MDLF: What is your name?
MDLF: How did your artist name come about?
B: Buckley is my family name. Many friends several years ago started affectionately calling me by my last name and after awhile of being introduced that way, I began to introduce myself the same. I also celebrate using my family name as a way to bring legacy to my whole family and celebrate my lineage.
MDLF: If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
MDLF: What was your upbringing like?
B: Humble. Raised mostly by my mother but close to my father and siblings. We moved a lot, never at one address for more than two years. Growing up, I experienced all walks of life, from urban, suburban to rural. I was feisty and quite rebellious. I went to 10 schools and allowed myself to radically change identities upon entering each new school. I liked to embody different character traits and shape-shift for extended periods to get to know life from that perspective. I wrote a lot of poetry and loved making new friends. My family didn’t have much money but believed in loving one another and laughing hysterically, so things were alright.
MDLF: Is there a specific artist that inspires you? Dead or alive. And why? Has this person influenced the way you apply yourself in art?
B: If I had to pick one person, I’d say Martha Graham. She was a choreographer, dancer, cultural ambassador, and profound thinker who took traditional approaches to movement and performance, and boldly reconstructed them to insist on expressing more of the rawness of the human experience. Graham has influenced the way I think of and relate to my work. Her seventy year career was chock full of so much innovation and brilliant collaboration, which excites me for the prospect of a life long quest of developing my practice. I also quietly identify as a choreographer of lines, my inanimate figures as my dance company, so I feel a kindred calling with Graham to create story through the depiction of universally evocative movement.
MDLF: The greatest things in life - what brings you joy?
B: The feeling of liberation, especially experienced when traveling or exploring something new. The feeling of a job well done. Watching dancers, shadows, and windows. Old and ornamental architecture. Secret cities. Love that lifts, illuminates and expands. Being whispered to. Long days in libraries. Eating with my hands, with my friends eating with their hands. Unstoppable laughter. Resonant conversation. Walking in forests. Riding trains. Getting carried away. Night swims. Morning walks. Epiphanies. And of course, drawing, painting and sculpting.
MDLF: When did you first identify being an artist? When did you start painting?
B: I started identifying as an artist in 2011 on a trip through Europe. At the time I was traveling with a friend, playing shows/writing a new record for our band. During the trip I was keeping a diary I called the "ant-i journal" meaning I wasn't using the first-person perspective in order to keep a more narrative account of our journey. Writing a story-like tale of the trip instantly lead me to make drawings and explore visual storytelling. Between taking in so many new sights, and experiencing more of my own internal visual world, I started to get the feeling like drawing was going to be a new leader in my creative output, although I still wasn't sure if I could claim to be an artist as this visual world felt so new to me. I was already identifying with so many other creative outputs and wasn't sure how many one person was allowed to claim at a time. At the end of our travels, I met a group of artists who shared a gallery/studio space in Barcelona. Each of them was highly eclectic and creatively explorative, expressing through endless forms and using their space as a platform to share and exhibit everything from performance to experimental events to fine art. I felt a kindred likeness to this group. They were living proof of artist as pure creator. By example, they were an invitation to release from limiting association to a single expression, and it was then that I opened to the greater identity of Artist: one who follows the creative carrot into whatever rabbit hole it may lead them, for the sake of great discovery at any cost. I returned from that trip and immediately rented my first art studio in SE Portland and I've made visual work everyday since. It took me several years of developing my visual alphabet to finally enter the realm of painting in a way that felt "right" to my hand. For many years, I had a strong distaste for the unfamiliar transition from pen-tip to brush work. I can only safely admit to "starting painting" in 2016. Those were the first moments where it clicked and now that it's clicked, I crave it and long for it endlessly. In 2018 alone, as of mid march, I've already made two murals and six large scale canvas works, and now, with enough consistent output, I feel I can safely identify as a 'painter'. But there was a lot of faking it until I made it there.
MDLF: Can you give a bit of info on your creative process? Where does your mind go, what is your creative space like, what are your go-to-tools, when is a piece finished?
