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In this installment of Creative Inspirations, we meet music composer and DEVO founder Mark Mothersbaugh at home at Mutato Muzika, his studio on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. This is where he and his fellow spuds (Mutato combines mutant and potato) create some of film and television's most compelling music.
Mark reveals what drives his projects that have ranged from Clio Award-winning commercials, to Emmy Award-winning music for television, to soundtracks for popular video games. Mark shows us his stunning paintings and drawings that have been shown in galleries around the world, and shares his motivation behind being an artist working in various media, his fascination with mutants and symmetry, and using Photoshop to manipulate his work. He also discusses how the unique DEVO sound, look, and philosophy first came together, and why after a 28-year break, they came back together with a new album and tour.
Mark Mothersbaugh: This is kind of the main art room and Johnny kind of helps me in here. He organizes the art projects that we're working on. For instance all the logistics with Scion. I'm doing some a design thing, a piece with them right now. It's a conceptual piece. They asked me to do paint on a car and like "we have always had lots of other artists do that" and I don't want to paint a car but I've always wanted to take two cars and saw them in half and put the front ends together or back ends. And in this case, they had a car that looked good, both the back and the front end to do that with so.
Male Speaker: They didn't want to do the back end. Mark Mothersbaugh: Oh yeah, that's right, they didn't want to do the back end and they were going to sell it to me and I said, okay, well let's just build the back end anyhow because look at it what it looks like. It's such a cute little trailer. It might even be in a way the better looking to the two vehicles, even though it has no motor in it, and then when they saw it, then they wanted it. I'd always had kind of a fascination with mutants in general and just take the idea of mutants. And symmetry too.
I'd played around with taking images and slicing them, my artwork, slicing them into half and then flipping the image and making a new image out of two halves and then I started applying it to photographs and I started off with this pictures I'd taken. And at first I was taking pictures with a mirror and I was trying to use a mirror to reflect and get like half of an image and then I found out you could do it in Photoshop so easy that it's like "what am I doing all this other stuff for?" It was really and it was really fun and I could make another mutant everyday.
So, about 500 days later, I had a collection of 500 mutants. I don't know. I became fascinated with this because I found out that in the process of doing it, early on I found out that when you slice a human's face down the middle and flip it over, almost rarely does somebody look like the same person. You realize how asymmetric everybody is, compared to like snowflakes or so many other things in nature that are much more symmetrical and most animals are much more symmetrical than us.
DEVO decided early on that we weren't beautiful asparagus people and we weren't really glamorous eggplants but we were more dirty, lowly, commonplace potatoes and potatoes are asymmetric and they come from underground and there's nothing glamorous about them. But potatoes have eyes all around and they see everything and they know what's going on and they're also-- In a way, there's some dignity to their existence in the sense that they're like a staple of everyone's diet.
One thing I found out is that humans tend to have one side of them that is more childlike and more innocent and actually more beautiful and then one side that is darker. Like even babies, they tend to have like a side of them that is their demon side it looks like when you split a face in half and flip it both directions and I became really fascinated with that and I had no way to even explain it and I just kept making them any how. So, then I just started forcing them on galleries and some galleries like them and some people really like them. Not everybody does, but I did it for a really long time. I was really, totally fascinated with that strange phenomena.
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