Trek Lexington in conversation with Miles Yoshida

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Miles Yoshida’s website

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself, both as a person and as an artist. Where did you grow up, and how did you come to choose art as a career?

I grew up in Long Beach, California, split between ethnic and socioeconomic worlds. My father is a Hawaiian-Japanese, self-proclaimed “failed” artist who worked in roofing construction to send my brother and me to an elite, private school atop the southern Californian, West-Egg peninsula known as Palos Verdes. My Caucasian mother also studied art, but found herself as a housewife who did everything in her power to encourage creative expressions in our home, going so far as to preserve my brother’s very first anthropomorphic crayon drawing in our back bedroom–the potato-like man still exists today, circumscribed by successive applications of house paint.

Although my brother and I showed advanced visual learning skills in school, the imposing culture of my K-12 private school education groomed me for a future in a more pragmatic field than art, so naturally, I studied sociology in college. However, after a couple years of writing depressing essays on social and economic injustices, I decided that I’d rather be a poor artist than a poor academic, so I switched my focus to art.

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As person and an artist, I must confess that I’m in a perpetual state of being lost. Often, I have a subtle, nagging feeling like I’m living in someone else’s body, never fully in control, like I’m in a streaming movie where the audio and video aren’t quite synced up properly. It’s most likely the result of being too self-aware and self-critical, but I’ve been that way my entire life. Art is one of the few things that distract me from that sensation, allowing me to focus solely on the task at hand while offering temporary relief. However, in a strange way, I attribute the intensity of some of my work to that same self-critical tendency, but instead of being aimed inwardly at myself, it’s aimed externally at my work. Therefore–and perhaps to the detriment of my art’s marketability–my work is predominantly a form of self-medication rather than a channel through which I creatively connect to the outside world.

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  1. You seem to move effortlessly between drawing and sculpture. If you had to choose only one medium to work in, what would it be?

Drawing and sculpture are really part of the same package, just different forms of perceptual and cognitive expression. My art focuses a lot on light, form and volume, so my drawings and sculpture by their very nature reflect those same points of interest. I’m coming to a point in my life where I think I’m ready to put sculpture aside for a variety of reasons, most of which are purely practical especially in the limited confines of New York City. Sculpture is expensive to produce and a pain to store. Much of the materials are also harmful to top the whole thing off (there’s a reason most famous “sculptors” don’t actually personally fabricate any of their work). For all those reasons, the simplicity of 2D artwork makes much more sense at this point, and I find it to be equally gratifying.

  1. What artists, either past or present, have inspired you most?

I’m old-school. I loved the Western old-masters, but after seeing much of the work in person during a trip to Europe, I found that one really stood beyond the rest: Michelangelo. To me (and Da Vinci basically shares the same throne), Michelangelo is the paragon of artistic pluralism–he’s an engineer, scientist, draughtsman, sculptor and painter. His output was staggering, his quality has yet to be matched and his integrity was unflinching. I learned more about drawing and form from studying his work than the teachings of most of my past art instructor combined. Argh. Now that I just wrote all that, I gotta say that Albrecht Durer needs a mention as well. His style and attention to detail are so beyond fascinating and inspiring that it borders on paralyzing. If we’re talking contemporary sculpture, however, I hate to say it, but I think Jeff Koons’s sculptures are pretty amazing–there, I said it.

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“Liberace’s keys”
  1. Do you have a day job? If so, how do you balance it with your artistic career?

I’ve worked as an artist assistant, art handler, art-preparator, server, roofer and manny. I found that jobs in the arts don’t work for me; making work for other people was soul-destroying. If you’re going to work professionally in the art world but hope to maintain your own practice, I’d say stay away from assistant work. Being a roofer and a manny has been much more rewarding and has offered much greater flexibility to continue producing my own work.

  1. Where do you see yourself and your art 10 years from now?

That’s the easiest question by FAR: I don’t know.

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“Hand with Book”

 

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