by Deven Green
Austin, you are in the truest sense of the word a multimedia artist. You have successfully cultivated your expressions of photography, music, perfume, clothing, videos, fruit, and more into a cohesive vision. These all seem so different but, how are they the same to you?
I studied painting in school. However, I’m a self-taught photographer and video artist. I’ve made several videos – a couple with you – a feature-length film and a participatory musical. For me, all art comes from the same creative place. It doesn’t matter what material; it’s the act of making art itself. It’s meditative consciousness. Art is storytelling, and different tools tell the same story. I’m taking in everything I see and putting it back out there. It’s a response to this moment in time. It’s the artist’s responsibility to mirror our current thought and culture – to show us what we all see. When they do, we feel they are revealing ourselves. Maybe you will see something about yourself – or change your perspective or deepen the collective conversation. Or, see beauty in a way that is alternative to mainstream or corporate culture.
What compelled you to start out using drag queens and celebrities as your muses?
Drag queens saved my life when I was living in Reno, Nevada. I was 15 when I discovered John Waters and Divine. Times are so different now. There was so much hatred directed toward people like me – I stood out. I was kicked in the face. I was made fun of every day. I survived by focusing on my own world. Andy Warhol’s “Interview” magazine was everything to me. Movies like “Female Trouble” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show” had a bitter critique of mainstream culture that helped make my world make sense.
Your aesthetic, no matter what medium, is bright colors and gender. What does that reveal about you?
I identify as a human. I am an introverted rainbow. When I was young, I felt I could be a beautiful woman. I would sneak into my mom’s closet and put on her heels and makeup. Gender fluidity is a part of growing up. I didn’t feel like a man until the androgyny of my youth had slipped away. I was encouraged to play sports and hunt. I wasn’t into those things. Drag queens just made sense. Their denial of societies roles was the subculture I wanted to be a part of it. And I was. I started photographing drag queens in Paris when I went to school there in 1987. Then I moved to NYC in 1988 and hung out at Boy Bar and Pyramid- where my friends performed. Chicklet, Miss Guy, Codie Ravioli, Connie Girl, Lady Bunny, International Chrysis, Miss Glamamore, Raven Oh, Princess Diandra, etc.
You put everything out there when you display a piece, what do you keep for yourself?
The more I create, the more I’m fulfilled. The more I give, the more I feel like everything is right in the world. In fact, I rarely stop making art. You know this about me. I basically work all the time, but I am not a tortured artist. I do my work with love, although my thoughts, my friendships, my opinions, my personal life is mine.
Your art embraces human connection and interaction. What has been the most touching response you have received?
My latest work with Fallen Fruit at Manifesta 12 was so loved by the people in Palermo. (Google: #fallenfruit) Our artwork was the most photographed thing in Sicily last year!
You travel the world with your art, what is common everywhere you go?
People enjoy daily life in a different way in Sicily and Mexico. Dinners last for hours. Afternoons spark spontaneous events. When someone offers a friendship, they mean it.
We have worked together on several amazing projects, and the energy you create in real life is tangible in your final product. Where does that motivation come from?
My enthusiasm is real. I have worked my whole life to be an artist. I started out believing that I could make art that would powerfully affect people. My dad told me when I was a young ‘fake it till you make it’ and that’s what I did.
Austin, where is your next exhibit, and how may we possess or appreciate your work?
You can always buy my artwork at AustinYoung.com. The V&A in London has commissioned us to make a wallpaper and fruit map – it will be up May through November. We are creating a permanent art installation artwork for Orto Botanico in Palermo, Sicily. With luck, my book of portraits will come out in December 2019.
Connect With Austin Young
Fallenfruit.org / Endlessorchard.com