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5Q4: Colin Herrick & Maria Chenut

As a little kid growing up in the ’60s I was often given a sheet of white construction paper, a beat-up magazine, a bottle of gross paste, and defanged school scissors, and told to make art. Try as I might, I could never cleanly cut any pictures and could not affix what I did cut without the yucky effluvia oozing out and onto my fingers like coagulated human goo. So imagine my delightful disorientation in discovering that Colin Herrick has been making remarkably beautiful idiosyncratic art in ways that are similar—but far superior—to the mom-loved masterpieces I mangled in third grade.

Alameda Post - the inside of Colin Herrick's shop
Customers enjoy the shop. Photo courtesy Colin Herrick.

Evidence of this phenomenon is available at his studio/record store/museum at 2705 Encinal Avenue, shoulder to shoulder with Moodswing, his wife’s wonderful vintage shop. Inside, one can see high-end vinyl for sale and a display case holding several of Colin’s treasures. There’s the keenly decorated CD case that contains twigs and seeds sent from the singer’s backyard. There’s the hollowed out Hardy Boys book with new cover art, inside of which is a peculiarly cute diorama where the words once went (much of his art involves one-of-a-kind packaging for music). Behind the curtain is a remarkable collection of objects being made into art and the many tools used for their creation. There are the double album sleeves prized for their classic looking red and gold frame that Collin is making into a collage. There are images, perfectly cut, and curated objects awaiting adhesive. And yes, there’s an exacto knife which, had I been trusted, might have made my life easier as an eight year old. I could go on, but it’s better to read and see what Colin has to say and show, including a bonus share from his life and art partner in 5Q4: Colin Herrick & Maria Chenut.

At what moment did you discover that you wanted to be an artist?

Although I was a creative child, and always really enjoyed drawing and making things, it probably wasn’t until my early 20s that I really became an obsessive “art maker.” At that point I had discovered some of my early collage heroes, people like Joseph Cornell, John Heartfield, Max Ernst, and others. This led to my earliest forays into that particular medium, which is still a favorite after all these years. At about that point the punk movement came along, and I, like so many others, was swept up in the cut-and-paste aesthetic of the time, and my collage work became more political and intentionally confrontational in tone.



I then found myself enrolling at CCAC [California College of Arts and Crafts, now California College of the Arts] and spent most of my time there in the printmaking department, where I continued to engage in my love of collage and photo process printing of all sorts. These early days in art school really set the tone for my artistic output of the following decades, and I am still to this day obsessively in love with old school graphic design mediums such as Letraset rub-on lettering and manual typewriter art, and I still tend to make everything with a sharp knife and a pair of scissors!

Who was the most influential person who helped you achieve your goal?

Like most artists, I have an endless list of others who have inspired and influenced my own creative output, but if I were to name one inspirational person that was an actual physical part of my life, it would have to be the Chicano artist and political activist, Malaquias Montoya. He was my first teacher when I entered the Printmaking Department at CCAC (now known as CCA), and to this day I still remember how excited I was when he did his first demonstrations for us. Working on plastic mylar, as a way to get an image onto a silkscreen or aluminum lithographic printing plate was a revelation for me! Malaquias was the perfect mentor for someone like me and my overall interest in somewhat non-traditional methodologies, as he was not hung up on the standard methods of printmaking and he encouraged a “whatever works” mentality that I adhere to, to this day. Although the department in those days had several very qualified and respected instructors, his open-minded and somewhat radical approaches suited me perfectly. I was extremely gratified to see that he has finally gotten some serious recognition, with a quite impressive retrospective of his work and life at the Oakland Museum this year. Thanks for all you did for me back then, Malaquias—and keep up the beautiful and meaningful work!

Alameda Post - a multimedia artwork book by Colin Herrick
Colin Herrick’s recent book. Photos courtesy Colin Herrick.
Tell us about the best experience you have had as a performer.

I don’t really consider myself a “performer,” although perhaps I am in a way, usually in solitude, and with an audience of one—me! So, if looked at from that view point, I suppose that my best experience in a lifetime of performing for myself has been one of my most recent ones. After almost 50 years of making art, I decided 13 years ago to start a limited edition, uber-arty music label called Time Released Sound. This was a way for me to indulge my love of both art and music, and combine them in a physical artmaking form. I started making Limited Edition packaging in which to release the albums and music of musicians from around the world.

Now, after releasing almost 115 albums in an assortment of absurdly creative handmade packages and assemblages, I have just recently self-produced an extremely high-quality, 288-page, full-color hardback book on the first decade of our music label, our designs, and our products. This book is entitled, Time Released Sound: A Decade of Handmade Music Packaging. You can see it online at my Time Released Sound website, or in person on weekends from noon to 5 p.m. at my art studio, which is attached to my pop-up record shop at 2705 Encinal Avenue. Next door (2707 Encinal) is the main shop, Moodswing,  run by my partner Maria Chenut. It’s open Wednesday to Sunday. The shop @moodswingmarket  and the music label @timereleasedsound are both on Instagram.

Conversely, tell us about a pretty bad experience.

Honestly, in a lifetime of periodically attempting to make some sort of living as an artist, I have never really had any “bad experiences,” but I have had plenty of learning experiences. One downside of playing the art game in the old days was sending off sheets of slides to galleries and not hearing back from them at all, which could be a fairly frequent occurrence if one was diligent in trying to get shows. My numerous experiences in that regard led me later in life to try to respond to everyone that submits music to my own music label, or gets in touch with me for advice on how to go about starting a label themselves, or really, contacts me at all about anything. I have learned that everyone appreciates a response of some sort, even if it is brief, or not one that they might have preferred.

Alameda Post - a storefront
The front of the shop. Photo courtesy Colin Herrick.
Any advice to folks out there hoping to pursue a life in the arts?

It may sound cliché, but the best way to “pursue a life in the arts” is probably to start making art—and don’t stop! For most of us, like anything else in life, art making is a process. Sometimes it goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t. But it is a fact that the more art you make, the greater the chances are that some of it will not only please you yourself, but may move others as well, which is the main idea. Over the years I have become a big fan of “recycling” my old art, those pieces that have been lying unloved in a flat file for years—taking them out, cutting them up, and repurposing them into something more pleasing, and perhaps entirely different. And if you are fortunate enough to have good business sense, as well as a good eye and a talent for creating art that others love, your life in the arts may become a way to make a living, and a name for yourself as well. Good luck!

And now here is my partner Maria Chenut, to talk a bit about her side of the business, her own business, and her experience working with me and my music label.

Maria: I also come from an art school and collage background, although more focused on textiles. This led me to doing theater costumes for puppets large and small, dancers, and circus performers. I have mostly had other parallel jobs, which then leaves me very free as a maker, so that I make what I want, when I want—a soft sculpture, a lamp, a pair of earrings, a coat from an old quilt—and time to work with Colin brainstorming a new package. Collaborating is not always easy but the back and forth of ideas pushes things in new directions. You build up a concept together, bringing new methods, vintage papers, color, or textiles into the mix.

Colin and I are both good at finding things. The shop, Moodswing, is also a social space in which to share the things we love—clothes and accessories, glassware, books, jewelry, records, art, small furniture, and much more. From time to time we invite vendors, and do a sidewalk fair on our block that’s quite fun. Come join us!

Gene Kahane is the founder of the Foodbank Players, a lifelong teacher, and former Poet Laureate for the City of Alameda. Reach him at [email protected]. His writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Gene-Kahane.

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