Interviewing Deaton Chris Anthony (DCA) is a delightful adventure. If you’ve done your research, ask pertinent questions, and make a few good observations, you will be rewarded with repeated whoops of ‘100%!’. DCA’s positive personality is infectious and childlike (but absolutely not childish). His appreciation for everything, not only his own work, but yours too as the interviewer (’I love that you asked me that!’), creates a feel-good WhatsApp chat where an hour-long interview flies past and leaves you longing not only for more time with him but more column inches for the write-up.
But first a word about his ‘bestie’ and muse Boogy the bunny who is namesake for his new EP, DCA’s adorable co-star in the EP’s ‘I Shake That Ath’ video, and a familiar presence for DCA’s +22K Instagram followers. A month before pandemic lockdown is when DCA got Boogy. During lockdown Boogy became a saviour of sorts. ‘Straight up, just me and Boogy [during lockdown]’ he says,’ everything I do, it’s all dedicated to Boogy. He always brings a smile to my face.’
Journalists have mythologised aspects of DCA’s life. Recalling the cliché of the ‘starving artist in a garret’, DCA is described as ‘working from his bedroom’ or a ’bedroom artist’. But the truth is a bit different and far more empowered than the trope of artist-as-victim. ’I moved to Echo Park in LA in 2017. I’ve got a living room I use as my sewing studio, my dining room is my rug studio, and my bedroom is my music studio.’ He needs these zones to accommodate his vast collection of equipment, tools, and materials, not to mention play space for Boogy and room for a mini basketball hoop.
DCA turns his hand to multiple creative pursuits—often as collabs—musical artist, fashion designer, performance artist, producer, filmmaker, rug maker. ‘I’m a happy person! It all makes sense; the clothes, music, the rugs, I just want to feel joy! I feel a responsibility to express joy 100%!” Music’s been a calling since his childhood exploration of the preset synth patches on the Yamaha DX7 that now contribute to his sound. Newer pursuits like fashion and rug making involve intensive self-tuition via platforms like YouTube. DCA is a whirlwind of ideas and a keen autodidact.
DCA started tufting ‘Wugs’ in 2019. His zeal to create is in part responsible for his pivot to rugs, but it was also because he couldn’t find rugs he liked and ‘they’re expensive!’. The word ‘Wugs’ references childhood ’rhotacism’ where the ’r’ sound is commonly difficult to pronounce. But Wugs also conjures the rhotacism of classic cartoon characters like Sylvester the Cat. The title of DCA’s single ‘I Shake That Ath’, is a similar example of rhotacism. ‘Adding ‘th’’, he says, ’almost brings an interactive nature to my work. One of my biggest inspirations is to express the honesty and acceptance children have. It’s really inspiring to me. I find it really fascinating; it’s become like a branding point.’
Interest in gun tufted rugs and tapestries is exploding. DCA empathises with artists who’ve experienced the rug-tufting learning curve (see COVER article Caroline Kaufman’s little bits of heaven). ‘Yes! Don’t even get me started!’ he exclaims. He decided to learn the craft after seeing tufted art on Instagram. One work in particular stood out. ‘It was like melted lava flowing down a staircase!’ he says with admiration referring to Trish Andersen’s colourful tufted stair runner. ‘I found YouTube videos from India and China and one of a girl tufting abstract shapes‘…he trails off while he decides how to describe his epiphany. It was like ‘travelling through a pinhole. Is this possible?! A million ideas came into my head!’
‘I searched Instagram with hashtags related to tufting,’ he says. But other than Trish’s organic ‘magma’ rug, ‘all of them were squares and triangles. I’m not seeing any faces.’ He realised ’that’s my pinhole! FACES!’ DCA’s focus on faces resulted in his creation of a wug in the shape of the green head of Jim Carrey’s superhero character in the film The Mask, and an intriguing two-way face hallway wug that is something of a hybrid of the phenomena of pareidolia and the optical illusion of ’goblet or faces’ (a trope that links to his EP cover featuring DCA’s head as a warp app or ‘head in a jar’ illusion-distortion.
‘I’m a student of the past. I’m so inspired by the 90s and ideas from that era. I’m always choosing to look back; I love to put myself in that era, but make my work in 2020, like I’m from the future but living in the ’90s, what would I make?’ His rug designs reflect his interest in sports, cartoons, arcade games and performers like The Blue Man group. His palette hews to full-on crayon-like vibrancy inspired in part by the RGB interface of Commodore Amiga’s OctaMed Professional (1989) sound tracker—one of the dozens of classic kit DCA uses to make his music.
DCA’s boxing ring wug Mike was influenced by his childhood love for the 1987 Nintendo arcade game ‘Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!’ The cast of characters includes ‘super macho man’ whose massive shoulders link to one of DCA’s personas where he co-opts the shoulder pads and numbered jersey of American football. The pixelation of early video games also lends itself to the pixel-like process of tufting. ’I grew up playing Punch-Out!! and I thought, ‘how cool would a pixelated image be converted to a tufted rug!?’
‘I use my gun in ways I ‘shouldn’t,’ he says, referring to his use of ‘lots of crosshatching and “s” shapes. I do what they tell you not to do.’ Elaborating on this topic, the conversation veers to the artist Picasso who declared ‘every child is an artist; the problem is how to remain an artist‘ [as an adult]. Unlearning is a solution. Futurologist Alvin Toffler predicted ‘the illiterate of the 21st century will be…those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.’ DCA agrees ‘100%!’ Unlearning ‘is massively important’ and ’in the end my work is about the concept.’
Making rugs has ‘been THE biggest challenge of my life!’, he says. ‘There’s a little bit of gatekeeping with the distribution of these tools,’ he says referring to gun tufters, ‘and a totally absurd learning curve, but when I stretched my first canvas it was SO rewarding! My wug Blue Man got triple the engagement of previous posts on Instagram.’ DCA is committed to making more wugs or as he also describes them, ‘flat sculptures’. ‘People ask me “what do you want to be your expertise” but I’m breaking down that limiting construct.’ His fans demand more DCA (and more Boogy), not less, and we couldn’t agree more.