Hey everybody, I’m Bunny 45 (XLV), I’m a Chicago based painter and screen-printer.
When did you first start getting involved in art?
I’ve always had an inclination to make art and surround myself where it was accessible. Like every kid it started with comics, making up comic strips and characters. I read Garfield, Calvin & Hobbes, the Far Side, Bloom County religiously. So naturally, it just made me draw a lot more and come up with my own comic strips. In High School I got into graffiti art, it was the mid 90’s and everybody started piecing or making up characters in random abandoned buildings before they all became strip malls. I eventually moved to San Jose, Costa Rica where I finished high school. I started going to an art school in San Jose and started painting more seriously, doing still lifes and learning perspective. When I moved back to the US I got into a commercial art program, graphic design. Which was great, but I never got passionately into graphic design as in working from the computer the entirety of the time. I had a friend that was doing gig posters and was in the same program. He was using his graphic design background but incorporating an artistic process at the same time which I liked immediately. So I worked for him as an intern, then apprentice and then I was just another resident artist/printer for an artist collective/design house called Firecracker Studios for a number of years. I painted some murals, did some commission work and printed posters for a lot of cool touring bands at the time like Method Man & Ghost Face Killah, Black Flag, Tegan & Sara, The Walkmen, Ani Difranco, local bands, etc. But eventually, life happened, all of the artists got married and moved on. I moved to Chicago and got a BFA at SAIC and started working full-time as an artist a year after I graduated. And the development and evolution continue.
What is Bunny XLV?
It’s a name I’m stuck with. My ex-girlfriend from like 8 years ago at the time was into rabbits, so I’d draw her crazy looking rabbit characters. She was into my work and would help me print every now and then too. I had a really cool sketch of some flying bunnies and it looked pretty good for a t-shirt, so I had it printed. I gave her one and she would say she was donning her Bunny Luv shirt when she wore it out. I liked the ring of it at the time and stuck with it. Now I use Bunny45 or Bunny XLV with the roman numerals. It’s just a name. We broke up a long time ago so I have to gradually change my name as time goes on, Haha.
Lets talk a bit into your inspiration. You say that you’re inspired by the Japanese term Wabi Sabi. Talk about this.
I learned of the term when I was at school at SAIC. It seemed to resonate with what I wanted to do with my work. And especially as a printer, finding imperfections in a series of repetitions was almost a way to justify the mistakes that were made in the process. There could be a smudge of ink on some of the prints, or the registration could be off, or there could be something serendipitous that happens and there’s an overprint that looks awesome or there could be a pull that has excess ink from another color that makes a really amazing effect. As a painter as well, a canvas is whatever you want it to be. So how could there be repetition in a painting? In painting, I think I try to channel the term by creating a sense of immediate discomfort. That could be the background, or the foreground is literally me painting outside the lines. Speaking for myself it’s usually a series of subjects that I use and distorting them or changing an approach somehow that breaks away from the norm I created in my work.
Another recurring piece we see throughout your artwork is an Elephant. What does your elephant represent?
It’s a powerful animal, it means strength and it also means good luck. I think in this political atmosphere now, they are a sign of endurance and possible extinction from people who think shooting them is a sport. Aside from that. It initially began as such several years ago when I sold a painting to somebody who told me they are a sign of good luck, especially if their trunk is raised up. So I started painting more of them. I really liked Ganesh when I was younger because he was the remover of all obstacles. In a lot of cultures, the elephant is wise and highly significant. So for me, it just became a symbol of empowerment and channeling a grandiose animal. But It’s not just elephants. I’ve painted bulls, horses, big antelopes with horns, an occasional dinosaur here and there. They’re power animals that you try to identify with or emulate with some theme in particular.
One of my favorite pieces from you was, Acrobat I. What was this piece about?
It’s about gutter punks. Usually, around early spring you see people that are traveling through Chicago, and they usually have dogs with them. They’re usually chilling on the sidewalk asking for change, and they have dogs with cool looking collars sometimes. Every time I walk past them I pay attention to their dogs. So I did a piece of a transient girl doing acrobat stunts for money while her dog is chilling on the sidewalk. It’s a series that’s also inspired by Cirque du Soleil, so it’s a recurring theme I’ll probably do more of.
Who are your favorite artists to work with in Chicago?
I’ve worked with some good people for several years as a curator. Some that stand out would be Brooks Golden, who passed some years ago, the guys from the old Paper Crown Gallery. I’ve recently had the pleasure to live paint and work alongside CJ Hungerman, Dred Ske that was a lot of fun. I curated a wall over in Humboldt Park recently that featured (CYFN, Revise, Myself, Czr Prz, Zeye, Rahmaan Statik, Stuk One and Fonté) last year and turned out really dope. It was a sunny warm Sunday, with a big speaker playing Tribe Called Quest while everybody painted. Like it should be. I’m planning another paint jam next Spring so stay tuned!