by Sarah A. Peterson-Camacho
By definition, a mixtape is “a compilation of music, typically from multiple sources, recorded onto a medium,” and acts as a fitting metaphor for the work of Visalia artist Zachary Bland, both literally and figuratively. His work often involves a marriage of multiple mediums, much like a mixtape, and traces its origins from the object itself. Kings River Life spoke with Bland about mixed media, the vibrant Visalia art scene, and how art is a love letter.
KRL: How long have you been an artist?
Zachary: I have been practicing since the age of five, taking private lessons from my amazing original mentor Larkspur Spottedhorse.
KRL: Were you always interested in art?
Zachary: I have always been creative; as a child, I was fascinated with making things and was lucky enough to have the support at home to do so. I was always enrolled in private art lessons, but also took interest in sewing, dance, and theater as well. ?
KRL: What are your preferred mediums to work with, and your preferred subject matter?
Zachary: My degree has an emphasis in printmaking and photography, so my work is always based in those two mediums, but assemblage tends to creep its way in there, in order to combine the two. Sometimes it’s cutting and pasting prints into photos, or inserting the photos in the process. My work is best described as graphic by nature for its geometry, repetition, and large scale. I love exploring interpersonal relationships, particularly those of family and life partnership, in my work.
KRL: How does your life inform your art?
Zachary: Most of the work that I completed at the end of my undergrad, and continue to create, is based on the mixtapes my parents exchanged in the beginning of their relationship. The series has expanded to include mementoes from my personal romantic life.
KRL: Where have you displayed your work locally?
Zachary: My work has been featured in the Phebe Conley gallery, Bitwise Industries HQ, Corridor 2122 Gallery, Merced Multicultural Arts Center, Arts Visalia, Dolce Upfront, The Arts Consortium, and The Source LGBT+ Center.
KRL: Do you participate in ArtHop? If so, which venues?
Zachary: I participate in ArtHop on occasion at various venues. I am heavily involved in Visalia’s First Friday, which is very similar to ArtHop, but occurs on the first Friday of every month. I am currently the gallery coordinator for The Source LGBT+ Center, where we hold First Friday opening receptions every month.
KRL: Who are your favorite artists, and why? Whose work has influenced you the most?
Zachary: The three artists that I’m heavily influenced by are Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and Joseph Cornell. Warhol influences the graphic nature and repetition that is found in my work. Haring is an influence for graphic-looking work, but more in the way he used color. As for Cornell, his work really is what got me from thinking of my flat prints in a two dimensional way, and combining them in ways to make them sculptural.
KRL: What is your favorite piece that you’ve created, and why?
Zachary: My favorite work is still “Love Letters” because of the origin story with my parents’ mixtapes, and just the methodical nature that was necessary to complete it. It is 6’x10’ and filled with life-sized tapes that are all screen printed in very small sections. It explores the idea that these tapes are really just objects/products to be sold, but their recordings are created and chosen by an individual. They are these sometimes deeply personal mementos that most look at in a surface way, unlike photos or the written word. I felt like the play between hitting people in the nostalgia bone, and documenting these beautiful stories is really interesting.
KRL: How has your work evolved since you began creating?
Zachary: I started working in very traditional mediums like most artists, I’m sure. But my work never felt truly like me because it involved too much of myself controlling the medium. I hated a lot of what I drew or painted. So when I was introduced to film photo and printmaking, there was a quick shift in my work. Due to some mechanism between your hands and the work that is created, either a printing press or a camera, there is always a level of error that cannot always be prevented by the user. Working WITH flaws rather than OVER flaws adds even more depth to the work, and makes it more of a process-based exercise.
KRL: Any future events/exhibits you’d like our readers to know about?
Zachary: I am always at First Friday at The Source LGBT+ Center. We hold our opening reception the first Friday of every month, from 5-8 p.m. I am hoping to have some new work completed to put on a solo show in August.