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Artist Spotlight: Chris Galley - Devil Chicken Design

We asked Chris Galley of Devil Chicken Design to have a large part in this year's Lowbrow magazine, Weirdo Vol. 8. Not only did we feature him in an artist profile but we tasked him with a heavy duty, to design and create the cover. With little to no direction given to Chris, we told him just to do what he does and damn it we are so glad we did. He nailed it, hit this one out of the park, it speaks truth, has a great feeling, and is just beautiful to look at!  Knowing his work and being able to watch his progression over the years, we knew he would kill it. To have his work represent us and Weirdo 8, we couldn't be more proud.  "I knew I wanted to pull out the stops and really create something indicative of what Lowbrow Customs is, and more importantly, what they provide to the custom motorcycle community.For me, Lowbrow Customs was a means of entry to custom bike building.I had done a little bit of wrenching here and there on my bikes, mostly service work to keep them all running.Once I discovered Lowbrow Customs and all of the parts and services they offer, my interest in wading a little deeper into the customizing pool strengthened. I by no means consider myself a bike builder, but over this last winter I tore down my wife’s Sportster and gave it a complete cosmetic makeover. All of the parts I needed to find came from Lowbrow Customs. In a nutshell, that’s what this artwork is about. I chose to focus on images of women for my sources because they are a small, but growing part of the custom motorcycle world.  I am seeing more and more women at shows and even more importantly, I am seeing more and more women involved in producing artwork and bikes exhibited at shows.  The really cool thing is that they have been welcomed with open arms.  What is often viewed as a mens club has become more inclusive.  Creativity and hard work are respected across genders, race and even make of bike."  - Chris Galley

The image reads from left (back cover) to right (front cover) as you work in the garage to get your bike out on the open road.  In the center is a skeletal Guadalupe cradling a radian carburetor.  After all, the carb is the heart of your bike.  In the background I collaged imagery from previous Weirdo magazines, an old HD service manual from the late 60’s, an old Harley Davidson ad from a 1950’s Popular Mechanics, the 70’s Evel Knievel comic book released by Ideal toys and even a Chinese language newspaper I picked up on a lunch break during last summers Fuel Cleveland show.  The collage speaks to the various places you grab inspiration for your build.

Artist Profile Feature

Please state your Name, and occupation / business.  Christopher C. Galley.  I’m an artist and teacher.  My business is Devil Chicken Design

Tell us some background about yourself. Who is Chris Galley and this ever allusive Devil Chicken? I’m just a dude from Buffalo, NY who makes weird pictures.  Thankfully people seem to dig them.  I don’t know if I’m really prepared to delve into the existential question of “who is Chris Galley” but I can tell you that Devil Chicken has been a name I’ve held onto since high school.  I was doing some cleaning last spring and found a box of old 3.5” floppy disks I was working with in the early 90’s.  One of them had my earliest ideas of what my Devil Chicken Design logo would be.  They actually weren’t too dissimilar from what I’m using now.  I don’t know if that means I was onto something solid early, or that I peaked in high school...   What or who got you into art? I can remember the day vividly.  My Aunt Mary had rented a cottage at the beach for a week in the summer when I was a little kid.  I ended up being the only kid at the cottage for a day and all the adults wanted to party and not hang out with the bummer that I’m sure I was at the time.  To be fair, I was pretty young so conversation probably wasn’t my strong suit…  To keep me occupied, my Aunt Mary gave me some paper and crayons and set me up at table on the porch.  The adults started getting after it and I drew.  After a few minutes my Aunt Mary came out to check on me and raved about my UFO drawing.  She grabbed some tape and hung it on the wall.  She asked me if I could make some more; she wanted me to fill up all of the space on the wall.  By the end of the week, I covered every inch of that porch with drawings of UFO’s, pets, people and race cars.  I was an only child and we moved around a lot, so I spent a pretty solid amount of time by myself.  The fact that an adult was into something I made got me hooked.  I’ve been chasing that thrill ever since.

