Jersey City's Ermis Atzemoglou is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to visual arts -- the School of Visual Arts grad and native of Greece creates everything from surreal paintings to gritty comics. His work has been displayed around Jersey City at LITM and White Star Bar.
Day job: Mainly freelance art-handling, but I have also worked as an art teacher, since freelance commissions are not steady.
What's the worst or most interesting thing that's happened to you at work?
OK ... working in a studio for this well known artist during summertime with a 110 degrees and no air-conditioning. Seriously, I was sweating like a pig and even though we had an A/C at the studio, she would turn it off every time I put it on. I lasted a month in that job.
Does work ever conflict with your art?
Yes and no! I am going through a phase where I just want to make enough to get by on. Working part-time gives me enough time to work on my art. There are times that I won’t have to work at all for few weeks, and other times where the gallery I am working with wants me for a good 60 hours a week. I am freelancing as well, so I could always say no when they ask me to go and work but I rarely turn them down.
Do you have health insurance?
I think I was always insured, but now for the past two years I have not been. I have had health care in Greece for the past 3 years though (don’t ask how, but I do).
Who are the three people you'd most like to have at one of your shows, in terms of helping your art career?
Career-wise, I think since I enjoy doing covers, posters and stuff like that, the art editor of Village Voice would be a wise decision. The second person would have to be a publisher from a company like Vertigo who would have enough faith in me to publish my next big comic (graphic novel), and last but not least some of my teachers in college whose work I admire and I know would give me some great feedback
If Wal-Mart approached you about using your work in an ad, for a large sum, would you do it?
I have asked myself this question before. At first I thought, if you want to take money from someone then at least take it from those you despise the most. On the other hand, this will go against everything that I have stood up for the past four years of my life. I support the independent music scene along with a lot of autonomous places, mostly in Greece where I am from, by either making posters or either by writing in magazines. Multinational corporations like Wal-Mart have repeatedly violated labor laws and are pretty biased when it comes to what publications they carry. You shouldn’t sell guns and at the same time be the largest toy seller in the US market. I am sure the pay would be swell, but my goal in life is not to make the rich richer. So no, I wouldn’t do it.
Any additional thoughts on the conflicts and intersections of work and art?
I believe you always have to choose between sacrificing yourself for art or sacrificing your art for survival. The choice is yours. One thing is for sure: you need to set goals and priorities in life and for me that is making art.
Day Job is a weekly column examining the contradictions, conflicts and convergence between work and art. We're always looking for new people to profile. If you or someone you know fits the bill, send us an e-mail.