From the Editor |
Interview with the Alien: Michael Alan NYC Art
Sloane: I appreciate you, Michael! Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for the debut issue of The Space Cadet Science Fiction Review, for honoring this magazine with your spectacular cover art, and for your genuinely supportive approach in making this whole thing happen. You’ve really contributed to getting this brand-new SF magazine off to an auspicious start! Your spirit of generosity in being willing to work with a small publishing house in its own creative space and encouraging and furthering the vision that inspires us, absolutely speaks volumes.
Spreading that artistic love embodies the Michael Alan Alien philosophy, you state on your Facebook page that “I am Michael Alien, an alien who wants good and to exist with a twist of chaos and a big splash of toxic paint!”
So, let’s kick things off with a big picture question: What is Michael Alan Alien and his art all about? Please describe your philosophy on life and art for us.
Alien: I am one of many living, breathing, anatomy sci-fi projects, who decided to live my life solely to create. I feel everyone has these big elevator pitches and trend ideas and just market and brand versus pure create. I’m living painting in the moment, drawing, every day, every moment making and making all day tuning into the higher wavelengths. I see my existence as an investigation into the realms of the unknown. I couldn’t say an exact anything as I am just here now, and lucky to be creating. I work in various medium forms from drawing to painting to collage, performance, and music.
Sloane: Tell us a little about your background.
When and where were you born? Where’d you grow up? What was your childhood like? Did you want to be an artist when you were a kid?
Alien: I was Born in NYC, right during the blackout of 1977, a very strange day to be born, during the riots and looting. It made for much pain for mom. But I was made. I often think of why and how much my mom went through if you look back into those days in NY it was insane (look it up it was wild). I grew up between BK, Queens and stupid island by Wu-Tang land. I have been shuffling around all of NYC my whole life, I feel like an energy vibration.
Sloane: You include “Alien” as a byname. I get the distinct impression that while very catchy, it goes far beyond any sort of marketing strategy and is actually about your whole perspective on life and how you engage with life and with the people and world around you.
Would you tell us about why you chose Alien to be part of your artistic persona, part of your conceptual world.
Alien: I am not part of mainstream pop. I am alien, I am far off the human spectrum. I have never really felt a part of anything, so I am me. It works terrible as marketing as michael alan alien looks like michaelalanalien and no one can read it, when they look me up. Lol.
Michael Alan Alien started as the name of my band (a lot of the music is still downloadable on Bandcamp with great musical collaborations with Tommy Ramone, my parents, Jadda Cat, Tim “Love” Lee, Aaron Dilloway, The Residents, and so many more). It comes from the sounds I make with my mouth brush. I’ve been making music on and off for many years. It’s sound painting.
Sloane: Are you a fan of science fiction — the art, the literature, the cinema? If so, any faves?
Alien: Sure! Who isn’t? Way too many to list, my favorite films are sci-fi, or outsider music that has that edge to it. It has to be a bit dark and twisty to peek my mind or all-inclusive worlds. I don’t like much that hits the human world. (A good example of outsider music I like is my friend Daniel Johnston.)
Sloane: Please describe what The New York Times is referencing in this quote: “To recapture what has been lost and update it with a big splash of paint.”
Alien: A quote from an old interview, you must watch the film.
Sloane: In a short film by Alan Ket, you define your art as “figurative abstraction.”
Would you still define your art as such? If not, how would you define or describe it now?
Alien: No, every day is different. I think on the spot and my ideas change daily as my work does. That film is dope, but old, every minute my ideas change. Every day is a new lifetime.
Sloane: How did you discover and develop your artistic style?
Alien: Through years and years of dedication.
I started as a kid drawing NYC, drawing people and stayed focused. I didn’t focus on what other people were doing, my drawings were my way to understand life. In time, that LINE I’m known for integrated into everything. So much time and devotion.
Sloane: What does evolving as an artist mean to you? Would you say that you are evolving within the context of your established style or has the style itself changed?
Alien: You evolve daily. Everything changes. Or not. Be present. Everything is energy, who knows what is real?
Stay active. Everything will come or it won’t. Think less, do more.
Sloane: Is the refinement of one’s technique the same as an artistic evolution?
Alien: No, not really, but I don’t believe in definitions.
Sloane: Do you ever envision yourself making a radically different kind of art then what you do now? In other words, would you be willing to reinvent yourself as an artist if the inspiration struck you to do so, even if it meant totally veering away from your established and celebrated style of art?
