Near the end of early communication with Scott Young, a transplanted artist and designer who recently moved from Olympia, WA to Ridgewood, Queens, I found myself asking a question you just don't find yourself ever having to ask people in New York: What's the name of your company? After all, in a city where learning to develop a personal brand is a veritable right of passage, I was left gobsmacked by this undeniably DIY/spiritual sensibility as he replied that despite making and selling clothing and prints of his art, he had no umbrella name for his operation as he was "still waiting to hear the right brand name, which could take some time." It's almost like he's waiting for that next moment of divine or lysergic inspiration that will reveal to him in no uncertain terms the name he was to adopt.
And frankly, it was in that moment that I knew I couldn't have picked a better first person involved in making clothes to interview for this site. Like the other artists I've featured here, Scott's work evokes an uncanny sense of familiarity in the viewer as he or she attempts to place the many visual referents while appreciating the work on its own terms. And that's exactly what Scott is trying to do: reappropriating cultural mediums such as punk and hardcore back patches and inscribing them with his hidden system of icons, familiar sayings, and fonts, which all coexist effortlessly in a hypnogogic hodgepodge that is channeling something far greater than the materialist consumerism motivating most other brands with a similar aesthetic.
When what seemed to be a nascent streetwear company--replete with printed long-sleeve tees and multi-font scripting--started popping up in my IG feed, along with his stunning patches that refracted mystical iconography and a general aura through the materialist lens of contemporary fashion trends, I was floored. Basically, here was a designer whose Instagram account bore the (solid) tag of @psychofeelings (and accompanying site) along with a link to the designer's online store, charmingly called Sunday Paper (and he's still struggling for a brand name...well, now I expect it to be doozy!) On his Instagram and websites, one sees Young unintentionally rearranging the streetwear lexicon into a self-generated metaphysical mapping of existing consumerist iconography fueled by an anti-capitalist mentality. In fact, the longer I stared at each of his intricate patches, I realized he was deploying a whole other type of astral plane-informed bricolage mentality that has been invading my feeds and search history.
As anyone who's read any of my recent artist interviews or music reviews has likely noticed, I've been preoccupied with what I see as a resurgence, or a new approach, to bricolage as a contemporary artistic practice. In talking to Scott and digging into his Instagram account and websites, I began to realize it was at the heart of his practice as well, whether intentional or not. In Yi Shan Tan's essay for Art Practical entitled "Patched Up: Bricolage and Postmodernism in Punk Culture," he looks at bricolage, or the artistic practice of creating work from a diverse range of available materials, and draws the following through-line from postmodernist art to the back patches associated with punk culture:
Like the postmodern artists who work with preexisting materials, contemporary punks often make patches out of old clothing, selectively combining the disparate pieces of fabric in idiosyncratic ways. By wearing these accessories and physically carrying them around on their bodies, individuals are able to express their unique personalities, as well as their relationships with the world, in a highly visual way.
What is so striking to me about Scott's work--which includes hand-poked (and professionally inked) tattoo designs, album art, show posters, and other touchstones of punk culture--is that he divines his inspiration from both material and metaphysical planes. By incorporating these visual hallmarks of DIY and occult belief system into his fine art and fashion design practices, he bypasses much of the appropriation part of the postmodernist equation, as his work becomes a cultural art in its own right as Young is utilizing his surroundings as source materials to create work removed from the art historian-defined canon. Having come from the punk and DIY scene in Olympia, Washington, Scott's work is politically charged with a tongue-in-cheek appropriation of corporate typography, such as the Newport Cigarette font, which is symbolic of so much classist and racist stereotyping. Again, there's layers upon layers in Scott's work, and like an esoteric manuscript, each reading reveals a new perspective.
So needless to say, after about the third time I came across his Instagram and was able to get past my initial confusion as to what he was even promoting, I hit Scott up and asked him about his past, present, and what exactly he's trying to achieve, from his shirts to his patches to his recent foray into primary color-focused gouache paintings. Not surprisingly, he came back with a heady sensibility and patient vibe that made it clear to me that he is on his own unique path and we're all welcome to join him for the journey.
Hi Scott, thanks for taking the time to chat. First off, could you give us a bit of background on who you are, where you're from, and what you do?
Scott Young: I’m from the Pacific Northwest. I was born in North Seattle. My parents got tired of the city and we moved to a small town in central Washington. When I was 18 I moved to Olympia, Washington. I had always enjoyed the music and imagery that came from Olympia. So I sought out becoming a part of the culture. Also, I had family there, so it was a great fit. I found myself studying Aesthetic Theory at the state college there. I stayed for 10 very packed and diverse years.
Upon realizing that you were and are an artist, did you expect to make your living as a fine artist? What was your work like upon graduating school and how does it differ from your current work?
SY: The visual side of art was secondary to me for many years. I wasn’t really interested in becoming an artist in a traditional sense. I was more preoccupied with discovering inspiration in a variety of fields. Music and literature were the two practices that resonated most with me on my search.
Largely, I didn’t really view the work in terms of "making a living." But I do see that "making a living" is [in fact] beautiful language when it is liberated from its usual definition in the monetary sense. I guess we are all "making a living" through whatever we spend our time doing, so in that sense I would say that art is a fine tool which aids me in my path of "making a living."
My work upon graduating felt very unfinished. I was still developing a sense of what it was I liked. I was preoccupied with overanalyzing how my work would come across to people I didn’t even know. At that time I spent more time worrying and trying to satisfy my worries than I did actually working. I was confused and passionate, a combination that lead to work that spoke the same language.
Who and what inspires you? I clearly see Tarot being an influence (lots of cups!) and possibly Lewis Carroll with the playing card motifs, but which visual artists have been the biggest influence on you? Outside of visual art, what inspires you or makes you want to create new things?
