We had the good fortune of connecting with Toban Nichols and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Toban, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
When I started developing my art career and decided to give art making all of my attention, being in my early 30’s I had a lot of energy to send out packets, research galleries and opportunities, while making the weekly rounds to art openings glad-handing as many people as possible. I didn’t feel tired or worn down by the world back then. I was rarin’ to go. My work/life balance was almost nil, I would try to fit social, fun things like drinks into the context of advancing my career. I tried to adapt everything to service my career goals.
Years later, I’ve learned to slow down and savor life more. To take in the things going on around me and stop to notice the details and let life happen around me a bit more. Being older now, I’m frequently tired and worn out which is not a motivator. I’m still building an exciting and rewarding career, still setting and working towards those goals but I’ve learned to take things at a slower pace, not worry so much, and let things come to me rather than chase them down. That certainly comes with age but I also think I’ve worked hard to many years and now don’t have to work as hard, nor do I care to push myself that hard. After surviving a nasty bout with the COVID virus in 2020 I have a renewed sense of self and zest for life but am also grounded in the realities of time, energy, and rest. My work life balance is absolutely closer to a 50/50 split these days. Toban from a few years ago would probably be ashamed of the way I approach things but he’s not as smart as the Toban of 2021.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My work lives in a fantasy world full of color and texture. Bright and sparkling but with undertones that reach into our lived experience as outsiders and tinkerers. I utilize a rough, unpolished approach to everything I do. It may have a shiny veneer but prying up a layer or two reveals a more rough hewn, unprocessed aesthetic.
I work in digital photography and experimental film and video as my main medium, but all my work also involves textiles and the use of fabric. In the case of experimental video work, I create elaborate costumes and set up situations that lend themselves to a very DIY approach, often looking slightly slapdash or homemade. The intrinsic hand-made quality of the costumes and sets bring me back to my childhood as a young artist. I find this way of working to be extremely gratifying and informative to my work.
Getting where I am today was a pretty traditional route. I finished undergrad with a painting degree and went on the graduate school in San Francisco where I earned a masters in a department nebulously called “New Genres”. Essentially, I was making weird spaceships out of things like disposable ladies’ razors and old printers then making fake used car commercials with them.
My journey to today has taken the obvious twists and turns any artist career would, and I’m proud of my accomplishments but am always looking for the next thing. Keeping on eye on the sky ahead. Even though I took the college route, it has still been very hard to establish and keep a career going over the past 20 years, the life of an artist is never going to be an easy one. We are constantly putting ourselves out there for judgement and also subconsciously working against ourselves. It’s a tough life.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I always take visiting friends to Akbar, my favorite bar in the city. The people are friendly and most of my friends go there. It’s an LA legend and someplace I never feel awkward or weird. I struggle with shyness and an introverted nature so it’s a place I always know I’ll be ok in.
I’m currently obsessed with the grocery store chain Mitsuwa, the tiny sandwiches are something I could eat every day. I love that place, it’s so glamorous and shiny everywhere and the food is fantastic. Another favorite place to grab a bite is Joy in Highland Park on York, I live near there in the HLP and am in absolute love with their Wood Ear Mushroom salad. Not to mention the clamshell sandwich.
I’ve also been spending a lot of time lately in the mountains at Lake Arrowhead. The area is so beautiful and there are a ton of good eating places and shops around the lake and area. My boyfriend’s friend owns Little Bear Bottle Shop up there and he’s done an incredible job with it. Gorgeous to look at and fantastic wines and little things all over. The lake itself is heavily Republican leaning so whenever I’m out on the lake I make sure I’m feeling all my gayness up in there, just to rile the locals.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My shoutout would be to the folks at Remainders Creative Reuse in Pasadena. Robin Cox, who started the non-profit creative space a few years ago taught me to sew, nurtured ideas, and with all her immense knowledge always has the answer to any creative question. She can make and do anything and is always happy to show you how to do the same. When she taught me to sew a few years ago, I felt as though I’d not only found a mentor, but a wonderful friend. The organization she runs, Remainder Creative Reuse has the same goal- to nurture creativity and make a difference in people’s lives. She and her organization are very dear to my heart and are often the source of my inspiration.
Ryan Capiro Roman Udalov