Alien: Yes, I have done that many times. I have a side project that’s a completely different identity. I make so many various works, I just don’t post it, or sometimes I do.
Sloane: Do you think it possible that at some unknown but distant point in the future, an art form might come into being that would not be accessible to the minds of people living in this day and age?
Sloane: What do you think of NFTs?
Alien: It’s such a loaded topic. I don’t know enough about them to give a full long answer, but I think it’s great that artists can be paid for their work, whether a digital file or a physical piece, or a song, or a poem. A new universe, please check out my upcoming [NFT] drops at michaelalanalien verified, on OpenSea.
Sloane: Do you think that the use of high technology in creating, displaying, buying, selling, and collecting art detracts at all from the human element of the art produced and experienced?
Alien: Pretty much. It’s nice when people own work, and things flow in a natural way. But the goal should be of your visual language not a market or a store. But we live in the human world where everyone needs categories and boxes. At the end of the day, there is no way for an artist to survive on sheer goodwill. We depend on making an income to continue the level of service rendered out into the world.
Sloane: I see elements of Kandinsky, Pollock, Stella, and Dalí – to name just a few, with a little Banksy thrown in there for good measure – manifested in your work but in a completely new and identifiably unique way. I guess that I see your work as being somewhere on that same spectrum and continuum of creativity, of sharing in it, and of fully being at that level of note.
Just my view of course, but what do you make of it?
Alien: If we look, we can see everything in everything.
I personally think I’m doing my own thing, that I started as a kid struggling that didn’t know what art was, or I was making art. It’s a natural way I see life. But to understand alien is to go back in time and see me as six, which is not now.
Sloane: NY-ARTNews stated, “Native NYC artist Michael Alan is creating worlds and a language ahead of its time, that will change art history.”
That’s profound. How do you feel about that statement?
Alien: Cool. Ha! I appreciate the acknowledgement, but I don’t see myself as “Michael.” I am energy.
Sloane: How would you describe your creative process?
Sloane: You sometimes include concise messages written into your artwork, which adds another layer of thought and engagement for the participant in your art. It’s a unique element to incorporate.
For example, in one of your recent pieces, you wrote, “I fixed my logic.”
I found myself thinking about that phrase almost as much as the visual imagery after viewing. This approach seems to activate distinct processing channels in our mind that collaborate in producing an even richer artistic experience.
What’s your rationale for adding these messages?
Alien: All part of the process of full worlds, stories, and ways to have humans view and take in their own stories. Notes, words, part of my path. Hopefully, to give some points of time to the friends who view. Words are ways to communicate, they work in paintings, and can also ruin paintings.
Sloane: I would imagine that art provides a great sense of meaning and purpose in your life.
How would you describe the importance of art to you?
Alien: It’s just what I do. It’s me. I am it. My purpose is other things that have nothing to do with my function.
Sloane: Is art a spiritual journey for you?
Alien: Yes, and more.
Sloane: On a personal level, what do you hope to achieve with your art?
Alien: To keep making it!
Sloane: How would you describe the importance of your art to others – or is that an impossibly subjective question?
Alien: I wouldn’t, that’s not my place.
Sloane: In what ways do you feel that your art contributes to our culture, our society, and our world?
Alien: I couldn’t say. I am here, I am doing it. No one asked me to.
Sloane: Helping your fellow humans — or fellow aliens, as the case may be — by advocating through your art for constant creativity in one’s life, disability and mental health awareness, equality, and acceptance — including your support for people exploring their own creativity in their own creative spaces — is a central and guiding theme in your life.
How would you articulate your advocacy to someone who knew nothing about you, your art, or the issues that you care deeply about?
Alien: I honestly wouldn’t. I would hope my actions spoke more than me trying to describe my ambitions.
Sloane: Do you have any other particular social, political, or humanitarian objectives that you hope to achieve, either directly or indirectly, through the creation of your art that we haven’t covered already?
Alien: It’s not for me to say. The work will have to do that, or not do that. I’m a big believer in make it and see what happens naturally.
Sloane: Is your art itself the message, providing the catalyst to get the light bulbs to go off in people’s minds and elevate the general consciousness levels out there and encourage human progress; or is your art the vehicle that allows you to be the message?
Alien: It could be neither, either, or both.
Sloane: I seem to see everything through a science fiction lens. When I first saw your artwork, and the Green Guy in particular, my first thought was: This is science fiction art on a whole new level of expression.
Would you describe any of your work as such, or does it ultimately transcend such description and it’s all just in the eye of the beholder?
