By Sarah L. Myers
New York, NY, USA
What’s a better combination than Thirsty and Junkyard Arts? The Junkyard takes you inside the art world, a place most of us might find intimidating. Founder Lauren Pazzaneze strikes a perfect balance between the gutter and the elite, with high-end taxidermy sharing space with street art and graffiti.
The Massachusetts-born Pazzaneze brings biting wit to her criticisms, further breaking down the wall between artist and audience. Her team of writers and contributors are world travelers, fashion designers, musicians and comedians that makes me believe this badass group of friends decided, “we like art, but hate everything else, let’s start the Junkyard!” And with features in Forbes and the Boston Chronicle, it seems the world is taking notice.
Welcome to the Junkyard. Dig around and see what turns up.
THIRSTY: Give me a brief background about Junkyard Arts. How did it come to be?
Lauren Pazzaneze: I'm always on the hunt for artwork, whether it be for me in my home or as gifts to friends, I love finding pieces that really speak to me. Sometimes they are $1 in a bargain bin and sometimes they are way out of my price range and I splurge anyway. In hunting for fine art, I realized that there were a lot of really talented young artists looking to sell their work, but there wasn't much of an outlet for it outside of crafty sites like Etsy. I wanted a place where I could get an array of artwork - from prints to jewelry to photography - all in one place and priced affordably, and that's where the Junkyard came from.
It started off as an online retail site that had six or so various artists selling their work at a time. But once I got into my grad program (for arts administration), I realized that there were a lot more places I could take the Junkyard and feed the masses' need for art. It has since morphed into an all-encompassing art news site that focuses on exclusive artist interviews and sale opportunities, reviews of exhibitions and movies, event listings and articles on how art and pop culture intertwine. Frankly, its a hell of a lot more fun doing the site than it ever has been - I never get tired of sourcing stories and adding my commentary to it. My end goal for The Junkyard is to inform, educate and start the conversation about how fine art finds it's way into our lives, and foster an appreciation for it without the convoluted “art speak” that makes everyone feel like an asshole, including me.
THIRSTY: How did you assemble your team of writers?
Lauren Pazzaneze: I have really awesome friends. Most of the site is written by me, which is just lovely and all, but I get really fucking tired sometimes. Luckily I have friends who are just as into art and culture as I am. Sheila, for instance, is an avid horror movie goer and travels to Austin each year for Fantastic Fest, then gives me the gross details I never needed to know about whatever torture-porn flick is out. Brian is an old buddy from high school who asked if he could write something for the site and he immediately became a fan favorite. After two guest reviews, I asked if he wanted to be an official writer and he now reviews local shows and new bands for his column “Review of an Opening Act.” Jordi is my best bud, from way back when, and is a fashion expert and hilarious pop culture critic, so basically anytime she hits up something ridiculous in NYC, I ask for an article. I'm always open to writers who want to submit their work to get it out there. We're all poor, so it's really about writing for bragging rights, but if people want to get their words out there, I'm open to it.
THIRSTY: Tell me about your background in art and writing. Did you always want to write or did you want to pursue art in other ways, i.e., painting, sculpting, etc.?
Lauren Pazzaneze: Yeah, at one point I really wanted to be an artist, but I'm just not really that good at it. I really tried though. I'm not a painter. I never tried sculpting anything but a pinch pot, and while I can take a nice photograph, I wouldn't consider my work worthy of a gallery review. I do have a background in performance and media, so I suppose I do have some creative genes in me, and I thoroughly enjoy being on stage or on film. But generally speaking, while trying to find myself in art school, I realized I was a lot more interested in what everyone else was doing than what I could get better at.
Up until a year ago, I would not consider myself a writer. I actually quite dislike it a lot of the time. Luckily, I'm my own editor so that helps when I think my work is shit. I didn't start writing seriously about art until I was forced to every day in grad school and since then, it's just been more about keeping up the practice than innate talent, though I will say I am having more fun than I ever thought possible. The narcissist in me finds great pleasure in knowing people are reading and liking what I have to say.
Lauren Pazzaneze and Jordi Scott
THIRSTY: You obviously love New York City. Where else do you enjoy traveling?
