Art Zealous contributor Alexandra Fanning spoke with Michael DeSutter about making old magazines meaningful, putting the ‘Ad’ in Mad Men, and surprising discoveries powered by Alexa.

In this new series, The Zealous Set, Art Zealous contributors talk to working artists about what they’re creating, watching, reading, and being inspired by. Kicking things off is collage extraordinaire Michael DeSutter, whose hand-cut mixed media works pirouette off the page.

Brooklyn-based artist Michael DeSutter, @RoyalScurge on social media, is known for his twisty, spiraling clusters of colors and textures reminiscent of fashion scarves caught adrift on a windy day. Exploring movement in all of its forms as his motivation, his collages appear to transcend beyond the two dimensional and bend out toward us.

I was introduced to Michael’s work one dark winter evening a few years ago, dragged out of the warmth by my roommate at the time, to attend a studio party in the Bushwick-based artist’s loft. I was thrilled to walk into a room filled with huge wheels of color and a warm welcome from the artist. Walls were lined with shelves filled with magazines ranging from the 1940’s to today, with clippings organized by color in piles throughout the room.

Michael explained to me how his grandfather had left him a large collection of magazines, and that the practice of making art with them allows him to consume their information more intimately. Using his background in graphic design and eye for photography, each composition is crafted to perfection, cut by hand and arranged with purpose.

I recently caught up with DeSutter to talk about art making in quarantine and where he’s finding his inspiration right now.

Alexandra Fanning: Tell us how you got into your mixed media practice.

Michael DeSutter: I’ve created some sort of cut and paste art all my life, but I started creating mixed media art as an adult when I decided it would be more meaningful to make art from an old stack of LIFE magazines (from my grandfather) rather than continue to lug them from apartment to apartment.

AF: How does a project begin to form for you?

MD: Sometimes they start with an idea, but often it’s more intuitive. As I’m digging through source materials an element catches my eye, and I start collecting clippings along those lines. During the rest of the process of creating the work I explore why I was initially drawn to these pieces. Understanding comes from repetition.

Multi-colored clippings for collage work by artist Michael DeSutter
Work in progress, image courtesy of Michael DeSutter.

AF: Where are you finding inspiration right now? 

MD: Cliché, but everything is inspiration. I’m interested in making art to connect with others around personal experiences that I think we all share. Movement in all forms will always inspire me.

AF: How are you staying connected with other artists and the art world at the moment?

MD: I’m definitely on Zoom and FaceTime like most people right now, catching up with other artists and Instagram is keeping me connected with the larger art world at the moment.

AF: What are you listening to while you work?

MD: Rap and R&B mostly. Artists like; Lil Wayne, Jay Electronica, DaBaby, The Weeknd. Oh, and recently I asked Alexa to “play The Weeknd” and a german rapper “Weekend” came on and I’ve really been enjoying listening to that, haha.

AF: What are you binge watching in quarantine?

MD: I recently finished all seven seasons of Mad Men. I had never watched it before and figured it was about time to give it a try. I really enjoyed it and thought it was really crazy that they talked about ad campaigns that I see everyday while flipping through old magazines. Yesterday I found an ad in a 1940’s LIFE magazine for Canadian Club with the exact same bottle design as the bottles of whisky always on Don Draper’s desk.

AF: What’s next, are you excited to share anything upcoming?

MD: More of the same right now. I’m trying to get some social distancing themed work that I started at the beginning of quarantine out of my system first, and then back to colorful movement pieces. When it’s safe to travel again I’m excited about getting in an actual wood shop and creating work that interacts more with physical space.