The Buzz


LUSH INTERIORS is a new collection of mixed media works aimed at exploring sensual machines, a term the artist uses to describe the mechanized trappings of modern life, as we all become increasingly enmeshed with our gadgetry. Common household appliances burst apart to reveal human anatomy and vegetation, both in various states of bloom and decay. From a distance, the works appear as vibrantly colored, otherworldly scenes, but a closer viewing reveals grim details: human teeth and headless birds, rotting tissue and melting organs.  

The extravagantly macabre, though often comical, images represent the ways our intended conveniences often become burdens that weigh us down and define us in unintended ways. 

Lush Interiors features two types of compositions: direct to substrate digital collage prints on birch plywood and multilayered, three-dimensional assemblage pieces constructed using the same printing technique with panels that have been intricately milled and cut by a CNC router. 


MBG: I think my biggest question is how do you draw the line between your commercial design work and your personal fine art work? I know you touched on that in your statement, but maybe you could describe the journey you've taken to get to how you feel about this currently. 

SFER: Honestly, I don’t really see a distinct line between my commercial and fine art ventures. I always want to make beautiful things, regardless of their ultimate purpose. This is something that’s just been ingrained in me for as long as I can remember. I think it’s important in the line of work I’m in to show as much care and devotion for every project, whether it’s designing a stationery system for a lawfirm, glassware for a taproom, or popstar billboard ads. I try to approach each project with as much thought and respect as I would my own personal work. Everything has a story to it and a process in telling that story visually, so I try to keep that mindset and consideration. Whether creating something practical or purely expressive, the process behind each production is really the best part to me.

MBG: Your commercial graphic work is at such a high level, so beautiful and unique, that each piece is a work of art, but I sense in your personal artwork you have a particular message you want to talk about. Does it matter if people "get it" or are you content with viewers just finding beauty in the physical pieces themselves—which are highly intricate and very compelling!

SFER: Thank you. That’s really the best compliment any working artist could ever get! I don’t think there’s any particular message I’m usually striving for people to “get”. My favorite thing about the creative process is the way a finished work takes on a life of its own in the context of an audience’s thoughts, experiences and relationships. I would say the one constant motif in my practice is finding beauty and attractive qualities in unexpected places. I often source my visuals from a lot of lowbrow recycled images and long forgotten scraps, most of which are pretty mundane, though sometimes disturbing. Using collage and illustration to reanimate those things is how I find their narratives. In the end, it always comes back to storytelling, but the story each piece tells varies greatly, depending on who’s interpreting it.

MBG: Lastly, because we're in the context of a botanic garden and you use vegetation and flower imagery in your pieces, can you talk about what they symbolize for you? Is it a bit of "natural world" vs "technological world", or is it something else?

SFER: Yeah it’s a bit of that. I’ve used vegetation and flora imagery in my work for a few years now, mainly because of the similarities they share with us as a human species. There are many parallels with bloom and decay, living and dying. Few visual metaphors are quite as effective as plants at communicating fragility and the completeness of the life cycle. There’s something wordless and enduring about the natural world that calls out to human beings in both an emotional and cerebral way.

LUSH INTERIORS // May 2016 from St. Francis Elevator Ride on Vimeo.

Edited by Savannah Bearden // Additional footage by Benjamin Rednour // Featuring Drew Smith and Amy Schaftlein // Addtional Music by Jake Vest // Craft Services by Josh Breeden


St Francis Elevator Ride (the artist occasionally known as Josh Breeden) was born, reared and educated in the great state of Tennessee. He received his BFA in graphic design from the University of Tennessee at Martin before defecting to Memphis. By day, he earns his keep as a designer at local creative agency, Loaded For Bear. By night, he maintains an exhaustive procession of freelance projects because he can’t turn off his brain.  

SFER’s body of work blurs the line between design and fine art, incorporating both commercial and experimental elements. The artist has always been drawn to a type of faux nostalgia for lives not his own: grainy photos of atomic families posed in cigarette ads, impossibly clean typefaces from Mid-Century tool and die catalogs, offset prints with taut halftones that hint at stories hiding just below the surface. He primarily composes in pixels these days, creating digital collage illustrations and animated gifs, but his truest loves are texture-laden mixed media adventures, hand-screened prints on paper and fabrics, and analog collages.


All images courtesy of the artist and copyright protected. All Rights Reserved.

All art exhibits free and open to the public. A portion of art sales benefits Memphis Botanic Garden’s art, education and horticulture programs. Call 636-4100 for information. 

Posted by Stephanie Cosby at 10:25 AM


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