Scott Listfield’s art stands out, elicits a double-take, requires a closer look. There’s something both complementary and jarring about the way that a full-suited astronaut is juxtaposed with a variety of commonplace scenes: the Hollywood sign, a public bathroom, the coke vending machine… We don’t know who the astronaut is or what he’s doing here, but we do know one thing: Scott’s art is out of this world! Put on your seatbelt and prepare for takeoff:
1) Astronauts seem to be the primary subject in your artwork. Is that a career path you ever considered?
Like most people of my generation (and probably many other generations), the first thing I can remember wanting to be was an astronaut. I think that goal might have eventually been replaced by wanting to be Superman, which frankly might have been equally unlikely. I get queasy on children’s rides at the carnival, so actually being an astronaut is not something I’ve seriously considered as an actual career path. It requires a level of scientific knowledge and physical fitness that I’m guessing are beyond my reach now. And, to be honest, I’m probably more interested in the fiction of the astronaut than the reality. The moment where somebody steps out of the confines of a spacecraft into a place where no one has ever visited before, and where the fundamental things which govern our lives are alien and unfamiliar. That’s what’s exciting to me. Spending 500 hours in a flight simulator and throwing up repeatedly in a rapidly spinning 8G environment, or a claustrophobic underwater tank or, you know, doing math. Those things don’t appeal much to me. Maybe that’s why the astronauts in my paintings never seem to have left Earth.
2) Let’s talk about the second part of astronautdinosaur – what fascinates you most about dinosaurs?
At first, probably because they were, other than astronauts, the biggest mystery and passion of my childhood. It seems like, as kids, we were all into dinosaurs, or space, or princesses, or magic, or rainbows, or whatever. As we grew up, for some reason all that mysterious and interesting stuff that we loved precisely because it didn’t exist in our everyday life migrated into the background and we became much more interested in buying a latte, or checking the stock market, or watching How I Met Your Mother. But kids are right. Enormous crazy reptiles unlike anything we can imagine roamed this planet for millions of years and, but for a strange twist of fate in the form of a comet, would still be here and we wouldn’t. That is utterly amazing and hard to comprehend. We can try to imagine traveling to a different world and envision what creatures we might find there, or we can dig into the past of our very own planet, which is just as alien as anything we might ever find out in the stars.
3) If you could be a dinosaur, which one would you be?
The only answer to this question is Tyrannosaurus Rex. You can have other dinosaurs which are your favorites, certainly, but if you could actually BE one, why would you choose anything other than the most badass and also most famous dinosaur of all time? You’d rather choose one of those much less famous ones, whose names are all in vaguely unpronounceable Latin, and who probably got eaten all the time by T-Rex?
4) Word on the street is that there’s a group who wants to launch a colonization project on Mars. Is that something that you would ever consider?
Not personally, no. I’ve seen a lot of science fiction movies and read a lot of science fiction books, and these things never end well. Assuming, though, that movies and books are often a wee bit unrealistic, what are you really signing up for in a mission to Mars? Five-plus years in a spaceship, being bombarded by radiation, and having your muscles eroded by lack of gravity. Followed by landing on a dusty red rock with no breathable atmosphere. Which is then followed by probably not having enough fuel to get you home, so I hope you really enjoy that dusty red rock and its inhospitable climate. It’s certainly not something I’d sign up for, and to be honest I think it might be best left to robots. Which I feel weird saying because I have totally seen Terminator 2, and I don’t feel great about how the whole robot thing ends for us, either.
Seriously, though, I’m much more interested in exploring the strangeness to be found on our own planet. I’m sure there are amazing things to be found on Mars, and I do hope we go there and find them. But I’m going to stay right here and continue to explore the incredible, strange, and stupid things all around me.
5) You say that the astronaut in your paintings “is simply here to explore the present” – if you could explore any place in any time period, where/when would you go? What would you do there?
This might sound boring, given the enormous possibilities of limitless time travel, but I’d probably go about ten or twenty years into the future. I mean, I kind of already know what’s happened in the past, don’t I? Wouldn’t traveling back to the American Revolution actually be less informative than, say, watching a really good History Channel documentary? You’d be stuck in one spot, witnessing only what happened at whatever place you ended up. Like, oh hey, there’s Paul Revere riding through Boston! Cool! Now I’m stuck in Lexington or Concord, and it’s 1776 and not much is happening other than people making horse shoes and I have to sleep on hay and wear itchy clothes and I’ll probably catch polio and die because my immune system is so not ready for 1776.
Visiting ancient Rome would be exciting, but my Latin sucks so how productive would that be? Traveling to see the dinosaurs is awfully tempting, but I’d almost definitely be eaten within seconds. I’m much more interested in the future than I am in reliving, in person, crazy stuff from the past that I already kind of know about. If I wanted to time travel to a place where I could last more than a few minutes, both culturally and not-getting-killed-or-eaten wise, 10 or 20 years forward would be about it. I actually think it would be really fascinating to see where we end up in the near future (imagine your 1987 self encountering an iPhone!) And I could walk around and speak English and people would probably mostly understand. I’d be ignorant of the Rand Paul culture wars, I wouldn’t know any of Jaden Smith’s top ten hits, and I would appear woefully out of touch with what the kids are doing on eyeball-implanted FaceTumblr. But I could get around in 2034 as long as I could figure out how to hail an Uber, which I assume will just be powered by my thoughts.
BONUS QUESTION: What does every up-and-coming artist need to know?
Have faith in yourself and your ideas. The art world is pretty stupid sometimes, and you’re going to have to get a day job, and at some point (or all of the time) these things might get you down. Plow through that. Try to enjoy it. If it stops being fun, stop doing it, because there aren’t a ton of tangible rewards there if you’re not getting personal satisfaction from it. The world doesn’t owe you anything just because you take the time to do something creative. But if you do enjoy it, and if you’re good at it, and even if you’re not so good at it (I certainly wasn’t for a long time), keep making it. Get out there and blast your art all over the internet. It might take only a second or it might take 15 years, but if you’ve got something worth saying, someone will hear it.
Scott currently has a solo show up right now until November 29th at Gallery1988 (East), so if you’re in the LA area, it’s definitely worth swinging by. No worries if you can’t make it though – he has another solo show coming up in Chicago in June 2015. (And in between these? “I’ve got paintings going to the kinds of exotic locales that make me wish I could box myself up and go there instead of my paintings.”)