Lauren Pazzaneze: I'm not supposed to say I love NYC since I'm from Boston, but I do. There just isn't anywhere like it. It's a wonderland of debauchery and I never find myself in more trouble in such a short span of time as I do in NYC. I would say some of the best memories in Manhattan are fuzzy, and when that happens, it means I was too busy having a good time to try to remember everything. Lots of 4am bodega sandwiches (eat half in bed, fall asleep, wake up and eat the other half to cure your hangover), karaoke, drag queens, bar brawls, drunk dude bros that are easy to fuck with, drunk convos in the back of cabs with Jordi, seriously almost peeing my pants in the back of a cab and debating whether or not I could get away with it (in self-respect and literal terms), and I remember the moment I realized that when you are VIP it means you don’t pay for your booze. It pretty much went all downhill after we climbed our way up that ladder.
I have not had the luxury of traveling much internationally though I hope to change that...obviously. Domestically, I have been just about everywhere on the east coast, and the outer banks of North Carolina is my favorite place to visit. It's a bitch to get to, but its so goddamn beautiful - empty beach for miles, fresh seafood and cheap livin'. That said, no one should go there because it is my special place and I will cut you if you crowd my beach.
THIRSTY: Have you ever had an interview go horribly wrong?
Lauren Pazzaneze: I wouldn't say horribly, but I did have one artist in particular who, I don’t know, assumed I didn't know what the fuck I was talking about. In my assessment of his work, I noted that his style is unmistakably his and how he has cultivated that through so many different works. He proceeded to tell me that his style isn't so recognizable and that I must not have seen his whole life's work, and yadda yadda. Well, I did, because I don't interview people until I do my research. The interview is then interesting and tailored to them. In the end, I think he was trying to defend his work saying he was versatile, when the reality is he is specifically hired because of his style, and to make style and versatility mutually exclusive is just silly. I am naturally very confrontational (from years of defending myself from being told ladies can't do x, y, z). I have very strong opinions and I need to keep it in check, particularly when dealing with artists. I did my best to say to him, in the nicest terms, do you think I don't know what I’m talking about?
I assure you, if I'm talking about it, then I've done my research.
THIRSTY: Fine art can be pretty highbrow and exclusive, yet Junkyard is humorous and totally accessible. Tell me about that.
Lauren Pazzaneze: As an extension of my answer above, I'd say it's just really important for me to bring the arts to everyone. I grew up middle class and didn't really have access to fine art unless I hit up a museum, and I always felt that the world of fine art was so exclusive. Unless you've got money and an obnoxious vocabulary, you don’t belong there, and I think that's bullshit. Artists in many regards are the outsiders and the average Joe is probably the one to relate to them a lot better than the trust fund babies who never had a real conversation in a gutter with someone. So I try to bring fine art to the masses through humor and insight and show that it's something that we should all appreciate and take part in. Art is life, it's everything we see, it's what we do. There is no separating the two and the more people realize that, the more they will want to learn about it.
I'm also a huge fan of modern art and abstract expressionism - an area of art that is so terrible to people they want nothing to do with it. So I always tell people, I know you think that Pollock just threw paint at a canvas, but this is how he started, this is where it came from, this is why this happened and this is why it's important. If after that you say, “OK, cool, I get it, but its still fucking ugly,” then I'm all for it. That's a valid statement. But before you say it's shit, know the history and appreciate what it did for the arts and the world. Did you know that modern art was used by the CIA to fight the Cold War? That, many of the abstract expressionists were secretly bankrolled by the US government to demonstrate how open we as a country are to divergent ideals? Yeah, it's pretty effing cool. No one ever tells us these things and that is what I want to bring to the table.
THIRSTY: If you could choose five artists to interview, whether they be musicians, actors, etc., who would you choose and why?
Lauren Pazzaneze: Ooh boy. I would say....
1. Andrew Wyeth: LOVE Wyeth. You can't just look at his work - you melt into it. You can smell the grass and feel the air in “Christina's World” (did you know that girl had polio and would cruise along the field by dragging herself around? Fun fact.). I would love to ask him how he felt about being totally shafted during his time - his height of fame came during the Modern era and, while he is universally loved, he doesn't get nearly the recognition he should simply because of his timing.
2. Lee Bontecou: Her work is so post-apocalyptically awesome, I want to know where her influences came from and what her favorite movies are.
3. Paul Verhoeven: I want to know exactly what he was thinking when directing Showgirls. Exactly.
4. Axl Rose: My teenage imaginary ginger boyfriend, I would ask: Why? Why?
5. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: I wouldn’t even need to ask anything. I'd liquor us up and just let the conversation fly. I'm pretty sure it would be hilarious, insightful and life changing, but I'd be having too good a time to take notes and forget most of it in the morning. Though, even if I didn't remember it all, I'd be better off just having spent time with him. I'm sure.
Junkyard Arts on Facebook
Junkyard Arts on Twitter