Interview w/ Ryan Greis • Artist

SM: If you were to illustrate a rainy street at night, what would you be sure to add?

RG: I’d have to add deer. Out where I live, anytime there’s low driving visibility, I inevitably hit a deer. It’s part of the territory. I paint from experience. Actually, I like to shine a search light out of my car window in certain parts during my night drives. I like to catch the deer off-guard and let them know I’m about to pass them so that they have the opportunity to run in front of my car. It’s my way of saying, “Come play in front of my automobile. I want your ass up on my hood!” Birds and squirrels are another story. We have an understanding… what was the question?

SM: What phrase would you like to say out loud before you shuffle off your mortal coil?

RG: Is that what the kids are calling it these days? No, really… I guess you’re referring to death? I’d have to say, “There’s the rub!” No, that was Hamlet. I really don’t know what I’d say. I guess I’m in denial that I’m going to die. I’m trying to push it off as long as possible. So, to think of what phrase I would say would be drawing death that much closer. I’m going to have to pass (pun intended) on this interview question.

SM: If you could paint the bottoms of your feet so only the creatures who live in and below the earth could see your work, what would you paint?

RG: These are all very thought-provoking questions. I’d paint pictures of pretty female moles. This way, I could attract millions of male moles for miles to scuddle to the surface and follow my feet. In the process, the moles would actually till my soil. In fact, I’m going outside to do it right now. Be right back!

SM: When was the last time your life was changed by an encounter with someone else?

RG: It happened October 30th of this year. I got married. Enough said.

SM: Please regale us with an anecdote.

RG: Don’t mind if I do. So, I was in Maui on my honeymoon. My wife and I took a tourist boat to see some sights. It was on this boat that an instructor offered lessons on snuba diving. Not SCUBA… SNUBA. Instead of the oxygen tank strapped onto your back, it’s cradled in a little raft on top of the water. There’s a long tube going from the tank to your breathing apparatus.
Anyway, this Asian couple was in the group being instructed on snuba diving. On several occasions, the instructor had to explain instructions to this couple using hand gestures and simple words because it was obvious they didn’t know a lick of English. Well, it came time to dive. I went first and was hanging out about 20 feet below the surface. I could see the Asian couple, especially the lady, struggling to get the hang of breathing through an apparatus. Finally, they got situated and our diving instructor could begin our underwater tour. Well, a few minutes into the tour, he jolted upward. I turned around to see where he was swimming in such a hurry. Apparently, the Asian lady was drowning. She was only about 3 feet below the water’s surface. Her breathing apparatus had come out of her mouth and she was struggling to get to the surface. The long tube that provides oxygen was tangled all around her so she couldn’t extend her arms to swim. It was so surreal. I was witnessing a drowning from below the victim. That’s an odd angle to witness death. And the craziest thing was that her husband, who was next to her, wasn’t helping her. He had no idea his wife was drowning because his eye was behind a camera, snapping photos of fish in another direction. It sounds so cliché… Asian tourist with a camera. But, for God’s sake, having no idea your wife is drowning because you’re taking photos. Get yer goddamned eyes out from behind your camera! Sometimes, people need to witness the world around them face to face. Well, she didn’t die but the whole experience made me think… why do Asians take so many photos? I never see an Asian family get together and look through photo albums.

SM: When was the last time you took a good hard look at the moon?

RG: I always point out how pretty the moon is to my wife. I think she gets kind of annoyed by me for doing it constantly.

SM: What secrets, if any, do birds know?

RG: I’ve done a lot of bird research over the years. I’ve found out most of their secrets. For instance, birds know that one of them in my hand is worth two in the bush. THEY KNOW THIS! They can hold off pooping for days until they’ve found a freshly washed car. And finally, birds LOVE Clay Aiken. That was the most stunning find.

SM: If we gave you an unlimited supply of coins, (pennies, nickels, quarters, etc.) how would you spend your first day?

RG: I’d spend my first day rolling the f***in’ coins. Do you know how many LEXUS dealerships won’t accept jars of nickels?! Oh yeah, I’d also write you a thank you note.

SM: Please recommend a phrase for someone to jostle you out of amnesia.

RG: “Show me your hooters!” No, really. That phrase could wake me out of a cold death. If someone yelled that phrase, I would have not choice but to look to see where the hooters were. I could never go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I would get frustrated because I can’t physically catch every flashing moment. I’m really somewhat of a horn dog dirtball. Oh yeah, the birds know that secret too.

SM: Please compose a brief poem or haiku on the subject of your choosing.

Japanese tourist
Take photos of pretty fish
While your wife drowns