Art Work by Zachary Crane / Photography by Wesley Aldrich
What does the phrase “will power” mean to me? I’d like to break it down by taking a compound microscope on the word “power.” I have always been attracted to power. I have an infinite amount of it myself. Starts with a conversation. Transforms into some kind of a sketch. Another meeting later there’s a mock up. Until eventually I’ve created a tangible, physical, three dimensional object. I get off on this. As a creator, with the risk of sounding pretentious, this is when I give birth. Something almost sacred happens there. For me personally, “willpower” doesn’t mean reaching your pinnacle physical shape, or having the douchey concrete glass house with the black, or gray Mercedes. Willpower is not only becoming the man you’re proud to be, but you see the growth in yourself in a way you never imagined in your wildest.
I was born in a dumpy little piss worm town in Kansas called Coffeeville. It was flat, grotesquely hot, and the main event was going to K-Mart. By the grace of God my family moved to Utah. I have nothing but beautiful things to say about my childhood and upbringing. My childhood was a cut out of a better homes magazine. A deep freeze filled to the brim with otter pops, and a sprinkler under the trampoline. My two beloved parents who are married to this day, and five brothers and sisters. We were all close. We didn’t fight like all my friends did with their siblings. I grew up at a faster pace than my friends. When I was 8 years old I was basically sixteen. I spent so much time with my teenage siblings and their cool friends cruising around in a yellow Jeep blasting Sugar ray. I wasn’t playing Nintendo 64, I was watching Romeo and Juliette. The Leo one of course. My mother was like a nineteen fifties dream. Never once saw her without makeup. She wore an apron. Our house was squeaky clean, and she packed my lunch every day before school with gushers and notes inside my wonder bread sandwich saying “I love you.”
I get asked on such a regular basis - how I would describe my artistic style. I should have a better answer for this by now but I struggle narrowing it down. It’s so infinitely broad. I do stage production, film sets, fashion, murals, graphics, still life, laborious oil portraits, patterns, textiles, installations, performance art, I write and illustrate books, interiors and show room conceptualizing, sewing, sculpture, furniture, creative consulting, mosaics, experience exhibitions, art therapy, tactile therapy. I’m also a toy maker. I’m sure the list goes on, but I say yes to whatever comes my way and I always figure it out.
To break it down to the first initial “oh that’s a ZC” the best way I can explain it is a bunch of digital paradoxes. Primary colors, nineteen sixties, glam, charming interiors, methy gas station women workers. Harsh women. Drugs. Sex. Fashion. Micro anything. Film. Pop stars. Overt narcissism. Candid dialogue regarding the state of my mental illnesses and heart break. Makeup. Wigs. Dentures and oxygen tubes. Broken promises. Oral. Unlikely objects piling out of a mouth. Drama. Attention seeking. Shock. Nerve. Rattling cages. Encouraging viewers to have an impression of me that’s not pleasant or accurate and going far out of my way to not correct it. Incest. Threatening love letters. Any shade of pink. Portraying myself as the victim. As a dumb, sexy blonde like Dennis the Menace who doesn’t know any better. But every hundred years or so when the stars align perfectly, I create something that’s none of those things. Something so inexplicably original, and purely good without words to explain why or how. Helium balloons away from anything else I’m known for. Those moments are precious.
How do I go about creating a new series? That’s a complex question. The truth is, it changes. Typically I work in something I like to call “word vibrations.” I hear a phrase, someone say something. Then my dyslexia translates a pseudo meaning that often becomes too interesting to not explore. I consider myself a very narrative artist. I’m basically a visual story teller of the world. Currently, I’m really fascinated with creating a larger body of work that I drop in the middle of the night with no warning or preface. I’m an entertainer almost more than I am an artist, so I live for the reaction. I study every comment on new works I drop. Negative and positive. It’s all intel. If the series sells out, which they always have, I drop a season two. My rhythm is very digital and modern and designed to binge, devour and leaving the viewer wanting more. I’m not afraid of selling out. I’m not afraid of being deemed a hack. I am a hack, and I love the business of art. I’m always looking for a new way to keep up with the way we conveniently, thoughtlessly consume.
As far as my body of work and themes, I suppose I use my self portraits as some form of a journal. To preserve my growth and the phases I’ve gone through. As well as the hard life lessons I’ve learned. Yes, some are salacious, grotesque, and provocative. I’ve never been one to walk the walk. I don’t need to go to a leather brothel orgy in Berlin to get that out of my system. There’s an allure in using your imagination in those circumstances. The holding back is where the real freaks hang. As far as celebrity paintings, it had its time and was a great way to learn. I’ll always have a spark of interest in that genre. Never have I painted anyone I just loathe. Even when I’m painting someone as embarrassing and asinine as Angelyne, I’m still an admirer. I never paint anyone dull. I’ve been really into painting old Hollywood beauty such as Sophia Loren, or Raquel Welch. They don’t make them like that anymore, do they. I’ve been close on several occasions to paint Ann Hathaway. I just can’t bring myself to do it. She’s such a tool. I could paint Goldie Hawn, and no one else till I die. She’s a ray of sunshine. I’ve adored her since I was a todler. Oh, and Julianne Moore of course. The shape of her mouth and teeth. No one looks like that.
