With a core of members who span the country, including Portlanders like Dan Attoe, Shelby Davis, and Gordon Barnes, they’ve filled everywhere from Barney’s Department Store to a hotel in Vegas to PICA's Time-Based Art Festival with their rambunctious, colorful, immersive work. Now they return to North Portland to take over Rocksbox.
I reached Attoe by phone at the gallery. The sounds of laughter and chainsaws floated from the background.
How do you describe Paintallica to strangers?
I describe it as a group of friends who get together with a bunch of beer and lumber and logs and tools and build whatever comes to mind over a week’s time. It's rowdy, raucous, funny, and deeply loving. Humor is a big element of what we do, and we try to make each other laugh or cry every time we get together.
The graphic novelist Craig Thompson, whose collaborated with you in the past, painted the picture of an all night art bender.
It used to be we would start at night and then work through the night until the morning, but now we’ve realized we make better work and work with each other better if we get some sleep. I guess we’re changing.
We’ve been drawing for the last 3 days. We just got the rocks, so we’ll start building now. By Saturday most of the work will be finished. Maybe we’ll do an opening night show of how we work; we’ll save one log to work on with a chainsaw.
How did you all set out on this crazy quest?
There was a group of us in grad school together in Iowa City. We made a pact to hurt each other’s feelings and try to criticize each other’s work, so we were either rolling on the floor laughing or injured. Then it grew into a process of taking each other’s work and adding to it, painting on the top of it. It magically grew into all night drinking.
Of all the places you’ve put on Paintallica, which has been the craziest or most successful?
They’re all crazy. Each time we get together, we improvise so much. We’re always trying to respond to the place that we are in a different way. The one here at Rocksbox two years ago was probably the one that was the most wild, and also had the most clear vision in what we were making.
It was a strange thing to be working all night in Barney’s Department Store a couple years ago, but I don’t feel like we really made the strongest work there. We were dialing it back a bit for the audience.
Have there been any disasters or major injuries?
Not yet. My truck tailgate and transmission got a pretty good bashing when we were getting logs for this show and the logs rolled down the hill into the back of the truck, but no people have been injured yet—which is luck or coincidence, I’m not sure.
Paintallica's "Bark Savages" show at Country Club in Los Angeles in 2009:
Paintallica: Smell the Bar Oil…
Rocksbox Contemporary Fine Art
Aug 10–Sept 21
Opening reception: Aug 10, 8-11 p.m.
Why do you do this? What does it fulfill for you as an artist?
For me it means I get to see these people every year. It’s a project and conversation to carry on. I’m always thinking about what would work for this group. It’s created a game in my head, and I always want a chance to play that game now with these guys.
P.S. Rocksbox curator Patrick Rock might’ve written the best show blurb ever:
They unapologetically broke my plumbing, used copious amounts of toilet paper, painted on my dog who has cancer, drank all of my booze, turned my studio into a tattoo parlor, laughed at my punk rock music, ruined my linen suit on a logging road at dawn, made me spend all of my money at a strip club, routinely kept me awake until three a.m. with the sound of roaring chainsaws, and invited an influential New York curator over who lifted my favorite coffee mug. But they were nice to my sister and more fun than that abstract painter who stayed in their room the whole time they were here. Please join us for Smell the Bar Oil…
For more on Portland arts and culture, sign up for our weekly On The Town newsletter, subscribe to our RSS feed, and follow us on Twitter @aarondavidscott. Visit our Arts & Entertainment Calendar for our editors’ event picks.