The Life of Andrew Myers
At the 2009 Festival of the Arts in Laguna Beach, Calif., a portrait composed of painted screws hung on a wall. It had taken Andrew Myers six months and about 10,000 screws to finish this piece, and the artist stood by as observers paused to let their eyes take in the intricacy of the finished product.
When a blind man approached the booth, the woman accompanying him asked Myers if it would be all right for him to touch it.
“He had a really blank look on his face — there was no emotion until he started touching the screws, and I watched him go over the whole [portrait’s] face,” Myers recalls of when the blind stranger outstretched his hands. Then, “he instantly had this huge smile when he realized what it was. He could experience it through touch.”
This encounter has gone down in Myers’ books as one of his most cherished memories, and understandably so. If art is meant to move people, the man’s smile is a testament to Myers’ talent for doing just that. A glimpse into Myers’ portfolio would reveal that this California-based artist creates art that speaks. A firm believer in the power of elbow grease, there’s nothing sugarcoated, shallow or glitzy about the work that comes to life in his Laguna Beach studio. For Myers, art is about sending real, raw, relatable messages.
One such message can be found in his series Life 101, which explores the theme of flaws and judgment. A concept that came to Myers during the darkest moments of a divorce, particularly motivated by the wounding comments of his then-wife, it’s a series that reminds us of the fact that no one is perfect. “I just thought, ‘You know, I’m going to be honest, I’m going to do a portrait of me at my raw stage and then be honest about these comments,’” Myers says of the beginnings of the collection, which developed into a series of charcoal portraits on oversized sheets of spiral notebook paper, each punctuated by mock teachers’ notes scribbled in red. It successfully stirs up memories of classic grade-school judgment while spotlighting the subjects’ current limitations.
“I’m pretty honest in most of my work,” says the German-born, Spanish-raised artist. “One thing I learned early on is that we all experience the same things, the same shortcomings. When I started putting that type of work out, I started realizing that so many people are touched by it; people who are going through the same thing but never share it.” And being a self-proclaimed outsider, it seems that touching on these universal soft spots is what Myers has a real knack for. Using a paintbrush, charcoal or something as simple and as unorthodox as a screw, Myers drills holes in the mind and prompts thought with his intriguing and reflective pieces. “All art is is solving problems,” he says. “The way to do that is to create some problems, too.”
When asked if he has a hobby, it takes Myers a moment to come up with one. How does one find an escape from working life when one’s job itself is an escape? But as it turns out, the hobby he comes up with runs parallel to his craft. “Backpacking and camping and fishing,” he says. “I think it’s very similar [to making art] in a way. Once I’m in an art piece, it’s the same feeling as being in the woods, because you get away mentally from everything else.”
It’s a transparent approach to his creations and a passionate, uncensored relationship with his canvas that is causing Myers’ work to turn heads. It’s an approach rarely seen these days in an industry where starving artists so often sell out by sugarcoating their work for the sake of pleasing the eye, and emptying the pockets of their buyers. But Myers plans to hold true to his honest art, and the world waits with bated breath to see which medium he might reach for next — be it screws, clay or the like. “How to translate art into beauty is tricky,” Myers says. “I just take from emotional experiences, mix it with esthetics, and hope people find beauty. I guess the way I would explain it [would be to say that] art honestly is beautiful.”