by Ryan Lyons
Maybe the secret to happiness lies in doing what you want to do at all times. Sometimes this hazy world, and New York in itself, can make it hard to create. Somehow though, Devin Morris from 3DotZine is breaking through the fog and creating his own climate. When I stopped by his home in Bushwick, he took me on a tour around and showed me the work that he's ready to display: a collection of collages that range in topic from sexual freedom, discrimination, and even a collaboration with us at Lète magazine. With a new collection to debut in a gallery soon, and the second edition of his zine on the way, it seems like Devin has plenty to smile about. To say that the publication opens up conversations - on the topics of sexuality, gentrification, and home would be an understatement. Seeing his work and dedication is a reminder to us that the purest joy can come from building (or in Devin’s case: collaging) your own world.
Can you explain your process in creating. How long can it take to come up with a collage?
Hmmm.. That’s tricky. I need to live and then I remark on my experience of life. My current works began as soon as I finished my first issue for 3 Dot almost a year ago. What happens is my mind starts to reel with storylines, ideas, people-cast members, and then I began. That part of my process can take months and then the actual physical collage work can take anywhere from one day to three months. Sometimes I need to sit with a piece and talk to it and at other times I wait for life to help me answer the question of what I want to see.
How did you get into collage work?
I always practiced cutting paper to make objects when I was a kid. I would make a ramp out of cardboard for playing with my matchbox cars or a makeshift coffin for a fallen bird, I would then bury it with the kid up the street. In college I was arrested by a collage I made for class and the description I gave for it. I was taken by that moment so viscerally that I still have the collage and explanation today. A few years ago I began gifting friends collages using pictures I had taken of us throughout the year. Around that time as well I hosted a salon like social gathering at my house called “Social Sunday” where my roommate and I sent out handmade invites. After a while I began collaging the invites. A friend then suggested I start a zine and it all made sense to me because I knew that I would utilize collage for it.
You also collaborate a lot. How has that helped you?
Collaborating is natural to me because of the nature of how I show my work in the zine. Normally if I collaborate with an artist it’s because I want to feature that artist. Collaborating helped me realize how and why I like to work with other artist-to appreciate them. It also showed me that I would rather take my own photography for my pieces because of the frequent and spontaneous nature of when and how I like to work.
We spoke briefly about the differences between Baltimore and Brooklyn. Can you speak about how both cities have shaped your art, and how you feel about both places now in regards to art and a place to live?
Baltimore is my lifeline, thankfully. Through so many interactions I’ve had there with buildings, people, birds, nature, drunks, throwing bottles in alleys, the landscape, and more has shaped me as a creative being. It is a magical town of discovery for a kid growing up in poverty with an imagination. Baltimore and books allowed me to dream wonderful visions. Baltimore is the “charm city.” This is true, it is not ostentatiously beautiful, but it has the most wonderful hidden treasures.
Brooklyn, where I came to work and grow up, on the other hand currently exists in a state of gentrification and I find myself stifled by race politics. I’m a studied person so Brooklyn also showed me how much larger the world of black is. It enchants me as I walk through Bed-stuy streets at night and traverse the borough on my bike. Literally, it’s like moving through different movie scenes with the scenes changing at the brightly lit intersections. The drama is played out under the thick tree-lined streets in between avenues. I like Brooklyn when everyone is asleep. Brooklyn as well as Baltimore has nurtured me as an artist. Both places have great people who inspire me and are down to participate in the crazy ideas I come up with. I think I would rather live in both places at the same time, haha.
Your style is something that stands out about you as well. Can you talk about how that's developed over time? Do you feel like your mood as an artist affects your dress as well? How so?
I dress based on the day and sometimes based on the forecast I give myself for a certain period of time within a year. I look forward to see where I want to go or how a decision is going to make feel. Then an idea comes to me, whether it be that of protection and I look for wide armour like clothing, or the idea may be blue and then periwinkle, sky, cornflower, oceanic blues flow into my psyche, sometimes I need rust or balloons or clouds, etc. Over time I’ve allowed myself to trust my natural instincts when it comes to clothing. I also study the way society dresses in all its uniforms. Especially here in NY. I think I stand out because I’m not afraid to look how I feel in an environment that enforces conformity through a bunch of little tricks.
