Andrew Novick on using real blood to make art
Human blood is an unusual artistic medium. Who better, then, to explore the possibilities of blood work than Andrew Novick, a man whose name is synonymous with weird art -- from his time in the infamous Warlock Pinchers band to his work with Peeps. In Blood Lustre, Novick utilizes the actual blood of his models to bring a gruesome edge to a series of macabre portraits. As weird as it sounds, though, Novick has discovered that blood has an undeniable appeal, both to his models and in the images it produces. Before Blood Lustre opens Friday at Kitchens' Ink Gallery, we talked to Novick to learn where his inspiration came from, why only real blood would do and how you find models willing to be splattered in blood.
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Westword: So, this show consists of portraits that involve a lot of blood?
Andrew Novick: Right. Not just regular blood, human blood.
You used actual, human blood? Wow.
Yeah, it's intense.
Where'd the concept for this come from?
My original thought for a photoshoot, when I got asked to do this show at Kitchens' Ink Gallery, for First Friday -- First Friday in the summer down on Santa Fe, you can't beat that, right? -- so I wanted to do something significant. But it's also at a tattoo shop, then it was like, "I've got to do something edgy and extreme." So thinking about today's zombie culture, there's so much cool -- like, the zombie crawl, it's a bloodbath. It's so accepted in culture now, even kids are all bloody and dressed up, and that's like the coolest thing ever. Then it made me think, "How could you get more gruesome than that, except for using real blood?"
So did you use people's own blood? People were okay with that?
That's the conundrum, right? Blood's scary and dangerous. So I wanted to do photos with real blood and it was kind of an experiment, because real blood might look fakier than stage blood. So I didn't even know what this was going to come out like. And I wasn't sure if anyone would want to do it. It was also kind of a social experiment. I put an ad on ModelMayhem.com -- it's a site for models and photographers to get together -- called "There Will Be Blood" explaining that I wanted to do a photo shoot using human blood and that for safety reasons it would be the blood of the model, taken by a registered nurse, at the model's own location. That way, once they're covered in blood, they can take a shower.
I got a lot of responses. I was kind of shocked, actually, because I was like, "Is anyone even going to respond to this?" I got several responses there and then also, once I started telling people about it, friends and stuff, people were like, "I want to do it!" So I actually had more models than I could even shoot. I think I'll have ten models total. Each person, I kind of took the person into account and devised a shoot with that person, based on their look or what they were going for. I really exceeded my expectations for this shoot, by far. [Some of this] stuff is so disturbing and gnarly, it's just incredible. I'm not a fan of bodily fluids at all, like bathroom talk or whatever, except for blood I really like. For some reason that's captivating.
What was the process like?
So we took the blood, we had a registered nurse taking the blood. We had it in a syringe and we'd shoot it around either kind of wantonly or, depending on the shoot, very meticulously. But it clots, too, because it's just sitting there with no anticoagulants. The more it clots, the weirder and grosser it gets, so some of the later photos are even better because they're actually kind of chunky. It's reality, man. It's like "Whoa!" It's been kind of exhilarating doing it. I'm having a lot of good fun.
If we walk into this bloodbath on First Friday and see something we like, will we be able to buy it?
Yeah, I'm selling these as wrapped canvas prints. It was so hard to pick, because there were so many good images that came out of it. So there's the big, main one from each shoot, but then there's some detail shots and closeups I did that are a lot smaller -- like one foot by one foot -- and everything is pretty reasonably priced, but those will be even cheaper. I imagine those will sell, more so than [the big ones]. Nowadays at an art show, it's hard to sell big pieces because people don't have the room for stuff. Especially a giant image of a girl covered in blood. Who would put that on their wall? I'm not sure. But the small ones will be very marketable.
Do you have anything else planned for the show?
We're going to have a crime-scene photo booth. Outside, we're going to wrap some crime scene tape and a chalk outline, so you can lie down and be dead, with whatever sort of weapons, your choice of how you might have died. With some goofball stuff, too, so like stuffed animals or whatever. I think that'll be cool and draw a lot of attention from people walking by. We've got this guy in a coroner's jacket taking photos, so it's like, "Is this a real crime scene?"