When Charles Linder isn't hunting wild boar, collecting found objects, or BBQ-ing in the Tenderloin, he can be found in his studio, which was formerly used as a sweat shop. Unsurprisingly, Linder and the art he creates are just as interesting as all of that implies. He recently closed his LincArt Gallery to focus on his own art practice, which is tied very closely to his lifestyle. We visited his ridiculously expansive digs in SOMA where we learned about his process, his past, and how to remove a tusk from a boar's jaw.
What are your plans for the fall?
Charles Linder: At the end of summer I always go and pick grapes with Angelo Garro at a couple different friends' places and make his homemade wine. And with fall comes more hunting. I've been doing a lot of hunting lately. Since I closed the gallery, I've been enjoying a more spontaneous schedule. I've been working on some new paintings that came out of the pool show I had at Guerrero Gallery over the summer. I'm not quite done with swimming pools yet, even though summer's over. It's a weird obsession.
Swimming pools and bullet holes often recur in your work.
CL: I think the swimming pool connotes leisure time or a placidity that I don't really have in my own life, but it's something I enjoy when I travel. A few moments by a pool is the height of relaxation. In the Bay Area, not so many people have pools, so it's become a compulsion to document pools wherever I stay, particularly at night. They're beautiful at night. I'm still finding them to be a rich source of material both with the photographs and the more imagined color puddle pieces.
The bullet holes have definitely been a recurring theme. I have the standard lanterns, which are also a recurring theme, and those red, bullet-riddled gas cans, which are process pieces. I find the cans on Ebay and they're shipped to my house in a cardboard box. I take the packages to the range or desert and shoot them until the box comes off. Sometimes I forget which can is in the box until it's blown apart. My collection of signs with bullet holes is an archeology project, whereas the cans are much more of an authorship piece. The shot-up cans reference that whole American penchant for recreational violence. I'm not a proponent of that, but the works address it. They're humorous, but alternately deadly and troubling.
Tell us about the Ghostang, a shot-up car you found that became your artwork.
CL: It was a found object that came out of my travels. I'm constantly wandering and looking for material, and when I saw that object in the desert down in Southern California, I was so stunned. It had all of the things that interested me -- this crazy sense of recreational violence, the found object, the rust. My first car was a '65 Mustang, so that also struck me -- why would someone do this to a Mustang? We couldn't find out much about who owned it. We traced the VIN number and nothing came up. It was on Bureau of Land Management property, so we asked if we could take it and if we needed a permit, and the guys jokingly said no, but we'll give you an award for cleaning up the desert. I came up with the term Ghostang. I always make up words. It was like this beached ship that just ended up in the desert. It was also called a Car-B-Q at one point. There's some talk of making it into a permanent barbecue.
Could you make custom Ghostangs?
CL: Yes, if somebody could meet the totally absurd budget for it. It's had several iterations so it really needs a coffee table book to go with it. I would like to sell the piece, but it's more of a lifestyle work.
How are your lifestyle and artwork intertwined?
CL: I've found myself more preoccupied with lifestyle than product. I feel fortunate and lucky enough to be able to live in a way where work doesn't necessarily dominate my life. I'm good at balancing work and play on a functional level so that it becomes effortless. With the aspect of going on adventures -- if I don't do that, the work doesn't happen. I have to be able to factor in that kind of time to find what might not necessarily be a thing, but an inspiration. You have to be able to just go on the trip to find the swimming pools, or whatever. That's important to me.
Can you talk more about being a hunter?
CL: I grew up in Alabama, where I was introduced to guns as a kid. I had a mentor, a hunting mentor, and when I found hunting and being in the woods, it was everything for me. It was a recreational activity that was also connected to harvesting food. I've never hunted anything that I didn't eat. That's the absolute last byproduct of a spiritual partnership with your hunting buddies and the land itself, and a respect for animals that is tantamount to harvesting one.
I got my first deer this year. I've hunted for 25 years and missed a lot of shots. I've never injured one, I just missed. It was incredible to get one; we ate it the next night. It's essentially like land sushi. The finest part of the deer loin, when brazed for just a moment in some ghee and lovely chicken stock, is like sushi. I learned how to physically butcher the animal, package it, use all of the parts, and make stock out of the leftover cuts. It's an elaborate procedure, and I'd consider myself a novice in that aspect. With hunting, I feel somewhat accomplished in terms of learning, but the actual preparation, that's another lifetime of work.
You've also been making wearable art with some of the animal parts.
CL: I've making jewelry pieces with the wild pig jaws; I'm harvesting the tusks. In fact, I'm boiling some in a pot right now, I'll show you. I'm extracting the teeth to make a new bracelet. They're two separate teeth, so I take one from each side of the jaw and glue them together. They have a metal infrastructure that joins them, and they're glued with epoxy so it looks as if it's one piece, but it's actually two. The formalism of them is what interests me, the way they almost form a circle.
What would you make if you had endless resources?
CL: More money. I'd move into the mint, evict the current owners, and begin minting Emperor Norton-esque Charles Linder monies which I could use about town and around the world in my favorite hotels. Charles Linder coin and paper monies would be accepted widely. Or I would have a non-profit entity that would allow me to continue my maniacal sponsorship of un-fundable art projects that other people present me with. That's the second idea. The third would be a ranch. That's my real cowboy fantasy project. I'd love to spend more time on a ranch. I could see vanishing to the country at some strategic point. So it would be a mint, a museum, or a ranch. How about all three?
There is something very American about your work.
CL:When I was a kid, some of the first work I looked at, and bought and loved was from so-called outsider artists or folk artists from the South that were in this category of their own. They had a way of operating that I admired and wanted to have in my own work. And I always wondered what differentiated them from the supposed insider artist. Who is to say on what side of the fence you should lie? Modern art is so skeptical and snooty, and I just hate that about art. The challenge is to keep it fun and curious and innocent somehow.
If your art had a soundtrack what would it be?
CL: Right now I'm liking the new Lil' Weezy. I'm also enjoying some old Coltrane sides.
See Charles Linder's work on view at Jones, 620 Jones Street in San Francisco.