Create Sad, Live Happy with diewiththemostlikes

We had the distinct joy of chatting with Indiana-based artist and author diewiththemostlikes. Not only has his work been seen and experienced all across the globe, he is the creator of the first ever “fully fuckable flea market” that was unveiled at the Glitch Gallery in Marfa, Texas. In this interview, we dive into @diewiththemostlikes’ inspirations, the expulsion involved in the creation of his art, and how he delicately balances the duality of hilarity and despair in life. Please note, this conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: Tell me about your childhood. Were you always into art? Did you have classes that inspired you? Were you doodling? 

diewiththemostlikes: Growing up, I had no artistic inspiration and no classes that were inspiring to me. I felt like most of my teachers were the polar opposite of inspiring, just kind of emotional dregs that provided no value. For the most part, I kind of gleaned most of my artistic perspective and understanding of the world through reading. There weren’t even any museums in my hometown, in northern Indiana. 

Q: Do you think that, in a way, that vacuum was inspiring?

diewiththemostlikes: I do think that, through that boredom, there was this kind of rabid desire to explore different things that I just felt like I needed to get out. In some ways, much like many artists describe, I felt like these artistic things were going to be coming out of me regardless of intent. Nowadays, I do feel like I almost have to expel them or rot from within. It’s kind of like – you kind of have two options there – and it’s easier to just expel or evacuate my feelings and ideas onto a page or an iPad because the alternate option is just so fucking miserable. 

Q: Is that literally how you visualize it? Creating as expelling emotion from within your body?

diewiththemostlikes: Yeah. I use the term evacuation a lot because there’s an urgency to it as well. There’s this storytelling that I feel like I have to get out. I almost consider myself a documentarian in some ways of both my life and the lives of those around me. My work is oftentimes exaggerated and skewed and perverted or just fucked up and fucked out, but it’s a story that I feel like that needs to be told. Oftentimes I think that, in some ways, I’m almost considering the not-so-distant future of humanity, and the way that we will likely be living in this consumptive, almost insect-like state that we’re deteriorating into.

Nowadays, I do feel like I almost have to expel them or rot from within.

Q: Describe your art to someone who’s seeing it for the first time. Can you expand a bit more on what your style is and what sort of themes and topics you prefer to explore? 

diewiththemostlikes: I like to describe it as absent of any training or any type of classes because it is raw and brutal, urgent and scratchy. Some people have described it as almost serial killer-esque in terms of how scratchy and kind of aggressive and confrontational it is. When you look at the pieces, they are often very brutal. That being said, there’s a certain delicateness to it as well. The other descriptors people often use, and it’s funny because I’m still reckoning with art terminology that I’m not familiar with because I wasn’t raised in that type of landscape, is  “post-American, post Americana kind of surrealism.” I’m very familiar with surrealism, but anytime someone starts throwing around the word “post” or anything like that, that’s where I’m kind of lost at that point. It’s ultimately brutal, while also always being surface-level. There’s this surface-level brutality to it, which shields the underneath. Below, there are these really, really emotional and very introspective pieces. 

Q: You’re a writer as well, what sort of impact do you feel that has on your visual pieces?

diewiththemostlikes: I write poetry and short prose that belongs with every piece that I make. Oftentimes, those have to deal with these really kind of horrific things that we go through in life, like memory loss, hospital visits to loved ones, the rise and fall of hospital sheets, and the inevitable cease to that rise and fall that we all succumb to at some point. It’s something that I consider quite a bit – death and just impermanence – which oftentimes adds a level of helplessness in creating a legacy that I feel like is going to matter when ultimately, nothing does.

It's so easy to be sad about it, but it's a lot tougher to laugh at it.

Q: Your answers really show the inner workings of your psyche. Are there any overarching life philosophies that you live by?

diewiththemostlikes: It’s funny. I think one that I live by is I create sad and live happy. I create these really horrific pieces that do feel like an expulsion or an evacuation, which allows me to, in turn, live a happier life. Creating sad and living happy means I feel like I’ve gotten out what I needed to get out, saying what I needed to say within that piece, while hopefully creating some type of thread or tangible rope for the next person who wants to pull on that and explore those emotions. The other thing that I live by is that we have to laugh at the absurdity of our own existence while also laughing at the absurdity of our own demise.

Q: Is it difficult to find the balance between extremes when creating? 

diewiththemostlikes: Well, yeah. To create really, really fucking sad pieces all the time, it’s just like, okay, that’s a really sad piece. Great. I think that there has to be some hilarity in that observation because there’s nothing funnier than us careening towards a forgettable ending and probably likely being forgotten within five to ten years. So it’s just like, I think that without recognizing that hilarity, it really deprives people of one of the great joys of the human experience. It’s so easy to be sad about it, but it’s a lot tougher to laugh at it. I think definitely without the balance of laughing at it, it really, really deprives people.

Q: Have any of your pieces gotten insane reactions beyond what you would’ve expected, either in a negative or a positive way?

diewiththemostlikes: Oh yeah. The first book that I wrote. This older woman named Cindy, I have no idea how she acquired the book, wrote an Amazon review that said that the book made her physically ill to read. So that was my favorite thing ever. At the time, it was so hurtful because I spent so much time on the book! It’s certainly grotesque and filthy and psychotic and disgusting, but it’s also a really kind of nuanced skewering of America and toxic masculinity and stupid psychological beach thrillers. I was initially really bummed out about it. Now, looking back on it, I love that review so much! It means the world to me, honestly. It’s my favorite thing ever. I may get a lower back tattoo of that review at some point in old English letters because it’s so incredible. I think the other one, the other big thing that fucked me up completely, was that I fucking cried on the way home from Marfa.

Q: What was the experience you had at Marfa that was so moving for you?

diewiththemostlikes: In partnership with Transient and Glitch Gallery in Marfa, I launched this thing called Beef Brothko. I did this fully fuckable flea market. I dressed up like Rick from the show Pawn Stars, and everyone came and traded shit. I had custom fleshlights made, and I painted all these paintings that were Rothkos but made of ground beef. There was all sorts of crazy shit, and 300 or 400 people mobbed this gallery and were just going nuts. After the show, everyone was talking about how much it meant, how special it was, and how much they loved the prose that I wrote to go along with the collection, which is one of my favorite things to think I’ve ever written. To have that happen in real life and then to have this desert trip home where I was driving three hours in the middle of nowhere to an airport, I completely broke down. I just knew that was something that I’ll remember, and that hopefully, those people remember for the rest of their life. It was such a surreal moment. I just felt like, well, maybe I am an artist. 

Q: What does it mean to you to be an artist? 

diewiththemostlikes: I’ve always considered myself an artist. I think that the second that you create something that nobody else could have created, you’re ultimately an artist. When that thing pours out of your mind onto paper, or pours out of your mind onto into a microphone, or into an iPad, or the blinking cursor of a word doc, it means you’re already an artist. 

Author: Georgia O'Eth