The artistic work of Andy DuCett is detailed, imaginative, and nostalgic all in one. As such, it should be expected that DuCett’s studio has many delightful treasures: there’s including tiny model railroad figurines, vintage furniture, tons interesting pieces paper, band-aid tins, random supplies for various hobby things, books, old photos, some old notebooks of his childhood drawings — and even a scandalous letter he found in his desk at the University of Wisconsin-Stout from a mistress to her lover.
Photos and interview by Kelsey Johnston
Secrets of the City: Where did you grow up?
Andy DuCett: I lived in the outskirts of Stillwater for a couple of years, but I only saw the town of Stillwater from the back of a station wagon. Being driven around and that sort of thing.
Secrets: So you lived in a station wagon?
AD: Oh no, I just got to experience Stillwater proper from the back of a station wagon when I was driven around by my parents. Otherwise, the acre around my house, with the lake and the woods is where I spent my time. But, I would say the long-winded answer to that question should be Winona. We moved there when I was 12, it was more of the “growing up” part.
Secrets: You work in many different mediums, what came first?
AD: I started drawing before I started anything else, the first thing I remember drawing was a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The weird thing is that I remember the context in which I did the drawing… I remember watching roller games, the old roller derby games with the wall, where they did multi-skater whips and had an alligator pit in the middle. It was awesome. I was interested in drawing for a long time during my childhood until I had a drawing instructor tell me I wasn’t doing it right; so I quit drawing for 6 or 7 years at about 10 years old. Then I moved down to Winona and got into computers, started programming, got into the graphic arts, got into the multi-media arts, and then went to college and found out I was spending more time in the fine arts studio so I switched over to fine arts then that 2D process grew into 3D. And here we are.
Secrets: Where do you start with you installation ideas?
AD:Usually a couple of objects have it start or make it start and those are usually found by proximity of where I drive around or visit. They’re kind of a of record of where I go. Sometimes I’ll be looking for something specifically or find something on the street and think “ah ha!” and throw it in the back of my car. Those sort of objects get built onto, then the edits are made and the installation grows and I finesse things towards a finished result. So, it’s the catalyst object that starts the whole process in motion.
Secrets: I love the bag series from you collage, can you explain your process?
AD: It started in 2001 as an exercise to work in a way that was different than what I was doing as my core focus in the studio. I had been collecting all these papers and different things that I would find like old maps, old magazines, an old photograph, kind of a mix of things that had personal sentiment for me but, also things that were old and had been used and had cultural history attached to them as well. When I worked at a book store I came across all these old zip-lock plastic bags and it seemed like a good parameter so I started putting the materials together and sealing the collages in the bags. Eventually it grew into a series that is 400+ and I am still working on them today.
Secrets: Your illustration work is wonderfully detailed, how do you feel about OCD effecting today’s artisits?
AD: (laughs) That’s a broad question.
Secrets: Well, tell me more about your process for drawing.
AD: I get that a lot: “oh he’s OCD, what’s the inside of his house look like? Is there anything out of place?“ As you can see here in the studio I sort of like a functional arrangement. I like to think of it as being particular or well considered rather than OCD. It does take me an awful long time to work on something to see how something fits into the overall narrative. I’ll have a 3 hour drawing session and sometimes sit in front of it and make marks in pencil and erase it, make marks in pencil and erase it, make marks in pencil and erase it, it takes some searching for an image juxtaposition to feel right. It’s kind of a push and pull, but sometimes I just jump in and make marks in pen because that might be the kind of kick in the ass that I need. I think it mirrors life in that sense… sometimes you just have to react rather than be so choosy, “okay, it’s there I have to deal with it, now what?”. If given the opportunity I would work on things forever I suppose. Which could make me an art hermit.
Secrets: If you could create a new school subject what would it be?
AD: Wow, could you have sent these questions to me ahead of time? (laughs) Something to do with problem-solving or critical thinking. Finding out what each individual student is interested in and keeping a record of investigations of that. So, like an ideation class. There’s a book that I have from England on Eagle comic cut-aways, all of these fantastic and imaginary machines of the future. Basically something that would encourages British kids to create and innovate. It was like “How do we make this engine? How do we make these gears? How do we make this fly?” … So I would want a class to inspire kids to some up with something original and to give them a platform and permission to just experiment.
Secrets: What’s the best part about living in Minneapolis?
AD: I love the weather. I really like cold and the Fall especially. I love that is has a super vibrant art community that’s a really great cross section of a contemporary art scene. You have the whole spectrum of arts, pretty much every discipline and interest. T here’s a lot of conversations going on and there’s a lot of people willing to engage in those conversations. Minnesota is fairly unique in all of the support we have, opportunities like the Jerome, McKnight, State Arts Board, MAEP and the like. Perhaps my favorite part, though, is the artistic community itself. All of us are competing for these opportunities and when one of us wins the rest of us are like “hell yes!” Everyone is super excited because it’s not cut-throat, it really is a community in that sense and we all support each other.
Secrets: What’s your favorite place or establishment in Minneapolis?
AD: The Sky Pesher at the Walker, the ruins by St. Anthony Main, or the awesome vinyl booths at Nye’s Polonaise Room when the ladies sing at the piano. This thrift store that doesn’t have prices on anything, you have to talk to him about the price, it’s on University. Or the scale model shop in St. Paul, that place is amazing. The yellow room in the Guthrie. Treehouse or roadrunner records. I like it all, so I’d say riding the Light Rail, because I get to see a lot of it at once.
Secrets: Childhood dream career?
AD: I spent a good deal of time when I was a kid digging for dinosaurs. I usually only got a foot or so into the ground before I gave up. So paleontologist then it morphed into astronaut architect. Then I kind of stuck with architect.
Secrets: What irrational beliefs do you hold?
AD: I am superstitious. My junior year in college I had an 8 O’clock class and I opened my door and I look outside and there’s a black cat right outside my door. I looked at it and he looked at me. I gave the cat the eagle and he gave me the eagle eye and I shut the door and I waited I couple minutes. I opened the door again he was still there, so I didn’t go! But, I didn’t go to class partly because I didn’t want to go, I hope my students don’t read that. Cross his path? I would have been cursed for years to come. To this day I’ve never walked underneath a ladder.