An interview with Greg Ajamie
By Michael Kaufmann
Monday, August 27th, 2007

Greg Ajamie’s work is part a strange hybrid of power symbol making, videogame-esque imagery, and candy filled dreams. I decided to invite him to participate in the Unusual Animals Indianapolis gallery component at the recommendation of artist Cindy Hinant. The following is an email interview I conducted with Greg during mid-August of 2007.

MK: Can you tell me briefly about your background as an artist? Any early childhood epiphanies as to why you wanted to pursue art? This might seem like a fairly standard question, but I think in light of the playfulness of your work, I wonder if there is a connection between childhood art fantasies and current execution.

GA: I think I have always wanted to be an artist, and have always been an art nerd. It just seems like the only way things make sense for me and the only way I really understand myself, is through art.

MK: Just as there is this dangerous line between humor and silliness, there is also a dangerous line between playful and childish. Can you discuss where these boundaries rest for you in your work?

GA: I really feel that an audience will respond esthetically first to something on this level, something bright and glittery. I always thought that if you can make someone smile or laugh or say "that’s cute!" first then you have a good chance of keeping them and hoping they stay long enough to think more about something. For me it isn’t a concern as much to whether it sits in either category, because in many ways it’s both. But the contradiction allows for more people to access it and from different vantage points. I guess the line is too fine for me and so it doesn’t matter if these works have a little playfulness and some (probably a lot) of childishness.

MK: Why felt? What is it about the material that draws you to it?

GA: Felt is something that I instantly fell in love with as a material, and have used consistently for a while now. "It’s so flat!" is probably my first response and I think that the ridiculousness of treating material in a two dimensional way is fun for me, and that is why felt works so well, it really retains a flatness or two dimensionality that I find really powerful. Aside from the art historical references, that is.

MK: I mentioned to someone that I thought one of the things powerful about your work is this tension between iconography (particularly iconography of power) and this day-glo upsetting of that iconography. Is that a theme in your work, or just this particular piece? And what is the motivation behind that theme?

GA: Well, Bare Your Teeth, the world I’m creating in general, is really about having a response and acting on that response, in regards to many things- the globe, morals and values, money and politics, and relationships. The characters that are trying to cross over to our reality have a lot to say to society and their cuteness is secondary. Like with having an initial response of “It’s cute!" or "I like that!" we should then allow ourselves to see it more conceptually and I hope that composition and title do that for these pieces. As far as the tension being a part, I think that is definitely an underlying theme, and the viewer is kind of asked to lift a veil of esthetic to get to some harder issues.

MK: Can you talk a little more about your alter ego "the marsh-mellow man" and the world he inhabits? Should I avoid psychoanalyzing the Marsh-Mellow Man?

GA: Psychoanalyzing him might help me more than you. The Marsh-Mellow man is the character I become when entering the Bare Your Teeth world. Some characters remain 2-D while others are trying to get to this land and so become more three-dimensional (cardboard "flats" or stuffed). The goal of the Marsh-Mellow character is to aid certain Bare Your Teeth creatures in theif cross reality trek to this land, so they may be free to speak their minds. As the story will unfold, how the Marsh-Mellow man gets the characters through and what he goes through to do that will be revealed. If I can say anything about him I would bring up the point that whether he is laughing or screaming has yet to be determined and that is an expression that crosses many characters of that land, the ambiguity is puzzling…

MK: What is your favorite thing about Indianapolis? What do you think the citizens of Indianapolis can do to foster a hospitable environment for experimental art and music?

GA: My favorite thing is probably Herron School of Art and Design, where I have spent the last three years. The city seems ready to have more and more art, including experimental art and music. I would say that the more we can get people to experience it the better. So many people miss out because they think they might not be interested, but there is so much going on right now and so many things being discussed, everyone, young and old should be able to find something of interest to them in the ways of art.

MK: If you had to construct a soundtrack to your art, what would the track list look like?

GA: Dan Deacon, Dat Politics, or one of those bands that sounds like little kids singing (Architecture in Helsinki, etc.). Anything bright, loud, and ridiculous!

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