ARTIST TED HOUSER AKA BEAR — “In the porn industry, the stars themselves are really open to different versions of life!”

ted_houser_5WHACK! MAGAZINE Ted Houser, artist and designer, I wanted to introduce you to WHACK! readers because most of them probably aren’t familiar with your work yet, or don’t know that they are. So can you first tell us a little bit about yourself?

 

TED HOUSER Well I’ve been an artist ever since I was young. I’ve been drawing ever since I was a little kid. I went to art school in Philadelphia. I basically went into graphic design to make money, but I still do paintings and sketches on the side. So I basically design the graphic and print work for Exxxotica Expo, so I get to do all those shows, and I’m one of the photographers at the events.

W! Cool. So you get all the passes to every event?

TH Yeah!

W! Awesome.

TH It’s definitely a good time. It started with Jay, one of the founders of Exxxotica. We had worked together at another company, and he came to me and said that he wanted to start this show and me to be the graphic designer, and it’s been great ever since. We work really well together.

W! Yeah, the Exxxotica people seem to be really nice.

TH Yeah, It’s a lot of fun.

W! You told me that a big reason behind why you got into art is that when you were younger, you were plagued by health problems and you underwent a lot of procedures, and art was your escape. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?

TH Basically, it’s called arthrogryposis. What that is, is basically a joint disorder. It’s kind of like, to keep a long story short, when the embryo’s being formed — and none of this is genetically passed down; it’s just something that happens — what happens is that when the embryo’s being formed, the bone structure and the hamstring structure is created at the same time. But what happens is the hamstring structure isn’t big enough for the bone structure. So the embryo grows and all the joints pull in. Think of your hamstrings as a big rubber band, basically. So as the bone structure beings to form, the hands pull in, the knees pull in, and they bend up. So basically every joint is affected by it. The most common thing with it, though, is the lack of muscle control. Muscle control is not a common factor with it. I have it, but usually there is no muscle control whatsoever. So in that sense I’m kind of blessed.

W! Yeah, you got lucky.

TH Yeah. So I went through a lot of operations. I had sixteen total. I was in Wilmington and DuPont for most of my early life cause every time I grew, my ted_houser_4joints would tighten up and I’d have to go through two weeks of intensive physical therapy.

W! Oh, god.

TH Yeah! So that was pretty much every time I grew. I’d be out of school and in the hospital for two weeks of being tortured.

W! Did you get through school in normal time?

TH Yeah, actually. When I was in the hospital I actually had two hours a day, the only two hours a day I had built in, to do my schoolwork. I had to keep up with my class, like home school, because if I didn’t I’d fall behind. So when I came back I was still where they were. So I had to keep up with them along with doing everything else. So it was a bit of a mind game.

W! So somewhere in there, you still managed to find to time to make art to keep yourself sane?

TH You know, I did. Like I said, growing up with this isn’t the best of things I would wish. I really wouldn’t wish it on anyone, to be completely honest. Cause you know how kids are, that’s just the way it is. I used art as an escape. I never thought of it as a special talent, which a lot of people have told me that it’s a gift, and all that. But to me it was just a way to just be calm. I needed that calmness that was mine, that wasn’t created by anything else. And I started out drawing Coleco Vision games. The little art works on the cartridges and stuff like that. And then as time went on and my parents saw that I actually had an ability, I actually went to Saturday art classes with the woman who went to the same art school that I eventually ended up going to. So I went to her from age nine until maybe fourteen.

W! That’s something that I think a lot of people don’t find until they’re much older. That release. Well you had mentioned to me that you had a life-changing experience that also changed the way you approached your art. Can you tell us a little about that?

TH Yeah, I did, actually. It was in ’96. What happened was, I was with my father. It was after the last operation I had, on my left foot. I’d just had this pin taken out of my foot. They hadn’t given me anything, so I was kind of frazzled as it was. So when they were done, my dad said, “Let’s go to Philly and get our second tattoos.” I was like, “Ok.” So we hopped on his motorcycle and we went into Philly. At this point, I hadn’t eaten anything, and I had a Percoset and a Valium in me, because my mother wanted to keep me calm. So we went in and got the tattoos done, and it was my second one, so I knew what to expect, and needles don’t really bother me. I’ve had a gazillion of them. So I’m getting it done, and suddenly, I couldn’t see. It was like a snowy television. Think of it like you’re on the top of a roller coaster — that feeling you get when you drop. Now reverse that. Cause I dropped down, and basically, I stopped breathing for five minutes. And then came back, and just in time to hear my dad say, “Call an ambulance.”

W! Woah.

TH Yeah, so with that experience alone, it was kind of like an altering sense of everything. It kind of heightened my senses in a way that now I can walk into a room and sense everyone’s emotions instantly. It’s kind of scary and kind of crazy. But it’s true. I’m not making it up.

So I went back home and I went into my studio, which was in the basement of my parents’ house, and I just started writing and drawing. I had a Power Mac and I started doing digital things. There was just so much creative energy flowing through me after that experience that I had to get it out, because I felt like I was going to go insane.

ted_houser_3So basically, I didn’t really eat and I didn’t sleep for two weeks. I went to school and came home and just drew and wrote all night for two weeks straight, and I’d just get dressed and go to class. My mom would come down and say, “Are you eating today?” She was just making sure I was fed and hydrated. So I just did what I could to get myself back to some form of reality that I could grasp. So my art just stemmed from there, and right now I’m in the process of bringing it out to the public through this Go-Go-Go! artist collective, through Fang Ling Lee, who started that, I’m able to actually get my artwork out. I showed her some of my artwork last year, and she said that I really need to get it out, that it’s important that I do. So I’m really thankful to her.

