Artist Interview: Mark Maggiori
Billy Meiners: Where did you grow up?
Mark Maggiori: I grew up in France in a small town called Fontainebleau. Yeah it’s a big forest and it’s like an hour south of Paris. It’s interesting because it was a very big skateboard community when I was a kid there. It was kinda like the first main pool for skateboard. We had a big half pipe and that’s how I started skating when I was 8.
BM: Ok, because my next question was gonna be what kind of background do you have with skating.
MM: Well yeah it’s pretty big because I skated pretty much my whole life. I stopped skating hardcore around when I was 15 because from like 8 to 15 I really skateboarded every day. It was no fear. And then after 15 I started playing guitar and started to be more cautious about, “I don’t to break my hands.” You know I started to be more careful about all that. And now I’m in my adult age and I’m definitely very scared of injury but that’s why I’ve been mostly skating halfpipes because I feel more comfortable just carving around and doing just a couple of tricks. I’ve ever been a crazy aerial guy unfortunately but I just enjoy skating. I would just go to the grocery store on skateboard and come back downhill just like fucking loving it. Just doing simple things. I have so many boards at home back in France. I just brought one here but I have so many out there I wish I could do a trip where I can actually bring some back. Because I collected them my whole life. And I don’t even know where they all are.
BM: What was it like skating in France? How was the scene? Because now you’re in California and it’s the birthplace of it but you started skating out in France.
MM: Well the funny thing like I said there was this skateboard club when I was a kid in my hometown because I guess one of the guys was traveling the world and he kind of discovered skateboard. I’m talking 1985/86 so yeah it was really the beginning. There was still slalom and shit like that. And he brought that back to France and us kids in this town started to go and check out what was going on. In 1987 they did a contest that was called the Open Air and they invited the Bones Brigade so all the guys from Powell Peralta came and it was awesome! There was Steve Caballero and Lester Kasai and Christian Hosoi. It was so good… I was like 9 and my parents were buying me the VHS “Wheels On Fire” ll the Santa Cruz videos. So that’s what I grew up with was dreaming of California. Just skating. It was forbidden to skate on the sidewalk where I was so I sometimes got stopped by the cops and brought to the cop station or whatever you call it and they would call my parents to come pick me up and say “What’d you do!?” but we were just skating you know! But it was cool because it kept me out of trouble for my whole life because when you are 13 and some kids start to fuck up but you don’t because I was just skating and I just wanted to be good at skateboarding. And I would never join the crew of downsider [laughs]. It was always positive. You gotta skate every day. That was the thing
BM: So then when was your first time in the US?
MM: When I was 15 my uncle brought me here for the first time with my cousin and we did a cross-country road trip from New York to San Francisco. It was amazing and so that was when I discovered the West and all the amazing landscapes like Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. But also my main goal was to go to San Francisco to go to the Vans store and I bought a bunch of Airwalks back then from this warehouse [laughs]. And when I came back to San Francisco when I was like 35 I was looking for that spot that we went out with my uncle and kinda dreaming about it but and never been able to find it again. It was on the docks somewhere in San Francisco but it was in 1992 so of course the thing got closed probably. But I just remember so many shoes on the wall and all the kinds of Airwalks and Vision Streetwear that didn’t have back in France. I didn’t even know what to chose [laughs]! I had my budget and you know back then I could only get one pair. But it was awesome and I bought a skate deck too. It was cool man…
BM: At what point did you decide to start studying art and practicing art seriously?
MM: Well after graduation from high school when I was 18 I didn’t really know what to do apart from music. I just wanted to keep playing in my band and my parents didn’t really like that idea so I went to University for studying history. Just like classic history and I did a month and I was like, “I don’t like that.” That’s not my crew, that’s not my crowd, that’s not my people. I don’t belong to that shit. So I stopped and then I just played music for a few months and then my uncle (the same guy that brought me to America) suggested I should maybe study art since I was in music and liked graphics and stuff because I was always interested in graphics because of skateboarding (all the graphics on the decks). So I went to that art school in Paris. That’s one of the amazing art schools that’s been there since the late 19th century. Very classic art studies and I fucking loved it. And then from there I just started snowballing into it.
BM: Who would you say are a few artists that have influenced you?
MM: Well there’s a lot in different fields and that’s the thing because I studied photography and film for a while and storyboard and all that. So there’s photographers but mainly in painting the first really striking thing was John Singer Sargent. It was his portraits and the way he was painting when I discovered him. It was really late; I was probably 21 when I discovered Sargent. But it was my first time to really stare at paintings in details and then from Sargent I discovered Sorolla (Joaquin Sorolla, he’s a Spanish painter). And then this whole post-impressionism scene that was active in the 1900’s in Europe. Very few knowledge of American art actually back then but then when I came to America and discovered western art and it really got me strong. I really enjoyed discovering Remington and Frank Johnson and all those pioneer painters from America and then I realized there’s so much things that happened here in the early 20th century (like 1900-1930). There was so many great artist like Maynard Dixon and Edgar Payne and all those guys. So I not going to say that I got influenced by them because it was too late in my life when I discovered them. Because usually you are influenced when you are really young so I would say they definitely inspired me to do that for sure. I would say Normal Rockwell too because he’s a classic but man he was so good [laughs].
BM: So then what prompted you to move to the US?
MM: I think it was a lifetime dream like I was saying from 8 years old. Skateboard, California, the Z-boys, all that really… I just wanted to be a part of that when I was a kid but I couldn’t so it was a dream that grew up in me and a desire to come here. And then the landscapes and the possibility that felt like in America, still, things can happen more than in France. France is different for that and what’s going on in painting for me right now wouldn’t have been possible in France.
