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Interview with artist Chet Zar

It is with great honor and pleasure that Excommunicate.Net presents an interview with Artist Chet Zar.

JackDirt: Why don’t we start by telling us a little about your background.

Chet Zar: I was born in San Pedro, California. i was born with the ‘art gene’. I really liked art and horror movies as a little kid. i was also very interested in how things worked. I was constantly taking things apart (bikes, cameras, televisions) to see how they worked. these interests, combined with a constant desire to create, got me interested in film making and eventually special effects make up, a career i have been in for about 20 years. during that time i have worked on lots of films as a designer/sculptor/special make up effects artist (planet of the apes, the ring, men in black 2, haunted mansion, fantastic four, etc). In the late 90’s i started working with the band Tool, creating make up effects for their videos as well as many other projects including 3d computer animated projections for their live shows. In the year 2000 i began a career in fine art painting with oils. that has been going well for me and i hope to keep that my main career focus from now on.

JD: When did you first start to create?

CZ: At age 3 i remember drawing a turtle. after that, it was on.

JD: Do you have a formal art education or are you a self-made man?

CZ: Not much formal art training other than public high school art classes and a few life drawing classes. I am mostly self taught. my stepfather, James Zar is an amazing oil painter and I picked up a lot growing up around him.

JD: What has been the biggest influence on your life, that lead you to the creative path?

CZ: Probably my parent’s support of my artwork. they always encouraged me to create art. Many kids don’t have that. I was lucky.

JD: How much have your spiritual beliefs or dreams influenced your work? Do you recall any particularly vivid dreams that influenced who you have become today?

CZ: I can’t quite put my finger on how my spiritual life influences my work, but it definitely does. I think that good art tries to discover truth as does true spirituality. they both seem to be related to me. There is definitely a meditative state you get when you really are into a painting. A lot of it is also about trusting your intuition which is a very spiritual thing. dreams, definitely. I use my dreams as inspiration, although I don’t think I have ever actually painted one. they are even weirder than my artwork. I don’t think they would translate as paintings.

I can’t think of a particular dream that has influenced me to paint. more like the feeling of most of my dreams are something I like to express.

JD: I know you have had several astral projection experiences. Have you ever been alternate dimensions? Are you ever afraid that something or someone will cut your astral cord?

CZ: Alternate dimensions? I guess so. I have been out of body many times and once flew to another planet. it looked like the moon but there was a little house there with my car parked out front. sounds crazy but it definitely wasn’t a dream, although I think dreams and OBE’s are related. that was probably some other dimension. I never worry about getting my cord cut. I heard that it can’t be cut.

JD: Would you mind describing your technique for O.B.E.’s ?

CZ: I don’t have one. as a matter of fact, I have never been able to consciously make one happen. They seem to come when they want to. every time I have tried, I could feel it coming on but could never take it all the way. other times I will just lay down to sleep and I pop right out with no effort. one way to induce them seems to be to wake yourself up in the middle of the night or really early in the morning and then go back to sleep. that’s when most of mine have happened.

JD: The “creatures” depicted in many of your paintings are often of contorted, and tormented actions. Do you feel that they reflect a part of your own subconscious? or do they reflect the exterior world, perhaps you feel they may be channeled from some other world. What is your thought on this subject matter?

CZ: I don’t know for sure, I guess they could be channelled. I see them as how I see people or how i feel sometimes.

JD: Can you describe your piece “I want you” a bit for us?

CZ: That was my version of the classic James Montgomery flag war propaganda poster of uncle sam pointing his finger saying “I want you”. I always found that to be very threatening, so I did a version where the uncle sam is now my gas mask guy with the top hat and trench coat, pointing a gun instead of a finger.

JD: Much to my delight I found that you curated or are curating a show for talking boards. Can you tell us a little about that?

CZ: Each artist will create their own functional version of a talking board (or Ouija board) in their own style. the boards and corresponding planchette will be displayed on the gallery walls like we would display paintings. I have had this idea for a few years now and I am glad to finally be doing it with an amazing group of artists. It will be taking place in Los Angeles at the Coronason Gallery October 20th.

JD: Would you like to quit your day job and become a full time artist?

CZ: Yes, at this point I have one foot in make up effects and one in fine art. it’s getting to the point where I will soon be able to paint full time and take the make up effects gigs as supplemental income, the exact opposite of where i am at now.

JD: Can you tell us a little about your role in the makeup/effects artist business? What was your favorite job you worked on?

CZ: I am a sculptor, character/creature designer, painter and prosthetic make up artist. probably my favorite job was the Tool ‘schism’ video. We made a lot of cool props and effects for the video that didn’t make it into the video.

JD: The tool videos have a very bizarre and surreal feel to them. I had known that Adam had played creative lead in the making of the videos. However looking at them again I think I can definitely see your creative influence. Tool’s music is loaded with Occult undertones and I know Danny had said one needs an understanding of Solomonic Architecture when listening to Lateralus. Do you feel that the this creative occult force that motivates them also flows through you? Can you describe that?

CZ: I think the creative spirit is the creative spirit no matter what kind of name you put on it. I am pretty ignorant when it comes to ritual occultism. I mean, I pretty much know the basic principle of how it works and have dabbled before but it’s really the eastern spirituality and philosophy that makes the most sense to me.

JD: Can you describe your process a bit for us?

CZ: I usually doodle on some paper until I see an image that interests me. Then I may take it and flesh it out, do a couple studies and then paint it. other times I just start painting with not much in mind and let it develop. I am very process oriented. I really love the process of painting more than I do looking at the work. Once I finish a piece I want to get it out the door to make room for the next one.

JD: What is your favorite painting you have done and can you explain it to us?

CZ: Probably “black magick”. It’s the gas mask and top hat guy you mention below and he is holding a smoking gun with the insignia ‘black magick’ on it. As menacing an image as it is, I still find that he looks scared himself.

JD: There is a repetition of the entity with a top hat and and gas mask type face. What connection do you feel to him, and what does he represent to you?

CZ: I think he is my shadow side. I first saw him in a vision i had while having a psychedelic trip. that vision was later translated into my first 3d computer animation called ‘toilet training’ which is on my dvd” disturb the normal’ as well as in Tool’s live shows.

I had an out of body once where I was flying over my childhood home in San Pedro and that guy was right under me so I couldn’t land. everywhere I tried to land he was there. It was like he was my shadow.

JD: If you could spend a day with any artist living or dead who would it be and why?

CZ: Probably Beksinski because i would love to see his process. Giger would be a good one too.

JD: Any paintings or shows you would like to highlight?

CZ: I am having a lot of shows over the next few months. at the end of august i will have a piece in the cannibal flower 7 year anniversary show. then i will be in a 4 person show (mw, nathan spoor, Kevin Peterson and Lola Gil) in denver, colorado september 7th at limited addiction gallery. After that is the ‘devil in design’ group show at Copronason Gallery in september. After that there is the talking board show october 20th at the venice contemporary. Also in october I will be showing St Strychnin gallery in London as a well as some other art fairs there. It’s going to be a busy few months.

More on Chet Zar
* Chet Zar
* Buy Chet’s Prints

Filed under: art


  1. Thomas Nigel says

    Thanks so much for this. I love when Chet does interviews. Brian Sherwin did an interview with Chet for and it rocked as well! Chet is a really down to earth guy. I’ll be sure to tell others about this interview. 😛

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