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Todd DiCiurcio is a self-described mark-maker. For the New York-based artist, music and art have always been intertwined. Seeing drawing as truth, his work and practice is in search of the ultimate zenith. DiCiurcio seeks collaboration, responding in real-time to live musical and theater performances, with bands like Broken Social Scene, The Rolling Stones, Ty Segall, Cat Power, New Order, and productions like Sweeney Todd and In The Heights, among others.
WHITEWALL: When did you first realized you wanted to be an artist?
TODD DICIURCIO: Ever since I was a child, drawing was always a way to show something that felt important to me. Humanity, relative synergy, infinite possibilities, music, and all its incarnations, dark dreams—the ones I remember. The rest just happens when I see, (mis)read, or (mis)hear something, break it all apart, and let it happen onto the surface.
WW: Who and/or what inspires you?
TD: I remember the effect of television as a kid—tracing right on the screen to Michael Jackson when he performed at The Grammys, football games, Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Kung Fu movies, The Three Stooges, cartoons, car ads…just reacting. When MTV hit, I was still doing this. It was like connecting to the static of the world off the TV static. Music was everything to me—the first album I ever got was The Cars debut when I was six. I pretended to play drums on my bed with chopsticks on paper, ripping through it like I was blasting through drum heads.
That energy combined with growing up, bouncing from suburban to farmland Pennsylvania, shaped my world quite a bit. But dysfunctional family arrangements and the loss of my mother to brain cancer when I was 14 launched me into my own headspace, a place full of freedom that craved to experience things for itself, with autonomy, abandon, and love for all adventure. That freedom certainly tuned my periphery to seek what I believed was the unexplored, the ultimate zenith of the darkest reaches, the underground. And I was going to draw just that.
WW: How would you describe your very own personal style?
TD: I’m a mark-maker. I’ll draw with anything that will make a mark just to see what I can visually compose out of it, and what I concurrently feel from it. Drawing is the truth. To abandon the notion of capturing the appearance of something for the pursuit of its spirit is where my projected intentions lie—that’s the zenith status.
WW: How did you come up with the idea of painting live bands and mixing both music and art?
TD: Guided By Voices would be the first band I ever painted live, back in 1999. Previously, I’d work in my studio (or wherever I could) with musicians and other artists writing experimental music for projects, drawing and sharing ideas. My wife Megan would document everything on film. The GBV show was an opportunity presented to me through a close friend, and it would the springboard into what has become the live drawing of bands that I have now worked with in close collaboration for more than a decade.
The drawings are created during live performances and are visceral responses to the sounds and energy that are unique to each of these bands. My identification with the music’s lyrical content and precise delivery in the live context enables me to become a physical and visual conduit for the shared experience of the performance within tradition of drawing from life. While drawing, each sensation of every mark is a direct reaction to the experience of sound to gesture and of performer’s action to line. Immersed in the live event and unchained to time, the drawings assert a nonlinear reactive capacity to the shared expression inherent in both live music and drawing forms. The awareness of band members to my drawing sets up a cognitive collaboration where the live performance is literally played into the drawings in a form of call and response.
WW: How often do you collaborate with other artists?
TD: As often as possible. I’ve always felt stronger to collaborate with artists that I respect and admire. I’ve collaborated with photographer Hunter Barnes on two shows: “Americana No Depression” and “ We The People” at Melet Mercantile. And with Tommy Hilfiger for the Tommyland Venice Beach Fashion Show art takeover curated by Al-Baseer Holly and Rag & Bone for a special capsule collection using silk textiles created from my ink drawings. I did Gap Product Red thru Art Production Fund, and commissions to draw live/collaborate with every band at Splendour in the Grass Festival in Australia in 2013. And on Broadway with Sweeney Todd and In The Heights, as well as off-Broadway with Chicken and Ironbound capturing the performances live.
WW: How did you become involved in charities?
TD: I think every artist dreams to have the opportunity to give back using their creative abilities. My first opportunity came thru Free Arts NYC in 2007, where I was asked to donate a drawing for their 8th Annual Art & Photography Auction at Milk Studios in NYC. I donated my original live drawing of the band Sebadoh, completed that year. There ended up being a bidding war for it between Donna Karan and Simon dePury…it was a very exciting night. Simon eventually won and I was just blown away. Many other requests would follow, and I’ve always donated to support art programs and immersive creative development for underprivileged children. Recently, I’ve been able to participate with Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York as part of their Family Day programming-pure fun!