FOR OUR DIRTY INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST BARRY MCGEE, WE PAIRED HIM UP WITH FRIENDSWITHYOU’S SAMUEL BORKSON, IN WHAT TURNED OUT TO BE A BRILLIANT PAIRING OF LIKE-MINDS!
TEXT Samuel Borkson
PHOTOS Barry McGee
What a huge honor to speak with Barry McGee and share his simple way of life to with all of you. From the moment I met him, he was a kind, open guy — a good example of a great human being. The more we went back and forth, I realized he also has purity, a realness, an honesty that I rarely find today. Here is our friendly talk. Enjoy!
SAMUEL BORKSON: HOW ARE YOU TODAY?
BARRY MCGEE: Things have been well, Sam. It’s Indian summer in San Francisco, so spirits are high. Anything can happen.
SB: BARRY, YOU ARE AN ICON TO MANY — IF YOU COULD TEACH THE WORLD SOMETHING WHAT WOULD IT BE?
BMG: Oh dear, I’m not so good at teaching people. Let me think about this?
SB: COME ON, TELL US!
BMG: I think a strong work ethic is a good thing to develop.
SB: YOU ARE SUCH A SWEET PERSON. WERE YOU ALWAYS LIKE THIS?
BMG: I’m not a sweet person. I’m OCD, ADD, but DFW and say thank you obsessively.
SB: IS RELIGION IMPORTANT TO YOU? WHAT ARE HUMANS MISSING?
BMG: I have not found a religion that has not been connected to war and corruption, so no it is not important to me right now.
SB: WHAT DO YOU FEEL ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART?
BMG: I love contemporary art, Sam! It’s one of the best things in the world, after nature. It seems to be the only occupation where I feel connected to other people through visuals. I get very inspired and feel a rush of adrenalin. Does this ever happen to you Sam?
SB: IF YOU HAD ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD TO MAKE WHATEVER PROJECT YOU WANTED, WHAT WOULD IT BE? WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
BMG: I’m more interested in less than more. Our society has become obsessed with having more, having it all. To what end? Excess, while fascinating to watch, is not the answer to me. Most over budgeted art projects I have seen are terrible.
SB: DO YOU FEEL “STREET ART” IS AN IMPORTANT MOVEMENT? DO YOU FEEL IT IS A MOVEMENT OR WOULD YOU RATHER EACH STREET ARTISTS BE LOOKED AT FOR THEIR INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTION? FOR WHAT EACH IS SAYING?
BMG: I’m not really into movements when they get labeled and packaged into easily digestible little sound bites for the masses to understand and then consume… it makes me sick to my stomach, Sam. I like things on the street that do not appear to be art. A fire extinguisher filled with paint and released upon the side of a building is one of the most beautiful things in the world, and thank God, has nothing to do with art.
SB: WHY IS ART IMPORTANT TO THE WORLD?
BMG: Probably the tax loopholes for the wealthy to speculate and invest in. For artists, such as you and me, the kinship of community and expression without compromise.
SB: IF YOU COULD CAST A MAGIC SPELL AND FIX SOMETHING IN THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
BMG: You are already doing that, Sam.
SB: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITY?
BMG: That would probably be surfing. I love it too much
SB: WHAT WAS IT LIKE GROWING UP?
BMG: I’m still growing. I am my long term project, Sam.
SB: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FOODS? AND DO YOU COOK ANYTHING?
BMG: I like all vegetables grown organically and local. I’m into kale and quinoa… it doesn’t require any cooking just chopping!
SB: WHY IS SURFING IMPORTANT TO YOU?
BMG: I can’t sit still, Sam. It’s great exercise and keeps middle age flabbery at bay… for now!
SB: HOW DO YOU FIGHT THE BAD THOUGHTS IN YOUR HEAD? DO YOU HAVE ANY? DO YOU DO ANYTHING BAD?
BMG: I tackle them until they submit and behave. I usually just go surfing.
SB: WHAT UPSETS YOU?
BMG: Not being near the ocean, street art, street art books.
SB: DO YOU THINK THE WORLD CAN BETTER ITSELF? ARE THINGS GETTING BETTER OR WORSE?
BMG: Yes. Stop the production of yet another book on street.
SB: WHAT DO YOU LOVE?
BMG: This life.
SB: WHAT’S THE SECRET TO LIFE?
BMG: Staying fit. Mind, body, spirit.
SB: WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU IN LIFE?
BMG: The afterlife.