We had the good fortune of connecting with Gordon Meier and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gordon, why did you pursue a creative career?
Part choice, mostly inner voice. Something in me has been pushing forward my artistic and creative life since I was a kid & my creative aspirations continue to grow and evolve every day.
My mom recalls when I was 8 or so, I’d be up in the middle of the night doing a very detailed drawing, with a very specific story or message. In elementary school, I’d write a story for my class, and even illustrate it, then the school administration would ask me and my parents if I’d copied it from somewhere. I don’t really know where these very clear and focussed ideas have always come from, but have heard many other artists and musicians say similar – that it’s like an idea in the ether and I can take this idea and own it, or someone else will receive the message and do it. It feels more like I’m a vessel and have always followed and trusted that to be where I am now.
But there is the real choice and risk in doing and following that voice.
I grew up in the Midwest suburbs with no real cultural education or people who could teach me more than the fundamentals. Although I had a lot of talent in making things look like photos, I wasn’t feeling much connection during the process. When you know the outcome, it’s pretty boring. I found myself becoming more interested in composing music and performing with my band (Green Skin Mango). That was until my first year at Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, where my fundamentals teacher, Marc Jacobson, offered to work on one of my drawings and really showed me via charcoal AND eraser how to really get some feeling and atmosphere into my work. And my head exploded. That really made me understand seeing and creating in my own way, using my unique voice. My brain was now thinking creatively and that changed how I saw the world and how I could be a positive, working creative force in it.
Throughout art school, there was always the nagging “what’s next” playing in my head and was often asked by my family and people who genuinely cared about my future. The last few years of art school, I worked as a sign painter & learned a lot about that process, specifically, as well as the commercial process and methodology of creating displays. It was an incredible opportunity, but that would have been my life there. I understood that being young offered me more risk opportunity and after graduating from Herron, I saved up for 9 months and then moved to NYC in 1996. It was not that I wanted to leave my family and friends or live some bigger life somewhere else. It was simply the fact that there were opportunities there specific to my talents and what I believed I wanted to do for the rest of my life. There probably aren’t many years after this time where young artists could find an affordable place to live near NYC and try and make it as an artist, and I’m grateful to have had that time and challenge. Looking back now, I see what a monumental risk it was moving there, and how the repercussions from that risk still ripple through my life. Living in a freezing warehouse and taking the “brown bag dinner” on the subway for anyone that was going to be hungry, was a big part of my growth and understanding. There were no family or friends there I could ask for help from in any way. But you grind it out and do whatever you can to pay the bills while making little bits of art and ideas. Most importantly you listen, learn and give gratitude to the people that do help you, they see your potential and are part of that bigger picture of eventually connecting you to the people who open doors. But you always have to be working your ideas and working on what you need to show the world. I painted windows at Barney’s, murals for Disney, and ended up travelling all over the world with a paint brush in hand to keep my apartment in NYC and continue to pursue my individual goals.
My goal in moving to NYC was having a solo show before I was 30. And I did that, and then realised there was more I wanted to do creatively.
So I moved to Hong Kong, was an art director for a mural and finishes company, then the people I’d worked with at Disney Imagineering a few years earlier called me up and I worked with them in Shanghai, and back again to Hong Kong, helping to design the look and story of the castles in each place.
Last year, with my best friend, creative collaborator and co-founder of Green Skin Mango – John Witcher – we decided to turn our band into a brand. I was part of the mass layoffs from Covid-19, and the realisation of doing my own, unique work from my story became my new calling. So we put up a website with lots of our original streetwear designs, John’s comedy and literature, and some of our music. Then in January we started “the g’mango show: creative 4 life “ podcast, where we discuss (along with guests creatives) our 30 years of our successes, failures, inspirations and our continued creative pursuits. So the podcasts are a work in progress that everyone who listens is witness to & can be part of the journey.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
When I moved from Indiana to NYC after art school in 1996, I had very little resources financially, and knew no one. My art degree was not worth much, but I was able to get my first job at MoMA handing out audio tours. It was minimum wage and I lived in a garage in pre-hip Williamsburg. But I got to be the art museum every day & experience the work I’d only seen in books. It was a dream. I didn’t have much money to eat, and a few times I remember taking the brown bag of PBJ, chips & OJ on the way home on the subway. But every day was a new opportunity. And I got a better job painting in an mural studio, moved to the East Village, had some talented friends and eventually was connected to a gallery owner. But every day was an effort – to survive and keep active creatively. My art shows up in various media & in my way of design. Color is so important to me. When I was showing my paintings in NYC (2001-2006), my work was dealing with the perception of what’s real & what is happening in the moment vs how that reality would be viewed in 20 years or more (now). There were a lot of suburban photo realist paintings of parking lots, empty roads, sunsets & artificial lighting. Devoid of people but with sign that humans had been there. These were mostly done on panels in a postcard-size or intimate scale, as my job was mostly as a traveling artist at the time so I painted on the road from my hotel room. But I would give these paintings texture to immediately let the viewer know this is a painting, not a photo. And typically, the sky is the focus – the sunset or sunrise, the sun breaking through clouds, or just the heavy blanket of night. This attention to these atmospheric moments & the greater environment surrounding definitely influenced the work I did with Disney Imagineering & the Castles in Shanghai & Hong Kong.
