Gary Vlasic is an accomplished performer, artist, event-planner, designer and much much more! He brings an extraordinarily diverse background of mediums together to create unforgettable visual experiences. These encompass large scale events, interior design, art direction, performance, site specific design, and image making. For 12 years Gary performed with and was co-director of "A Company of Four" – C04. For the past 20 years Gary has worked extensively in the event and production design arena. His current project, V Project brings to life a studio experience with a diverse team of collaborators and talents to explore the boundaries of art, design, and architecture.
Gary Vlasic is a collaborator and Board member of NOW-ID. I have personally known Gary for 16 years - I met him in connection with one of my first projects in Salt Lake City in 2000. He is forever curious and pushing boundaries - his input and output is extraordinary and I adore having him as a friend and as a creative confidant.
Gary is at the moment working on an art installation with fellow artist Colour Maisch titled "ALBEDO/NIGREDO. It opens at Finch Lane in Salt Lake City on June 17th, 2016 and runs through August 5th, 2016.
Please tell us a little bit about your background? You trained originally as a dancer - how do you think that early training helped shape what you are currently pursuing as an artist and as an event planner?
My dance training was from the University of Utah's Modern Dance Department. I had started with ballet training quite late and studied in a small studio on Floral Street from a teacher from Russia: Professor Ratimer Antik. Russian Ballet training for two years led me to the University of Utah. I started dancing at 21 years old and had little time to catch up and find my place in the dance world. I knew I wanted to do my own work and I partnered with my two friends Mark Lowdermilk and Susie McGee in a company we called CO4 / Company of Four. We had that dance company for 12 years. Our work became strictly Site specific work over the 12 years of exploration together. As I look at my art life and my work as an event designer and producer, I realize that my dance company experience and choreographic experience was the core of my business and art making. In the dance world I was able to wear so many hats, Choreography, Stage Design / Set Design, Lighting, Costuming. Architectural considerations regarding Site specific work allowed me to consider how that site influenced and informed the dance theater performances I created. I found a natural transition to Event production and design as these tools were exactly the foundation to my business and my art projects and art production.
Tell us a little bit about your creative process as an event planner, a designer, and as an artist? Are those three processes distinctly different or do you see similarities?
I have found that my design mind and design process works hand in hand with my art process. Creating from a design eye first actually helps me to frame my work and inform it in a way, where it has a strong structure. That said, I also believe that the art process is a completely different influence and has it’s own process and voice. I try to link these two worlds together. Sometimes it isn’t successful. For me, it all comes down to good theater that provokes and hopefully leaves us with an impression and moves people to tears.
I get the impression that music is important to you - can you talk about why? Who are two of your favorite composers/musicians?
I always begin with music and sound scores to all art and theater productions. It seems that a score or piece of music can inform the whole structure and core of a work. I find that soundscapes are my greatest influence and I look to composers, who create strong environments with sound. I am currently Influenced by Hans Peter Kuhn and Jonathan Belper. I am influenced by all classical music as well as pop. The tension and juxtaposition can be powerful.
What fashion designer do you look to for inspiration? What architect? What product designer? What artist? And why?
Fashion designers: Rick Owens, Sruli Recht, Craig Green and of course Alexander McQueen. Architect Inspirations: Rem Koolhaus, Diller Scofidio + Renfro and anything Brutalist. Product designers : Rick Owens Couture design in Furniture and Faye Toogood/Toogood design. Artists: Cy Twombly (his paintings make me cry) Neo Rauch (His paintings make me want to create theater around them), Anselm Kiefer (His work and scale inspire me to think big), Banks Violette (His work provokes and his materiality speaks to me).
I saw an interview recently, where you talked about the "Darker Edges" being interesting to you - what do you mean by "Darker Edges"? And why do you think it is important to embrace those sides of yourself?
I find that most of my artwork and process is informed by a dark edge. The dark exploration combined with emotional content can shake down and provoke us to dig deeper. It is our jobs as artists and theater makers to make people see things and feel things that an edge from a darker reference can move us and transform us to do. It is important to feel uncomfortable and restless in these visions. Within all darkness lies a thread of light and lightness.
If you weren't living in SLC, what would be your city of choice and why? What city currently do you think generates the most interesting art and design?
I am fortunate to have a dual life that allows me to be in NYC and home based in SLC. Of course, NYC offers me a huge luxury to see and experience the world of art and theater and allows me to do my constant homework. I seek inspiration all the time. I am blown away with the realization that so much good artwork and design is coming from great cities all over the world. I don’t see that one city or part of the world is any more inspired. We have the ability to connect to the world and experience all these good influences from our screens and that is very exciting.
I know that 'alone time" is important to you, what is it that you generate from being alone and do you feel that it is an important component in your creative process?
I find that my art process and internal process needs to find refuge in being alone. I admit that I feel more sensitive as I grow older and with that sensitivity is a need to protect myself and my process. I am less available and more economical about who and what I give my energy to these days. I am most true to myself and my process when allowed the luxury of time and space to create and to gather myself. I find that my work has clarity and meaning through process and time alone.
I love that your mind seems to be continuously creatively alert, how do you retain that curiosity in the world and act on your instincts? There seems to be very little fear in the choices that you make...
I appreciate your comment Charlotte. I do feel that I am always looking for the inspired moments and creative surge. It is all around us. I have always had a restless desire for looking and searching. It is my homework. I think it shows in peoples' work, when they don’t do their homework and see what is happening in the world and in their art forms. It is our job as artists to seek and question. It is a process of constantly unlearning what we know. Also, we must remind ourselves to be gracious to everyone in that process.
What is your favorite quote?
Artist : Teresita Fernandez :"Being an artist is not just about what happens when you are in the studio. The way you live, the people you choose to love and the way you love them, the way you vote, the words that come out of your mouth, the size of the world you make for yourselves, your ability to influence the things you believe in, your obsessions, your failures — all of these components will also become the raw material for the art you make."
If you could only bring 5 things with you to a remote island, what would they be?
1- Fire making, 2- Music, 3- Unlimited pencils and paper, 4- A companion, 5- A boat (haha).
Where do you see yourself as being and doing in 25 years?
I see myself surrounded with beautiful artwork, creating art and experiences and being sustained from this art life that I have been seeking and expressing. Sharing it with deep generosity. My life as a museum.