Pho and Living Through Dreams
We had a lively chat with renowned creator Pho about dreams, mental health, and art therapy. There is a flow state to be found though all of the chaos, and Pho knows how to get there. In this interview, we dive into Pho’s dreamy reality, abundant abstract ideas, and the strength he has found through vulnerability. Please note, this conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: What are your thoughts on the concept that art is a form of therapy, and that art therapy can be used as a form of healing?
PHO: I agree 100%. For me, art is meditation and therapy at the same time. Because you’re not really thinking, you’re kind of just doing, but you’re also letting out your purest thoughts while you’re in that flow state. Sometimes that purest thought could be something dark, but it could be something good, or it could be something weird. There are a few pieces that I’ll make and not understand, but when I come back a month later I’m like, “That’s crazy that that was what I made. That’s pretty deep.” It’s like, I didn’t understand it back then and I couldn’t have, and coming back to it and comprehending it in a different way is growth in itself.
Q: You can see recurring elements and different themes through your pieces, while each piece is created through your own unique lens. How do you keep your work so fresh and personal?
PHO: I love to experiment. I think one of the biggest reasons that I still look forward to making art every day is because I have so many different ways of doing it. One day, I might be driving around and see something that catches my eye, take a photo of it, and that’s that day’s piece. Or, I’ll work on it for a few days, and the next day I’ll do an illustration, while the day after that I’ll use something like Photoshop on it. The mix of creative medias keeps it fresh.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about some of the themes you work with, and how they are prevalent throughout your art and your life?
PHO: Well a lot of the ideas I work with, like I said in the beginning, were themes that stemmed from dreams. Almost all my early work on Foundation is actually themed on dreams. I kind of started exploring human emotion– just how I could describe this one word, feeling, or sentence in picture form. Something that I felt– or something that I thought in a moment– and wanted to describe. Some other pieces are just me. Detachment From Reality is a piece that’s kind of just me showing what it feels like to be dissociated. I’ve struggled with dissociation and some mental health stuff, so A Lonely Man’s Last Day is a very personal piece to me. It’s obviously about suicide. So there’s really so many topics that I go through. I’m really not scared to tackle any subject, but they’re all me, really. They’re all personal to me. I’m just making what I love and then sharing it with the world. All these pieces are a part of me and who I am.
Q: The fact that you’re willing to be vulnerable and honest shines through in your work. Many of these themes, while super deeply personal and vulnerable, are also quite universal. How does it feel to know the depths to which people resonate with your bravery and openness?
PHO: I mean, everyone has felt a certain emotion that maybe I’ve felt at a time, too. My mom once called and said, “You’re the messenger, you’re showing what the people are feeling.” She described what I create as that, and that description is something I like. It’s true, because a lot of people don’t follow their path or their intuition, or they don’t know how to even begin to describe these feelings. I think creating visual representations of these very internal feelings is definitely something that’s universal, but it’s also special to individual people. A certain feeling might feel a little different to me than to you, but if you catch even a hint of it in my piece, you might remember it.
Q: You mentioned that you started thinking more about spirituality recently. What has your spiritual journey been like, and what kind of teachings have you uncovered from that exploration?
PHO: There are things in the world that we don’t really understand. The fabrics of space and time shape our world without us knowing, whether we can understand them or not. I think there’s definitely something there, that’s bigger than what we can see. For me, it’s kind of helped me to realize I should just follow what I’m doing. Follow what I feel and appreciate everything I have so far. Things like going through suicidal thoughts help you appreciate life. Looking back at that piece I sold to Vince, I don’t feel sadness anymore. I feel like I’ve defeated a dragon. I feel good, and it makes me appreciate every day. That’s another reason why I make art every day, because I feel like it’s a blessing. A lot of people look at it like, oh, I have to do this, or I have to do that. For me, I think this journey has helped me realize that another day is another chance to do something great. That’s how I will continue to look at it.
Q: Creating has clearly had a huge impact on how you interpret your internal life. Has art also been able to expand the way that you think about the outside world?
PHO: We’re essentially a brain trapped in a physical world. That’s how we live. We’re consciousness trapped in a reality we can’t physically grasp. Even to this day, we know so little about what’s actually happening around us. We know so little about everything, really. To some people, that can be terrifying. To me, that’s super exciting and, I don’t know, wonderful. It leaves me in awe, almost. You don’t really need anything to experience greatness. Part of this journey has shown me that greatness is really all around us. It’s already there. You don’t need to struggle looking for it.