The Q&A: Adam Maida

By Peggy Roalf   Monday February 12, 2018

Q: Originally from [where?] what are some of your favorite things about living and working in [your current locale]?

A: I live and work in upstate, NY. I really enjoy all the natural parks I'm surrounded by, and ease of movement that comes with living in a medium sized city. The best thing about where I live is its diversity and the culture that has flourished because of it. Due to its affordability, there has been an influx of people moving from larger metropolitan areas and this has created a milieu of new, independently owned business, community/political organizations, and great music and artists. 

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between art you create on paper [or other analog medium] versus in the computer?

A: Most of my sketching coincides with hammering out commissioned projects. But I would say accidental mishaps play a large part in my work as well. I can become quite belligerent when an idea or a concept falls apart because I am too focused on the aesthetic of the piece. To counter this frustration and to remain relatively sane, I experiment a lot with collage, painting, and printmaking.

This plays an important role in my freelance work. The demand of the market and our society’s obsession with eradicating imperfections makes it difficult to remain 100% analog. This is why a majority of illustrators and designers today use things like Wacom tablets—I do not, but I try my best to maintain an even balance between analog and digital.  But I think to answer your question from another angle—I do not keep a sketchbook in the same sense that Modigliani did.

Q: What is the most important item in your studio?

A: Does the window constitute as an item? Without it, I would never remind myself to go outside.

Q: How do you know when the art is finished—or when to stop working on it?

A: It is difficult to describe something inherent—sometimes I just know. It is a subjective experience of my collective intuitions.  For example, I usually best judge when to stop after I have made myself laugh or when I begin to think how to make something “better”.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child? What is the best book you’ve recently read?

A: I loved reading Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are as a child or the works of Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl. But my favorite was always The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

Best recent read: Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase. I enjoyed it more than its sequel Dance Dance Dance.

Q: If you had to choose one medium to work in for an entire year, eliminating all others, what medium would you choose?

A: A Bolex H16 Reflex.

Q: What elements of daily life exert the most influence on your work practice?

A: The media. I do try to cut out its breathless barraging of headlines. I think we focus too much on what is happening every minute, every day, and everywhere. As if we are dreaming and hoping that tomorrow we will wake up and the world’s political, economical, and environmental crises have come to a screeching halt. I try to focus on specific international and domestic issues that I think are the most underrepresented (or not present at all) in corporate/Western media.

Q: What was the [Thunderbolt] painting or drawing or film or otherwise that most affected your approach to art? 

A; I will always remember my initial interaction with film and cultural posters from Eastern Soviet-bloc countries and Cuba. They have immensely affected the way I think about design as a means of dissent or to subvert the status quo. Some say they represent how oppression and censorship begets creative ingenuity but I think they say something more about parts of an alternative system that maybe most in the West got wrong and continues to misunderstand. If anything, they helped me realize how much the market actually plays in censoring the voices of artists. If you say something that a board of directors considers dangerous to the profits of their business model, you will be silenced. Which in my opinion is the most dangerous, because the market becomes undemocratic, and harder to control. 


Q: What was the strangest/most interesting assignment you've taken that has an important impact on your practice, and what changed through the process?

A: Definitely a poster I did for a series of Andy Warhol films put on by a local film curating collective called “On Film.” It had a giant phallic banana with a bite taken out of it superimposed with a portrait of the event’s main speaker. It was hung up everywhere, and the event was at a private university where it was also advertised on giant digital screens across the campus. The event was an over-packed conference room I remember. I was quite proud of that one. It helped me understand the benefits of collaborating with people who trust your instincts to intrigue the viewer, stop them in their tracks, and interrupt their everyday. Also what its like to work with those whose end game is not profit-driven.

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: A big Yetsom Beyaynetu platter.

Adam Maida is an independent designer, illustrator, art director, and all around hooligan for whoever wants to work with him. Some of his collaborators include: New Yorker, The Nation, Wired, New York Times, Village Voice, New Republic, AFL-CIO, Human Rights Watch, Kino Lorber, and Criterion Collection/Janus Films.



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