Why coral should be keeping you up at night

Aaron Glasson, taking in a different viewpoint of his work. Photo credit: Spencer Keeton Cunningham

This is an interview with Aaron Glasson, Creative Director of Aligned, on his perspective of the current state of our world, what impact that is having on its inhabitants and how creative mediums can effect positive change.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What inspires you and how does that impact your approach to creating art?

I was born and raised in New Zealand. I went to art school in Auckland, and after I finished, spent years being a bit of nomad, travelling and working all over the world. I now live in San Diego, California and work as an artist and creative director. I’m inspired by so much, especially the natural world. A lot of what I make is directly influenced by my surroundings and the life that’s happening in and around me. I feel like my art is equally part documentation and part interpretation.

“I feel like my art is equally part documentation and part interpretation.”

Do you have any specific artists you get regular energy and inspiration from? Maybe a little man or lady crush?

I collaborate a lot with Celeste Byers. She inspires and energizes me more than anyone else on a regular basis. In terms of man crushes, I’ve had a pretty solid one on two men from the Ukraine called Interestni Kazuki for while. They are constantly blowing me away with their work.

Have you been collaborating with Celeste on anything recently?

We have just finished up a mural in New Zealand as part of “The Idea Collective” exhibit at MOTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology) in Auckland. The mural is entitled “Go Outside” and depicts my cousin Zoè with the swans and tui (native New Zealand bird) from the neighbouring park at the museum. The mural’s concept is that as technology becomes such an integral part of our existence, continued interaction and connection with the natural environment is essential for a healthy mind, body and planet. Empathy and connection with nature help keep us happy, heathy, and will influence how we harness the wonders of rapidly advancing technology.

Aaron and Celeste put tools down for a moment in front of their “Go Outside” mural

A lot of your work expresses a love and concern for the environment and its inhabitants. If you could come back to life as another creature other than a human, what would you be and why?

I’d come back as duck because I could fly, float, swim and life looks pretty chill for a duck. I’d stay well away from duck hunters, though.

“I’d come back as duck because I could fly, float, swim and life looks pretty chill for a duck. I’d stay well away from duck hunters, though.”

Our ecosystems are changing at a pace never seen before. Tell us about one thing in the world that is having a really tough time at the moment and what impact that has on you personally?

Coral reefs are having a tough time right now due mostly to climate change and ocean acidification. Close to 30% have been lost, and it’s estimated that we’ll lose 60% over the coming 30 years unless we take some major action now to save them. Reefs occupy less than one quarter of 1% of the marine environment but are home to more than 25% of all known marine fish species. As we loose coral reefs, it affects the whole ocean ecosystem and therefore, the whole planet.

Aaron in front of a wall he painted in collaboration with Yoh Nagao, as part of the “Murals for Oceans” project on Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

In one sentence, if coral could talk, what do think the reef might say to human society right now?

Do all you can to live lighter and more sustainably.

“Do all you can to live lighter and more sustainably.”

Has any of your past work focused on the plight of reefs?

Not directly in my personal work, but an organization for which I am creative director for called PangeaSeed has.

Do you know of any examples of creatives who have helped communicate that message to those not aware?

Yes, one that pops to mind is called Meggs painted a huge mural on the island of Cozumel in Mexico last year. The mural addresses the rapid loss of coral reefs.

Your tendency to explore has taken you to many parts of the world. As a Kiwi now living in the States, what are some of the more frustrating things about your new found home?

The obvious things, like the political, medical and educational systems are very different and it’s frustrating to observe at times. The mainstream media in the States is wacky and hard to take seriously, though it does get me down to think so many people here are influenced and educated by it. The oppression of native representation in U.S. society is frustrating and sad to me, also.

What about some of the really positive things you have experienced with american society and culture?

I find the U.S. a really interesting place to travel around. Besides the landscape, which is incredible and diverse, the culture varies a lot from state to state, which is fascinating and cool to experience. It still feels exotic to me, like I’m in a movie set at times. Also American society has produced a lot of incredible people, counter-cultures, and movements I really enjoy. The list is so long I wouldn’t know where to begin.

“American society has produced a lot of incredible people, counter-cultures, and movements I really enjoy.”

The United States gets a pretty bad wrap internationally from a political standpoint. What are some of the most frustrating things you have encountered in your new home?

The popularity of Donald Trump.

Among many other hats you wear, you have recently taken on the role of Creative Director at Aligned. What excites you about Aligned and what challenges do you see that community helping overcome for creatives like yourself?

It’s firstly just really exciting to see creative solutions to social and environmental issues all in once place. It’s inspiring. Combined with the potential for users to get financial support for their work, I’m excited to see how Aligned motivates people. For me, and I’m sure a lot of other creatives, a huge challenge is getting the funding to execute projects that help people and/or the environment. Aligned will enable creatives to do projects they have never had the support for, so I’m excited to see what’s made and the effects of the work.

“It’s firstly just really exciting to see creative solutions to social and environmental issues all in once place. It’s inspiring.”

So a lot of the work you do is self funded?

A lot of it is. I also get support on certain projects from PangeaSeed, an ocean conservation initiative that I volunteer for.

“Forever Dolphin Love” by Aaron Glasson painted to address the topic of Dolphin Captivity in Cozumel, Mexico.

If you had a team of passionate supporters who helped fund your work, what kind of stuff do you dream of doing?

Lately, I’ve been interested in physical spaces and how they affect people and interactions. With more funding, I’d explore this more and build structures that give people joyful experiences and lasting good times.

You recently started a funding campaign on Aligned. Can you tell our community that love your work, what supporting you involves and what it will enable you to do?

Essentially, by supporting me you become a co-producer of my work, enabling me to focus more energy into creating projects I feel will positively impact society and the environment.

Great. Well thanks for sharing your thoughts Aaron. We really love the rewards or “thank you notes” you have put up for supporters of your work! Get on and show him some love ON HIS PAGE HERE.

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