I did live in Los Angeles for several years. I moved there when I was twenty three. One day just couldn’t deal anymore and packed my Honda Civic, had three hundred dollars to my name, and headed for the bright flashing lights of LA. I had no idea what I wanted to do there. I wasn’t really concerned about that. I just wanted to be famous. Ha ha. I hustled hard from the second I got there and took whatever jobs I could get. I’m so grateful for that time. Those jobs taught me how to do business in LA. How that city runs. I never thought I’d be an artist and doing what I am now? It all just very magically fell into place. I saw an opportunity dangling in front of my face, and like the opportunist I am, I took it. In my earlier career I was very inspired and obsessed with pop culture. I loved seeing movie stars at the grocery store. I was infatuated with all of it. Not so much anymore. There are too many famous people now and too much content for me to even keep up with, let alone find inspiring. I’m really happy to be out of LA. I became exhausted with the way things run there. Nothing is ever just a straight up business transaction. I had to charm, entertain, and do a little tap dance naked on a table to get paid for work I delivered on time that they had asked for. Now that I know that’s not how business works anymore I could never go back to that. I’m based in Salt Lake City currently. I don’t plan to settle down here or anything. With Covid it’s difficult to make a plan. Kinda feels good to not have one.
My recent three month trip to India was the most important thing that’s ever happened to me as a person, and an artist. A few years back I had an HD, crystal clear vision of me somewhere far far away. I was inside an all glass mansion. I was painting on canvases as large as a billboard. This all came true. There is a beloved Bollywood actor by the name of Abhay Deol. Initially, he commissioned a portrait from me for his home. Once he showed me photos of his home, sure enough it was an all concrete and glass mansion.
Right in the middle of the jungle in, Goa. There were the most adorable monkeys swinging from tree to tree with their babies, and pythons wrapping themselves up a tree. It was an absolute dream. I felt as though I was on another planet. I went there with the understanding that I was to do a mural and an exhibit. By the end of my trip I wore every hat possible. I designed the pool, picked out paint and furniture for the house, even landscape art. I had the pleasure of working with two women, Skyrina and Nisha. Never in my life had I been taken so seriously. These people not only asked me for my thoughts on a concept, but started running everything by me. I’d just spit out some lunacy of an idea that in my mind dad too weird, or expensive, too impractical. “See that big bald spot in the tree? We should build a birds nest large enough and sturdy enough to fit four people.” I wake up the next morning and thirty barefoot workers on ladders made of bamboo building the base for my birds nest.
India was also one of the hardest things I’ve done. The culture couldn’t be any more different from what I know. I eventually gathered the courage to take the bike out on the road. Imagine the Laurel canyon, only twice as narrow. No stop signs, no traffic laws or rules, seven people crammed onto a moped. Pythons crossing the road, cows crossing the road. The cattle isn’t corralled there. I have no idea how they keep track of who’s cow belongs to who? But if you hit one, the family who owns the cow will come and find you and kill you. Or so I was told. And apparently it hasn’t happened since the eighties. The last thing I wanted from my experience was to be some “Eat pray love” white bitch that tries to totally take on the culture and post pictures of myself doing yoga. However, in secrecy I partook in some of the alternative health lifestyle that I’ve taken home with me into my daily routine. I picked up some tools there to help manage my depression. Most importantly, I made dear friends there I will have for life.
I think when it comes to my work, what I’m most proud of is the book I produced “Small Town Hero” it was the first time I put together very thoughtfully a narrative experience through images. It did very well. It’s a gorgeous book. It’s very personal. I still can’t believe some of the things I chose to share in that book. It was inspired by my childhood. So it was nerve racking knowing the potential of my family seeing it. I did it anyway. I had to. It was far too good to not.
My latest project I’ve taken on is a Pop Shop
I opened. It’s the most adorable, wacko little store. I sell completely useless, overpriced things that serve no purpose, but you can’t leave the store without a “ZC POP SHOP” bag in your hand. It’s also my first time curating. I’m displaying and selling other artists work that I personally love and want to share them with the people who love my work. I have a fashion exhibition this month with pieces from Jeffrey Bryant, of London. He’s a brilliant, wildly talented costume designer for the Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran, and Miss Gaga.
I switch out what I’m exhibiting every month. It’s like a weird hybrid of a gift shop/ toy store/ gallery.
My advice to any budding artists would be be a couple things. Work every day. No matter what. The eye hand coordination is just like an athlete. Especially with drawing. I can pencil in an accurate form in seconds now, and I haven’t had to use an eraser in years. You have to keep that technique regular. Don’t wait around for a gallery to exhibit your work. Most gallery owners are Alcoholic trust babies with bad attitudes. Get creative. Create a gallery experience that’s unconventional where you’re in control. You keep all the profit. Never make something for the sake of trying to appease a buyer. Make what you need to make. Art collectors look for that kind of honesty.
Stay up to date with Zachary's work by following him on instagram @zacharycrane & @zacharycraneinc
Interview by @dandytyler