Updated: Jan 23
The best thing you can do for yourself is to give into your greatest desire. If you have a dream… live it as best as you can.
At times things can be incredibly scary. We all worry constantly about our financial stability, our independence from major corporations, and our liberties to do art out of free will. Often, most artists are faced with backlash for artistic pieces. Out of 5 people who may love your art and value that you make a living off of it. There are at least 5 people who would rather post comments on your Instagram that are seriously melancholic and rude.
But then there are artists like John Vochatzer (a.k.a CalamityFair), partial owner of the Moth Belly Gallery, who would inspire you to stick your finger up in the “man’s” face and follow your dreams to the fullest extent. Being able to interview John had left me totally liberated. Not only is their art absolutely mind absorbing, but their passion for life also gave me much to think about.
Truthfully it’s because of Johns and I’s conversation that I even feel confident to chase my ambition of being an artist with my own studio one day. And I hope that by reading the rest of this article you’re equally as tantalized by his enthralling art, his abilities to curate many amazing events in the TL (Tenderloin), and their passion for raising other artists up in a beautiful studio in San Francisco; that is many artist wet dream to be highlighted in.
Where to start?
I think it’s worth it to mention that I actually knew about John Vochatzer before I knew John Vochatzer. When I first moved to San Francisco I lived in one of the roughest parts of the city. It truely was like living in a movie about the city, full of rats, needles, crime, and lots of construction and more... There was really only two places to look. Down on the floor to make sure you don’t step in human feces OR if you glaze your eyes up you will see an immaculate display of art.
Around the whole city I found this spectacular art piece. I pondered about what it meant and how the artist was able to get it in all the places around the city. On days where I would feel incredibly bummed I would look up at the walls, street signs, and high beams to see if I could find more of the BRAIN!! I have counted at least 15 from my walks between Soma to Castro. I encourage you to take a walk around this beautiful city and see if you can find more!
Little did I know that these pieces of art that kept me at peace and inspired around the city was due to John Vochatzer.
Who is John Vochatzer?
John grew up in Stockton, California, and from the earliest age he could remember he always had an ambition to draw. Even his parents could see the talent that was looming within him. A memory that stands out to John was when his parents signed him up for his first art class. The teaching artist had poised John to find an object that intrigued him and draw it. Choosing the coolest object he could find ( a fish) he worked his heart out. Only to be told by the teacher that it was a P.O.S. CLASIC, when I heard this story I was reminded of many artists like Vincent Van Gogh whose art fell under the cracks at first.
“It was ironic, because as we look at art history and take a glance at the world of art there is no right or wrong way of doing art. There is a formal way or a traditional way.”-John Vochatzer
But that didn’t slow down his ambition in anyway. While some people play by the book. John would tell you to throw it out. Some of their favorite art pieces were composed by psychiatric patients and people who don’t know much about art. We talked about the childlike nature that art takes on and how it seems that artists who are not trained vocationally seem to have some of the most intriguing pieces the world has seen.
To make things even more ironic, John Vochatzer uses the artist name Calamity Fair. Calamity meaning an event causing great and often sudden damage or distress; a disaster. Which often their art represents a collage of images that are in an array of functional disfunction simultaneously configuring into new art. It seems as tho this sudden shift or change in art value had curated the on workings of a new creative genius. Calamity Fair is like a world of imagination curated by those unvocationally trained or psychiatrically crazed but yet flows unanimously. There is a brilliance in being able to see how one can create without being tainted by opinions.
With Calamity Fair by their side; for the past 7 years, John Vochatzer has been an incredibly successful artist. Some of their greatest lines of work would be the album art they commissioned for a handful of bands and some spectacular exhibits around the U.S. Beyond this, you may know John because he was an incredible tattoo artist for many years. Before finding their passion for the all encompassing Moth Belly Gallery. John had to take a giant leap during Covid-19 and decided to invest with their partner Seibot into a spectacular Gallery. Its important to follow your dreams to your fullest extent, and some times that involves taking a huge leap. In the eve of 2020's greatest pause on the market. They found their gallery at the height of new possiblitities. They were able to turn a great terror into something fabulous.
