Nug Magazine, March 2011
Interview with Anthony Ausgang
By Kelly Hutchison

What was your first experience smoking pot like?

The first time I ever smoked pot was at a Deep Purple concert in Houston back about 1975. It was also the first concert ever in the Astrodome and the newspapers made a lot of jokes about how plastic pot plants were going to grow out of the plastic turf football field. It was kind of weird because at that time the concert promoters in Houston were basically the same guys who put on rodeos and demolition derbies and they had no clue what to expect. People could actually bring in their own booze and pot wasn’t even on those cats’ radar. So fortunately there was no paranoia and everything was cool. I didn’t feel that I had passed through some gates of perception though, I was just glad to have finally smoked pot!

Do you find that marijuana helps with your creative process or against? If so, in what ways?

There is an old writer’s adage that goes, “Write drunk, edit sober.” I don’t drink but I totally agree! I find that marijuana is very useful when I am drawing or just fucking around in my sketchbook, it helps me loosen up and have a good time so interesting and unexpected things appear. When I am working on a serious painting though I stay completely sober. I’ve ended up painting too many things shit brown instead of hot pink…

Do you think there is more of a stigma with the use of marijuana for a visual artist than that of a writer, actor, or musician? If so... Why?

Visual artists get a bad rap! People tend to think that painters lie around watching nude models and thinking convoluted thoughts about their next painting, occasionally getting up to make some brushstrokes then returning to the couch. This is probably because there’s not really that much motion involved in painting; in fact, I sit when I paint. Writers tend to get the same sort of treatment since they also sit on their asses most of the time. Actors and musicians move about so people expect them to be on meth or cocaine!

What is your favorite strain(s)? Do you prefer indicas or sativas?

I smoke indica to fall asleep and sativa to get busy!

You mentioned on your blog that art will never appeal to the masses until the elitist attitude no longer exists. Can you expand on this?

The elitist attitude found in so many contemporary art museums and galleries is the result of hyper-intellectual conceptual art that cannot be understood without some sort of explanation from the artists. This attitude assumes that the viewing audience doesn’t have the necessary intellect to figure it out on their own and must be spoon-fed clues to the work’s meaning. True populist art can be understood an appreciated by “the masses” with no background in art history or contemporary trends.

What would you say is one of your greater moments of your art career?

Painting the cover for the MGMT release “Congratulations”.

Do you have any regrets or any embarrassing moments that you would like to share?

Back in 1983 Andy Warhol had a show of his prints of Ingrid Bergman and I really wanted to go to the opening reception but it cost fifty bucks to get in. So I went to the gallery the afternoon of the show and tried to find a way to sneak in through a window or over a fence. Anyway, the gallery director came out and told me that I could get in free if I installed the show and hung the pieces on the wall. I knew what I was doing and did a good job, finished up, grabbed my gal and went to the opening. I was a pretty snotty punk at the time so I went up to Andy Warhol and said, “Hey Andy, I hung up all the paintings here and I wondered if you had seen any of them since your assistants do all your work for you.” He just shook my hand, looking completely past me and deadpanned, “Loved your movie.” He then turned to my girlfriend, took her by the arm and began to walk around the gallery with her, chatting nonstop. After about half an hour she came back and I asked her what they had talked about. “Goldfish” she said. I regret that I was an asshole when I spoke with Andy, it could have been me instead that talked with Warhol about goldfish…

Do you ever feel like you are going to go stark raving mad and run off into the night screaming?

Not so much anymore now that I smoke indica!

What inspired you to begin creating custom guitars?

Every now and again I want to paint on something other than another fucking stretched canvas.  Guitars are cool items and I enjoy going to the stores and haggling for some cheap ass Fender copy. Then I get to walk down Hollywood Boulevard carrying an electric guitar and I just love to do that!

Do you have any cats? What are their names and personality(s) like?

Push Push is an ”odd eyed”, all white cat with blue and yellow eyes that is extremely cautious since there’s nothing around here to hide against. The other cat is called Bisquit and has already had an abortion. Finally there is (was) Lucy, an all black cat that hasn’t been seen in two weeks…

What do you like to do for fun?

I like to watch people do drugs that I never touch. Crackheads are interesting, especially when they start going through dogshit looking for that lost piece of rock, it makes me feel superior… I also write for fun and my novel The Sleep of Puss Titter will be out on K-Bomb Publishing in March 2011.  I also like to head out to the desert that surrounds L.A. and look for ruins and old cars out in the middle of nowhere.

Do you find you are more attracted to art that is different than your own, or to art that is similar?

I prefer to look at art that is different than mine; I’ve been fucking around in the art world for so long that I’m sick of looking at the work of other artists in my genre. However, I do enjoy going to openings and spotting new talent. I’m mostly attracted to artwork that is unlike mine because it makes realize that everyone has different ways of thinking and behaving; it makes me more tolerant of other people’s madness.

In regards to your work, what is the greatest compliment you have ever received? What was the greatest insult?

The MGMT cover that I did received both complimentary and insulting responses. One chick wrote on a blog that the cover sucked and I’m “impotent from all the blow I did in the ‘80s”. Perez Hilton wrote that MGMT was on a “burn ride with Mush Mush” when they came up with the cover and “hopefully the artwork does not reflect the quality of their music!” Now that the album has been out for a while and the cover art is just part of the general reality, no one is crapping on it anymore.  Fact is, I’m constantly getting emails and Facebook messages from people who absolutely love it.  One kid even painted a huge mural of the cover on his bedroom wall, that’s about the biggest compliment I can think of!

Do you have any interesting stories about your early encounters with Ed Roth, Hot Rods, and Custom Car Culture you would like to share?

I bought my first Rat Fink out of a gumball machine when I was about six years old.  Twenty years later, I met Roth at the “Great Western Exterminators” show at the Zero One Gallery and I told him that the first thing I ever bought was a Rat Fink, and I thought that was a pretty significant thing in a consumer society like America. He just looked at me and growled: Buy something now!”

Another time I was asked to paint flames on a junker car at a hot rod show. The car had been dropped off in the middle of a big field so the sun was beating down on it all day. I had been given water based paint to use and it actually steamed when I painted on the hot metal and dried in a couple of seconds. Ed Roth had set up his booth nearby in the shade and he had a constant stream of customers and people hanging out.  I labored on the flames all day, watching as off in the distance I could see girls doing burlesque on stage and bands playing rockabilly. By the time I was through working on the car, the show was over and people were leaving. I was sitting there, basically hiding in the wheelwell from the sun, when Roth came over. He put his hand on my shoulder and told me that the flames were awesome and I was a great painter. That made it all worthwhile…

What do you think are some of the causes of artistic blocks, and what do you do to get through them?

Artistic blocks are basically constipation of the brain and a big spliff of sativa will get all that backed up shit moving!

Any upcoming shows? ( issue will be published March 1st, 2011 )

I will have a painting the “INLE” group show, curated by Greg "Craola" Simkins at Gallery 1988 on Melrose. The show opens March 12…


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