Ross Lunz is hard to describe. In certain ways, he's a sculptor. In others, he's a first responder. He's a teacher. He's a learner. Please enjoy this interview with Ross and follow his work at: rosslunz.com
Apollo Road 003 with Ross Lunz. Ross is from the "Hilly little civil war town of Vicksburg, Mississippi" he's an interesting guy. I met him through my father Damian, and he is no stranger to the show circuits, although that came later in his career. And Man, he's got an interesting career. Not just limited to the arts, so I hope you enjoy this interview with Ross. U m, I think it'll be one of many to come. By the way, I'm new to this whole interviewing thing, so please don't let my interviewing skills, u h, d ampen the experience...Enjoy.
[ music intro ]
All right. Sitting down with Ross Lunz. Hey , how's it going? Good. How are you Alejandro? Good, just doing a little second take here. Cause of the , uh, the , A/C. Anyway. Ross has been in the arts for probably 20 years, would you say? Yeah, 20 to 25 years. All right. Walk us through the basic trajectory. So where'd you grow up?
So I grew up in Vicksburg, Mississippi. And although I was born in Glen Cove, New York, which is in Long Island. My dad was in Vietnam when I was born. And , um, when he got back from his, his requisite draft period, he was a scientist start off with and we ended up moving to Virginia for three years for him to finish up his, his training as a marine biologist. And so, but when I was four, we ended up in Mississippi. And , um, he was working at a , lab there called the waterways experiment station, which at the time was the largest corp of engineer facility in the, in the world. And I'm interesting. My mom is a nurse. She's still practicing. She's been a surgical nurse for almost 50 years now. [Wow.] Funny to think. And anyway, the reason for bringing those things up is of course, that dictated my path and... so from age four to age, pretty much age 18, 19, would, I would, my formative years were spent in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and I wasn't exposed to a lot of art there. The art that I was exposed to was via my dad, who was a pretty amazing drawer. Draftsman would be a kind of a formal way to put it. But he was very , uh, he had, it came pretty easily to him to draw representational things.
So if he , uh, he did his draft period and I'm guessing that is , he was fairly creative before, you know, he went into the military. And so I wonder if that was, was that helpful for him or do you think it was , you know, being a creative person in a rigid structure is a challenge.
Yeah. You know, neither of my parents for that matter, but especially my dad didn't talk a lot about his childhood, so I have random stories, you know, bouncing around in my head, but there was never a stories about his , uh, artistic endeavors. Definitely not.
[chatter] ...somewhat creative and producing work. He just never really heard a lot about it.
Uh , no, actually , uh, he , um , I don't really understand his rapport with working with his hands or anything using his imagination. There's a pretty strong, in my experience, correlation between science and visual arts. Both of them do a lot of experimenting. Both of them have a , one of them uses the lab we use as visual artists who use our studio. And um, there's a lot of trial and error and almost scientific method if you will, which is proving to disprove. And in our case as craftspeople , we're trying to , um, or as I said, proving to disprove, it's the opposite scientific myth is disproving to prove . Right. And, but we're always, in my case at least, I'm always experimenting with form and materiality in order to , um, basically, disprove what the conventional association is with the , um, with the materials that I'm using in order to prove that actually you can do something with them.
Right. That's a definitely a common thread that I've found so far as it, you know, artists will, they'll work within some boundary and then, you know, start pushing the walls of that boundary and you quickly, you know, find you , you know, new avenues of channels or new ideas or , right. Um, so that , that sounds right. You know, right up there with, with the other people I've talked to. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. So we'll , we'll come back to that in a little bit. But , uh, so Vicksburg was a civil war town, so like you said, there wasn't, you didn't have a lot of exposure to art during that period?
No. You know, Deep South is a funny place and it was especially then when I think about, you know, looking back as a child, you don't see, but I was there essentially from 1972 ish, you know, all the way to 1988. And 1972 was a crazy time for, especially from Mississippi with the civil rights thing. Sure. Again, as a four and five and six year old, I didn't feel any of it. Right. And especially because my parents were Yankees essentially, and then that's how we were always referred to. It is important for southerners to designate a regional or, or part of the country association with , with whoever they know. And so I was always the Yankee. I was always kind of the outsider. Fortunately by the time I got up to 15, 16, 17, I'd grown. I'd grown up with the same people and gone to school with the same people, basically my entire life. At least that's how it felt. I, you know, the stigma wasn't, wasn't there. Right. Anyway, where I'm going is , um, is that it's just more of a, there's not as much room for...your cultural place. I don't know.
It's just so if you're, if you're kind of toeing the line of, you know, the social norm in your city, then you're kind of looked at as, you know, you're going crazy or you're not in , and yeah , "someone needs to discipline, boy." Yeah, yeah.
Well, yeah, I mean, yeah, basically along those lines, but, but back to the role of art, I mean, it just, it's frivolous. You know, it was, it wasn't a , it wasn't something that was really encouraged as it seems to be these days. Again, like from what I can see, a person's imagination , um, being , uh , nurtured is a super important part of what's happening now. Then it wasn't as much of a concern. It was more of the three hours, you know, reading, or writing and arithmetic. And so that was the focus of, of being there. And I went to, I went to Catholic school for an entire , um, from k through 12 . And so , um, yeah, no art classes for sure. Yeah . So
no art classes. But then you responded , uh , by taking the formal routes with the BFA in metalsmithing and painting from central Washington University in Ellensburg and then an MFA in metalsmithing from the University of Kansas. So you kind of rectified the , uh, the lack of artistic training.
Yeah. And you know, that's a funny thing because, yeah, I think where at least I was, oh, I didn't do well in school and I was a good athlete and physical things came easily to me, but the books didn't. And I struggled. I really struggled and was criticized a lot for my, you know, doing poorly in school. Right . So when I became an adult, if you will, you know, I wasn't a teenager anymore. [A formal education track.] Yeah. It became a justification. It became a way of proving that, look, I'm in the university system and I'm doing really well. [You're good at school.] Yeah, yeah, you're right. And I'm getting scholarships and I'm doing all these things that I was taught to do [coffee sip] and I was being , um , praised by classmates and by my instructors. And so I was filling that, that, that insecurity, really is what it was.
So I know, you know, it's probably took, I just glossed over. You're getting a BFA and an MFA and of course it took years. Is there anything that you remember, you know, from either that whole time period where you know , you , you really started to get in your groove and you could feel it and you knew that's where you were gonna you're gonna end up, I may, it sounds like you obviously if you're impressing, you know , your classmates and your professors, you were probably at the top of, you know, your classes in some regard.
Well, you know the , again that's the funny thing about the visual arts is that yeah, of course there's a, a standard by which someone can measure a , a student's performance and or production. But ultimately with, with art and with creativity, it's all so individual. And I think maybe with my comment about encouraged by instructors and respected by classmates , gosh, and it's funny, you know , now being 20 plus years in and how I judge my performance, a lot of it is based on whether I'm still able to survive, basically pay the bills as a visual artist. Whereas then none of that was a concern of mine cause it was already paid for often by scholarship. And so I had all those dynamics tweaked and all I cared about was creativity following a concept. And that was my, that was my litmus for whether I was successful or not.
That's such a good point that you just made because I think the creative field as a let's say as a conceptual field is very different than that of a career path. And like you said, when you have to pay the bills, you know, you're , your options are they seem more limited in a way. I don't know if you , coming out of the , educational environment into, you know , the real world of how to pay your bills. Did you notice , um , a shift in your work or was it only the conceptual idea of it?
Yeah, I mean when I got out of there was a pretty good stretch of time in between undergrad and grad school. And undergrad was more of a feeling like I'm a part of the world and I'm not this dumb reject, which is unfortunately the way I was portrayed in many ways and get , maybe it has more to do with how I thought of myself because I wasn't performing like, you know, I was raised to perform and but there was...let's see I graduated from Undergrad and I think '92-'93 and I started graduate work in '99 basically it , but pretty much 2000. Sure. And so that stretch of time I spent abroad, I traveled cause I didn't know what I wanted to do. I mean, I knew the things that I like to do and I loved, I was into photography and that's where I did. I did a lot of photography. I've always done a lot of photography....Which is, that's a little bit of a tangent ironic because photography is the, probably the most conventionally , um , accepted form of art. And I even , I hesitate to, I don't know, photographers would really argue like art of course it's art, right? But still photography is, yeah.
I mean, yeah, I think that, you know, that's an interesting point because it's so transparent in a way, you know, the whole concept of what art , uh , art is supposed to be more real than life and it's, you know, portraying things beyond reality in reality and you know, all that stuff. But photography is sort of, you almost don't notice it because it, it's literally just what you're looking at and you could, you know, right. Forget that there is an artistic element to it. And of course, you know, I would say that there's definitely mass production photography for the purpose of utility only. You know? And so yeah. That I wouldn't necessarily consider , um, you know, product images on the McMaster Carr catalog art, but they do clearly portray what the item is, right? So to your point, it's, it , it could go both ways, depending on what, what the purpose is, right ?
Yeah, yeah. How is framed and for sure, yeah. Literally how it's framed. Right? Yeah. Yeah.
Okay. So cool. That's a , you clearly regret appling with, you know, how complex the, the field was early on before you went to school during school, you know , and then to this day, I'm sure that...your ideas about the limits and boundaries are different still.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, the difference now as a visual artist in my approach from then when I started off is then it seemed like there was a very specific way of getting there and being quote successful. Now. What , what do you think that was back then? Was it then ? It was what I saw. Um, you know, and this was before the computer and before , um, the access to information that we have now. So you mean like getting, you know, a gallery spot or a studio opening or something like that and then eventually getting in what a magazine or painting? Well, yeah....
One of the, I think , um, something that made a big impact on me in while I was in Mississippi was that pretty good friends of my parents owned a gallery. It's the only gallery of Mississippi Gallery in the form of a , of of like fine artists. [Do you know if it's still around today?] Folk Art? So yeah, yeah , yeah. It was called the Attic Gallery. [Cool.] And it's been going on. It's show Leslie Silver is the proprietors name and save had that business for close to 50 years now and for a gallery that's amazing . And so I was exposed to that from young , um, probably as young as eight years old. But then from eight to 18, I would go there and visit Leslie . And um, that's a good, the time I just went there because it was fun and it was this space with all this art, and , and it wasn't the gallery in the sense of like when you're in Soho in New York City and it's very formal on the rotating shows and it's got a sense of pretentiousness to it...this place was not that way. They carried a lot of folk artists that most of the folks that were being , um , exhibited. There were people from Mississippi, Mississippi, Louisiana, from the Deep South, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia. What kind of work was it when, I mean it was anything from 2D to , so is it was painting, pottery, a lot of woodwork , but mainly painting and a number of drawings and printmaking . It was what now I guess would be considered folk art. Okay. Um, so the folks who were being exhibited, the other artists were not as trained. They, they weren't often weren't formally trained. Um, they were self-taught, you know ? [Right.] And again, then I just saw it as art. [It was just around you.] Yeah. And, but the , the funny thing is, is, you know, folk art is this, and forgive me, full guard , it's out there. But folk arts is this funny dance between , um, cartoon and, or a very , kind of primal or simplistic representation of something, and an idea. And so , um, and often it's as if folk artists are trying to be a child again in the, in , in all the good ways. Um, the innocence and the...
Like the seriousness. There's like a level of seriousness to various... mediums and it sounds like that what is, you know , less of the rigid, rigid , uh, cultural ideas of what art is supposed to be. Sure. Yeah.
So, right. I mean the attic gallery had a pretty significant influence I think even though I haven't strongly, I haven't like sat down and pondered that. But yeah, talking to you make kind of makes me realize.
Yeah. Well I'm glad you brought that up because I think one of the questions I struggle with now is whether people that are closer to my age will develop an appreciation for the visual arts and the handcrafted , you know, whatever it is, a less , they have like a direct experience with it. Early on. I was fortunate that I, you know , grew up in it from day one. [Right?] Yeah. So it's hard for me to get out of that bias and really assess like, you know , words were , did my affinity for art come from. Right. Um , and I don't know if it was just because I grew up in it or if it really was interesting to me individually. Right. Um, so it sounds like you had a nice, a nice early experience and exposure to it that was, you know, in a very fun environment and it was very, friendly and it was, you could ask questions maybe, or you were just happy to be there. And so I don't know if that's right .
You know, it's fascinating that you put it like that. Yeah.
You know , if you, if you walk into a gallery just cold and you're , you know, don't know anything about the work or you don't really have an appreciation for it, I'm not really sure if you can get the same kind of experience out of it. Yeah . But if you spent a lot of time, you know, with an artist or in a studio, then you can kind of see, oh, this is, you know, I get it now. It's, this is what it's about. So that was, that's good to know in the early on early experiences. Right. And you've also had experienced teaching, so that'd be the other side of it. Yeah. Yeah. So not only did you go through the formal , um , training path, but then you also taught, right. What did you learn from that?
Yeah, well, I feel like I need to address the teaching bit is , uh, another way that a visual artist can survive. Especially one who's having a more challenging time and, or making work that's less conventionally accepted. So conceptual artists for instance, is probably if they want to continue to practice going to be teaching maybe for their entire life because to are survive as someone who's trying to express an idea solely and the idea is what's most important, the concept, right . [It's hard to, hard to put a price on that right?] Hard to put a price on that. And, and culture is so temperamental that yeah, the sales are, can be few and far between. Um, so teaching those [at Loyola, right?] Well, no. Yeah, so I started teaching at Loyola and that was, I mean, to backtrack just a little bit, a lot of where I ended up and how I have ended up where I am, I call it serendipity or chance. I don't, I have rarely had a like, okay, this is what I want to accomplish. It's more of I have this kind of ephemeral idea, this almost dream like idea , um , something that's tangible, but, but if when he'd go to grasp for it, it's gonna, it's gonna fade away. Um, and, and then I let chance dictate the literal path or the, you know, from, I was going to say trajectory, which isn't really right. Doesn't really express it properly. The chance chance is what helps me. So back to the Loyola thing, I had just moved to New Orleans. Um, I had just gotten my MFA, my master of Fine Arts from University of Kansas, literally, you know, three months prior , uh , had no intentions of , well, I was interested in teaching, but I just, I was such a hustler anyway. I always used to figuring out what I was gonna do on the fly that , um, I was just gonna take whatever I got. And I always had a skill of doing carpentry. So carpentry, which is, you know, everyone needs a carpenter. Everyone . Sure. Um, and so I was doing that and I would , my wife and I had recently purchased a house and um, do the neighbors. And um, I was doing pickup carpentry, but I was also involving myself in the visual arts. I was going around from gallery to gallery trying to drum up some business and I met other artists and you know, we start talking and next thing I knew I'm doing a sabbatical replacement for the sculpture professor at Loyola who was, you know, gonna be gone for a year essentially. And so that's where it started. And then from being his sabbatical replacement or teaching sculpture at Loyola, then, then I got my foot in the door and then I taught design, they call it basic design, which is just introducing incoming freshmen to the university system.
So is that like a 101 level, essentially
Yeah, it's, yeah. Art One oh one right. But it's the studio part of it and not a book part of it.
Okay. So you had a couple interesting things there. One is that you always had a bread and butter skill that you knew you could rely on to get you through something. [Right.] But you didn't ever stop pushing the creative side forward. Right. And then inevitably because of that you made, made some collisions with some people and then you ended up in the cool spot. Yeah. I'd say it , I guess from the outside it sounds like luck, but it also just sounds like you were disciplined enough to have the right system and the right process and let the result kind of just happen.
Yeah. Yeah. And the system is , as you put it , um, inadvertently would take me places that perhaps I had a role in , where it went. Meaning I had my hands on the steering wheel and it wasn't just a free fall, but , um, yeah, inevitably they took me toward more creative type endeavors or things that involved the imagination more than they did...I'll use the word convention or what popular culture dictates. But back to your point on, on , um, having a bread and butter. I, that is the...often I think the , the thing that brings circuit artists , together is that they're , they have that kind of, they always have an inner drive or bread and butter, hustle. And then the, the craft thing is, or they're making of objects that are, yeah. That involve more imagination than they do function. Um,
Actually I'll pause you right there. Is that does a good distinction to talk about. So, you know, art craft, I know it's different for everyone...Ask anybody and they'll kind of have an opinion on it, but yeah. Um, do you want to lay that out real quick?
Sure. Yeah. And that was always a , that was a huge debate while I was in school. And now the lines are, it seems even though I haven't been involved in the university system in a while but are being really blurred. But at the time that I was quote formally, there was very, very, very distinct lines. And you had, you know, you had the craft camp and yet the art camp and of course everyone wanted to be a part of the art camp. And it was the nerds that were part of the craft camp. And , um, and I always found myself straddling the two . I mean, case in point is in Undergrad I was a double major. I was painting and I was metal smithing , so I was jewelry and I was, you know, painting. So I had never committed to one or the other. And um, and then ultimately they melded themselves by the time I got into graduate school and , and metal smithing had been historically full on craft. Like jewelry is craft. There's no getting outside of that. Well now they don't call it jewelry anymore. They call it metal smithing and, and a lot of the metal smiths are making what is known as "art jewelry." So they're refusing to , um, commit to one side or, or the other. They're just saying I can do both.
Yeah. So is the distinction between art and crafted kind of the level of function on like maybe a sliding scale or is it something else?
Well, so yeah. So as the way I distinguish it is exactly, it has everything to do with function. Whereas to me, the crafts , which are historically, you know , black smithing , pottery, jewelry , uh , print making and photography too . But those, the ladder , the ladder to also have always had their hand in the yard side of things. Um, of course things like basket weaving and paper making and book making are always considered craft and inevitably all in glass blowing as another one of those very strange straddlers like photography and printmaking . But , um , they started off with function being the primary , uh, I mean if you look to our history I guess as humans and making things, yeah.
Craft would have been, you know, your, your chain nail or wherever and your sword was crafted. Yeah. Right. And the pottery that you drank from and, and, and ate from. And Yeah . I'm not really sure how I would define those two terms. I should probably think about it some more before I, you know , commit to some definition, but the ideas that I'm playing with now is that maybe you could take any object and there could be a level of art to it. Um, and there could be a level of craft to it.
I think , uh, you know, craft is more about the process of producing it and actually giving it physical form. And Art I think is kind of the, whatever the genesis of the idea was. So, you know, if I wanted to be semantic, that's probably incorrect, but that's just the feeling I get from it. Right . And you know, of course I'll be asking every, every artists that I interview because I think, you know , everyone has their own working definition of it and that ultimately there's probably, you know, the , the pragmatic definition and then there's the literal, you know, Oxford dictionary definition. Yeah. But like you said, it's contentious because it can be defined depending on how you look at it.
Yeah. Yeah. I would be fascinated to talk with , um, artists now and find out when they made the decision in their personal lives to pursue... They did, you know, I know, I know. I can confidently say that every one of them battled with those two words. Right. And again, going back to the circuit artists thing, you know, circuit artists to me are the kind of the epitome of, of skilled folk at blurring the line between art and craft.
Well, it's a perfect transition. So circuit artists in art fairs. Uh, um, when did you get into the art circuit?
My first show was jazz fest in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2009. Okay. Yeah. Man. 2009 art fairs. That was an interesting readjustment period right after, after the crash of '08. Just watching my dad go through, you know, that time period and still run in the circuit change pretty fast. Um, so yeah, that's an interesting time to jump in. Yeah. And I didn't know any different. Sure. It was just my first exposure I had six months prior to that made my, my first piece of furniture is the same. I approached materiality the same way I had done everything up until that point. It's just that I changed the function of it and where I was making sculpture and, or jewelry and then I started to make furniture [is that what you applied with?] Yeah . Yeah. Yeah. What category did you start with? Um, [cause I know furniture is a tricky one right?] Yeah . Yeah, exactly. Depends make it out of.
Yes. So I applied mixed media. Which is quote art, right? Yeah. Right. And you know , furniture is sort of the epitome of utility and function, right? Um , yeah. Okay. So jazz fest , I know that's a big show. That's a big show. And I again, it's top of the country, right? It's, yeah. Yeah. I mean at the time I say that now with kind of this glow, but at the time I didn't know, I knew it was a competitive show. I knew. And you got in first, first application, first year. Never was. I , I've only, I applied to that show seven times. I got into that show seven times. Well, okay . And , um, but yeah, I did not know the caliber of that show until really until maybe two years later having done a number of circuit shows. Um, and then people would, you know, you just get to know the scene and , um...do you remember that first show, getting there, setting up, you know, displaying your work. Do you remember what it was like seeing the rest of the show and how it kind of defined you as an artist versus your experience in the formal education side of it? Yeah. Oh , very distinctly. I remember. Um, and
the thing that's , that is the most indelible, the impression is how I felt like I've found my people. Um , as far as at the other artists there , um, it's funny that I say artists instead of crafts people. I, you know, I , and I back to that, I still do have a bias. I still have a bias. I have a hard time saying crafts people and I have a hard time saying art fair or craft fair because of the, you know, these associations that were given personally, you know . Yeah.
I'm with you on that. I, I've said it all my life, just, you know, art... Art show art fair and you know, craft artists, whatever and never even thought about it. Well , it's only now that I'm actually thinking, oh actually there's, there's meaning attached with each one.
Right? And if you, and there are some makers, and that's the word I default to now for me and for everyone else who's, who's using their hands to express their imagination. And um, but every maker will have probably really strong feelings on those words. Craft Fair art show, you know, I got a call a circuit artists, right . You know, as opposed to crafts people and yeah. And so it's so weird and sticky and right .
Well terms aside, we'll just for the sake of, you know, talking about it and you can say whatever you want, the audience will just have to know that there's more to it. We'll just use terms that way we can get by in conversation and as we, you know , as we go along with this podcast and you hear from more artists I guess we'll get more of a perspective on the terms [art vs. craft]. And then hopefully I'll be able to separate the terms from, you know , the work that you're looking at. Cause at the end of the day, just evaluate the work. Right. All right . Yeah. But , uh , okay. So jazz fast first show, you know, you said you immediately knew that you found your people, right? [Yeah.] Um, so far the artists I've talked to, that's kind of one of the top two or three things it's just the people, the friends, the culture, the..that's, that's what makes it.
The tribe I call it. Yeah. And of course I use that word or heard that word before. Okay. Ever saying it. Um , outside of the native American indigenous people who are, you know, [inaudible]
well now it's a buzz word . It's trending . I know . I get , it's taken on a new, yeah, yeah. Reinterpretation.
Yeah. Right. Well, 10 years ago, I'm sure the term has evolved a good bit since then, but 10 years ago, like I said, I'd heard people say it, but never felt it is just, it felt like a, it just felt contrived. But once I got into jazzfest and I was walking around and said, as we're setting up, cause it's set up as a , you know, as you know, a big part of getting ready. Um,
So for people that don't know, set up for an art show is typically you drive in your van Thursday before the show starts on Friday. Yeah . You drive up, get in line, figure out where your booth is. You walk over there and say, okay, here's my square, 10 by 10 space. Yeah. There's inevitably a fire hydrant in there or a drain [or someone who doesn't, not park]. It's , it's always a fucked up in some way. And you're like, all right , this is what we're working on. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
And that's where you get to know everybody. Yeah. And that is, yeah, that's amazing. And it's amazing how smoothly over chaotically it can be, but for the most part in the better, in the shows with a strong reputation, how smoothly it goes, because most of those folks are, they are incredibly , uh, focused and just aware people. So, yeah.
And you definitely know, you can recognize the artists that have done it for many years. You know, like gun recognizes another gun. Yeah . Right. Walk up and you're like, all right . Yeah , yeah,
yeah. But back to the , um, the set up is an introduction to in my first set up of course was an introduction, to all the other artists and then not knowing what I was getting into and um, but again, free for all-ing it and I brought a graffiti artists with me cause I was working with found objects and um, and it was "street finds" , uh, specifically street signs and a lot of them had been tagged. Um, they were all decommissioned street signs after Hurricane Katrina. But I , I brought in a graffiti artist and I set up my booth walls just as these blank slates and I let him do his thing. And um, that I didn't know that that was a big deal in a good way, but it was because everybody loved it. And I got a prize and you know, best booth , cause most craft shows have their , um, are given out prizes. Uh, but that happened multiple times where I was given that and I , cause I, and I use that recipe if you will, of this kind of impromptu,
so like literally he was tagging in your booth . That's it . So that's pretty cool. I, I think the, there's very few booths kind of breach that , uh , I don't know , fourth wall for lack of a better description of, 'this is still being made right now while you're watching it.' Right. Most, most boosts , it's like everything's made and just on display. But once you kind of break that veil of this is literally still in process, that's, you know , unique. Yeah,
yeah, yeah, yeah. More of an experience, which is what I was trying to create. Right. More of an experience than a , yeah. Similar to meow Wolf, I guess. Yeah . As opposed to, again , a gallery setting. Meow Wolf is somewhere between an experience and a gallery. Right.
So for people that don't know meow wolf is, I don't know , how would you actually, how would you say Meow Wolf is an exhibit? To me having just moved to New Mexico and never seen it prior to yeah. But I would just call it an art experience. It's in Santa Fe, New Mexico. And the early funding came from George RR Martin who wrote Game of Thrones. Right. So it's one of the, actually one of the things that's put New Mexico on the map. Um , in recent years. Yeah, for sure. But , uh, so that's just a little background in case you hadn't heard of it. Um, let's circle back to hurricane cause I know that impacted you. Sure. In a huge way. No . Yeah. And that was before you started doing art shows, right? Yeah. Okay. Exactly. So yeah, I guess walk us through what you were doing that, you know right before and then, you know , jump into it and then how you came out of it.
Right. So I was teaching at Loyola...the storm hit at the end of August and school hadn't quite started in , you know, universities start at different times in different parts of the country depending on the weather. But , um, school hadn't really started yet. Um, I didn't have a , because I was an adjunct professor , it was contract based and so contract hadn't been renewed yet, but because of that , especially because of the storm, it was eliminated and school was put on hold. University was put on hold. A lot of the students, student body. I know in Tulane and Loyola they did their schooling in other parts of the country. There were I guess host, universities who were , who are taking a student body and the teachers just kind of sat around for a little bit and figuring out, "okay, what's going to happen?" Because at the time university , uh, New Orleans was, there was a , a lot of talk of it being like, it's not [done right.] Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And um, so I , uh, as as we've mentioned already, I grew up in Vicksburg, Mississippi, which just , it's a three hour drive north of New Orleans. So that's where my wife and I evacuated to, to her family's house there. But within two days of the storm and the levees breaking, I was back down. I did search and rescue. Basically, I got a 14 foot, flat bottom boat, a John boat we call them down there and a 15 horsepower motor. And I freelanced a just doing search and rescue. Wow. [So did you have any qualifications before that or did you just jump right in?] Just a hustle. They could just take whatever help they could get right. Yeah, it really was. It was and yeah, it was just, again, to use the word, it was a free for all. It was, it was pretty amazing how it materialized. Sure. I mean, of course you have Fish and Wildlife and you have the Army and the , uh, the Air Force and the , um, all of the first responders that are quote unquote qualified. But then you have, you know, your...? The citizens . Yeah. Yeah, the civilians. Right . The , um, the Cajun Navy was one term that was used for the folks who, the [coon asses], who, who wanted to be a part of it all.
And I had never heard that term before. Yeah. Interesting. Yeah. Wow. So that was definitely a, a one 80 from what you were doing and, yeah. I don't know if you'd ever thought about something like that before you kind of just jumped in and just felt like you had to do it?
Yeah. Well, I wasn't , um, if I were to label myself, it would be someone, a hands on person and a person of action. Um, and so it wasn't just going to sit around and watch, and from all of my, I'd done a lot of traveling and if there's anything that I noticed that I learned from all the traveling and working abroad that I had done prior to Katrina, it was that with the news portrayed in with the reality, the situation was, was two totally, totally different things. So, you know, I was like, what I'm hearing, I know that's not true, even though, of course that's not in, that's not to disrespect any journalist or news caster.
There are just many different , uh, many different ways that story is portrayed. And so it's almost an impossible task to properly present, you know , an ongoing phenomenon, whatever that is. And so, yeah, that's a good point. Yeah. Yeah.
So I knew that there was a way that I could , um, help true. And , um, and I'm an adrenaline junkie and based on what the news was telling us, it was a war zone. So I'm like, well, hell yeah, I'm going to go into this war zone. It's my backyard. I know it like basically like the back of my hand and there's no way I can't figure out some way to to figure it out.
Wow. So what was the...let's see, you got that boat and you just, what? Just hit the water just started?
I was able to figure out some approach cause I knew I wasn't just going to go down there. And so what I learned through talking to folks was that you meet on the interstate about 60 miles outside of town and that was the triage point. And you just say, you're, here I am, I've got my boat and this is what I know. And, and then , um, Fish and Wildlife was really who organized us .
Okay. Uh, so there was at least some sort of , uh , cohesion and you could delis report back to cert . Some people at end of the day or ,
yeah, yeah. I mean they, in the morning we would convene, they would line us out with a , a leader of sorts. And , um, and then during this initial morning meeting, they would say, well, you know, at, at dusk he needs to be... Boat needs to be back off, off the water and, and you need to, you know. But the thing was we started, this is pretty much almost a 24 hour work period. Ironically, or coincidentally, I should say , um , a lot like firefighting and , um , at least anyway , uh , to fast forward just a little bit because of Katrina and because of my search and rescue experience, I realized that an aptitude for, I'll call it first responding, turn it into a verb. Sure. And , um , I became a firefighter a year and a half later. [ oh right on. ] So , um, yeah, that , uh, that meeting in the morning, we, you know, learned again what we were going to do and then we did our thing and we came back and uh, yeah, in the evening and it was a summertime. So it was, it was a really long part of the year. We didn't get dark till nine o'clock, but we usually, we were usually starting about 2:00 AM.
Hmm . So that's, yeah, that's another, I'd say aspect of, you know , your , your life where it's like you're , you're just about the action . It's like, let's just go do something. And right away just he talks to people, you figured out, you know where to go from there. A couple more collisions, you know, and then boom, you're on a new track. Yeah , yeah. And what a crazy track that is. It's not, you know, I'd say for a , you know, for a visual artist to go from, you know, their , their comfortable field into, like you said, it was described as a war zone and you're kind of on your own to some extent. Yeah. That's pretty impressive.
Yeah. And I'm sure it was, you know, defining experiences in your life too. Yeah, and definitely,
I mean, I have a history of doing things. I was a commercial fisherman and bicycle messenger. And so , um, I'd always done things that were a little bit risky, for lack of a better word. Um, and this was to me just an extension of what I already knew.
Hmm. That's interesting. That's, we'll definitely have to talk a bit more about some of those other interesting jobs and professions. I mean, cause it's interesting seeing how if you read your pedigree on your bio, on your website, they go, okay, you know , I think I understand Ross , but then you know, talking to you, you're like, oh wow. And so he's, this is just one small aspect. Oh, right. You know, so I guess that brings me to the question. How would you define your career or your, you know, yourself, like when you meet people, what do you say you do?
Yeah, when I meet people I tell them I'm a sculptor. And that is so funny how I, you , since I, at least for me, I'm a little bit now after speaking with you, fixated on semantics and , I use that word because I know of the impact it can have historically as opposed to just calling myself a furniture maker. And often, depending on who I'm talking to, I'll say sculptor-furniture maker, I'll kind of combine the two things. So basically I'm saying I'm an artist, craftsperson, you know, it's like,
yeah. I mean, well that's, you know, that's interesting because it's hard to define yourself at any one point in time. Right. You know, you're always changing and eh, semantics aside, it's , it's only as you can convey, I don't know what you're about.
Right , right. Yeah. Well, sure. Yeah, yeah. And the audience will dictate the word choice. Sure. Yeah. But yeah, so I just, that's how I tipped and I call myself a sculptor. And , um, the neat thing about sculpture and the other sculptors that I know is that they , uh, they, yeah. They're always playing this , uh,
new forums , new ideas.
Yeah. Whether it be between function and aesthetic , you know, so, or an idea and a, and a function.
Right. Well, we're right almost at an hour. What's your schedule? Got somewhere to be?
Um, yeah, actually.
Alright , cool. So we'll , uh, we'll wrap it up here for now. Okay . As you, as you've heard, there's far more to Ross's story and we'll have to sit down again soon and you know , venture into the , the later art circuit years show circuit years and yeah. And then maybe go back into some of his other interesting professions. Yeah. Thank you. So Ross , um, where can people contact you if they want to or find, find out more about your work?
Yeah, the easiest way is just RossLunz.com, so R O S S L U N Z. Cool. My studio name is Skimmer studio, SKIMMER.
And you're in Albuquerque now and I'm based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Yeah , I'll put links where you can click on them and uh, any questions for Ross, you can um, relay them to me through ApolloRoad.com/podcast and uh, yeah, we'll uh, we'll talk to you next time. Thanks. Yeah, thank you.
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Apollo road zero zero three in the books. Thank you for listening. If you listen to that entire hour, um...Man, I learned a lot. Um, I did not realize that Ross had so much more to his story than simply the artistic work that he's done. So inevitably I will have him back on the show at some point. If you want to support this podcast, please go to ApolloRoad.com/podcast right now. It's a labor of love. I am bootstrapping this thing and I've got a master plan and maybe I'll fill you in in the later episodes, but a , it involves much more than this podcast. It's, this podcast is just a small piece of my grand vision, so you'll have to look forward to that. Thank you for listening again, and we will get another interview up here shortly. Take care.