This appreciation for environment & emotion has always been part of my compositions – musically – as well. I’m not formally trained, but would create these soundscapes with our band Green Skin Mango which sounded like and influenced by film scores (David Lynch). As technology improved and the ability to have a studio on your laptop came into fruition, I got more serious about doing these compositions. And I currently enjoy putting a score into our weekly podcasts (the g’mango show). Our brand has come into existence in the past year. Like so many creatives, my job was cut during the Summer of Covid. But I immediately turned inward and brought out my own unique creativity in designs for t-shirts, which is influenced by skate culture & our background from the ‘80s & ‘90s. And that led to creating our website where John & I could show ALL the various creative efforts we’re involved in. It’s about the joy of creating & being positive along this bumpy road of life. We initially were going to write about this in a blog, but we enjoy the opportunity to actually talk to each other and sharing our creative endeavors, that we started a podcast – the g’mango show: creative 4 life. So now we have it scheduled on his Saturday evening in Indiana & my Sunday morning in Hong Kong to chat about the creative life, mental health & finding inspiration – with our own unique stories & with special guests. I then do all the editing & score after work (I’m an Art Director at an International Show Production Company) and get it out on Wednesdays. Then do all the social media ads! It never stops! It’s amazing to get to share that every week with each other, our families, friends & audience around the world.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love DTLA & have a soft spot for Pasadena as well! But I’m not sure I could make a week out it! I was a bit of a workaholic while I lived in LA and didn’t get out much, but when I did…
First, and my skewed priority, above all else, every time I visit… Chavez Ravine. Go Dodgers! It’s a little bit of heaven for me with amazing memories. Love the team, the fans, the food (Dog & Micheladas!), the sounds, the view of the sunset & the purple hills in the distance. Magical.
I always stay in DTLA so I can walk everywhere – I know, that’s not very LA – but I love being within all that life and not just blowing past it. I’ll stay uphill in the ‘80s Westin or at the Freehand (I love the breakfast sandwich & coffee from Cafe IntegralI…. and The Exchange is an unrivaled dining experience & Broken Shaker on the pool roof is always incredible). I obviously love the art museums, and I’ll start by getting a long look at the Walt Disney Concert Hall then hit The Broad along with the Contemporary & then take the Angels Flight down to Central Market. My favs there are the Horse Thief & Egg Slut, but I think I’ve eaten from almost every place there & not been disappointed! I love going to the dog park near LAPD/ City Hall (Pawline!) – across from Badmaash, which is yummy & Redbird, just down the street. Heading into Little Tokyo, I will do like so many & just go with the flow & whenever I can get a seat, that where I’ll eat.
I’ll continue my art journey to the Arts District, where I would park in the Bulletproof lot & get the best coffee ever (yeah, it’s closed, but I still make the bulletproof in HK) and then go to Hauser & Wirth. I love the artists represented here ( Mike Kelley, Mark Bradford, Amy Sherald, Rita Ackerman, Ellen Gallagher…. ) the massive bookshop, the multiple gallleries, the chickens & of course Manuela – a real farm to table treat. Then rambling through and seeing the change… and stopping at all the small shops, young designers, artists spaces.
I was really happy to see a lot of the nostalgic historical restaurants in “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood”. Good timing just before so many closings due to the pandemic. Hopefully that exposure helped.
I’m hoping the Cinerama Dome finds a new owner. That is a landmark & ArcLight did such a great job keeping that legacy.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many that I’m grateful to. My entire daughter, my family, every single person here or that has moved on to the next life and have shown me love & support… I’m infinitely grateful. My first painting / drawing professors who shaped my talents and thinking – Marc Jacobson / Richard Nicholson. My NYC lifeline of Stephen Garstang, Chrissa Theodore, Kimberly Venardos. The strongest women & dearest friends of WDI / Meow Wolf – Jodi McLaughlin & Ali Rubinstein, who deserves so much of my gratitude. And John Witcher, of course. John & I were just kids in high school and dealing with life, let alone trying to be creative & make music. John has always been my collaborative partner even through of mental health, and simply surviving in this world as the unique individuals we are. He worked tirelessly to achieve his MBA, which he details in his autobiographical, self-published book about the struggles along his journey. His character & his love for people, to help improve & inspire lives amazes me. And now, as we are both at a creative high with our brand, podcast, his writing & comedy, he works every day as an award winning Employment Specialist / Job Coach at Adult & Child Health. We’re on opposite sides of the world but we chat almost every day about our next creative moves. You can hear our joy in collaborating & friendship in our weekly podcast. John Witcher, my friend, this shoutout is to you!
Linkedin: Gordon Meier
Facebook: Green Skin Mango
Youtube: the g’mango show: creative 4 life