Extended Sunland Interview: Omar Pierce

Extended Sunland Interview: Omar Pierce

On Wednesday, May 7, we hosted our second event in our quarterly Sunland Symposium series on the theme “The Convergence between Art and Music.” It was a great one–and on a topic that we could have kept going for way longer.  We heard from a few of you that you had burning questions you wished you had asked or wanted to know more about, so we asked each panelist to participate in an extended interview for us.

Here’s artist Omar Pierce (1-800-Cherrys) giving us a little more…

Q: You have a deep appreciation and knowledge about music. What role has this played in what you make and who you are as an artist?

Omar: I, embarrassingly, listen to much more music than I look at visual art. It’s a constant in my life and art-making process. I aim to capture the same feelings that real music gives me, but from a visual perspective.

Q: You’ve produced a ton of different work for artists of all kinds—from cds/albums, posters/fliers, tapes, photography, videos—do you have a project you’re particularly proud of? 

Omar: I’m very proud of my most recent project, a covers album called Blackout Summer. I don’t play anything on it, it’s a concept comp that enlists the work of 8 local solo recording artists reinterpreting songs that I paired them with. The track listing is very specific in its influence/relevance to my work. It’ll be an ongoing video/film project as well.

Q: Where or in what do you find inspiration? Who are your heroes? Who gets it right?

Omar: David Wojnarowicz. SWANS. Liars. hash browns + avocado

Q: What is your creative process when making work for a musician/band? What is your greatest hope for your work? Your fear?

Omar: I try to capture a vibe that the pre-existing work carries while also pushing my own ideas and skills to meet the work somewhere in the middle. I fear having to make changes to the work after I am happy with it — or in other words, compromise my design.

Q: Does your process differ for a music-based project than for your other work?

Omar: In my own work I only answer to myself, so that can be as liberating as it is stifling. Having to consider another artists’ ideas creates parameters which can also be liberating or stifling. They are different processes but are equally challenging.

Q: What design elements or artistic choices do you admire in other projects? What do you employ or stand behind in your own work?

Omar: I most admire design work that is devoid of text. I think the goal of design should be to evoke a feeling and often text can detract from that. I stand behind my gut instincts and outdated methods.

Q: Who is your audience? (the people who pick up the product, the musician/band?)

Omar: I aim first for myself, then the audience, then the band/musician.

Q: What is the desired reaction or end goal? Do you feel like it’s accomplished? Or how can you tell if it’s accomplished?

Omar: Once I have made something I am proud of, I try to let go of the project entirely.

Q: Is something better if it’s made by hand? Why? Is it the final look, or the process of creating it?

Omar: Stylistic choices are case by case so sometimes the hand-made aesthetic fits, and sometimes it distracts. I have a fondness for hand-made things but only when it suits the project. Many hand-made projects look terrible.

Q: What are artist/musician collaborations that nail it on all fronts? Or are interesting?

Omar: Most everything I’ve seen by Peter Saville (Joy Division/New Order, Factory Records).  He stood by his own ideas and took control. Those projects always seemed to benefit from that.

Q: Is there an advertising element that comes into play in work created for others?

Omar: Yes, which is one reason why visual art usually takes a backseat.

Q: Musicians and artists have a natural symbiosis for relationships/projects. We’ve heard a bit that although artists support musicians (e.g., making and things, videography, photography, design, merch), oftentimes the relationship is not reciprocated. Is this a real phenomenon? Is it reflective of a problem that’s indicative how people value/receive art (even when it’s all around us)?

Omar: It is not reciprocated, as the goals of each are different. It usually isn’t a priority of the musician to include a visual artist in the creative process, as the art is often the last task of completing the album and just serves a practical function. For myself, both sides should carry equal weight and make something greater than the sum of their parts.