Portland/Brooklyn Artist Series, Week 6: Justin "Scrappers" Morrison

Mar 22, 2010

For our final week of the artist series, I interviewed Portland artist Justin "Scrappers" Morrison.  I first met Scrappers in my shop a while back.  He was writing for the Portland Mercury at the time, and now he is their Art Director.  His creative titles actually run the gamut from painter to cartographer to gallery director to even toymaker.  He spent 11 years studying photography, oceanography, and history at the college level, but eventually got his start in art on the sidewalk of Alberta Street during Portland's monthly art event, Last Thursday.  

How would you describe your work?

My work is stupid.  Stupid like the way a good tickle makes you feel.  I try to keep it stupid and style-free, so the execution doesn't get in the way of the message.  My work is about staying wild, being human animals, falling down, getting up, pushing each other to be better people, trouble-making, bio-regionalism, the west coast, beer, camping, nipples, and having fun.

photos: Anthony Georgis

What are the greatest challenges of being an artist today?

The internet.  If I post two pieces of art and people "favorite" one piece over the other, I'm going to make more pieces like the one people favored.  So avoiding the influences the internet can have on your own ideas and messages is really difficult.  The internet also makes it easy to feel famous and that shit makes people lazy one-trick ponies who are totally limited by style and expectation.  Maybe what I'm really getting at here is the influence art fans, art collectors, and art blog commenters have on artists.  It's the supply and demand relationship that's a challenge, your feedback (demand) affects my work (supply).  If you like it when I paint unicorns, I'm going to paint more unicorns even though I want to paint a tar pit eating a Scion.

What accomplishments/works of art are you most proud of?

My son Camper.  He's pure solid 100% wild human animal.  I've never been more proud of anything else.  I always wanted to be a dad, you can see it in my work if you look close enough.

All the men in my life have given me knives.  I don't know why. / I loved painting this beast, did it all for trade (fries for life).

Tell us about the biggest risk you have taken as an artist.

Every thing I make is a risk, or at least it should be.  I recently made a copy cat Chris Johanson painting and hung it in a show at Together Gallery. I even signed it Chris Johanson really big on the front.  Then I sold it for $25.  The risk there is in hoping that the art viewer will make the effort to consider the meaning of the piece.  "Why would Scrappers make a Chris Johanson painting?"  Mostly because you're not supposed to do shit like that.

I'm building an A-frame cabin in my back yard for Camper to play in.

What do you love most about Portland?

The Nature.  We have plenty of water, trees, food and all the other things that keep people living within Nature's reach.  This place isn't like LA in the sense that the city is on life support.  Environmentally speaking, this is a healthy place to live.

Campaign for the American Indian College Fund that Scrappers was part of. / A recent show at Gallery 1988.

What makes Portland such a great place for independent art?

We all keep each other motivated and inspire each other to make impossible ideas happen.

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In upcoming months, you can see Scrappers' art at Portland gallery Grass Hut and Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles.  He has also been working on a large map project for Oregon Tourism.  See his illustrative maps of Oregon here

And be sure to check out Art Hound's interview with Brooklyn artist Kevin Cyr


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