B: For me, I imagine a lot of my process is quite backwards to trained artists. I never studied, so I'd say in general my process is a trial-by-fire approach, in which nothing is right or wrong, everything is started automatically, and it is simply finished when I stop. It is all gut-based, movement work, more similar to speaking or dancing. The movement or phrase is complete once the point has been made, and that feeling is a seemingly obvious one. That said, I can admit to this type of working as a bit of a defense/protection mechanism because I never want to experience the sort of suffering that an artist goes through to feel that something is truly 'complete'. I make work in a sort of fluid rhythm the same way a composer works within time signatures. There is a natural placement of notation within measures, and my hand moves in accordance with its own beat. My mind is a separate and autonomous entity, I let it move naturally, whether that be erratic or placid, my hand is the conductor, not my mind. My mind finds its way back to rhythm via the steadiness of my hand. When I try to use my mind to direct my hand, I find myself confused and self-conscious, so I do everything I can to get out of the way of my thinking and let my expression act itself out as it wishes. My go-to tools are always ink-pen and mixed media paper. Most everything in my work originates from drawing and written word.
MDLF: Did you go to art school? If so, what are your thoughts on its affect on your art and process, Would you recommend it for others?
B: I did not study formally, but I do not necessarily think that others shouldn't. My mind is set-up in a pretty anti-authority mode, so I'm not a very strong student in an institutional setting. That said, I am feverishly curious and constantly conducting my own research on whatever inspires me. My thoughts on school are to pick a place for the mentors and facilities that will best expand your practice. I would love to sneak past undergrad someday and go get a masters somewhere with influential professors.
MDLF: Can you describe your first painting/mural that defined your style of painting. How about your favorite mural, how long did it take, what was your process, and where can we see it?
B: My first painting and mural that defined my style both happened this year (2018). They are both the first painted works which resonate within me as having that sweet spot of exact desired expression and a truly satisfying technical quality. The process of painting (and probably why it took my stream-of-consciousness self so long to comprehend) is one which requires some amount of premeditated design and technical planning. The secret to this is finding some process that simplifies that period, making an conceptual idea as easy to execute as possible. Once I found the best way to start larger scale paintings, I can lean into trusting a method and the work comes out quite quickly. My current favorite mural took 5 days and it is at The Banks LA, a great, up and coming compound in Los Angeles' Chinatown.
MDLF: When we look at your our paintings, we translate them as intimate, empowering, and unifying. They are like bodies of women flowing kinetically and intermingling with one another. There is a touch of communication, oneness, a space of universal understanding and the desire to be understood. We see an intellectual evolution. Your color palette choice is warm earthy tones that feel welcoming, nurturing, and safe. Can you describe what these paintings are to you? How do they make you feel? How would you like others to feel when they look at your paintings?
B: The way you see and describe the work is exactly how I wish them to be felt. In general, I wish for people to look and deeply feel. If that much is happening, I feel satisfied. It is not as much what one feels when looking, but if one feels. The paintings and drawings to me are teachers. They remind me of the softness within me, around me. They are all my secret longings and celebrations for touch, embrace, connection. They are solutions, they are what I want to see more of in the world.
MDLF: What does Masculine de La Femme mean to you? How can you apply this meaning to your art or lifestyle?
B: I read it as Masculine of the Woman, so my initial instinct is that it's about the alpha female. The glory that is watching the ambitious, confident, independent, majestic, motivated woman work her magic. The women in my work are unapologetic in their expression. They are solid in their fluidity and fierce in their grace. My work speaks on masculine/feminine harmony and uses a lot of androgyny to explore the human experience both beyond gender, and with gender in a state of balance.
MDLF: If you could sit down with your younger self, what would you say? What learning experience can you share with young women looking to be an artist or figuring out where they are needed most?
B: It’s hard to select what I would say to my younger self as I feel I’m in a place where all my supposed missteps have lead me exactly where I am, which is exactly where I want to be. But I have things in general I would say to young women and burgeoning artists. First, try on whatever modes of expression you feel called to with no initial attachment to becoming the best at it. Try and try and try everything, fearlessly. When you find something that you love, you will know it, and it will know you. Give your time to it. Do it everyday. Let it make itself through you. It will not always look the way you want it to at first, but you will still feel called to it. In the beginning, don't worry about how it looks, just show up for it everyday with a mindset of pure exploration. When you're not doing it, think of it. Imagine doing it. When life around you gets hard, go to it for solace. When life is joyful, bring it your celebration. Develop a relationship to it rather than seeing it as who you are, this will help you love it like a dear friend and stick with it through thick and thin. At some point, after thousands of hours of giving it your time, you will not only have a deep root to your center, but also a life made richer with the gift that only pure dedication can offer. And everything you have sacrificed or accomplished will harmonize into a great hum of peace within you.
MDLF: Where can we view more of your work?
B: My website is buckleynow.com and instagram @buckleynow
Buckley Interviewed by Masculine de La FEMME.
Photos in 35mm film by Dan Monick
Video Portrait filmed by Dan Monick + Wardrobe Styling & Art Direction by Monica Reyes