May
23

Jeff Tocci (JT)--…I’m just going to try not to ramble.

Richard C. Root (RCR)—Breeder Ballads. What is a breeder?

JT—Well, a breeder is a light-hearted moniker given to the Adirondack Mountain Region folk of Upstate New York. Kind of a cold weather redneck of sorts. And I recently learned from a friend at the New York City Opera that homosexuals refer to straight people as Breeders. Which is interesting because the exhibiton is located in New York City’s gayest neighborhood, according to the recent census. I love the dual meaning.

RCR—I know them well.

JT—(laughter) Basically, you know, I can’t really call myself a breeder. A breeder, first of all, would never call themselves a breeder and would never venture to New York City to pursue an artistic career. But I also can’t eliminate where I’m from, the roots, the roots of the truth are firmly embedded in the mountain soil. So yeah, Breeder Ballads, they’re my stories in translation. Like Murder Ballads without the music.

RCR—The roots. Your roots.

JT—My stories in pictures.

RCR—Why the Jalopy Theater?

JT—Uh, two reasons. One, it’s the greatest venue in New York City in my opinion. On a day to day basis. It’s not the best known or most glamorous but it’s by far the most honest and grassroots kind of place. They show great talent six nights a week, they show artists at a reasonable exchange percentage and Jeff and Lynette the owners are great people. It’s just an amazing place and once anyone goes there they want to go back.

RCR—What can we expect?

JT—You can expect fifteen or so pieces of my work for this show that will encompass various mediums, pencil sketches, ink drawings, oil paintings, washes, water color, um, basically spanning the past five years. So it will be a happening of sorts. Fans and collectors of my work will be there taking a serious look at what I’ve been doing that they haven’t seen. Friends and family will be there for the same reasons, plus just for support. And, you know, the general public will be curious. And, you know, it will be two or three hours of heavy booze flowing and some great music playing so hopefully no one will vomit on any of my pictures…

RCR—I hope not.

JT—And if they don’t then the show will have been a success. Or knock something off of the wall. Or maybe if someone vomits on one of my pictures then the show is a success.

RCR—It’s a success (laughter). That could be performance art.

JT—The Jalopy may have something else to say about that.

RCR—Describe what you do.

JT—Well, I like to invent my own world when the real world is too much, basically. I’m a figurative as opposed to an abstract artist so I do use symbols and tangible things that we are all familiar with in our lives as the subject matter of my work. Yeah, so, I like to create my own world which is loosely saturated in reality. You know, then there is the straight-up photojournalism thing of my political work; political drawings, drawings of people from real life, a very different kind of approach. But this show that I am having, this specific show, is more of my imaginative stuff as opposed to the stuff from life. Specifically, a Jalopy show. I would love to do a show following this of all my subway drawings. But, I just think it needs to be sort of…I’m not…it’s my first solo show so it can’t be my Greatest Hits yet. (laughter) You can’t have your first album be your Greatest Hits, although that would be an awesome idea.

RCR—So, you mentioned the Subway Drawings, and I know they are not in this show but, you know, I mean to me that’s the definition of an artist sketching reality around them. You know, you do it with a sketch pad, Kerouac did it with a notebook…

JT—Yeah, right. I see artists everyday doing it on the subway.

RCR—So, are all artists voyeurs at some level?

JT—I think all voyeurs are artists at every level. (laughter) Well, figurative, I think all figurative artists are voyeurs. Abstract art I can’t really speak for…

RCR—Yeah, you know two squares colored red on a white background…

JT—They would just say they are painting their feelings or their emotions or something. I don’t know how they’d put it.

RCR—Someone taking a dump…

JT—You either use symbols that people recognize or you don’t.

RCR—You know, I could take a shit on a plate and put it for sale in my yard. People might buy it as art.

JT—You could be a millionaire. I try not to get lumped into that group.

RCR—Now will we see at the Breeder Ballads an autopsy on the dead American Dream?

JT—You’ll see some down-and-out sons-a-bitches that are living in America. Most of them are characters that I’ve come up with loosely based on something else. And absolutely you’ll see the death of some souls which is just a reflection of our surroundings coming through in my work. There probably won’t be any literal commentaries on America or American society, I don’t think, but the feeling will be there.

The Art World
JT—The art world is repulsive, really.

RCR—Is it a microcosm…

JT—I really don’t consider myself in the art world. I’m not sure I really am. I think I’m an artist…

RCR—But, where is the art world…

JT—I’m an inventor, really…a Visual Inventor. That’s it, I am going on the record right now, Root, and changing my label to an Inventor. I’m gonna need new business cards. (laughter.)

RCR—What is the art world? Where is it? I mean, is it a Hollywood story? Is it fictional? Is it does it really exist? Do those people…

JT—It exists. You could go any…on a Thursday night in Manhattan you could go to Chelsea where the majority of the galleries are showing contemporary artists and you’ll get a good taste of the art world. A lot of butt kissing…

RCR—Pretentious…flaming…

JT—Oh yeah. I mean aside from the horrid art they’re great for the free booze. That’s basically my take on the art world.

RCR—Well…

JT—Where do I fit in? Um…people in New York buy art, that’s the short answer. In other places…

RCR—And there is great art and artists in New York City.

JT—There are great artists, yeah, I know several. And there’s people who collect art, which is important I think.

RCR—You know there are certain birds that eat seeds that they find in piles of cow shit. And I think that, you know, in a lot of ways New York City and culture in general in this country is a heaping pile of dog shit, or maybe cow shit, or some sort of giant pile of shit. But there are nuggets of nutrition in there, right?

JT—Right (laughter).

RCR—I envision you deep inside the shit. (laughter)

JT—Balls deep in the shit. (laughter) With a thousand pound shithammer.

RCR—Have you ever had a piece that you started with a certain idea that you wanted to do and have it just spiral out into…?

JT— During a past living situation I had a really stiff neck from, like, stress. So I started a drawing with me with a neck that was really bent over and kind of busted. So I just drew me sitting in a chair and then it turned into The Draftman’s Dream which is a whole other story, but it started out as a pain in the neck.

RCR—Hmm. That’s another question. Do you start out…if, when you were doing this painting…when you were doing that painting were you doing other work? Or were you obsessed only with one piece?

JT—Um, this one…

RCR—And if you were doing other work, how do you transition?

JT—Yeah, that’s interesting. This piece I started at a very specific time like I mentioned and I took a long break and finished it at a different point in my life.

RCR—Interesting.

JT—So the beginning of it is very specific and the end of it is very specific and they just kind of met and kind of spanned the whole…the story behind it spanned probably a year so there’s several pieces worked on between the start and finish of this piece. So…

RCR—Is that typical?

JT—No it’s not. Usually I start a piece and work on it til it’s finished straight through and if I’m working on an oil painting I’ll usually work on a drawing as well. I don’t often work on two oils at the same time because they’re both labor intensive as far as the medium goes. Yeah, some things can be put down, like I’m sure you could write two chapters and pick it up ten years later and finish the book. One of those kind of things.

RCR—Yeah.

JT—You never really know. I can say I don’t know how it’s going to end up looking, though, before I start. I have no idea…

RCR—OK. So, when it’s all said and done, what type of reaction are you looking for with Breeder Ballads? How do you want the audience to feel?

JT—Like I am gripping their nipples with fire tongs.