Moth Belly Gallery
The Moth Belly Gallery is my all time favorite highlight of the TL. Every moth John and Seibot (another incredible artist) feature about 3 or more artists throughout the gallery. Typically on a Thursday, the gang gets together to walk and feature many amazing artist. Some works ranging from around the world, or even to my favorite exhibition from my hometown Arizona. Artists like The Lady Egg, Bud Snow, Ashley Macias all collaborated into a spectacular gallery. The shows typically feature free alcohol, at one time an exhibitionist, and many more lively artistic pieces that would make you go home and slam your head in some paint.
The power the Moth Belly Gallery holds in curating the most colorful, lively home in the TL. It truly makes any artist, or artist lover feel safe in their home. The Moth Belly Gallery works tirelessly to share artists stories from around the world. From magazines, to Instagram, to artist commission and retail. They do not fail in their ability to highlight some amazing art that otherwise I may have never seen. (That will be another article about social medias tireless algorithms)
“It’s a lot more immanent that there are many other pathways to becoming a successful artist.”
Back to John:
John Vochatzer loves the world he has created at the Moth Belly Gallery. It’s the perfect vessel to explore and document art.
“The art seen is at a pivotal stage right now and I think it’s important to document it” -John Vochatzer
While the Moth Belly Gallery tirelessly curates spectacular art. John takes the time to focus on their main mediums as well. Although they don’t necessarily miss the rivoting realm of tattooing. They did discuss the at times impossible venture of the collage medium (as seen in the before pictures) and how they tend to love the simplicity of pen to paper.
Simply put, collaging can be incredibly messy. They would find themselves in a room filled with boxes of paper scattered about the room. Trying incredibly hard to find small images to array onto an art peice. It truely was a Calamity Fair within the room. Now and days the medium that gives them the most inner piece is their trippy pen to paper art.
Each key detail in his pieces are worked on for many hours. At times it takes him days to weeks to finish a project. Truthfully I enjoy Johns ability to trust the process. He never lets an image go to waist and even if they want to tear it up they take the time to carefully curate each art piece. At times many artists find themselves at an impasse to try and continue a speck of art and create it into something spectacular. But to me, Johns ability to take the time to focus on patterns and subtle shapes reminds me of seeing the real art of Gustav Klimt. One thing the artists share in common is the use of pattern to create an eyecatching display. Like the famous image "The Kiss"-by Gustav Klimt, it is almost impossible to find where the art begiins and where it ends. It seems as tho, like collaging, John is able to merge an image into something new.
The way that John Vochatzer is able to create a world inside their art that has never been seen is truly what I hope many artists will take their inspiration from.
“Personally I like detail. Instead of sketching out my drawing first. I take a moment to focus on one element and build upon that.” -John Vochatzer
I was so enthusiastic to be able to meet with John on a few ocasions and that they agreed to interview for my teeny tiny blog. It seems as tho that Johns ability to see artists for their true nature is a spectacular gift and I'm so thankful to have gotten to speak with them. Within the interview we were dropped by one of the artists they held an exhibit for. In this time we ended up having a discussion about media, the masses, and the tirelessly oppinionated crowd that harasses many artist. I thought that is was so wonderful to hear how John supports their artists and friends. The take away from the small drop in is that art, whether you do it for popularity, for arts sake, or just to ease your brain while you sit in a psychiatric hospital; shouldn't halt for any person who disagrees. In fact, do art in spite of the people who hate it. Show them that your art is worth talking about. With social media bringing about many pathways to becoming a succesful artist remind yourself there is no right or wrong way. As mentioned, in the hight of the pandemic John and Seibot took a leap into themselves. They were tired of being artists the way that the mass had expected them to be and took a chance on creating the Moth Belly Gallery. Which now hosts, what I would say, is the biggest artistic community collective that San Francisco and many places would ever see. Thank you for inspiring me to leap into my art even if it seems incredibly scary. Check out John Vochatzer's personal art on instagram @calamityfair
Also, check out the Moth Belly Gallery on Instagram @mothbellygallery
Located at: 912 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109.