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Tony Fitzpatrick talks about his drawing-collages and favorite books – Page 2

Tony Fitzpatrick talks about the artefacts he uses in his drawing-collages, and his latest exhibition in Brooklyn...

READERSVOICE.COM: When you use these bits and pieces, ticket stubs and postcards and things like that, are you kind of bringing them back to life again?
TONY FITZPATRICK: I hope so. You know, I hope I’m giving them a second definition and creating like a benchmark of history for them…
These are all kind of blighted objects that most people throw away and I see a certain historical value in them…I see them as part of how I tell a story or tell a history.
RV: You’ve said you got a lot of these artefacts from a box of stuff your father had.
TF: A whole pile of stuff my father had and then a whole big collection of matchbooks from my friend John Hawkins’ father, Red.
Red was a cash register repairman in Chicago for 50 years and every time he went into a place, and he worked all over the city, southside, northside, westside, ah, every time he went into a place to fix a cash register he took a matchbook.
So, he’s given all the matchbooks to me.
And Red is 80 years old and, you know, and to this day you pick up one of the matchbooks and you rattle off the name of the place and he can tell you the address.
So he’s one of those kind of living historians that ah, has a great kerbside history of the city.
RV: They’re great those old guys, aren’t they?
TF: Yeah, they sure are…They’re our most undervalued resource.
RV: I used to swim with a guy who was about 84, and he’d swim a couple of kilometres a day. And he’d tell you about things that happened i n the 1930s as though it happened last week.
TF: Yeah. Exactly…

RV: And so where else can you get these artefacts from now?
TF: I go and search them out everywhere you know, flea markets, garage sales…We go looking for old matchbooks on the internet.
And, you know, we look everywhere. Every once in a while, now that people know I’m making them, now that the book is out (Volume 1 of The Wonder: Portraits of a Remembered City; published by Last Gasp- ed.) people are always saying, you know, “…I’ve got a box of old matchbooks in my garage” and they often give them to me, you know, so…But there is a bit of archeology involved.
There’s a little bit of excavation that has to be done.
RV: A bit of a treasure hunt.
TF: Yes, yes exactly. So I’ve become as much a scavenger as an artist. (laughter)
RV: And you’ve got an exhibition still going in Brooklyn have you?
TF: Yeah, it just opened. In fact that’s where I was over the weekend. It just opened Friday night in Brooklyn. (Pierogi 2000 gallery- ed.)
RV: How many pieces have you got in that exhibition?
TF: There’s 27 pieces in that show. So it’s a fairly big show.
RV: How long would it take to put together a piece?
TF: You know, it varies..Sometimes 10 days, sometimes three weeks. Sometimes a month, sometimes six days.
It just depends. Depends on the stories.
RV: And you work on one at a time, or have you got a couple going…?
TF: Yeah, one a t a time. One at a time. I have a fucked-up attention span so I have to go slow.

RV: And have you heard any surprising comments that people make when they’re looking at the pieces?
TF: Yeah, almost always somebdy will say, you know, “I remember that place.”
And “My parents used to take me to that place,” or “That place was right by where I lived.”
And, you know, particularly in Chicago, but even over the weekend in New York…a great many people have spent time here, and commented to me that it jogged a lot of memory.
RV: I see you’ve lived quite a few places around the world, like Tuscany.
TF: Yeah.
RV: In Coney Island at one point…What was that like living in Coney Island?
TF: I didn’t live there, I stayed there for part of the Summer making a bunch of drawings about Coney Island and it was really wonderful because there’s a big kind of Russian Jewish settlement right there of people who’ve been there for years in Brighton Beach there.
And they were great with telling me the history and stories of the place, you know.
There was one kind of old guy who had a booth out there who said to me, you know, “Usually, you see pictures of people, you know, immigrants, the first thing they ever saw was the Statue of Liberty.”
And the first thing this guy saw was the Ferris Wheel. The Wonder Wheel all lit up at night.
And he said that for him was the Statue of Liberty.
Coney Island was a great project. It was a great experience.