Keith "KrossD" Dugas
Keith Dugas (who goes by KrossD) is a Los Angeles-based artist and art critic heavily influenced by music and pop culture. As an artist, it’s hard to categorize Dugas, who is equally adept at woodblock printing and traditional techniques (watercolor, oil) as street art hallmarks like spray painting. No matter what medium he’s working in, however, Dugas always finds a way to recontextualize iconography. “You Can Never Tell” features Mia from Pulp Fiction spray painted onto a vinyl record, while “She Talks to Rainbows” is a literalization of the Ramones song.
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Zeus Beard: Let’s start from the beginning. How did you know you wanted to become an artist?
Keith Dugas: Well, I know a lot of artists who have a pat answer for that. But let's be real here. The first thing I ever wanted to be was Elvis Presley. My mother raised me on Elvis. The first concert I ever went to was Elvis. There was this whole mythology in Elvis movies where he never lost a fight and always got the girl. I wanted to be that guy. But it became apparent, early on, that I had creative tendencies. These tendencies were strongly encouraged by everyone around me. I felt like I was an artist when was 6 years old. I wish I was still so sure of myself.
ZB: You go by the alias KrossD. What’s the meaning behind that?
KD: That's how I sign everything. It's just an amalgamation of my full name, minus a few letters. But it has a religious connotation that borders on blasphemy, which I love. An ex-girlfriend actually coined it, but that's all I can say without legal representation.
ZB: Everybody keeps talking about your amazing record collection. Who are your favorite artists and what’s your favorite music genre?
KD: "Everybody" talks too much. The size of my record collection is greatly exaggerated. It's more quality over quantity. I collect many genres but punk is the warmest blanket for me. I've given up hope on having the ultimate record collection, but putting the needle on a record by Patti Smith or The Germs is still pretty orgasmic.
ZB: How does your love of music influence your work?
KD: It's damn near everything. Almost all of my pieces are at least titled after songs. I have music playing in the studio all the time. It sets a mood and provides a jumping off point for me. Notes and chords get my gears turning, visually, in ways I can't really dissect. I don't know if I could create in silence. I've never tried it.
ZB: How would you describe your style?
KD: I wouldn't. I'm an autodidact, so I'm constantly playing around with different mediums and techniques. Maybe "fluid" would be the best answer. Lately, I've been itching to do some abstract paintings, for example. I have no interest in being defined a certain way, even it that makes me un-brandable. I'd much rather people be curious about what I might do next.
ZB: Where do you draw inspiration from?
KD: Inspiration is a funny word. It attempts to describe something indescribable. I'm surrounded by friends who are ridiculously talented artists. They motivate me more than inspire me. I've never asked any of them where they draw their inspiration from. I just assume it's "the bug". If you've got "the bug", you can't help yourself. Art is a virus that infects certain people. There's no cure. It's fatal. You just have to make art to traverse through this mortal coil. It's a coping mechanism. A secret language. A clandestine handshake. I don't know, I can't be poetic about it. It just vomits out.
ZB: Your art always has some type of social commentary. Is there a specific message you’re trying to convey, or are you influenced by current events/whatever is on your mind at the time?
KD: I used to do a lot of political art. Robbie Conal was a big influence on me. But that stuff has a very short shelf life, and rarely compliments your couch. I try not to let rage guide my hand these days. I suppose it's inevitable that my opinions will seep into the work. I don't know how to get around that. But it's not preconceived. I'm not trying to shove anybody up against a wall.
ZB: Your art reminds us of Andy Warhol’s work. Does he influence you at all?
KD: I have a love/hate relationship with Warhol. I think he was the P.T. Barnum of the art world. He convinced the world that everything was art. He inflated the market with a handful of magic beans. He was brilliant, but he was a snake oil salesman. Warhol is a limp hug. His greatest work was in advertising. Nobody talks about that. Warhol is a shell game. Having said that, I appreciate the comparison. Nobody has said that before. I'm giddy!
ZB: You’re also an art writer! How is it navigating both sides, as both the creator and the critic?
KD: I stumbled into writing. I started a blog with every intention of just promoting myself. Almost immediately though, I was ranting about art I hate, and interviewing artists I love. People responded to it, mostly positively. It opened some doors. I'm pretty anti-social, but the blog gave me a talking point. I could approach people with this thing, this icebreaker, and have a conversation. I've formed a lot of bonds because of it, and that's more valuable to me than any publicity. I get grief for it. Some people think you can't be an artist and a critic. Those people can bite me. Artists are the most critical bastards I know!
ZB: What’s a typical day like for you?
KD: This will be riveting! I wake up, stumble downstairs, make coffee, drink coffee, feed dog, walk dog, make art until I have to repeat the dog parts again, make more art. A typical day would involve a nap at some point. It's a glamorous life.
ZB: Where do you see yourself in the next year?
KD: Oh, this is one of those job interview test questions! Well, considering my tenacious work ethic, I see myself as assistant manager of this Hot Dog on a Stick a year from now, with an eye on district manager within three. Sorry, sarcasm is my default position. Honestly, my goals aren't lofty. I just want to make art. If, a year from now, I'm making art, I'm happy. It means I'm still drawing breath.