Salvaged Star Skin: Interview with Cheyenne Randall

Salvaged Star Skin: Interview with Cheyenne Randall

In this interview with Cheyenne Randall, he talks about his Native American roots, and the power of creative community.

His work is a mix tape of old songs, a collage of vintage paper cuttings, a thrift store puzzle, pieced together as if made of the tender diaphanous strings of memories worn thin by generations past. Each iconic image is a breath held, a moment frozen in archives; antiques illustrated by modernity. Whatever Cheyenne Randall's artwork stirs within you, it's undeniable the power these pieces have. Drenched in historical and cultural symbolism, these portraits easily travel through the annals of era's to reach each and every person, gazing back with confidence and a disregard for the passing of time. 

Can you talk a bit about your artistic background? Were you creative as a kid, or did you just fall into the career?
 
I was raised in a creative household. My father was a prolific artist. He would always set me up with a little work station next to his from as far back as I can remember. I still have artwork that he and I did together from when I was as young as 4 years-old. My mother always only encouraged me to create artwork and understood early on I wouldn't be going on into the laid out routes given to us by our public school systems. By the time I got into my teenage years my art had started to evolve and I began to find my own style. It wasn't until my 30's when I discovered Photoshop...and that just changed everything.

We are all unique and original; the tattoos we get are a way of conveying that to the rest of the world.

You’re really well-known for your tattoo art...do you have a philosophy or theory behind why people are so infatuated with the look of tattoos?

I think people are fascinated by tattoos because they are used as a form of self identity. You can customize your own body with any artwork that you choose. We are all unique and original; the tattoos we get are a way of conveying that to the rest of the world.
 
How did you start with this style, and how has your work evolved over the years?

I started drawing tattoos long before I learned photoshop. I really wanted to be a tattooer in my 20's so I started drawing and painting traditional American tattoo flash. I was a big fan of Dr. Lakra and Mike Giant - really inspired by their work. After realizing that I had missed the bus on becoming a tattooer and that Dr. Lakra and Mike had brilliantly covered all the bases of hand drawing tattoos, I taught myself photoshop. I wanted to see if I could make the tattoos look really, real. I found a void in the art collective and filled it.

I have to ask...how the hell do you make the tattoos on these iconic photos look so real?

Embarrassingly long hours in photoshop.

Are there any materials you’re super fond of, and any other styles you work on that you don’t often post to social media?


I love creating two dimensional mixed media pieces. I enjoy making my short films/videos, writing songs and all mediums of painting. Back when I started my IG I was doing a lot of mixed media pencil drawings. I had a good following of collectors and sold out of that work as fast as I could make it. But it was nothing like shopped tattoos.

You’ve had multiple gallery shows, How would you define success?

I define success as being able to produce prolifically while maintaining a level head. It's being able to do what you love while bringing joy and inspiration to other people's lives.

What advice do you have to other artists trying to find footing in such a fast paced, often exclusive, art world?


Create as much work as you can all day, everyday. If your'e not making art someone else will. Learn how to recharge your creative batteries. If you want to be seen and get your work out there...it has to be all or nothing. Obviously, with balance. You're not going to find success at a bar hanging out with your friends. You have to keep your nose to the grindstone and not pay too much attention to what others are doing or making. Being an artist is a life long journey; the small part that people are seeing is just a screen-shot of your life's work, play the long game.

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You’ve “tattooed” James Dean, Steve McQueen, and Elizabeth Taylor...are you a classic film connoisseur or just enamored with pop culture icons?

I would say I'm enamored with pop culture icons. I'm fascinated by how a persons face can get tattooed into your mind and be recognizable, even from a great distance. It's a good substrate.

Who are your favorite actors and singers to stare at in Photoshop?

Winona Ryder, Mick Jagger, Elvis, Marylin, Sofia Loren, Audrey, Bettie Page, Bowie.

You’ve spoken about your Native American heritage in the past...how do you hold onto ancestral roots and does it show up in your artwork?

It is who I am. I pray. I speak out loud to my ancestors, because they are present, with regularity. I keep myself clear from chemicals and alcohol, as those can take over the spirit. My heritage shows in everything I do because it's who I am, I come from the school of thought that I don't have to create art that depicts a native symbol or icon for my art to be native, although some of my work certainly does include those elements from time to time.

How do you feel about the current (and past) issues regarding that particular community, and what do you think we can do to show support for people who are being targeted by racism, classism, etc.?


Thank you for asking this question. I feel pretty bleak about it all at the moment. The first thing someone has to do is have compassion and practice love. Without compassion support is not possible and sadly I can see a massive lack of compassion in people these days. One has to be able to take self out of the equation sometimes and look at what has happened and what is still being done. The next thing someone can do is self-educate. We live in an age of information, if you can read and have the internet you can gain access to learn about the real history and acts of the systematic genocide that happened to the Native people of this country. If you're like me and prefer to get your information from books here's a short list: chapter one of A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn; Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. There's a lot of literature our there and it's up to each individual to read it. You can show support for Native Americans by supporting their causes and buying their goods/art. Here's a super short list of artists and activists you can support today: Winona LaDuke of Honorearth.org, Bethany Yellowtail, Charlene TetersThe Warrior's Fund art auction hosted by Three Kings Tattoo and Patrick Sullivan, listen to John Trudell's speeches on youtube, some powerful stuff right there.

Beyond creating, what are your passions?

I'm passionate about the human experience, about trying to understand why we come to this planet how we come to these lives and live relatively quick lives with barely enough time to get enough done and learn from lessons. It's incredibly curious. I'm passionate about the human collective consciousness and why it seems there is so little curiosity about what the fuck is beyond the curtains and stage of life. Why it clearly feels like we the human race are steering ourselves into the ditch and not talking about it, why people are deciding to say "fuck it" when you CAN choose "fuck that!" We are all being presented right now with a choice of how we want to conduct ourselves as a species. It's a whole other conversation perhaps one that I may decide to leave alone seeing as I only have so much time here and might as well get shit done. Make some art.

 What do you do on vacations, or days off?


I don't really take days off. Most vacations are built around jobs that I'm lucky enough to book. I get incredibly bored on a vacations, I get bored on long flights. Last time I flew to New York from Seattle about half way through I wanted to go looking for a job down another isle or start a gang in my section.

 Any favorite books, films, or artists you’d like to share?

artist: John Trudell, Cheyenne Sawyer, Devin Liston, Jaque Fragua, Yatika Fields, The Real Theory, Drew Merritt.

books: Anything Bukowski, Hemmingway, Richard Brautigan, John Fire Lame Deer - Seeker of Visions.

films: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; anything Terrence Malick.
 
Do you have any upcoming projects, merch, collabs, shows, etc. coming up in 2019 that people should know about?

Indeed! I just launched my new website www.cheyennerandallart.com I'm slowly adding to the selection of print work available there as well as getting ready to drop some T-shirts next week so keep your eyes out for that! In 2019 I'm pulling back from "gallery" shows I'm finding more and more that self representation suites me better, although I'm in talks with a tattoo shop in Oakland about doing a show there and making these 5 gallon bucket wheat paste kits and just keepin it chill. Focusing really hard on some possible large scale installations in the Bay Area with some hard fingers crossed, lots of half tone line work and more 3D business to come thru for sure! Sober AF.

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