W! That’s really an amazing story, and it’s super interesting that you’ve kind of broken into the porn industry in your own way. And I can’t help but wonder, since you say you can feel people’s emotions, what walking into a group of porn stars must be like for you.

TH It’s pretty wild. It’s very difficult for me to concentrate sometimes. Not just because, I mean, they’re porn stars, but because of the amount of excitement that I feed off of when I’m in there. I mean, I’ve walked up to you at shows, and I’m sure I’m a little ‘off.’ And it’s not really, like, if you talked to me afterwards at the hotel, you’d be like, “Oh, wow, he’s fine.”

Cause in those trade shows there’s so much vibe. It’s pretty amazing.

W! It really is. And this is totally up to you if you want to get into this, but you seem like a really open person, so I’m going to mention it. I’ve always been amazed by the amount of positive energy that I feel in places like porn conventions. Particularly in the way that the stars interact with their fans, and even more particularly with the way that they interact with people who are physically different and differently abled/disabled. Those are a lot of the people you see at the conventions like Exxxotica. And I feel as if the porn community is much more open and friendly and accepting of them. Do you get that same feeling?

TH There’s a lot of truth to that.

W! It must be interesting for you, too. You’re not a “fan,” you’re working.

TH Yeah, I mean, you definitely hit the nail on the head. It’s like I’ve told Jay a few times, after the shows, “Ok, back to the real world, where I’m invisible.” ted_houser_2And it is what it is. It’s not a bad thing to me. I’ve been living with this my whole life, so it’s not like I’m really down about it. So for me, it’s just that when I’m there, it’s a lot of fun for me. And granted, you always run into a few people that are like, “Well…” That’s just the way of the world. But I’d say 99% of it is just a really good feeling. Because you’re right, in the porn industry, the stars themselves are really open to different versions of life. And I’ve only had really long conversations with a couple of them, and I think they’re fantastic people. They’re doing a job that’s really no different from anyone else’s job, it’s just that they’re in the porn industry.

W! It’s a job in an industry that requires a much more open mind.

TH It definitely does.

W! That brings me to my next question. I mean, obviously you’ve done graphic design for some time, but how did you come around to do design for porn conventions? I mean, are you a rabid porn fan, or…?

TH laughing I’m not really a rabid fan. I mean, I don’t mind a good flick every now and then, but basically, like I said earlier, I worked with Jay, who runs the show, and we worked at a prior company together doing a trade show in 2003. It was dubbed the best trade show that industry had ever seen. So afterward, Jay came to me and said, “I want to start my own show and I’d like you to work with me.” So I said, “Sure.” And he said, “Do you care what it is?” And I said, “Well are we going to have fun? Will it be a good time?” And he said, “Oh, yeah!” I said, “Well what is it?” And he said, “It’s a porn show.” I went, “I’m in!” I didn’t even think twice about it. I think that because of living the way that I have, I’m not a star-struck person. You could put anybody in front of me that’s in the public spotlight, and I’ll be like, “Hi, how are you?” I won’t lose my shit, per se, like a lot of people would. To me, they’re just doing a job that puts them in a spotlight. It’s no different than you or I doing our jobs. I mean that’s pretty much how I got into this industry.

W! So now you’ve been doing this for a while, but now you’re beginning to display your artwork in public. You mentioned Fang Ling Lee, who I’m assuming you met at Exxxotica?

TH Yeah, I met her at the first show she was at, in ’06 or ’07. I met her and Tim, her husband, and we hung out at the hotel that night and we had a really good conversation. I think with her being an artist and me being an artist, we just clicked. That’s kind of how I am. I click with other open-minded, talented artists. Granted, there are some artists I shy away from, but these guys? She’s really good at what she does. She’s amazing. When I showed her my work last year, I was more than honored. That’s how impressed I am with her work and what she’s done with it. And she says, time and time again, the same with me. I mean, when we first talked about it, I hit her up on the phone and said, “Hey, Ling, how do I get in this [Go-Go-Go! Artist Collective]?” And she laughed and said, “You already are.” She didn’t even question it.

So I mean, I drove up to their place and she helped me get some stuff together and we worked deals out and everything seems to ted_houser_1be going really well. I actually sold my first piece at Exxxotica in Miami! I’m looking forward to Chicago and hopefully selling a few more.

W! So you’re part of the Go-Go-Go! Collective. So that’s you and Fang Ling Lee, and… anyone else at the moment?

TH There is! Yeah, let me find the poster… it was my first public mention, so that was exciting… Fang Ling Lee, Aunia Kahn, Lara Dann, me, John Thomason, Patrick Naxey, Josh Kimberg, Jane Stanford, Cee Cee Lee, Mani C. Price, Anne Sevino, Kevin Lawson. Basically, Ling hand-picked these people. She put out the word for people to submit their work, and then picked them. It’s been pretty amazing. It’s an honor to be a part of it.

W! So are all of you displaying work at Exxxotica?

TH Well it’ll basically be wherever she [Ling] exhibits. I’m not sure what others they do. I’m not certain if they’re doing Comic-Con this year, but they have in the past. So if it goes there, all my artwork will be there for that

W! So you guys will be at the next Exxxotica show in Chicago in July, and is there anything else that readers can do to see your work? Can they find you online?

TH Yeah, currently I’m waiting to get my new canvas. I have a 6-foot by 3-foot canvas that I’m ready to paint but I haven’t found a way to get it to my house. In the meantime, I have my company’s website, TuBear Studios, and my Facebook site. The website has everything I’ve ever done.

W! Thanks, Ted, this has been a really fun and interesting chat.

TH Thank you!

—Interview conducted by WHACK! Staph degenerate Miss Lagsalot.

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