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Austin Call is the artist behind Duhrivative, a pseudonym he uses to deconstruct and deform people’s faces, from Iris Apfel to Grace Coddington, to Sevdaliza and Colby Keller. Living and working in South Bend (Indiana, United States), he is an open gate to contemporary pop culture, depicting icons in his unique, characteristic way. Nevertheless, he doesn’t want to be known solely for one thing; as he puts it, “I must keep exploring to push myself and stay interested”. Today we chat with him about beauty standards and how to subvert them.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in central Indiana (United States). I have been drawing and painting since an early age, which led me to art school in Chicago, where I studied product design. Whilst in college, I nearly lost my passion for art-making to focus on a design career. After graduating, I worked in design for several years but realized I was missing something so dear to me. So I started creating my own work again, traditionally and digitally. And what I describe as out of necessity, I created Duhrivative.
How and when did you have your first contact with art? And at what moment did you decide it would become your profession in addition to being your passion/hobby?
I don’t recall one exact moment, I just remember learning to express myself from a very young age and it became my language as well as my catharsis. I think around the age of fourteen I knew that creating would forever be a part of my life.
What does Duhrivative mean?
Duhrivative is a play on the word ‘derivative’. I believe that everything in the universe has derived from something previous. The name also mocks derivative art, in that, I truly don’t believe any idea or artwork is a truly original thought. I think everything is influenced biologically or ideologically by something else.

What’s a normal day in your studio like? How does your creative process work?
Some days result in no work produced, and others, I spend twenty hours producing several works. It really depends on the day, my mindset, my surroundings and my inspiration.
Your illustrations defy traditional beauty standards; you kind of even deform people’s faces. And nevertheless, they still look beautiful. How do you define your aesthetic?
I think that partially comes from wanting the viewer to feel slightly discomforted with what they are seeing, which is still recognizable but in a skewed and confusing way. I define my work in several ways, like post-pop portraiture or deconstructed, non-proportional portraiture. I like to let other people define what they are seeing rather than directing them.
In your works, we can see a very personal style. How did you achieve it and how has your process of artistic self-discovery been?
My process is ever evolving. It started as a thought and as something I just needed to get out on my computer to a full-blown artistic endeavour. I foresee the next steps in my practice as bringing my work from the digital to the physical. I want to start exploring these portraits in mixed media, with painting, printmaking, perhaps even encaustic and other processes. I don’t want my style or practice to remain stagnant. I must keep exploring to push myself and stay interested.

What stimulates you when it comes to creating?
Works, ideas, and people who make me think. Lines and spaces that seem out of place.
Now that the world has become globalised, it’s easier for everyone to know what’s going on in the opposite side of the world and that is helping, in a way, in blurring or shifting beauty paradigms. What would you say is the current beauty canon?
I do believe there is still this idea that looking flawless is ideal, in the sense that your face and body have no imperfections, be symmetrical, etc.
Beauty is one of the most suggestive ideas of art. It has been worshipped as the highest artistic value and denigrated as an aesthetic crime. The delight that beauty longed to find until the 19th century was truncated in the 20th, with one of the maxims of the avant-garde: to be deliberately unsightly. Correct me if I am wrong but I think that, in your art, you try to subvert beauty canons. Is there a reason why?
That is correct but I didn’t really do it intentionally. I guess I’ve always liked skewing reality. And not necessarily in a surrealist way, just in a way that didn’t seem right. Like you said, subversion. I want my artwork to make people think. To think about how skewing even the slightest normalcies can quickly shift your perception and make you rethink what you thought you knew. For example, nudging an eye, enlarging a lip, removing an ear, and how and why that makes you feel. I like making people do double takes.
From fashion icons like Grace Coddington and Iris Apfel to singers like Sevdaliza and Lou Reed, to even a porn actor and artist like Colby Keller. Is there any portrait you've enjoyed doing the most, or whose result you prefer over the rest? Who else do you have in mind to portray next?
I continually like each new piece I make, I don’t have a favourite. They are all different and involve different methods and ways of thinking. And I don’t really have anyone else in the line up besides a few commissioned pieces. I love scouring Instagram, magazines, pop culture, etc. to discover new people who are pushing the boundaries, people on the outside, and thinkers.

Your works have been illustrating many interviews and articles. But also, in what other ways do you reach people? To whom are your works directed?
I swear by Instagram, it is such a great tool for artists and creatives. I don’t necessarily target or direct my work at anyone. I guess someone whom may be scared and disturbed by my work is someone I’d want to reach.
Do you think that the work of the artist is valued nowadays?
I would hope so but that’s quite subjective. I can only speak for myself and yes, I believe artists are valued.
Any future project that you can talk about? Where do you see yourself in, let’s say, three years?
My next big goal is to be represented by either an agency or a gallery. I hope to be in more art shows, travelling with my art, collaborating with other creatives, and living a life of creative freedom.

Words
Sigrid Bravo

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