Who or what inspires your work? This is another one of those lightning strike moments.  My wife and I were in Austin, TX walking down South Congress Street.  My wife is really into dogs so when we spotted a cool hand made sign for “Yard Dog” we assumed it was a pet store and crossed the street to check it out.  It ended up being this really amazing Folk Art gallery.  They had a bunch of paintings from punk rock legend Jon Langford on the wall.  They were these really amazing images of cowboys, country music icons and soul singers.  Some of them had skulls, but all of them had these amazing textures and stories.  I couldn’t believe that it was considered art or that people were into it.  As I researched more about Jon Langford and his work I made the connection that he was paying tribute to the people that influenced him.  That was it, I was hooked; it was time to make some Evel Knievel paintings!

Can you explain the random clippings in the background of some of your pieces and how it affects each piece differently? That’s definitely the fun part!  The drawings take forever.  They’re usually somewhere between 30-40 hours of drawing time for the larger paintings.  The collage and paintwork lets me work a little more expressively.  For me, the collage tells the story of the piece.  The pictures and text come to together to add meaning to the drawing.   I’ve been fortunate to travel pretty extensively with my art.  Every city I go to I always pick up some kind of print materials.  I try to hit as many antique and junk shops as possible in an effort to find old, weird and strange paper goods to put into my paintings.  My studio is truly a fire hazard.  Its full of old books, newspapers and paint thinner.  It’s probably going to end badly. What’s teaching high school kids like for you, any funny stories you can share without getting yourself fired!?  It’s not a bad gig.  It can be stressful, but for the most part, I have pretty good relationships with my students.  You are still dealing with teenagers, and they can definitely be moody.  When it gets tense I have to remind myself that they are paying me to draw and paint.  My best story is probably back when I was teaching drivers ed. in summer school.  When you start teaching, you don’t make much money so you definitely have to get a summer job.  Drivers ed.  paid well, because you’re basically driving in a car full of 16 year olds who are trying to kill you for 6 hours straight. I had one kid who decided he had enough and tried to bail out of the car while he was driving.  He just said he was done and unbuckled his seat belt and started opening his door.  All of this while we are rolling through a neighborhood.  I had to lay across the front seat and pin him in with my elbow while trying to steer out of oncoming traffic and slow the car down with the mechanical brake on my side.  I avoided a minivan and a mailbox and pulled it up to a curb.  The kid wiggled out from behind my elbow and walked to the back door of the car like nothing happened.  I looked up at the rearview mirror and saw the terrified faces of the three kids in the back seat.  I asked them who was next to drive and we carried on.

What’s is your favorite medium to work with and why? I’m a mixed media guy.  I like to throw a lot at the picture in different combinations.  When I started working in this style almost 10 years ago, it was an effort to purge the academic work I had done up to that point.  I decided I was going to take all of the techniques I was good at or that I wanted to learn (and hopefully get good at) and mix them up.  Part of it was also to put together these juxtapositions of style or technique that I hadn’t really seen explored.  I’ve done a lot of digital design work over the years and I’ve gotten fairly competent at it, but it always feels like cheating.  It lacks the hand made element.  I’ll start my design work digitally, but the finished image is always hand drawn.  Most people think that my finished images are computer prints until they look a little closer and see all of the marker work that goes into it. What do you find the most challenging when it comes art in general? Overcoming self-doubt.  I think I’ve ruined every painting at some point during the creative process.  Sometimes it’s pretty difficult to push though the doubt when you don’t have a clear direction.  The only thing I’ve found that pushes thought it is to just keep working.  I make myself work in the studio every day.  I’ve made a habit out of it.  If I can’t get in the studio it really feels strange.  Most of art is trying to fix mistakes you’ve made along the way of creating a painting.

What got you into teaching kids art? It sounds bad, but it was the fact that I needed a paycheck.  When I finished my first art degree I knew 20 something me wasn’t disciplined enough to work in a studio all day by myself.  I knew I needed a job that forced me to more or less to go somewhere and punch a clock.  My mom had told me that I was good with kids and that I should consider teaching.  I thought I would give it a go.  The cool thing is that I like it and I’ve been able to have a pretty respected career.  The district I work in has been really supportive of my art and travel schedule for shows.  I think the kids respect the fact that I’ve been able to find success with the stuff that I teach them.  Choosing to go into teaching was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.

