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Meet Toban Nichols

Today we’d like to introduce you to Toban Nichols.

Toban, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I moved to LA in 2009, fresh out of San Francisco where everyone claims to hate Southern California. All I knew was I had hit the creative ceiling in SF, at least for myself and I needed to move forward. I first visited LA when I was 14 and loved it. As a teenager back then, I was intrigued by the culture, not so much the Hollywood scene that was so obvious and vast, but more the music scene and seeing how kids my age dressed. I knew someday I’d live here, but my path took a different route. I had been making art my whole life, literally since I was a very young child in church.

I come from Kansas and good strong farm folk, so my absolute disinterest in anything having to do with raising cattle, cutting wheat, or getting my shoes dirty on the many unpaved roads that surrounded our town was clear and obvious to everyone from a very young age. I had always thought about living somewhere else, never feeling as though I belonged until I went off to college and a small city. Jumping forward in time, through personal tragedies, lucky chances, and big leaps I found myself in Los Angeles ready to take my art career to the next level whatever that meant. This many years on, I’ve made strides I’m very proud of and had my share of setbacks as well. I just keep going.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
The road has never been smooth. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had chance meetings, elevator speeches, lucky breaks and bothering gallerists until they gave in. As a naturally shy person, I’ve had to create a new persona that can talk to people and ask for outrageous things and being clever and forward. I’m not naturally that guy but I can be. I’d much rather spend my time at home, mostly alone just working and listening to music. Or being inspired by nature…until someone comes along and ruins it.

But, to be an artist in today’s society takes a dip of the toe into social media, putting yourself out there and making noise if you want to be seen. Lots of artists do this is much better ways than I do. I do what I can without it sucking the soul out of me too much. I pull back when it starts to.

I have had a myriad of rejections and things that seemed like a sure thing turning out to be nothing at all. It used to hurt more than it does now. A tough exterior is essential to being an artist, especially when have to put your soft, cushy parts out there to be judged and looked at by the public in order to participate in the art world. We make art because we have to. We have no choice whether to make it or not. We do have a choice in showing to the world and that choice is the most difficult one to make. I’ve had a good career so far, I’m proud of the work I’ve put into it.

Can you share something surprising about yourself?
I can share something I have found surprising about myself. In the past five years I’ve gone through a lot of change, much of that is growth and digging deeply into who I was, what I’ve done to others and myself and how people see me and my actions on the outside. I have a very specific view of myself, we all do. Spending time working on your faults and flaws is good time spent examining your own construct and getting glimpses of your true self. The way we see ourselves is not who we really are or who others see. We wish that was true but it’s not. It’s a very uncomfortable place to spend time, but doing that work as we get older is essential to the direction our lives go. I look for simplicity in life and something I’ve discovered is that we are the ones making our lives complicated. It’s no one else’s doing, it is only us.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
Oh my God, I hate this. I hate talking about myself in this way. Beyond everything else I hate answering questions. It’s so hard to do and as I type these answers, I feel like I’m coming across as an asshole. I probably am and I guess why should I care?

I suppose I should be making up something light and cheery to say about all of this, but in the middle of this pandemic, this sprawling, drawn out multi-year depression, and at the beginning of the year when my birthday is so close it’s hard to keep a smile on my face.

Currently, I am at the very end of a four years long production on my first feature length documentary about my family and a tragedy that befell us a long time ago. It’s been the singularly hardest thing I’ve ever attempted to do and taking the most amount of time to complete. At various times it’s been torturous. Much of the time an up and down emotional ride that put me on medication in order to deal with. It’s also been lustrous and shiny, beautiful, wondrous. It’s also brought my family closer than ever being able to discuss our family at a distance, behind a lens but then to feel the healing and sewing back together of these wounds we’ve had for years. It’s an incredible feeling. Absolutely transformative. I would say I’m most proud of this. Not just the film, which when done will be a crowning achievement, but also for the way my family and I have changed the nature of our relationship through this growth and change.

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Image Credits:

Roman Udalov, Toban Nichols

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