Interview with Austin J. Yerington
“Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground." Credit to Austin J. Yerington.

Interview with Austin J. Yerington

Austin’s photograph “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” is featured in this year’s issue of earthwords. Our Art Editor, Madeline Berner, recently interviewed Austin where they talked about the pop culture influences in his work and the importance of motivation for his creativity. This is the transcript of their conversation.


Madeline Berner: What’s the story behind this piece, “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”?

Austin Yerington: I took the name from a White Stripes song, a band I often draw a lot of creative energy from. “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” is one of my earliest photos, where I was actively trying to capture something. Every time I look at it I get a different emotion, and I think that’s why I really like it. 

MB: What is something you want everyone to know about art or about your specific work? 

AY: I hope they find something in their real life in it. We all share so many weird overlooked experiences and emotions, I just hope they might find those in my work. 

MB: Is photography your favorite medium? Do you like to work in another medium (painting, drawing, ceramics, etc.)?

AY: Photography is something I have always wanted to really dive into. I write mostly for my medium, mostly journalistic, but also a lot of theater and creative prose. But there’s something about photography that I love. I think it’s how the story is spread through it just by using visuals. That story may be something very literal, but it can also be very abstract. I love the freedom it allows for myself and viewers. 

“Pop culture has always been a huge inspiration to me. As a kid I grew up as a sponge absorbing everything I could from all generations… anything from a sad Hank William’s song, or a Andy Warhol piece, or a rap song from the 90’s can find its way into my creative process.”

MB: What’s your typical process with art pieces? Is everything planned or does it evolve naturally?

AY: I would say it evolves naturally. I can’t plan anything so if I tried with my work, it could be a disaster for everyone.

MB: What part of the process is the most challenging? Most fun?

AY: The editing is always the hardest, but it can really help you have some clarity to your piece, be it with a photo or prose. I have such a hard time really looking at a piece once I finish it. It sometimes can feel like I’m looking at old yearbook photos of myself. But it sometimes can be really engaging and productive. I can never tell. 

MB: What/who inspires your work?

AY: Pop culture has always been a huge inspiration to me. As a kid I grew up as a sponge absorbing everything I could from all generations because of my parents and two older siblings. I think they really helped me find a wide range of art. Because of my family anything from a sad Hank William’s song, or a Andy Warhol piece, or a rap song from the 90’s can find its way into my creative process. 

MB: What’s something you struggle with as an artist? 

AY: I think everyone struggles with the motivation to create, and I feel I have to be the guiltiest of that crime. But I also feel that if you have to work too long on something creative, and it’s no longer a joy to you, it shows in the final product. So I struggle with finding and acting on my creative impulses. I always work hard on my pieces, but if it feels like I’m forcing it, then I probably should walk away.

MB: What is your goal as an artist?

AY: I think it’s just to try and keep that warm belly excitement I get when I’m making something I’m really getting into. That doesn’t happen with every piece but when it hits, it makes everything else fall to the side.

MB: Any recommendations for us all while we’re in quarantine? Music, show, podcast, artist, etc?

AY: I think everyone that can, should watch HBO’s Watchmen, it is both provoking and highly entertaining. I also think everyone should listen to Black Sabbath’s Changes. There’s something so haunting and beautiful about that song. 

MB: Anything else you’d like to share? Or any advice for artists starting out?

AY: This is a great time to create, but it’s also a great time to just be. It’s scary and a lot of things are happening. I think it is important to just know that we all are going through something really weird right now. So if you want to create the next Mona Lisa, then go for it. But if you want to just eat pints of Ben & Jerry’s while you re-watch a show that you love for the thousandth time, then that’s great too.

Austin J. Yerington thinks life is too short for boring art. But he also likes the movie Space Jam so who knows.

Find his work at @ozzy_yerington82.