Timothy Watters‘ paintings will be displayed at Bang Gallery in downtown LA, 354 S Spring Street on Friday, July 23rd 2010.
Getting to Timothy Watter’s house requires traversing some of the steepest mountain roads in Eagle Rock, that industrial-straddling burb of northern Los Angeles. It’s reminiscent of the sort of rare air that some artists seek, and which few have the misfortune of finding–art that straddles the edge of contemporary, seldom understood by the masses, inaccessible outside of the artist’s constantly furrowed brow. It’s even called “high” art (note: not related to 420 art).
In other words, ever read any Gertrude Stein? I did, and even as an English major in college, it was enough to push me back to Harry Potter for a while. When I meet Tim, I get the sense that he wouldn’t mind becoming the J. K. Rowling of painters–or perhaps the Jay-Z, who started out making politically charged ‘message rap,’ before blowing up the mainstream by appealing to an ever-broader audience (say, the state of New York).
“That’s what I learned from Jay-Z,” Watters explains, “is that you gotta get in the game, make it, then change it.”
For now, that means playing to the tastes of his audience. When he displays his work at artwalks, Watters pays attention to which ones people respond to. If they like Scooby Doo Hot Boxing The Mystery Van (not the official title, maybe close), Watters might make it into a series for next time. “I just want to be able to do art for the rest of my life,” he says. “I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel.”
Watters is also practical, another quality that eludes many artists. To supplement his income, he and his brother started a clothing line called Teruo. The name comes from Watter’s grandfather, Teruo Iyama a Japanese-American impressionistic painter who met his wife in a US internment camp. “He was the kind of guy who bought a sailboat because he didn’t know how to sail,” Watters, who is half Japanese, the other half a mix of German, Scottish and Irish, recalls.
“Once he got old, he couldn’t do art, and he spent the last four to five years of his life not doing much. It’s a good reminder.”
When I meet with him this week, Watters is busy preparing for an art show that opens this Friday. He’s rushing–the oil-based paints he uses are time-consuming–but he’s excited at the recognition he’s been getting, thanks in no small part to people like Nas and Snoop Dogg (another thing Tim does is give famous people his paintings of them). Three of his paintings are already set to make a cameo in an upcoming E-40 music video.
Before I leave, Tim shows me one of the pieces he’s doing for himself: a re-take on Van Gogh’s Starry Night. “It’s intimidating,” he admits. “Van Gogh’s my favorite artist.” Vincent Van Gogh, of course, is the famous example of the horribly misunderstood artist. The man couldn’t sell a print while he was alive.
“Unfortunately, his brother was rich,” Watters says. “[Van Gogh] just wanted to make art. I just want to do the same thing.”