Starting with this post, I'm going to feature some of the cool people that I think are doing or have done a really good job in pushing the envelope in their respective scenes. Kicking off IntRebyu is my brief Q & A with my younger cuz, Jiggie (short for Juan Miguel Augusto), who uses an arresting visual and tactile vocabulary to explore the darker elements of human experience thru his freakish mask sculptures, unsettling drawings/ paintings, and disturbing videos.
How were you introduced to mask-making, and when did you first realize you're an artist?
As a child I've always been a good drawer and a sculptor in my age. I was also fascinated by horror as well. I just never knew how big those two things will play a role in my life--art and horror. I knew I was good at what I did at that time but I didn't really take it seriously. First off, I didn't know that art was going to be a huge factor in my life. I got inspired to make masks by listening to Slipknot and through a YouTube user named AgothInnCloth. As a huge Slipknot fan back then I was really amazed by the masks that they all wore. Also at that time I stumbled upon a YouTube user named AgothInnCloth and I saw him make videos of his own homemade Slipknot masks. I was like, "If he can do that in his own home then I can too!" As a birthday present I asked my mom (Tita Evelyn) if she can buy me the starter kit for making masks in replacement of buying the Nintendo Wii at that time. I had to undergo a series of stupid mistakes in order to get where I am today in making art. I'm just glad that I didn't actually start creating Slipknot masks similar to AgothInnCloth's style, I went my own way and walked the path of originality instead of limiting myself by copying what's already been designed. And that's pretty much how it all got started.
Can you tell us what it was like for you growing up in the Philippines (preschool) and then finishing elementary and high school in the US?
I don't really remember much about my preschool year in the Philippines but I still have the class photograph and every time I look at it, it actually opens up repressed memories of my childhood actually. But as a human being growing up in both worlds, I actually had severe social issues in my elementary years in the US. I just felt inferior you know. Middle school was a pretty exciting experience but at the same time it wasn't. Middle school was my first experience in hell. It was the time where I was bullied and made fun of. I just felt so helpless back then. It hurts to think that my world was small back then and I let faggot bullies take over my emotions. I'm just glad that I got through it and learned from it. My high school was very different. I was still a bit shy in some ways but I didn't get bullied. I can't really remember the good times in high school when all I can remember was my six heartbreakers. No, I never dated any of them. In fact most of them I never told that I liked them, that I wanted a relationship with them. I just ended up seeing or knowing that they like someone else and to me at that time it broke me into many pieces. I'm a jealous person by the way. I'm just glad that I got through it and I didn't continue my suicide thoughts in my second year in high school all because of a slutty girl. That slutty girl who was my first heartbreak is what started Freakshow in the first place. Let's just say that my high school years were very depressing but yet satisfying at the same time now that I think of it. I'm glad that I went through my six heartbreakers because through them I found Chaz Maedelene Santos--the one that I have been waiting for. The perfect girl. Distance is the price you pay for having someone so perfect. But now comparing, Philippines and the US, I'll have to say that if you want a decent education without the negative factor bringing you down deeper then go to the Philippines. I'm pretty sure there aren't a lot of bullies or heartbreakers. All I know is that in the Philippines people cherish education, here in the US they spit on the school's faces.
I see your parents encourage your creativity. What was their initial reaction to your decision to study film at the Art Institute of California instead of taking up medical studies like your dad, Tito Nap, who's a doctor?
Well at first as a child I wanted to become a doctor just like my dad but again when we are all kids we say the most ridiculous things. Till this day I'm still fascinated by the human body, and for that I'm self-studying anatomy to better off my artwork. Anyways, my parents support me way too much in my art actually. They free me in the most ridiculous ways just for me to exercise what I love to do in my life. They literally support me financially and morally in not just art but life as well and for that I love them very, very much. They go to the extremes of supporting me, like moving to California and abandoning their stable jobs there (in Virginia). It's quite an amazing feat. They're the definition of parents: supporting, accepting, and loving. I've chosen this path in art and there is no way I'm turning back. Success is my only option and failure is not.
Could you tell us more about your work. What inspires you to depict a particular subject, and what is it about masks that keeps you making them?
I have a whole system just for that. You see, my art is not just art, it's art with symbolism. The symbolism itself relates to the flaws of life, America, as well as myself. I bring out the ugly and dark because people in life are too ignorant to see and understand that all good things have a bad side to them and that there is no such thing as a perfect world. I use my pessimistic mind to achieve such tasks like these. Think of me as an artist who dwells in darkness to serve the light. I'm bringing out what a lot of people don't see in everyday life such as negativity, death, and what not and bringing it out in the open. I have a whole philosophy in life that helps me to achieve such art with symbolism. I call it Deformism. Let's just say it means being different and original is way better than being a copy. A wolf among sheep.
What famous artists have influenced you? Any fave books/ writers?
The only artist that has influenced me in creating art and masks is probably Alex Wood aka AgothInnCloth. Not to be close-minded but he helped get me to where I am in the world today as well as in my art. Although there are other artists out there like Jeremi Rimel aka Miscreation who really put a new meaning to art and horror. Artists like them invent a whole new world of horror and art together, and to my disappointment there are not a lot of artists like that in the world. I don't really read much to be honest but I'm still trying to get my mind into reading books because reading is for the mind. Reading helps you visualize images and videos in your head, and that is something I need to fully develop to benefit my artwork and videos.
What do you do for fun besides sculpting/ drawing? What bands are currently rocking your stereo? Any fave video games?
Other than art I'm a huge gamer. I have most of all the new release games that are worth my money. I own an Alienware gaming laptop, PSP, Nintendo DS, Wii, PS3, and an Xbox 360. Yes, I'm insane. I don't even have the time to play all of them. I don't even know when's the last time I picked up my DS but hey, I bought them for one reason and that's entertainment. I enjoyed playing them in the past and owning them in general and that's what I'm proud of. I've always been a gamer since when I was a child actually. I played my first video games in the N64. Aside from video games, I listen to a lot of music ranging from Dubstep, Metal, Death Metal, and Slam Death Metal as well as other genres that you never thought I would listen to. All except rap and hip hop. I love listening to music because it doesn't just give you motivation to do things but it also helps me get into the mental state of creating when I listen to certain music depending on my mood.
What advice would you give to an artist just starting out, and where do you see yourself in 13 years?
My advice to an artist that's just starting out is to put your mind into your work because if you keep doing this over and over you will evolve and become an even better artist. Also another advice, when you are creating art and you plan to become noticed by your work--BE ORIGINAL! When you are original you are proving to everyone that you have no boundaries in creativity and you can literally create things that only you have thought of in your head. I have many more advices but those two are the two main ones. In 13 years I see myself as having a wife, I don't know about kids though. But I know I will be married at that time. Also, by that time I would be in movie-making industries working as a professional digital and traditional SPFX artist. That's always been my dream. If I've already gotten this far at the age of 18 then I can go even further when I'm older.
Photos by Juan "Jiggie" Caparas