Alien: I do so many various styles that I try and not describe one thing. Everything has its purpose and multi-purposes. The work is always moving.
Sloane: If you were commissioned by NYC to paint a science fiction mural, what would you paint?
Alien: I would paint UFOs looming over NYC.
Sloane: It’s a required movie night and you have to choose between a rom-com and science fiction – which will it be?
Alien: Science fiction.
Sloane: If you were commissioned by a Hollywood studio to create the movie poster for the newest release in the Alien franchise, which would be the main focus of your treatment: Ripley or an alien?
Sloane: Who and what has influenced you as an artist? Have you been influenced at all by science fiction art?
Alien: Hard to say, I really try to do my own thing and not watch much. I’m deeply in my head.
Sloane: If you could hang out with any of the great artists of the past, who would they be? Of the present? Why?
Alien: My friends that died.
Sloane: When I see your work, I have to strap myself in fast because that rocket ship is already traveling at creative escape velocity! It is, to my mind, the very embodiment of cosmic, creative chaos channeled and structured into visual coherence; wild energies, somehow contained through their incorporation into an artistic vessel. It’s alive with movement, pulsating with vibrant energy. Brilliant, extraordinary stuff!
How do you manage to consistently create such exceptional work while sustaining such a high volume of production? How would you describe your source of inspiration to us, what drives you, what fuels you?
Alien: I honestly don’t understand it, but I keep most of human needs OUT of my head and keep moving forward. Or I crash from messages and things that I don’t care about. I really love being in the moment.
Sloane: It would seem that you are almost always physically creating artwork – quite literally an artistic dynamo – and you’re probably thinking about it even when you sleep, do you dream art?
Alien: My dreams are incredibly vibrant mind movies in full color. They are a reflection of how I see the world through alien eyes. My art is dreams and my dreams are art.
Sloane: You are almost constantly active on your michaelalanalien Instagram account. In fact, we communicated there the other day as you created art for 18 hours straight – while in the hospital, sharing reels of your work! That’s incredible. Your Facebook page states that you work at your art 12 hours a day and at various locations around NYC. I’m a night owl myself and our various email communications during this whole process have had 3:00 AM time stamps on them on a few occasions, but do you ever sleep?
I’m really curious here, about how much sleep do you get per night, on average? Are you someone who does not need much sleep or do you choose to forgo it to create art?
Alien: Ha, yes, I sleep. Goodnight.
Sloane: Do you find that sleep deprivation unlocks vibrant, creative pathways and energies that a full night of sleep, in comparison, seems to make duller and less accessible, or is that just me?
Alien: Sleep is healing, and art is healing. I pull in energy from the world around me to create. I work hard to stay healthy, and health is fuel.
Sloane: Is creating art or sleeping more important to your health and wellbeing?
Alien: My health is everything, most important. I make my work while I walk, piss, eat. I’m always making art. Literally!
Sloane: Creating art is obviously something that you love to do. As facets of your inspiration, do you also need to create art – like you need to breathe – as much as you love to create art?
Alien: I exist to create art. It’s the main focus of why I’m here, and I encourage everyone to do what they love. Love and science are why I do what I do.
Sloane: Do you ever have to push yourself to finish a piece or to get into the creative zone or do your creative energies and prodigious efforts feel more like a wave that carries you along with it?
Alien: No, but I’m always in pain so I have to get ok, and the art is my medication.
Sloane: You define your art, but does it also define you?
Alien: Yes, it does, there is no “Michael.” I have become a pen!
Sloane: You’ve been public about your health challenges. I read one of your posts on Instagram recently in which you talked about how your relentless drive to create art is the best medicine and the most powerful tool for your physical healing and mental wellbeing in tackling these health issues.
How has creating your art helped you in dealing with these challenges? Would you talk about that?
Alien: It’s everything! It makes me push on. People who have health issues can relate to the posts and push on.
I would have died when I was 33. When I was very sick, some supposed “art people” kept scamming me while I was in the hospital, they kept stealing my work, thinking I was dead or dying. Stealing at my shows, studios, home.
When I said I needed surgery, they turned on me to take what they could.
The actual “art making” saved me daily as I drew it and injected Coumadin and oxygen into my body, I painted before and after surgeries, minutes before and when I came out.
So yes, art saves!
Sloane: Does your success in the art world inspire you to create even more art? I’m talking about seeing the joy your art provides to people. Is that a form of inspiration and artistic fuel? Spiritual fuel?
