Interview – Neil Swaab, Artist “Rehabilitating Mr.Wiggles”

SM: Your art and your work don’t exactly shy away from the grotesque. What compels you to make art the way you do?

NS: I do art that’s personal to me that borders somewhere on the edge between reality and the surreal. I like to look into the darker aspects of the human experience and find something in there to share with my viewers, whether it be through humor, shock, or just a straight-forward representation of how things “are”. I try to do art that challenges you somewhat. I think that good art shouldn’t be so easy to like. I’m also confrontational in nature as a human being and that tends to rub off in my art as well. The most important thing to me is that after viewing my artwork, somebody should walk away feeling like they’ve had an emotional response to the work- good or bad- and that’s what I try to do in my own way.

SM: In your comic Rehabilitating Mr.Wiggles, would you consider Mr.Wiggles your id, ego, or some other such ephemera of the subconscious?

NS: I think of Mr. Wiggles as pure id gone unchecked. Sort of like how we, as humans, would be without any of society’s restrictions and definitions placed on us to keep us in line.

SM: What captivates your attention in your life right now?

NS: Pretty much just all work right now and enjoying the little free time that I have. I’m involved in so many things from gallery shows to comics to illustrations to designing that I rarely have much time to focus on the other more important things. Right now, my most important on-again/off-again project that I’m really interested in is trying to get a Mr. Wiggles TV show. I’ve been working hard on it but have to deal with so many distractions to make a lot of headway, but am now, after a long hiatus, getting back to work and really focusing all of my free attention on that. Hopefully, I’ll be at the point I need to be within 6 or 7 months that I can start looking for agents to represent it for me.

SM: What’s the best part of the city where you live?

NS: NYC is amazing due solely to the fact that everyone is here. There is such a vibrant and close-knit artists community and energy and so much business here. You just meet so many people. Even when you’re not looking.

SM: Indulge us, please, in an anecdote.

NS: Here’s a funny story from my childhood: When I was a little kid in preschool, I had to take a shit really bad during recess but was too shy to ask the recess lady to let me use the bathroom. I begged my brother to ask her for me but he wouldn’t and so I ended up shitting my pants. After the deed was done, I got up the courage to ask the recess lady and she said I could use it. Well, what do you know, when I got into the bathroom, there was a pair of underwear already laying there mysteriously! I swapped my shit-soaked undies for the magical pair and went about my day happy as a shit-free clam. Later that week when my mother was doing laundry, she questioned my brother and I about the underwear since she didn’t recognize it and I pleaded complete ignorance as to its identity. I never did find out why that underwear was there. The End.

SM: What albums, if any, do you play while you work?

NS: Nothing when I’m writing. I need complete silence to focus on the thoughts in my head. When I’m drawing and painting it’s another story completely. The last painting I did, I listened to a lot of PJ Harvey and Afghan Whigs, but it really doesn’t matter. I just play whatever I feel like at the time, which can be anything from Belle and Sebastian to Hayden to The Old 97’s. It’s usually something Indie or Alt. Just something to kill the silence and reflect on the mood I’m in.

SM: . Are there any comics out right now that make you feel sad you didn?t do them?

NS: Not really. I like what I do and I think that I’m the only one who could do my comic because it comes from such a personal voice. I like comics with personal voices so if I like somebody’s comic then I like their voice and it seems a little odd to me to want to emulate somebody else’s thoughts and the way they share them. It’s like thinking “I’m sad I’m not you” and that’s kind of a sad thought.

SM: What’s more pornographic than pornography?

NS: Home videos from my 5th birthday party.

SM: What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?

NS: Yesterday at the opening for a gallery show I’m in, hanging with my friends, just shooting the shit. Nothing specific I can remember. Just good times with good folk.

SM: When was the last time you felt a real sense of mystery?

NS: At my 5th birthday party.

www.neilswaab.com