“Some people live the dream. Some people die the nightmare. I try and ride in between them” – Anthony Christopher
Anthony Christopher’s solo show Mentality at All Star Press creates a twisted nightmare through meticulous penwork at All Star Press in Logan Square in Chicago, IL. Mentality flips the script from All Star’s prior exhibit Inanimate by Blake Jones, which featured 3D colorful characters.
“I enjoy exploring the darker sides of the imagination,” stated Anthony. Now, while this does fit the essence of Halloween, more importantly it participates in facilitating the social discussion on mental health, mental illness, and stigmas.
“The main focus was to do drawings based on pretty obscure disorders/phobias. But also, a lot of pieces deal with having a sliver of hope,” - Anthony Christopher on Mentality
Though All Star Press is most known for art prints and sports sprints, featuring local artists work is another key component drawing crowds in. This is greatly due to the owner Zissou Tasseff-Elenkoff, who has ten years of experience curating shows and galleries in Chicago; including opening local favorites Galerie F and Chicago Truborn! “Anthony is from Chicago born and raised here he is very Chicago Midwestern type guy,” said Zissou on the exhibit with Anthony coming together.
Anthony was kind enough to do an interview with me delving into his inspirations for the show (such as mental health struggles), as well as all things dark and demented and a Charles Bukowski poem.
GXM: How would you describe your art style and influences?
AC: Heavily detailed with the use of a magnifying glass in some pieces. I got a lot of influence from Todd McFarlane and Nick Blinko when I was a youngster.
GXM: How has your style changed through your life and career?
AC: I’ve gotten a lot tighter with the pen over the years. I used to always drink heavily and take painkillers while I was working causing my mark making to sometimes get a bit sloppy. I also would use my blood in various pieces. All of these things I have stopped doing some years ago. Except for the drinking while drawing, at least at bars.
GXM: I saw an incredibly meticulous piece on your Instagram titled "The suicide kid." The caption stated, "Idea from Charles Bukowski's poem of the same name." I read the poem (trigger warning) and it is a haunting reflection of suicidal ideation and planning. It's accurate as well as dark, much like the sketch you created. Along with poetry and literature, where do you pull inspiration from?
AC: "The Suicide Kid" struck with me because it felt very similar. The poem read to me as if the person speaking was fairly content and melancholic with his words. I often go to the local shithole bar and draw while drinking. Receiving many free cans of nectar to keep my going into a late abyss. I enjoy these times. I get a lot of inspiration from the hard times people have. Taking the train late at night and watching people smoke crack or huff duster in the carts. You can feel that they are temporarily in heaven, but the anguish and the wicked feelings are certainly there… dark and random interactions/experiences keep me at a level of reality.
GXM: This question is optional and only if you’re comfortable answering. You’ve stated, “I think I've just become more numb to my mental health and problems that come my way.” Can you go deeper into the coping mechanism of becoming numb as a response?
AC: I used to thoroughly enjoy hurting myself quite a bit. I was pretty masochistic for many years until fairly recently. I also struggle quite greatly with being able to fall asleep and stay asleep, sometimes leading into somewhat delusional experiences. I’ve become numb I believe as a way to cope with these things, like depression and always looking negatively at the world.
GXM: Have you found other coping mechanisms?
AC: I don’t think it’s the right way to live, so as the years have gone by, I try to ignore these thoughts and become numb in the sense of trying to move forward and basically ignoring these problems. Even when it seems like there is no light at the end of the abyss, I try and make up a light or a small goal to reach. Like finishing another drawing.
GXM: A looming quote from you on the show is, “Some people live the dream. And some people die the nightmare. I try and ride in between them.” To me this seems to show you’ve reached a point of acceptance and balance between those two things. Would you agree about the balance and acceptance? And, is there a piece in the show that best shows us your personal growth?
AC: I believe that’s pretty accurate. Accept who you are and what you’ve become…. I think my largest piece to date Therapy is a combination of basically every piece in the show. Calling it Therapy is all for myself. Basically, stating that doing these pen drawings is helpful for me. It gives me something to focus on and is a positive craft for me to partake in. It certainly beats blacking out and taking painkillers to escape.
Anthony plans to continue his intricate pen-work while working on commissions for the next few months. You can find Anthony Christopher on: IG, Website, and YouTube (with time-lapses of his work).
As for All Star Press, they’re keeping the waters calm until next year with some exciting change ups!
For now, check out All Star Press’ IG for news - such as their prints for the Chicago Bulls Poster Series being released through the whole Bulls season.
Big thank you to All Star Press, Zissou, and Anthony Christopher for their time.