Los Angeles based artist Drake Labry on maintaining a healthy balance, pushing limits and what he would like to change about the art scene.
BY RICK GALIHER | PHOTO BY ANTHONY DURAN
There’s more than meets the eye with artist Drake Labry. He studied art from an early age in the South, continued his education in Spain and now works in Los Angeles. His art communicates the same positive energy that the charismatic artist exudes himself. He does not shy away from constantly pushing limits to explore new techniques in his artistic journey and new paths in his life journey. He recently rode with the popular “Wolf Pack” cycling team in the AIDS/LifeCycle generating record-setting fundraising efforts.
A range of live and work spaces would greatly benefit from the transforming warmth of Drake’s work: from cold modern residences, to impersonal hotel lobbies, to generic upscale restaurants and office buildings requiring a grand entrance. His works are inviting and instantly draw you in; just like the artist’s blue eyes, “the windows to the soul.” An artist’s life always informs their work in some fashion and Drake’s love for the communing with nature certainly can be appreciated in his distinctive, organic imagery.
It’s always fascinating to watch artists in action. In Drake’s case, I think there are a lot people who wouldn’t mind watching him even if he were painting a picket fence. In the tradition of Southern hospitality, Drake welcomes you to visit his art studio.
In an interview with THE FIGHT, this lone wolf and Southern gentleman, with the gift to create eye-catching works, shares where he draws his inspiration.
I was drawing houses with light switches and flowers on the kitchen table and crazy details when I was like 3 years old. I grew up in a family that pushed me to be more creative and kind of let me do whatever I wanted. I have been very lucky to have trained with some amazing artist and mentors in South Louisiana. I also attended a beautiful art school called NOCCA in New Orleans from 9th-12th grade. That school helped me to be okay with my sexuality and geared me up for what my future would hold. THANKS Melissa Bonin and NOCCA!
Who are some of your artistic influences?
My mother (who is also an artist). Runway and print has heavily influence my work. I don’t get very inspired from other artists my age…It just makes me competitive and I don’t like painting from a place like that. Artists of the 60’s and 70’s make me happy and I love the genre of work that was being produced then. I wish I had grown up then… I’d be rich today.
Did you ever feel self-conscious about your interest in pursuing art and the label of “artist” before you came out as gay?
No, but I think it was because I went to an art school growing up and everyone there was gay…in fact I still told myself I was straight and it was there that I learned to accept myself. What I do have a problem with is when people ask what do I do for a living…it’s still hard to say “I am an artist”…it feels too easy especially in this town—because everyone calls themselves an “artist.” I feel like I am calling myself a movie star, NOT an actor.
Do you feel it’s important to be physically active to be artistically productive?
I will never not be physically active. Everything we do requires a healthy balance and for me that is working out and staying fit being active. I hike and camp a lot with my dogs and boyfriend. Just got back from Big Sur. I spend a lot of time in Joshua Tree. California inspires me everyday and everything is at our fingertips whether it’s the beach or mountains or desert. I love being outside.
Since living in LA, my work has become more colorful and fluid. I keep far less boundaries now.I want to try new forms all the time. It helps to keep your work fresh and sometimes I feel an artist’s work becomes stagnant if they are only doing what they know and what is safe for them. This city makes me want to keep pushing and trying things that might make me uncomfortable because ultimately that is the only way to grow. I just did the AIDS/LifeCycle and THAT took me out of my element. I have a greater appreciation for my close friends and family that I am surrounded by in LA.
Do you feel the LA art scene and collectors been supportive of your work?
I have been very fortunate for the opportunities that the West Coast has thrown my way since arriving in 2009. I have had amazing support from the Frederick Weisman Foundation who started collecting my work back in 2009. They recently just included me in my first museum showing in Nevada last February through April. My friends have been my biggest fans and keep me going when times are tough. The art scene is very political and it is not the easiest way to make a living.
How would you like to change and influence the LA art scene?
The only thing I would change about the art scene here, and everywhere, is for the people working and running these galleries to quit acting like cunts when people just want to come in and be a part of something like art. Art is for everyone and it is what runs our world. Without it, we would all live a pathetic life.
Water inspires the fuck out of me… I can’t believe how dependent we are off it and how big and dark it is—both beautiful and scary.
Do you see patterns within animal life?
Absolutely. My whole concept of “scales” started by growing up on the Bayou and Gulf of Mexico and being around the creatures of the water. Fishing with my dad…I was always obsessed with their skin…the animals and reptiles.
When do you know when piece is finished?
They are constantly changing as long as they are in my possession.
Would you like to work on a larger scale?
Funny enough, I have been wishing for a project where I could do a mural… I never have, although my work is quite large.
What materials would you like to work with in the future?
I want to work on more in sculpture soon. I am going back next year to get my MFA in sculpture (fingers crossed).
I prefer working with people who aren’t going to turn around and sell the work to make money off it. People who buy to collect and keep it around for decades because those are the people who make art valuable.
What advise would you give to an aspiring art student?
DO NOT paint because you think someone will want to buy it. Create art for yourself and the rest will happen. Also, expect to fucking struggle!
What emotional response do you hope to communicate through your work?
I hope people feel happiness when they view what I create. I hope it inspires them and they can feel the beauty of my collections because I paint from a good place.
Drake works regularly with Martine Chaisson Gallery in New Orleans. He works with other galleries as well, but prefers to represening himself in LA. Drake’s website is www.drakelabry.net and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.