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Monday, February 9, 2015

Chris Galley "Devil Chicken Designs"

Walking through the rows of parts at Timonium swap meet in Baltimore, Maryland last year, I saw a peculiar bright lit tent with a guy that looked like I had already known him from sometime but couldn't put my finger on it. He was painting a crazy skull overtop of what look liked a bunch of hodgepodge newspaper and picture clippings. I took a gander at his work not trying to disturb what looked like an elaborate process and immediately fell in love with every piece hanging on the walls of the tent. The incorporations of day of the dead, motorcycles, Evil Knievel, and Steve McQueen all with a crazy street art feel mixed with insane hodgepodge techniques really just blew me away. I managed to interrupt him anyway to say how amazing everything looked. To my surprise, I could not have interrupted a more humble and nicer guy. I had instantly became a fan and found myself a new friend in Chris Galley. Chris has his own distinct style, once you see his work you always know when you see it again "Hey that's Devil Chicken!" I asked Chris to showcase some of his amazing talents on a new Gringo S helmet to share with Fuel Cleveland, May 9th and I am excited to say, he said "HELL YEAH!" Check out some of his work and a little one on one we did the other day. Enjoy!

-Mikey Revolt

Chris Galley, where do you call home?

C: Buffalo, NY.

Buffalo eh? Did you die in that storm like a month and half ago, or have
any significant damage to your house? A lot of people had
videos of snow to their roof tops, were you a victim of that crazy snow fall? It looked insane!

C: We ended up being pretty sheltered on the West Side. That crazy wall of snow was literally two miles from our door. We only had about a foot of snow while everyone to the south got buried. The whole thing actually worked to my advantage as my school district was closed for a solid two weeks. That time allowed me to get about 100 Christmas ornaments painted in preparation for some holiday shows. I was all about skulls, pinstripes and 1 Shot for a solid two weeks. My philanthropic side kicked in after a couple of days and I made my way to the town I work in to help dig out the elderly and handicapped. It was wild how much snow they got in a 3-day period. It looked like the end of January in the middle of November.

What's your favorite thing to paint on?

C: That’s a tough one. I started out with traditional canvas but realized in a hurry that I beat the hell out of them too much. I switched to boards after a few months. Typically I work on ¼” sand ply. Home Depot is way cheaper for art supplies than traditional art stores. The boards allow me to stab, slice, sand and tear up my backgrounds and really hold up to the layers of paint, paper and wheat paste.

With all of that being said, I’ve also been getting a lot more jobs painting custom helmets for people. Like I said earlier, I’ve painted a lot of glass Christmas ornaments. I think my total number is somewhere in the 400 range. It’s been really cool to take those painting skills and apply them to a larger surface. I think I’ve done something like a half dozen Biltwell helmets in the last year. It’s always surprising to me that people not only dig my work, but trust me enough to customize a helmet for them.

When did art become a significant part of your life? I know you are an art
teacher, does that effect your love for it sometimes or make it just that
more rewarding?

C: I was actually talking to some of my kids in class about this not long ago. I can’t really remember a time when art wasn’t important to me. The moment that made me realize it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life was the time I spent at my Aunt Mary’s cottage. I remember being the only kid there, that meant the adults needed to find something to occupy me so they could all go party. My Aunt Mary gave me a stack of paper and box of crayons. She came back after a few minutes and raved about my drawing. She grabbed some tape and hung it on the wall. That was it, I was hooked and the adults didn’t have to worry about me for the rest of the night…

As far as teaching goes, it’s a pretty rad job. Don’t get me wrong, it’s stressful and it can make you crazy, but the fact that I get to go to work every day to draw, paint and be creative is pretty amazing. I work with high school kids. It’s cool that you see a massive change in them over a 4-year period. It was actually one of my kids that motivated me into getting my work out to the public. When she graduated she wrote me a thank you note for helping her over the years. The last few lines of the note were about how I shouldn’t wait anymore, that she believed in me. That didn’t really leave me much choice. I’m really glad she wrote me that note.

