Exploring the symbolic shorthand of corporate logos and brand identities, Morgan Slade's work tackles the issues of consumerism that permeates American culture. Using the female form to anchor his mixed-media pieces, Slade confronts the symbolism behind the seductive figure, her poses, and attire as interpreted by society. The result is a strong and empowering image that engages the viewer while simultaneously challenging our ideas of traditional gender roles. As one of the artists participating in the "Femme Fatale" show opening February 25th, we had a chat with this unique artist. Here Morgan talks about his fascination with the female figure, Jesus Christ Superstar, and the type of woman he hopes to help his daughter become.
The female form is used as a way to anchor the symbols of corporate logos and brand identities within your work. What about the female figure do you find so intriguing and inspiring?
The female figure has a complicated history within art and politics and advertising. In a way the female form has become a symbol in itself, both as a way to get people’s attention and sell a product, and as a way to discuss equality and identity. Because of this, both men and women are drawn to images of the female form for various reasons. I think photographing the female form in my work is both a comment on the corporate logos and state of advertising, etc and also falls prey to the same things I am commenting on, as it also is what initially draws someone to my work (assuming they are drawn to it!)
In many of your works, the subject’s face is partially hidden or completely masked. Why is their identity kept anonymous to the viewer?
I have been photographing the female form as a symbol or icon, and I want the piece to be more about a concept than about a portrait of a specific person. I want the image to represent an idea, and the woman in the photograph to be an icon. It is hardwired in the human brain that if you see a face you instantly relate to the person as an individual and begin to think about their life, personality, etc as an individual. So I try to make the person in the photo more an abstraction. I want them to be an empowered and usually in-charge kind of abstraction, and my intention is not to diminish their individuality in any way, but to make them more allegorical. That said, I have done more pieces with faces showing lately and intend to do more in that direction in the future.
Less than a year ago, you and your wife welcomed an adorable little girl into the world. How has her arrival influenced your artwork? And what kind of woman do you hope to help your daughter become?
Sadie (our daughter) is super awesome and pretty much my favorite thing to do is hang out with her, so I really haven’t had a chance to do as much artwork as I have in the past. So Im not sure how it will influence my work yet. Of course I have the impulse that “I should just shoot pictures of Sadie from now on” that I realize is crazy. Although I do attempt to make my work show strong female figures, I do realize that photographing scantily clad women can be seen several ways. Having a child, and in particular a daughter does make me think about that more and makes me consider more how I am portraying people, how the work is perceived, etc. I think Im still working all that out in my head these days.
As far as what kind of woman do I hope she becomes – first and foremost I hope she becomes a happy woman, whatever that means for her personally. And I fully realize that at least initially, that responsibility is all on me and Liz. I would love for her to be strong and independent and self sufficient and secure in herself. But most of all I hope she finds what she loves, and finds the way she wants to live and then does that thing and lives that way – no matter what it is.
If you could hang only one artwork from art history in your home or studio, what would it be and why?
I have a photo by artist Peter Beard that shows him with about 15 young African boys and a giant dead Alligator, probably in Kenya and probably sometime in the early 1960s. I can stare at that photo for hours. There is so much to wonder about all the people involved that I can create 100 stories in my head looking at that picture.
Tell us something about yourself we wouldn’t necessarily know.
I go absolutely crazy for the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
If I were to spend the day with Morgan what could I expect?
These days? This answer will absolutely kill any cool factor I may have had (which was debatable to begin with) – You could expect to wake up about 6 am and play on the floor with a 9 month old until about 9 or 10 am. Then you would probably go to the zoo, the autrey museum, LACMA, on a hike with friends, or to some other kid friendly locale with the previously mentioned 9 month old. Then you would spend an hour or so driving around in circles so she can sleep, or if you are lucky and she is really passed out you would drive to the park and try to sleep in your car there while she dozes in the back seat. Back home to party with the baby some more until bath time and bed time for her. If shes agreeable you will be done with baby duties around 8; if not, 9:30. Then get to work on some art, catch up with emails, and have band rehearsal. Look at the clock and freak out that you aren’t in bed yet, and then read comic books on your phone until you pass out. Rinse. Repeat! A big change from what the answer to this would have been a couple years ago, which I won’t type because my parents might read this. But worth every minute. I do want to say that as far as the above daily schedule goes, Liz does way more and really works super hard with Sadie. Partly because of her nature and partly because I think no matter how much we dads try to do, the main burden of early parenthood is on the woman –starting with the fact that the baby needs their mother to survive and eat. I have an even deeper respect and admiration for mothers and women’s contribution to the human race since having a kid.