FRAY at Museum of Art Fort Collins
Embracing a Biracial Upbringing through Art Creation | TEDx
You May Find Yourself
You May Find Yourself
You May Find Yourself
Schenck's Utah: A Land Less Traveled
Tell us about your background and how it has led you to where you are now.
Because I struggled in school all through my younger years, art became a place of solace and exploration for me. I looked to art as an outlet; a place where I could succeed. I didn't consider art as a career option until I took a few formal art classes during my undergraduate schooling in Virginia. There I was introduced to printmaking and fell in love with it. With this discovery also came a desire to teach others the joy and excitement that comes with creating art.
Shortly thereafter, I was accepted to The University of Arizona MFA program to study printmaking. As I developed my printmaking skills I was encouraged to explore painting and other mediums to help push my work in new ways. Since I graduated with my Masters in Fine Arts I have continued to paint and use other mixed mediums to create my work. I am constantly experimenting and learning about new applications to convey my ideas.
Following my graduate studies, I had the opportunity to teach as an adjunct professor at Pima College and Glendale Community College. Just recently I was awarded a full time position at Glendale Community College, where I teach drawing and life drawing.
Who/What inspires you?
I am inspired by the individuals that surround me. My wife and children and the relationships they hold; simple and ambiguous circumstances are intriguing to me, especially those that may seem mundane and are oftentimes overlooked. These moments in time are fascinating, and fuel the ideas I commonly choose to explore in my work.
I am also intrigued by human behavior and attributes. Simple settings, movements, gestures... I believe some of the most intimate and telling elements of a person, or place, lies in the small movements made throughout the day. Sitting in a chair, laying on a bed, a piece of fruit, a quiet kitchen... These are all small but essential bits that can help make up a person.
Give us some insight on your process and how it leads to your final outcome?
I spend my time working through thoughts and ideas, as well as a lot of self reflection. I am constantly wondering about things. I try to separate idea making and art making but the two still tend to integrate. The creation process is a struggle and I am constantly problem solving and reworking my ideas to overcome physical and mental blocks. It's important for me to build layers and cover up old ideas and sometimes the most important part of my process is when I sacrifice the precious parts. This work can be both aggravating and rewarding.
I strive to just paint and not overthink. When I start a piece, I don’t necessarily start out with one grand idea. I have many little ideas that need to be uncovered and refined over and over until I make something of those ideas. I often find myself in conversation with my paintings as I try to learn about them. My goal is to get them to tell me who they are.
Following this exhibition, what projects will you be working on? What direction do you hope to take your works in the future?
I will be working on a group project with a couple other artists in the Modern West Family. Fidalis Buhler, Andrew Alba, and Wren Ross to name a few. We plan to combine our works into one show, and show in various venues around the country.
I am interested in working even larger than I currently am now. I would love to experience working on a painting that is larger than 12x15 ft. in the future and see how my work can develop in the process.
Art can be a powerful way to search for purpose and meaning. Anything we wonder about, question, or experience can later breach the surface of the subconscious to become an iconic visual symbol. In my own work, figures, animals, and buildings interact in a metaphoric narrative that is autobiographical and, hopefully, universal. I imagine they are me. I am every man, woman and animal that I draw. I am everybody and nobody in particular. My pieces attempt to explore and celebrate the certainties and ambiguities of personality, relationships, and being.
What inspired the featured body of work? Did you find yourself working in a new way because of the pandemic?
There are two bodies of work represented in this show, line paintings and transparent paintings, and they are very tied. Both start with a series of oil glazes over raw birch-wood, painted with rags to make the transitions subtle, and exposing some of the gorgeous grain of the wood. The inspiration for both was a desire to move from a more explicit representation of my record of living, with lots of words, symbols, marks and shapes buried in the paintings, to a simplified, clean, minimal painting with a simple statement of intent at the end.
I was working on the transparent series as the pandemic started, and found it well suited to moving into emotional territory. In my statement about this body I said: Howard Hodgkin describes his work as “representational pictures of emotional situations”. This pegs my desire for this work. I want these paintings to remain open to holding my dialogue and a viewer's dialogue as well.
Can you talk about the departure from a subtle to a more emphasized style in your works?
The transparent paintings grew from the line paintings, and are probably a more emphasized style. While the ground and the primitive lines are developed over the course of several weeks, with chances for me to modify and build, the final rectangle in the center containing an image happens in one shot, in about a half hour to an hour. It starts as a record of whatever is on my mind in that moment, and then develops in process, often shifting dramatically to something I didn't expect at all. They are like reverse Rorschachs. It occurred to me in conversations at the opening of the show that they resemble photographs: hard edged rectangles containing an image. My years of photography practice are seeping into these spontaneous compositions.
Your work often involves a performative element, whether it is blindfolded or intentionally visual. Your act of mark making integrates the use of your body significantly can you talk about this process?
Both bodies of work depend on a last minute stab at expression. The line paintings are very body oriented: they are a visual record of a movement, all done without looking at the painting. They range from recording a run down the sidewalk in front of my home studio, hitting the painting with a large graphite pencil as I passed, to standing on my head beside the painting (my wife Gretchen spotting me so that I didn't fall into the wet oil-paint), and recording with one hand my movement as I stood on my head and other hand.
It seems like you have finalized this body of work and that the most recent pieces have sparked a new idea. What direction do you see you taking your work in the future?
The last couple of transparent paintings came away with much cleaner images in the center, moving from the blurred images that I have described as "trying to be something, but not quite getting there yet". These cleaner images are still mysterious, they really aren't anything yet, either, but I'd like to keep exploring them for my next move.
Can you speak to your background and evolution as an artist? When did you first begin making art?
I have been making art since I was a little kid, and I knew from a very young age that I was going to be an artist. At that point, I didn’t know what that meant, or how it would look or work, I just knew that that’s what I wanted to be and do with my life. I attended a liberal arts college with a major in fine arts but felt that I needed more experience. So I enrolled in a Masters program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. I was told by two of my professors that I should consider ‘not doing this’ as a career. It was devastating at the time, but also the motivation that I needed. I took it on and have been making art ever since.
Your work is so considered and intricate. Some of these graphite portrayals must take many hours. