The Arts District Citizen By Nathan Cartwright

The Arts District Citizen

John Michael Gill

by Nathan Cartwright (Article from The Arts District Citizen) – Los Angeles

John Michael Gill was raised in Torrance, CA. Born into an artistic family, he was highly influenced by the skateboard culture in which he grew up, espeically the music and graffiti. His immersion in this culture and voracious reading encouraged his development as a self-taught artist. He says, "Art is not something I chose, but something that chose me".

It’s great to see a folk style not derived from the foothills of Appalachia, but from the sidewalks of Southern California. Gill’s work pierces straight to the heart with strong religious iconography and archaic mark making. He dabbles in all mediums, ranging from mixed media to ceramics, oils and acrylics. His work is a statement on the current condition of mankind and the corporate cement that gags and binds us. John’s subjects are often tormented by demons and dollar signs, indicating the plight of the common artist and, of course, the common man. His canvases collide with chaotic representations of crudely drawn houses with white picket fences, TVs, skeletons and gleaming kings’ crowns, indicating the over-saturation of the "idea" of the American Dream gone wild.

Nathan Cartwright: Tell me about your possession series from last year?

John Michael Gill: The possession series started last year when I was watching "The Exorcist." It was around Halloween, when all the networks seem to have horror movies on. I think I was sick. Anyhow, I started thinking about how completely terrifying the idea of possession is, then took a look around at the people I come across in my daily life. The people I grew up with have slowly been magnetized to the needle and other abuses that have made them mutate into the evils of the world. I looked at myself and my own problems and demons. I started to see that people start out very pure and slowly [get] overcome by possession. It doesn’t have to be the devil. Let your mind wander around the idea of possession. Possession is literally everywhere, and people are lining up. I read heavily about exorcisms. I came up with the show "Exorcising Possessions" at Walled City last year. [It was] based on the idea that it is not too late. We can de-program. We can exorcise ourselves. I fight my demons everyday—as I should—so I paint about it.

NC: Are you possessed?

JMG: Absolutely…I am no different than the rest of humanity. As a child, it is instinctual to mimic things. The idea of copying is an instinct. If there is an evil that presents itself in a fashionable way, most will follow the lead. My demons live in deep places in me. I am fighting the good fight within myself. But yes, I am possessed. However, we can also be possessed by the beauty of life.

NC: What do you think about icons? 

JMG: I love icons. I try to incorporate icons in my work a lot. I love the Virgin Mary, saints, etc. Icons are not to be worshipped. Icons are reminders of things big and small. I don’t like celebrities as icons. I like to make my own.

NC: Who is your favorite art icon in the Los Angeles art scene?

JMG: Does Kenny Scharf live in LA? Raymond Pettibon, Charles Bukowski, good graffiti crews.

NC: What will you be presenting for us in September at The Hive?

JMG: I will be presenting work that is still relevant to the possession idea, as well as some illustrated Biblical references and reactions to the ole 9 to 5 lifestyle. I look forward to it.

John Michael Gill will be the featured artist at The Hive Gallery opening September 2nd, starting at 8pm. Check the website at for more information or check out Mr. Gill at 

Curator Nathan Cartwright is owner of The Hive Gallery and Studios, on the board of 3EG, a nonprofit arts organization, co-creator of The Max, and curator of numerous large-scale art events around the city of Los Angeles. For more information, email him at