will sell, I aim to unveil their intentions through a re-juxtaposition of the core elements into something new and a tad more titillating than the banal, cleaned up, stereotypical images they peddle.
EL: You started a clothing label called Krank Empire… tell us more about that. What’s new in that world?
Riggins: The concept of an art collective and/or magazine named “Krank” had been floating around our heads since highschool – about ten years now. At first our only goal was to publish an art magazine of all original material. Being a student during the dying years of print media, the cost of such an endeavor was always prohibitive. Instead, we manifested the concept into a Print and Design house, making our own art while producing for others as well. Client work funds our creative exploits. Something new, you ask. Well, we’ve just in the last few weeks been playing around with a CNC embroidery machine, extending our “Locals Only!” line from screenprint and iron-on t-shirts to women’s fashion with stitching.
EL: How do you see your art influencing the clothing or visa versa?
Riggins: I’d say the art that I make for Krank Empire has definitely been influenced by the tools and resources at our disposal. It’s way cheaper to produce a 1 color shirt than a 4+ color shirt and sometimes 1 color is all you need to convey an idea. It’s a constant reminder to strip down the complicated – refine, refine, refine. In this way, I get stuck in a rut of making art that is 1 color screen print friendly – halftones and solid lines.
EL: What’s your favorite place to eat in Austin?
Riggins: Ah La Cart food trailer in South Austin has been my steady eating spot for about a year now. It’s a one-man show with fancy sandwiches, pork belly tacos and my personal favorite, the “Fig N Pig” – which is pork belly, homemade fig jam, cheddar and apples on ciabatta bread.
EL: Name one artist or musician IPMM readers should check out right now.