Last week I had the privilege of speaking with Tucker Neel. In my personal opinion, he
is an important person to know, especially if you are in the Comm Arts Department.
The way he talks and articulates, you kind of get sucked into his little world of
knowledge. Plus, he is one of the reasons why I chose to stay with my intended major
during Foundation Forward. He told me that Illustration is a place where you can
create and live through your own identity. With that being said lets get to know Tucker.
FU: So, first question is what do you do here (at Otis) Tucker?
TN: (chuckles) A lot of things, I teach in three different departments. I teach in
Comm Arts and Graduate Graphic Design and in Liberal Studies. So my time is sort
of spread around those three departments. I primarily work with seniors and I do
teach Professional Practices to Junior illustrators and then the graduate program is
over the summer. We have a low residency MFA in Graphic Design.
FU: What are some things you do outside of Otis?
TN: Well I write, I curate, I run my own gallery, and I still maintain an art practice. It
really depends on what week you’re asking me that because it changes quite a bit.
I’d like to say I work project to project across everything I do, so at any time I’m sort
of juggling different things as most artists do. For example, right now I’m curating
a show that’s going to be opening in the summer at CB1 Gallery and the title of it is
called “Manclude Explicated Imagery,” so I’m working with artists for that, writing
a catalog essay, I’m writing a piece for Artillery (art magazine) on a next issue on
George Bush as a contemporary artist, the question of politics and art. And I run my
own telephone gallery called 323 Projects, so I sort of vigorously take on what ever I
can, but to be honest teaching takes up a lot of time for me right now. The end of the
semester is hard for faculty as well.
FU: Could you briefly talk about you background and how you got to where you are
now at Otis?
TN: Well, starting way back, I grew up in Washington DC. I went to Occidental College
for my undergraduate degree in Art History and Visual Arts. Occidental is like a
liberal arts school. After that I worked with curators, I worked in a framing company
and I went and got my MFA here at Otis back in 2005- 2007 when the program had
Marsha Tucker and Dave Hickey teaching, which was a big draw for me at the time.
After graduating from Otis I found myself working for a design firm in Downtown
LA called The Group, which I think still exists. I curated art and organized all the
identities for this massive concert that happen at 7707 that was called Live Earth,
an environmental awareness concert. After that I ran a gallery and then after
that I started working for a company that I now am the vice president for called
Getting Your Shit Together. I know it’s funny, but it’s professional practices, tools,
software classes for artists of all kinds. So helping them develop software, write
books and teach classes. And then from there I came in and did a lecture here at Otis,
they liked me and so I came in to teach classes and I really am comfortable here. I
really like the school and I really think we have great students, so I put a lot of effort
into teaching here now.
FU: On that note I want to congratulate you on your full time position here at Otis!
FU: So you just got back from your Rome trip for Otis, how was it?
TN: The Rome trip was amazing! They are always great but this trip was really
special, it was a really wonderful group of students. We had an excellent time and
we had perfect weather. I haven’t seen such good weather in Europe in my life.
It was beautiful. Which is strange for the students because they are used to this
weather so when we went to Rome they were like “Oh! It’s like LA!” and so Renee
and I were like “No! Appreciate it because its never like this!” But its was great.
We had a great time, the students got a lot of work done and they had a lot of fun.
Coming back was really rough. I felt bad for the students because I at least had a
day while they had to go to school the next day. So the jet lag is always worse coming
back, it kind of took me all of last week to sort of get used to it.
know about it?
TN: Sure. The Rome trip was started by Kali Nikitas and Renee Petropoulos. Renee teaches in the Graduate Fine Arts department and the Graduate Public Practices Department. So she and Kali organized the trip 4 years ago and she wanted some else to go on the trip with Renee and was kind enough to invite me along and we’ve been doing it ever since together. This year we decided to open it up as an LAS class to make it available for students to use the class as LAS credits that they needed which proved to be very popular amongst the students. She and I co-taught the trip, where she was working primarily on the studio class and I was working on the liberal studies class. But we completely co-did everything. So Rome is Rome! I’m at the point, if students don’t like it or they aren’t getting anything out of it, that’s no fault to my own, like, that’s something weird in their brain! Rome is an amazing city. I focus on it as a historical site that has really imprinted on everybody even if you haven’t been there. That’s with regards to issues of tourism and what it means to be an artist because we think of Rome as holding the master pieces of western art. So I take a critical stance on that with how I organize the class and we have built in a lot of interesting explorations into Rome as a tourist destination. It’s interesting for a student to go on the trip as tourist and as artist and to be critically aware of that position while they are on the trip itself. So a lot of the work the students have to do engage questions of what it means to be there now, or their expectations of going to the city that is one of the most reproduced cities, at least historically. Rome has a specific place in what it means to be an artist as well, which I think is why students want to go anyways. Because they want to see this thing they have expected to see and it’s sometimes surprising and sometimes not surprising how they react to it. My favorite thing is going to St. Peters Basilica and taking pictures of all the
students’ faces the first time they see it. It’s just mouths dropped open and their eyes
wide open in awe. It’s just amazing!
: So my final question for you would be: Are there things here at Otis that students should be more taking advantage of?
TN: Hmm… that’s a really good question. I think I’ll give you two answers: One that’s
over-arching and another that’s quite specific.The over-arching one is something I tell all students. While you are a student, you are given a license to be as obnoxious as you want when interacting and asking things of the outside world. So I’m very adamant that my students contact people that they want to meet while they are students here because Otis has a great reputation and a large creative field no matter what department you are in and to really take advantage of that while you are here and to get over the fear of people rejecting or ignoring you You have this amazing institution behind you, so just ask for what you want. Be persistent and you can get amazing things from this school. That’s why I really like that Otis has the academic mentor program that I work with because we are able to sort of guild students through that process and let them know that someone is always there.
At the same time specifically that Otis students should take advantage of, I am just always amazed that I don’t find students going outside. Right across the street
there is one of the biggest parks in LA, one of the biggest skate parks in LA, there’s
a public pool, there’s a golf course. If one had a bike you can bike to the beach.
So it’s easy for students to get wrapped up in being here but I think where Otis is
positioned geographically is really fantastic and I would like to see students take
more advantage of that. Sometimes I’ll grade papers at the beach because we are
right by the beach. Yeah, so I think things like that are really of a specific nature. Students should focus a little more on having more fun. It would be healthy for
them and the school.
I’d like to thank Tucker for letting me interview him even with his busy schedule and for being a valuable asset to both Otis and its students.
- Froi -