Jose Di Gregorio discovered his creativity through a winding road of self-reflection and adventure — his first artistic inclination came from a heavy interest in skate decks and album covers. After a serious leg injury, years of shoestring travel, and multi-media experimentation, he now creates colorful hand drawn explosions of geometric resonance across the world. With murals, gallery shows, and workshops from Finland to Cleveland, he still remains humble, honest, and human.
What was your childhood like?
Lots of confusion, aggression, and isolation. I knew very little about anything.
Did you have an inclination as a child that this was your destiny?
Not at all. However—as a young skateboarder during the 80s I was drawn to subversive art—like skateboard deck art. Designs by Jim Phillips, Vernon Courtland Johnson, and Pushead always piqued my naive curiosity. I was also drawn to the aesthetic of hardcore punk and metal album art, like the drawings of Raymond Pettibon for Black Flag and Winston Smith's collages for Dead Kennedys. I often made the trip to the mom-and-pop record shop in Woodland, CA (my hometown) just to look at album covers (I could never afford to purchase them!). It was essentially my museum, I just didn't think of it in that way at the time.
Were there any major events that catapulted you into pursuing art?
Yes. When I was 25 and living in Santa Cruz, California I had a bad leg injury that changed my entire perspective on my life and self-identity. During my months in recovery, I realized a desire to live my life largely with aesthetics in mind. It first took hold through film photography. Pretty simple content, mostly just dilapidated areas around the Bay Area, forests, and other landscapes.
Then I started to travel more. Shoestring travel. I'd save enough to buy a one-way ticket somewhere, then come home to work the odd job when I ran out of money. After several years I saw a proficiency in my drawings, which was mostly technical work: portrait renderings, architecture and made-up shit. Shortly after that, my sensibilities moved away from photography and into painting and drawing.
DI GREGORIO'S EARLY WORK
You’ve explored quite a bit of the world. How has travel influenced you?
Oh man. It's humbling to know how insignificant I am. It's so liberating!
What is your relationship to color? What about geometry?
It's honestly therapeutic, at the very least cathartic. The ability to use my hands to paint a subtle color shift that didn't exist a moment before is surreal. Like, I made that. I did alchemy.
Where does your mind trail off to when you're immersed on a consuming project or piece?
I think about the people I care about. Sometimes I cry.
What role, if any, does extra-sensory perception play in your work?
When creating a piece, I become pretty hyper-focused yet meditative at the same time.
What do you find to be your biggest blocks of resistance?
The past year woke me up to my unhealthy pace of production. I went through a pretty severe burn out, the worst I've ever had.
How do you push past your blocks?
I'm learning not to resist. Let things ebb and flow.
What’s one aspect of yourself that isn’t expressed online?
I'm wracked by doubt. I feel like I've got my shit together, but still don't really know what the fuck I'm doing.
If you were given an unlimited budget, what’s the first thing you would make?
A tiny house on a nice plot of land, where the structure's framework is exposed and excessively built in repetition. It's clear in my head.
If you could design your own world, what would it be like?
More equitable living, less disparity.
Utility wires running underground.
Less focus on efficiency, more focus on how the route you take makes you feel.
Like, to really see what you're looking at.
How do you envision art 100 years from now?
Ephemeral and biological.
EVOLUTION: 2011 - 2020