How did motorcycles come into your life? It feels like they’ve always been there.  My earliest memory was probably riding down the street on the gas tank of my dad’s Husqvarna dirt bike.  When my family moved outside of Pittsburgh my dad got me my first ATC.  We lived out in the boonies, so every kid had some kind of ATV or dirt bike.  We would get out of school and pretty much ride until we had to come home for dinner.  I got my first street bike shortly after I got married.  It was a Harley 883. That was it, I was hooked. How much does motorcycles play a role in your artwork and why? When I decided to transition my art focus and style a big part of it was that I was going to focus on what I thought was cool.  That’s where motorcycles come in.  As a kid I remembered watching Evel Knievel on the Wide World of Sports.  The fact that he would launch himself across an arena with no regard for his body made a huge impression on me.  He was definitely an early focus for my art.  To be truthful, he still is an obsession with me.  There’s still some more Evel Knievel paintings in my head.  I started getting into painting old board track and flat track racers for many of the same reasons.  Reading about the history of motorcycle racing is intense.  You can’t help but be inspired to work.  Even though I’ve started to branch my artistic focus into some other areas, motorcycles will always be a part of what I make.

What's up with your obsession with skulls?    Is it really that obvious?  I think it ties into my childhood.  I was actually born dead and had a handful of health issues growing up.  Being a sick, only child means I spent a lot of time in my head thinking about things.  For me the skeletons represent the connection between life and death, but not in a morbid way.  To me they are more life affirming.  It’s that connection of when you are doing something you are passionate about you are truly alive.  That’s what my skeletons are doing, they’re living. All time dream motorcycle if you could only own that one, what would it be? I have knucklehead dreams, and a shovelhead budget… Where is somewhere you have ridden yet that you are trying to get to before you kick the bucket? I’m headed to Nepal with Motorcycle Sherpa's this Fall.  I am beyond stoked on this opportunity!  I’ve wanted to see Mt. Everest for longer than I can remember.  I think the next one on the list would be hitting the El Diablo Run.  Being from the northeast, the desert is an almost alien landscape.  The ride and beach look amazing.  I need to start making plans for the next one. 

Do you have any life mottos or words you live by? I really got into Henry Rollins when I was in high school.  The music, the books and his samurai like focus spoke to me.  In a lot of ways, it still does.  His quote “No such thing as spare time, no such thing as free time, no such thing as down time. All you got is lifetime. Go.” are words to live by.  Opportunity doesn’t come to you.  You have to go find it. 

All time favorite Taco combination, what do you stuff your favorite taco with? I have to shout out my friends at Cantina Loco and Chef Mike Andrejewski on this one.  Their Koreatown taco is pretty amazing.  Beef short ribs, kimchee and just the right amount of spice.  It’s my go to order every time.  Next time your in Buffalo, skip the wings and try this taco.  You’re welcome.

If someone was trying to get into art, what helpful tips or advice would you give them? Work.  The key to success is hustle.  I worked for years under the misconception that if my work was good, people would find it.  That wasn’t the case.  I didn’t find success until I started hustling and traveling with my work.  The more I worked and the more I put myself out there, the more opportunities came my way.  I think it also helped that I found my audience.  I still show in galleries every chance I get, but I’ve found that the motorcycle culture has been more receptive to my aesthetic, which is amazing.  I know my work isn’t for everyone, to find a community that supports it is pretty special.

Anyone you want to give a shout out or thank. I have to give a huge thank you to my wife Jo.  If you’ve checked out my work in person somewhere around the country, you’ve probably met her.  She is my biggest supporter and definitely the more outgoing and personable one of us.  I wouldn’t be able to do as much as I do without her.  She’s pretty amazing and I’m lucky to have her. I would like to thank Lowbrow Customs for all they have done to support the motorcycle community and the inspiration they provide to all of us with a passion for motorcycles.  Personally I would like to thank everyone at Lowbrow for this opportunity and all of the support they have given me over the years. They’re the real deal. Finally I want to thank my friend Mikey Revolt for sending me these questions and always sharing amazing opportunities with me.  Mikey and I met for the first time at my first out of state show in Timonium, MD at the Lowside Magazine show.  Something clicked, and we’ve been friends ever since.  You’re the best Boo!

If you dig what you see be sure to grab a copy of Weirdo 8 to have yourself a Chris Galley original on the cover. If you are wanting your own piece of art by Chris Galley give him a follow on his IG @devilchickendesign and hit him up.  Also visit his website at devilchickendesign.com. He has tons of prints of his current work available along with t-shirts and he will be releasing his really cool holiday ornaments soon.    

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