Walker Fee is a young New York City artist creating beautiful, complex pieces out of tape...yes, we said tape. Born, raised and a resident of Queens, Walker graduated from LaGuardia High School for Art, Music and the Performing Arts and has studied at the Cooper Union. The son of painters, Brian and Maria Fee, Walker supports himself by painting on commission. His work can be seen at his website, walkerfee.com, and is currently being shown at The U Gallery. The gallery will be hosting a closing party Friday, June 9th at 7pm, you're invited to come see the art and meet the artist.
Who are you? Where are you from and where do you live now?
I am Walker Graham Fee. I was born, and do currently reside in Queens, in Sunnyside, off of the seven train.
The obvious question, why tape?
Well, when it comes right down to it, I discovered it out of boredom. Whenever there's a spare moment, I like to make things, and I happen to have a part time job where I pack boxes at a photo studio and deal with nothing but large quantities of tape and cardboard (and boredom) all day. But I am an artist full-time, and I know a good thing when I see it, so I've taken this idea and I'm going to run with it as far as it will go. It turns out that it's a very broad medium. It's perfect for the kind of art I like making right now, it has all the qualities of a print- solid blocks of color, simple shapes- it's just quicker and easier to do! Also, the fact that it's tape calls your attention to it's physical nature as a piece of art. That is to say, it's not just about a concept, it's about HOW that concept is illustrated and how that ties in to its meaning.
What's the actual process for creating a tape piece?
I start by covering the surface of the cardboard with one type of tape (most of the time it will be the piece's defining color- black, blue, red, green). Then I'll put on one layer of masking tape and make all the defining lines. Once the piece is mapped out I layer and cut and layer and cut some more, and eventually I end up with such a vast array of values you can hardly tell it was tape to begin with. This is the most common method I use when I make a tape piece, but I learn a new way to manipulate the tape every time I make a new piece.
What kind of tape do you prefer and why?
It seems like a silly question, only because it makes me seem like some sort of tape connoisseur (which I suppose I am now, but I don't want that getting around). If you really want to know: gaffer's tape. It's wonderfully forgiving. But expensive as hell.
What's the next undiscovered medium?
I'll let you know when I discover it!
Have you had, or do you have now, any interesting side gigs / day jobs?
I've had quite a few side jobs, but the best one was working on the film "Friends with Money" when I lived in Los Angeles last year. It was a great experience, all the actors and producers and the director were fantastically friendly and encouraging, and I got to make art while working and learning the ins and outs of making a Hollywood film. But maybe you can't call that a side job. I think the term "job" implies that you were paid. Even so, next to working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a time, that was my favorite job.
Where can a young starving artist find an affordable apartment these days?
From your Guernico piece, one might assume Picasso is a strong influence of yours. Is he and who else has really influenced your art?
I consider myself somewhat of an art history fanatic. I love to study and find some inspiration in any art that came before me. Picasso is, of course, the man, and any comparison one might draw between him and myself is, of course, welcome. I look back at the art of the ages, and I see what was done right, and then I use it. There are too many names to mention when it comes to influences. But I'll give you the tops- El Greco, Eduard Manet, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Paul Gaugin. There are so many more, but those five specifically are the ones I've copied, excuse me, LEARNED from since childhood.
Your perfect NYC day would include...
...Waking up in Queens, with the sun shining. Walking through Sunnyside Gardens, along the train yards, with trees that form vast archways over the city streets. Getting a coffee and a bacon egg and cheese from the bodega down the street. Riding the seven train through Long Island City, seeing the skyline over and above everything else like the wall at the end of the world, or like grandparents of grandparents, sitting still and watching time go by, ageless. Walking to the Met through Central park from the 57th street entrance. Frisbee in the Sheep Meadow. That Indian guy who sells beer out of his bookbag, the water fountain everyone wants to use, the beautiful girls sunbathing. A Mets game. A concert. The old man that sings in Spanish on the N train, or the one who plays the violin at Grand Central. The Beer garden. The sculpture park. The lemon ice king of Corona. The smell of barbecues and foreign food, and the cigarette out on the front porch at 3 AM when it's still warm out, and you're still buzzed. The Sunset between the Citibank and Chrystler buildings after it rains and the sky sets on fire, watching it all from the corner gas station that somehow plays the best music at the best moments, and walking home as everything goes purple and the streetlights come on.
What's your favorite mode of transportation around the city and why?
I love to skate, (rollerblade, that is) around the city. I don't like to ride a bike, I feel that I'm going to fly off at the first crack in the pavement. I love to walk, but that's too slow. I love to drive, but not in Manhattan, and the Subway is beyond like or dislike- it's there and you use it without saying please or thank you. Rollerblading I feel like I have the most freedom deciding which way I'm going and how quickly.
What's your favorite NYC museum / cultural institution and why?
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. You can memorize facts and dates and events, but when it comes to history, you haven't learned anything about where you've come from until you've seen the artwork. I've been going to the MET since I was a baby, and ever since I read that book The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler I've wanted to live there so I could bathe in the fountain at Dendur and try on all the suits of armor. But even as I grow as an artist, the MET becomes a more and more valuable resource, and I take away something new every time I go (most of the time it's a postcard). But whenever I need inspiration to paint, I just find the appropriate wing and spend the day.