My mood affects the way I dress. I think the way I dress may have an effect on me as an artist as well and vice versa. At times I pull items from my own closet to shoot on a subject because I like the idea. At other times I’ll look at the way I dressed a subject and think, hmmm… I want to look like that. A color scheme or story I wrote can infect my way of dress or conversation for some time.
You’re always giving people insight on what you’re doing on your Instagram. Do you ever feel like it could sour or hinder your entire vision putting it out like that?
Instagram is fun and funny. I typically take pics of random cutouts on my work table. I don’t feel like it spoils my work because I’m not actually showing my work. I just show you some random happening.
What’s the meaning of 3 Dot?
3 Dot Zine literally began as three dots, my first tattoo. For years I thought about what the perfect tattoo would be. While pondering initial learnings the shapes triangle, circle and square came to mind. From there I somehow arrived at black holes and how once something enters a black hole it becomes nothing. So I got a tattoo of three circles on my arm and it means everything and nothing at all, to me.
How do you feel about Dame Dash’s interview with Sway and The Breakfast club? How do you feel about Dames opinion on masculinity?
Although I agreed with some of his affirmations on being an entrepreneur, I found the rest of his argument lacking because he placed his life and his accomplishments above the life of another person and their decisions. Dame is a classic male. I think of his perspectives on masculinity, and what a man should do, as being deeply rooted in a misogynistic and empirical foundation - solidified deeper through his hip hop and CEO environments - which come together to seemingly lead him to believe that he is a king. I don’t know what to think about that.
In your work when men wear lingerie and other things usually associated with women, what are you saying? What does that mean to you?
I’m not sure what it says because I am not the viewer and what it says will be subjective to the viewer. What I’m approaching with the way I dress subjects is usually an essence of a feeling. I don’t limit myself to gender norms when dressing a man or woman. Traditional use of garments has lead us to associate the use of a skirt to be worn by women. For me, a skirt is an exaggeration of the waist as an idea and a way to web legs as frog’s limbs are webbed. I create a look based off of the shapes I want to challenge. I don’t like anything literal but literary texts.
Recently you have cut-outs of people moving through your collages. What’s inspired that?
The first idea I explored of repetition was for a piece I was planning called The Wall. I kept seeing people run back and forth in front of a wall. I shot that and started to think of hieroglyphs. That was the original idea that kind of infected my work following that piece. I started taking photos of people and having them walk back and forth and do random repetitive motions. When I printed the photographs I wanted to use more than one shot of what I was seeing so I would cut out 20 or so little people and make these little scenes as if they were from a movie still. I love the tone.
Are you looking to take people out of their comfort zones?
I’m not looking to take people out of their comfort zones but I believe I do just that. It’s just not my intention. I make images or pieces that feel like static for me. A lot of noise overheard/ saw and then I hone it into a vision of how society looks through my eyes after it’s been garbled in my mind and ears.
What type of music do you listen to on a regular day?
Sometimes none. When I’m working I don’t give myself enough time to change the record after it stops or start a new album on spotify. It really varies. Sometimes I listen to 30’s records with D’angelo playing at the same time. Sometimes, if I need to be up, I’ll listen to Kanye. Music is nostalgia and memory for me as well so at times I listen to what I need to remember. At other times my conversations with myself kill the possibility of noise. Then there are the days I need to hear and see the future so I’ll look for and listen to that.
Where can we find your publication? How often do you plan on printing?
Molasses Bookstore in Brooklyn, Printed Matter Bookstore in Manhattan, as well as my website . Currently my print schedule is annual, but I want to shorten that process moving forward.
What types of things can we see in the future for 3 Dot Zine?
In mid April, I’ll be launching the second issue of the zine with an exhibition of my art. I'm working on a project with Derrick Adams that will come out around the end of the month. I’m also collabing on a special edition of lip balms for eLo Lipcare which launches in April as well.