SY: My biggest inspirations on the material plane are currently the cinema, advertising, sports, and of course reading. As far as individual artists that have been huge influences on me, I remember Leonard Cohen. I was reflecting on him in detail about a month ago and resisted a lot of material. I appreciate how he blended many different practices in his words and songs. I admire when people can incorporate many new and unexpected elements in their truths.
What inspires me to create is that eternal drive within us all. That spark which is here to evolve the world around us into ever and ever greater levels of happiness. Life is always evolving in that direction, and I want to tap into it completely and create that vision of pure bliss.
I came across your work through fashion, but from your hand poked tattoos to your patches, I sense that you have a punk and/or hardcore background? What role do you see fashion having in the contemporary punk and hard core scenes?
SY: I think contemporary punk and hardcore is fashion, although many people probably don’t agree or might greatly dislike that language. Certain trends develop musically and what helps them stick and become cool or popular is the visual language that ends up associating itself with the sounds. I am interested in many elements in punk and hardcore. The negative and positive elements of those worlds fascinate me. I respect and admire how many people in those scenes are concerned with freedom and equality and are attempting to build a better world. And then there are those who are more enticed with the inverse versions of that sentiment. Its a very intense microcosm which has given me a lot and taken a lot from me, hahah. Most recently I played in a band called GAG.
More so, what aesthetically about those scenes (the patches, the tattoos) still inspires you today?
Y: The aesthetics attempt to be a vocabulary for freedom and change that can be so seemingly honest and vulnerable. The energy behind it is contagious and wild. It has this ‘for the people’ vibe that is also really exclusive at the same time. It’s a beautiful mess of intensified contradictions.
Symbolism and common objects (roses, columns, chains) tend to be recurring motifs in your paintings and fashion designs. What appeals to you about juxtaposing seemingly unrelated icons in the same piece? Your art and clothing tends to feel made up of parts rather than be seen as whole, singular images. What do you feel shaped your aesthetic and what role does symbolism and icons play in art, for you?
SY: Icons and symbols play a large role in my inspiration. I’m very excited about combining multiple elements to hint at diversified experiences of imagery that become open and free on many different planes. The gap between two seemingly unrelated images can create a whole new thing.
While a lot of your shirts seem inspired by the symbolic maximalism invading a lot of street wear right now, your clothing jumped out at me as having a more mystical vibe. For instance, rather than placing car company logos down your sleeves, you use hour glasses, roses, and many other timeless objects and symbols. What role does mysticism or the occult play in your life and do you have any artists or writers that you are inspired by that fall in this realm?
SY: I don’t identify with those labels, really. I do think that life on planet earth is very mystical and mysterious at times and so that probably comes out in the work. I love words. I love how they look and how their meaning is fluid. I love that words are such a stabilized system as well. They are very natural and pure.
How do you pay the rent living in NYC as an artist? Is your clothing line your main priority or do you supplement with freelance work?
SY: A combination of freelance work at galleries and my art work.
You feature a number of different (and instantly recognizable) fonts in your designs. What interests you in typography and do you see it having a symbolic value similar to the icons you utilize?
SY: I love words. I love how they look and how their meaning is fluid. I love that words are such a stabilized system as well. They are very natural and pure
What other art (music, film, etc.) inspires you? What music do you tend to listen to while painting (if any) and what was the last great book you read?
I don't like listening to music while I paint or design. Sometimes classical, but very rarely. I listen to music very rarely at all. I feel like I absorbed so much through a few years of touring that it took up a lot of attention in my mind that I'm choosing to direct other places so I can truly enjoy music from a more innocent and deep place. That being said, I love music! It is so powerful. My favorite album that is current is called Choke by a band called Softkill. I would recommend it.
I'm currently re-reading Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad-Gita, a translation and commentary on chapters 1-6, and Shoe Dog, a memoir by the creator of Nike; Phil Knight.
You tend to paint in primary colors; do you feel a certain freedom in applying these limitations? Do you set rules for yourself in creating a design or is the process more organic?
SY: I love structure and boundaries. They help with freedom. The primary colors came about by accident. I was at a creative impasse where I was needing to step away from over intellectualizing the work and just make things in a more intuitive way. My intuition lead me to those colors. I’m not sticking to that palate currently.
Female forms play heavily in your art, but frankly not in a way that feels exploitive or problematic to me (for whatever that's worth.) What is it about the female form that you find fascinating from an aesthetic viewpoint? Looking at your work, those famous (and gross) female form mud flaps came to mind and I realized the women in your work tend to have an archetypical quality to them, like they represent some ur-woman. Do you consider yourself a feminist or what is your relation with femininity in your work? Do you feel like it's an outlet for a feminine side of yourself?
SY: Feminine energies contain so much wisdom and support which we have wronglyleft out in the entirety of our social structure. Many forces are completely out of balance, as suffering has proven. I am drawn to this feminine energy from a feeling of deep respect, connection, and love. It will always have a place in my art and life.
Finally, what is the endgame for you? Namely, where do you hope to see yourself in 5-10 years? Namely, do you see fashion as a career or more as a way to more easily monetize your art? Do you find other fine artists utilizing street wear as a vehicle for getting their art out there?
SY: I’m planning on continuing to make things throughout the rest of this lifetime. I know I will pursue my studies in consciousness and continue to evolve and support evolution. Many other things remain unknown. I love learning about clothing and fashion right now. I am such a novice and a beginner it is really exciting for me. That is where the influence came from. It was less about finding a way to get my art out there or to monetize the art. However, it does help that people like clothes and need to wear them.