Your style of art is very collage, pop, paint meets crazy street art all
while mixing motorcycles, Steve McQueen and other amazing references to
motorcycle culture. Is there reasoning behind the madness of it all or
is it just what you see in your head?

C: I remember sitting in a critique session one time with a bunch of other artists. We all had work up on the wall and everyone had these really developed conceptual ideas behind their work. When it came time for me to discuss my work, I explained that my brain worked differently. Basically I picture the inside of my head as a monkey with a hammer riding around on a unicycle breaking stuff. I was done trying to make my work be something I wasn’t. I decided that my work was going to be an amalgamation of me. All the stuff that I thought was cool or that I was interested in was going to be included. Good, bad or otherwise, it was all going in.

I know my work isn’t for everyone. I’m cool with that. I don’t make it for anyone other than myself. I had a review of my stuff written up in a local publication. Most people dug it, but this one guy said my work “ looked like the scribbling of an untalented high schooler trying to be provocative”. To be honest, I thought he was pretty perceptive about the high school connection. 

What is the process on how your ideas come to reality? Is it a line of
paint and it goes from there or something you map out in your head or a

I probably paint every picture about 50 times in my head before I actually start physically working anything up. Once I have an idea, I obsess on it. I’ll wake up at 3:30 in the morning with my brain going a hundred miles an hour on all of the possibilities. I try to research my subject to round out what I’m trying to put together. That always helps me evolve my original concept. Once all of that is complete I jump on the computer.

Part of the concept behind my work is that its about juxtapositions and connections. I do a lot of computer work at school. I teach graphic design and digital photography and I’ve done my fair share of contract design work outside of the 9 to 5. It always felt a little artificial. I like working on the computer and I’m fairly adept at it, but it lacks the handmade connection. It always felt like “cheating” to me. My painting is a way to connect both the digital and handmade. My first “sketches” are almost always digital. Everything after that is done by hand. I get a lot of people who see my work and assume that I screen print all of the large images. They’re always surprised when I tell them that it’s all hand drawn.

How long have motorcycles been a part of your life? Any history there in
your family or is this your own passion? 

One of my earliest memories was riding down the street on the tank of my Dad’s Hasqvarna. That was all it took. He didn’t always have a bike in the garage, but they were never that far away.

Why Devil Chicken anyway? Where you attacked by a chicken when you were a
kid once or something? ahahaha

C: Everyone always wants to know where the name comes from. Unfortunately it’s not that cool of a story. Back in high school I had a friend who was really into D&D. He finally convinced a group of us to come over one night to play a game with him. The only thing I really remember about the game is that we made a complete mockery of it. When he told us that we needed to name our character I went with Devil Chicken, because it was the most ridiculous thing I could think of. After that I felt like I had to redeem the name. I guess I should have let it die…

What is your favorite thing about art to you, is it the message it portrays
to the viewer or the expression you get to leave on the canvas, or
something completely different to you?

C: That’s a tough one. I guess my favorite part of it is the challenge. To me the fun and excitement is tied up in the act of actually pulling it all together. I go from being excited about the idea, to hating all of the work and hand cramps that go into the drawing, to the sense of accomplishment I get when it's done. It’s kind of weird that if I don’t paint for a few days I get really bummed out. For as much as I dislike a few small parts of the process, it’s something that I have to do. 

What kind of bike and/or bikes do you have right now or are in the works?
C: The herd is always growing! We are up to 5 running bikes in the garage. My wife rides a ’73 Honda CB 500. I call that bike “The Angry Bee” because it’s got a 4 into 1 pipe with a megaphone muffler at the end, and it screams! I picked up a Brat Style 72 Honda CB 450 to ride around town with her a couple of summers ago. It’s got scrambler pipes and dirt tires, so it’s a blast to ride. It also has a sweet brown Honda tank so I call him “Hot Carl”. My buddy Dave Roberts at Broken Sprocket Garage is putting the finishing touches on an 04 Sportster swing arm chop for my wife. This one will be her first Harley. I’m hoping to have it ready for the show. I also have an 04 Softail Springer that I call “The Grocery Getter”. It’s another mild chop that is always dependable and great to ride. Finally, my baby is a 1959 XLCH in a Paughco wishbone rigid frame. It’s a kick only traditional chopper. I picked the bike up from a guy in Pittsburgh around 10 or 12 years ago before I traded it out for a jockey shift rigid Sportster in Baltimore. I always regretted getting rid of that bike. It was the one that always haunted me. Low and behold it shows up back in Buffalo for sale. I guess it traded a few hands and was slid under a Ford Taurus before it ended up in the hands of a talented fabricator (Jason Smolinski of Filthy Habits Fabrication). Jason did some mods before deciding to move onto something else. Dave at Broken Sprocket finished the job and it will be ready for the street this spring. 

