The Dylan Tellesen Experience: An Artboy Band
by Sara Calvosa
I showed up at the Naked Lounge to meet Dylan Tellesen and his mural team: Max Infeld, Matt Barber, and Erik Elliot. First of all, none of them were wearing berets, so obviously this interview was a bust.
DT: This is the mural team—this is like, our boy band. It’s One Direction. Or whatever the Korean equivalent of One Direction is.
Have you worked together before?
DT: Yeah we’ve worked together quite a bit before. We’re working on a series of wall-hanging pieces, sort of half-print half-paintings. It’s always been my dream to be part of a band, and this is as close as I would get to being in a band. I mean these guys have musical talent but I really don’t, so…seriously I’ve wanted to have an art band for a really long time. I’ve talked about it, I’ve come up with names. I’ve annoyed the shit out of them about it.
What’s the working name of your art band right now?
MB: Yeah Dylan, what’s the name of our band?
DT: Twisted Colon?
That isn’t funny. A twisted colon is not a joke.
MB: It’s a serious issue.
DT: My father-in-law had a twisted colon, and so did my mom’s dog. So it’s just like this weird confluence. We’re trying to bring awareness… to twisted colons. The twisted colon awareness boy band muralists. Matt and I have worked on a ton of murals together, Max and I have worked on a lot of stuff together, and Eric is the newest member of the boyband.
EE: Yeah, Dylan taught a design class at Butte College and I took that class, and then I started hanging out and interning at the Rayray Gallery.
DT: We’ve been providing jobs for the community for a while through an internship program which leads to full-fledged employment.
EE: I did get full credit for my internship.
DT: That’s right you did, you fulfilled all your internship obligations. As did Matt.
How do you get interns? I’ve been using a tallboy under a box propped up with a stick that has a string attached to it, and I hide in the bushes and wait. It’s not really working.
DT: I used to be a teacher at Butte College, and that’s where I met all three of these guys.
They have rules now. Some interns don’t work for college credit.
MI: What about regular credit? Like street cred?
How is working on your solo stuff different than working in a team?
DT: There are things that I do personally and things that I appreciate input on. When we’re working together I feel like it’s kind of its own entity. It’s a band.
But aren’t you kind of the lead singer—you have the plan and say “this is where you come in”?
DT: I think I did play that role in this project, but I don’t think I play that role in every project that we’ve done. I don’t know, I think we’re still figuring out how we work together and every time it just kind of unveils itself. I don’t really come in with plans and lay them out telling everybody where to be and what to do. The way the process works is just that you start going. You make a mistake, you correct it, you have a whole new set of mistakes to correct, and then you correct them all—and then you think, oh no, we corrected too much, and then you gotta go over it. It’s just kind of how I view art anyway: a series of problems to solve. It’s evolving.
There were themes that we talked about, things that we think about; we all bring our personal crazy heads to the process and we work out personal issues. [Max] writes strange shit. It’s kind of a cathartic release sometimes. Like, “I fucking hate you Chico. I didn’t mean that. I’m sorry, I want you back, lets make up and make out.” It’s a running dialog.
How do you know when it’s done?
DT: Usually there’s some sort of time frame. There are parts that just feel right, feel done. Everybody would have a different opinion about what that is but there’s a general consensus, like “yes, that’s working.” Or at least two or three of us. But time frame plays a huge part. A lot of what we’re doing is being playful, trying new techniques, trying to grow as artists and as a band.
MI: What’s interesting about this mural, was the collaboration between the drunk college students coming by. They’d stop here, and in some cases they’d come in and participate on the mural. We had some really interesting experiences with that. I think that became an important part of this mural.
EE: We’ve done this sort of thing before, always in the beginning. Letting people come in and paint. But they always seem to take it to a point where we have to deal with it because they’re not the greatest painters, and it’s not really anything that’s going to stay up in the mural. But it’s the stories; there’s always something weird that happens and we talk about it.
MI: Let’s just say that I now know why it’s called the “Naked Lounge.”
Did anybody wear a beret?
MI: Nobody wore a beret.
I guess that’s how mature I am about art.
DT: That’s awesome. It gives us a lot of faith in you as an interviewer.
MI: Well in a way this is kind of anti-art. We’re all kind of defacing each other’s stuff. And it was really weird to see people come in randomly and become so attached to something they were doing. They’d ask, “hey, you guys are gonna keep that up, right?” And no, we probably painted over it 5 minutes later.
Were people catching feelings about that?
DT: Yeah, that’s very typical. As soon as you make a mark—not many people have ever touched a public space wall before with marks—it’s kind of amazing to let people do that and tell them that it’s ok. From the time we’re three, we’re given little rectangles that say, “this is where art exists, in this little rectangle.” So to give them a public wall is an infinite space, outside of human scale. Our scale has been taught to this contrived dimension. So that, coupled with expressing yourself—people become very attached to what they do. And people think, “I’m finally allowed to communicate with my community, and then these four guys with beards come along and paint over it for me. Thanks a lot. Thanks for that cheap lesson in non-attachment.”
Do you guys have other jobs? Or is it just mural-makin’ all day long?
MB: We just do murals.
DT: I work at Chico Natural Foods as the Marketing Manager.
EE: I work for Rancho Electric with my dad and grandpa in Glenn County.
MB: I work in a coffee shop. At Empire Coffee. It’s at the bus stop.
MI: I have a typography business (and then Max went on and on…) and I document the process of making murals. We have a website: tiny.cc/nakedlounge.
What was the very first thing you painted on the wall for this mural?
DT: I wrote the word “Matt” and put a heart around it.
MB: It’s true.
MI: It was adorable.
EE: It’s out there, we’ve come to terms with it.
MB: I deserved it.
MI: What’s that one thing that girl did? The eyeball?
MB: Yeah, the eyeball. I wish we knew her name so we could give her credit. She’s the only one who can draw one eyeball.
Found: One eyeball on mural. Please contact if this is your work.