Minneapolis-based artist Greg Gossel is not yet out of his twenties, but he’s already built up an impressive reputation. His signature style canvasses – mash-ups of celebrity images, comic book characters and pop culture icons – are regularly exhibited all over the US, and he’s previously worked with the likes of Interscope Records and Stussy. As a kid who spent a lot of time drawing and painting, becoming an artist was “a natural progression”. And while Greg admits he doesn’t really ride much these days, his childhood experience of snowboarding meant that when Gnu asked him to design their Street Series graphic, he jumped at the chance. We caught up with him to find out what went into making one of the best-looking boards of the season.
How did you get into doing snowboard graphics? Is this the first board graphic you’ve done?
Yeah this board was the first snowboard graphic I had done. Gnu just contacted me about possibly working together and it sounded like a cool project, so we just went from there.
Your work looks like it’s multi-layered and often pretty complex. What’s the process that goes into creating a piece like the Street Series graphic?
I use a variety of different mediums and layering in my work; things like collage, screen printing, xerox transfers, spray paint, hand painting, and stencils. It really just depends on the project as to what mediums I use… For the Street Series, I created two separate pieces full-scale on wood panels in the proportions of the base and topsheet using a mix of hand painting and screen-printing.
Where do the images and characters that make up this graphic come from?
I collect a number of different things; comic books, old magazines, tabloids, newspapers, etc. So I’m always digging through those and pulling different images here and there to potentially use later on.
Why are all the girls crying?
I guess often times I find the distressed girls to be an interesting contrast to the chaotic imagery that’s surrounding them.
Are the characters related to each other in some way, or is their appearance together on the same board pretty much random?
The process is pretty spontaneous, but yeah there’s a rough narrative element that’s created within the piece, kind of a controlled randomness I guess. I try to leave the work open to the viewer’s own interpretation.
“My work looks at themes like racism, addiction, poverty, sexism, and war.”
What are the themes that run through your work in general?
I guess I try to pull bits from popular culture and give them a new context, which questions where we’re at and where we’re going. My work also looks at themes like racism, addiction, poverty, sexism, and war.
Who or what are the biggest influences on your work? Do you get sick of people mentioning Lichtenstein [a big name in the 50s pop art movement]?
Ah, I don’t really worry too much about the Lichtenstein mentions, I think he’s a fairly obvious inspiration so that doesn’t bother me too much. That time period of pop art in general has probably had the strongest influence on my work as far as art movements go. The work of Robert Rauschenberg has been particularly important to me, especially when I was first starting to experiment with my own personal work.
With this board, does the fact that the image is part of a practical functioning product change its meaning at all?
Yeah I think so, I definitely tried to keep that in mind when I was creating the work… It was a process of bouncing ideas back and forth between myself and Gnu, but thinking about the graphics in use as a snowboard definitely informed the content and feel of the piece.
Finally, can you see any overall trends in snowboard graphics? What do you expect to see from board graphics (yours or other people’s) in the future?
I don’t know if I would say I notice any particular trends… I haven’t spent a ton of time looking at other boards, but based on what I’ve seen I think there’s a lot of great work out there, and each company kind of has its own feel. So I think things will just continue to change and grow, which is always a good thing…
See more of Greg’s work at greggossel.com