BM: I was wondering how do you think your art would be perceived in France vs. in the US?
MM: Well there is no market in France for that kind of art (like western art), even figurative art. There is a market for contemporary art like weird shit that I’m not really into. But that’s what I really appreciate here that I feel like people appreciate figurative art for what it is and it’s not just something from the past. Which in France it really belongs to the past like people were painting like that before photographs. But now, what’s the point? But it’s different; when you’re in front of a painting it’s totally different. So I appreciate and I’m very grateful for America to offer that.
BM: What do you think about the art and the graphics you see on skateboards these days?
MM: Well first of all I’m not totally updated. I follow a bunch of skateboard stuff on Instagram but it’s kind of the thing where I spend most my time staring at skate-bullshit. Like in the morning, breakfast, or in the bathroom, like “oh damn that guys killing it” [laughs] You know but so I follow a little bit like that but I have to say my heart belongs to the 80’s graphics. That’s really were I got so much inspiration and when I see them now there not better than what is now but it’s just that when I was a kid it really stayed in my mind. But it’s funny because I was thinking I have a board here that is the worst. It’s just something somebody gave it to me. I went to a skateboard shop to buy a bag to carry a board and the guy at the cashier because I was in a band for 10 years back in France (metal music).
BM: What’s the bands name?
MM: Pleymo. Yeah, we were famous in Europe and Japan and we never came here because we were singing in French. But anyway, the cashier recognized me as the singer of Pleymo and started to be like, “Aw dude awesome!” and so he offered me that board that is already mounted. And there was like a special Christmas thing at the cashier but it’s not really an amazing board it’s just fitting in the bag [laughs]. So I put it in the bag and then I traveled here and brought this board. The back is just yellow there’s no graphics on it. And yesterday I was thinking you know since I talked with Steven [Olson] we were like, “let’s go skate sometime.” I was thinking I need a new board. So I was planning on going to a skateshop here called East LA Skate Shop. And when you pass in front of it they’ve got walls of boards and I’d be curious to go check it out and see what’s up and the shapes. But I know I’m going to end up buying like a reissue [laughs] of Steve Caballero 1987 with an old shape. Yesterday I was ebaying because I’m after a Danny Way H-Street. Like those H-Street boards from mid-nineties and there’s a reissue but I want to get the real deal, the old one.
BM: Yeah, I’ve got a resissue of the Lance Mountain Future Primitive cave painting graphics. I still have it in the bag, it’s on a shelf and I’m like I should still go skate it. Why keep this pristine reissue as if I’m gonna pass it down to my son or something?
MM: The original ones I have a bunch. Here I actually have the Psycho Stick like the Vision one with the guy, just the board. And it’s the original one from the time. And back in France I have the Nicky Guerrero Gordan & Smith’s with the pointy nose that goes up like one of the first pointy boards and it’s amazing and I have the Tommy Guerrero with the swirl and all thing around it the same very pointy. And those are like, dude I would put some grip on there and it’d be killer! But it’s hard to skate an old one. The first handrail I’d be like, “AAAGGHHH, what did I do!!” [laughs]
BM: Just get the reissue and skate that one.
MM: I know. It’s too crazy. It’s like wearing a 1910 jacket and just go roll in the dirt with it.
BM: So have any of your paintings or sketches been used on a skateboard before?
MM: Well I think you guys are the first and I’m so stoked about it. My friend Steven, he’s also a skater and he still skates pretty good. And he’s photographer and he’s on Instagram too but I told him about it and he was so jazzed he was like, “Man I can’t wait to get the boards. I really want to skate your board!” so yeah, we’re so stoked about it. I really love it.
BM: What do you think 15 year old skateboarder Mark would think about seeing where you’re at now with your art being used on a skateboard?
MM: I guess he’d be pretty stoked [laughs]. Yeah the funny thing is that I would have never guessed that it would be cowboy art. You know what I mean? But I love that because it really brings everything together. Because when some people that know me just by my western painting they don’t know the whole background I have which is music and skateboard. But the West is also part of it because I documented rodeos, I travelled the parks for years, and so this whole culture of pioneers and skateboard, to me, it’s the same thing. It’s a part of the things I like and so it’s great actually being able to see this together. All of a sudden the graphics and skateboard. It’s awesome! I’m super stoked for it. I really can’t wait to see how it’s rendered and how the painting got on there.
BM: So do you think you’ll be skating more once you get some of these boards?
MM: Well I need to skate more for sure. But I’m going back on tour next year with my band for a reunion tour for the 20th anniversary. So I got 10 shows in March and 10 shows in July. So we’ll be going everywhere in France and usually when I’m on tour I skate in the afternoon. Because we get to go in lots of different cities and all cities have skateparks so 10 years ago when we were on tour I was always skating. I skated some of the best spots because of that. One of the super cool skateparks I skated was in Montreal in Canada. Dude, one of the biggest half pipes I’ve seen. I know there is giant shit in China and stuff but I’ve never been able to touch the coping. I couldn’t drop in because it was the most crazy vert. But there was some kids dropping that shit and I was like 30 years old like *flips the bird* fuck you [laughs]. But yeah that was great and I can’t wait to go back to that kind of spot. I’m going to Russia with the band and we’re playing in Russia and I’m sure in Moscow for some reason there is some sick stuff. I have to check it out before but yeah I can’t wait.