If you could jump on your bike and just go somewhere where would that place
be and why?

C: I would like to give the Outer Banks another shot. Last April we took a trip down to Rodanthe, NC. My wife, Jo and I made a run out to the Oracoke ferry one night. The weather had sucked all week, so when it finally broke, we made a run to the ferry. The break in the weather didn’t last very long. We had to stay with our bikes on the deck for the hour trip through rough seas and rain. When we got to the island it was pouring, by the time we made it into town to dry off, everything was closed. We finally found a store open and grabbed some “drug rugs” and $0.99 plastic bag ponchos for the ride back. We missed the next ferry and ended up tailgaiting with some fishermen while we waited. We slept, on our bikes, in the rain for the trip back. The run back to the rental house was filled with rain, blowing sand and fog. We called it “The Oracoke Death Run”. For as much as the conditions sucked, it was a blast. I remember running wide open through the sand dunes in the rain laughing hysterically. I’d like to give that one another try.

What other forms of art have you mastered?
C: I don’t think I’ve mastered any of them. I’m always working on trying to get better at what I do. I was a printmaking major in college and I still put together a couple of block prints a year outside of painting. I’m presently working on learning screenprinting. It’s definitely been a winding road. It’s frustrating to see people who are so good at it and I completely suck. It’s a good motivator.

Who and/or what is a big inspiration to you as an artist and person?
C: There are a lot of artists I take inspiration from. Basquait, Raushenberg and John Langford have probably been the most influential in terms of my development as a visual artist. I also take a lot of inspiration from my city. Buffalo has made a big turnaround over the last few years. For as bad a rap as this city gets, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. We are extremely lucky to be surrounded by great art and architecture. It’s an amazing place, you should come by sometime.

Any life mottos or codes you live by?
Not really. I’m more of the “just be a good person” type of guy. If everyone did that, things would be a lot easier.

Whats in the works for you, any big shows, gallery openings we need to know

The show calendar tends to fill up pretty quick once the spring rolls around, but for now I only have a few things on the calendar. I have a solo show coming up in November. It’s going to be based around the concept of the Day of the Dead alter. My goal is to come up with 13 alters. So far I have 3 done and 10 to go… 

On July 25th we’ll be putting on another Voodoo & Burnt Rubber event. It’s our 3rd year for the event and it gets a little bigger and better every time out. We put together a car and bike show along with art and music. It’s all done in a bike shop just outside of Buffalo. It’s a great ride through some beautiful country roads to get there.

Favorite band growing up as a kid and are they still?
Hands down, Faith No More. They were so different and creative. You never knew what direction they were going in from album to album. We just picked up tickets to see them in Philly. We saw them 3 or 4 years ago in Brooklyn. It was the best show I have ever seen.

Are you a veggie head or a carnivore till the end!? Ahahaha
Carnivore. I’m from Buffalo. I was born with a blood stream that’s 35% chicken wing grease and Franks Red Hot Sauce.

Anyone you would like to give a shout to or thank?
I want to thank my wife Jo. Without her I wouldn’t be able to do as much as I do. She is my number one supporter and biggest promoter. Hell, she even quit her last job because it would have meant that we would have to miss a show. She’s an incredible person that I’m lucky to have at my side.

Be sure to check out more of Chris' work at http://www.devilchickendesign.com/ and for more info on the Voodoo & Burnt Rubber event he puts on go to http://voodooandburntrubber.weebly.com/

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