I’m a skittish little pixie. No one thing inspires me continuously for a long period of time. But when I go through periods of being inspired by something, it will find its way into my work and the way I think in a variety of permutations.
The thing I’m most inspired by at the moment is Florida – if an entire state can inspire you. Maybe it’s the composite parts. Generations of Kolbuszes have spent their winters there. I used to get taken annually by my parents but in adulthood it has become a voluntary, self-initiated exercise.
I always marvel at what an amazing, fucked-up, lawless frontier it is. It’s the convergence of high and low culture that I love the most. The state is rammed full of things that are so ill-suited to intersect, but for some reason it works. People walk around with sandals and shorts with no shirts on and that might be how you go to the ballet. It’s really interesting to me.
It’s one of the only true purple states in America – it’s not blue or red. It could always go either way as it’s so split down the middle. Everyone intermingles. It’s terrifying and magical all at the same time.
The things that got me excited during my last visit include the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. There’s an incredible composer called Courtney Bryan, who was commissioned to write a piece for the city – the first since Duke Ellington in 1972. It’s called Bridges. I saw the debut performance of that, which was pretty spectacular.
I’m really into tie-dye at the minute. I bought a long-sleeve T-shirt at a beachfront shop and the dye itself felt really fresh and coarse on the fabric. A lovely antidote to the mass-produced, machine-dyed varieties you can buy on the high street. And I got it in size 2XL – readily available in Florida.
It’s a non-secular state and you can find some wonderfully strange love letters to religion everywhere you go. In addition to magazines touting countdowns of the 50 most influential figures in the Bible, it happened to be Passover while I was there. Publix (a supermarket chain) was selling some fantastic educational children’s masks representing the 10 Plagues of Passover. There was a face mask covered in lice, another in boils. It’s bewildering to think that these things are mass-produced here, but it’s magical all the same.
In Miami, the Institute of Contemporary Art was hosting a wonderful exhibition of Judy Chicago, the feminist art pioneer. Bass Museum had an exhibition by Aaron Curry. Both were vivid, colourful, political and confrontational. And the new Harmony Korine film, The Beach Bum, had just come out in time for my visit. It’s set in Florida and stars Matthew McConaughey as a stoner poet called Moondog.
The other fascinating thing about Florida is that for a state in which pot is not legal, the number of places hocking paraphernalia has to outnumber California. There are all these charming little head shops where you can buy the most ridiculously intricate bongs and glass pipes. There’s something funny about the craftsmanship, the attention to detail and the ornate sculptural quality of these devices that are basically used to check you out.
Whenever I find myself getting into a thing, I really get into it. I try not to half-ass anything. My obsession may be transient but the intensity feeds into what I do. When it comes to how it affects the work, Florida means excess. The juxtaposition of the artful and the ridiculous. Where I might usually err on the side of subtlety and restraint, a trip to Florida makes me gravitate towards bigger jokes. More exaggerated, ridiculous ideas. And a soupçon of bad taste.
Ten months out of the year and I’d wretch at the thought of ending an opinion piece with a line like "Florida is not just a state, it’s a state of mind" – but guess what? Florida is not just a state, it’s a state of mind.
David Kolbusz is chief creative officer at Droga5 London