Alien: I love to share what I do with everyone. I’m an alien so “Success” and the chasing after it is a human box that I avoid. Love and play are the fuel that I use to create, the energy can be shared and then expands.
Success is living, being free!
Sloane: I understand that you DJed and ran events and clubs around NYC, including your own as you were coming up and you were drawing constantly during this time.
How did that lead to you becoming a full-time professional artist – how did this career in art come to be for you – and when did you first realize that you could support yourself as an artist?
Alien: When I DJed and ran some clubs I was always drawing, people noticed and told me I should become a full-time artist and give up the clubs. I met a lot of people that were very supportive. I also used my venues to promote the work of other artists while never asking for anything from them. The positive energy that was generated propelled me forward into being able to start showing in galleries and to support myself.
Sloane: I read on your FB page that you attended the School of Visual Arts in NYC. How much formal art training do you have or is yours mainly freeform, self-taught skills and abilities born of your creativity and inspiration, developed through your artistic practices and experimentation, and honed by your artistic vision?
Alien: I went to S. V. A. and found some instructors that encouraged me. I found the classes to be an open vibe with no deep training, this was helpful in understanding what it meant to be an artist and just create, I never followed the class, I just concentrated on trying to develop my own voice.
Sloane: Do you think that formal art training can sometimes hinder the development of authentic creative expression?
Alien: The goal of the artist is to find their own voice. Whatever helps you through the growth process is good.
Sloane: Is there anything that you would do differently along the way in your progression as an artist?
Alien: Take time to self when healing.
Sloane: What advice would you give aspiring artists?
Alien: Keep making art DAILY. Live and breathe it. Make, make, make, don’t stop!
Sloane: You’re also a talented performance artist and music writer, recording original music featuring the likes of Tommy Ramone of the legendary punk rock band the Ramones and Jello Biafra (Eric Reed Boucher) of the also legendary punk rock band the Dead Kennedys.
Happenings are then set to your music at the Living Installation, which you founded and are the director of.
Tell us about this, what is the Living Installation? What happens there?
Alien: The Living Installation is a long running performance project that I do with my partner Jadda Cat. The goal is to create EXPERIENCES THAT take people into an alien reality. Jadda Cat and I transform ourselves into living sculptures and perform in an environment that we created every element of, my paintings come to life, IT has to be experienced to be believed. The sound is my music and we incorporate art, costumes, sculpture, puppets and found objects into a true old school New York style performance happening.
Sloane: Would you also fill us in a little on Jadda Cat?
Alien: Jadda Cat is my amazing partner in life and art and contributes mightily to everything that I do. She is a master performer with her own fan base and puts everything she has into creating our art realm. She does performance, video, photography, sculpture and makes awesome art and is my fire, my life and my creative other half. She is the GOD!
Sloane: Do you listen to music while painting? If so, what’s your music of choice?
Alien: I like all kinds of music with an emphasis on the weird, the experimental, and inspirational. I’m always listening to something different!
Sloane: Do you have a drink of choice? A favorite food that fuels your epic 12-hour art sessions?
Sloane: If you went on a voyage into deep space, what are a few must-have items that you would bring?
Alien: Art supplies, Jadda Cat, Mom.
Sloane: Is there anything else we haven’t covered that you’d like to share with our readers, maybe a personal mantra or something?
Alien: Nope, lol.
Sloane: If possible, describe in just one word the truest essence of your art.
Sloane: Well, thank you very much, Michael! I thoroughly enjoyed doing this interview. I learned a lot from it, and I certainly think that the readers will, too. My grandfather was Salvador Dalí’s editor for Diary of a Genius at Doubleday in NYC and during a business luncheon Dali famously threw potato chips in his face — this interview took a long time, thank you for making it a pleasant process.
Heartfelt, you’re the real-deal artist and a class-act human, making you the ultimate “Alien.” Your generosity of spirit and support for people out there trying to create something meaningful and special and enduring in their own creative spaces is just unparalleled. Thanks for being genuine. Keep giving the world your art – the world needs your art! Good health and best of luck to you and yours and in all of your artistic endeavors!
Again, thank you, Michael – and thank you, Green Guy!
The magnificent Green Guy, who graces the cover of this, the debut issue of The Space Cadet Science Fiction Review, Spring 2022, made this whole thing happen. You can see it in his eyes, the swirling void of infinite possibilities in the one, and in the other, the realm of defined manifestation. But wait, do you see a mystical third eye?
— The Editor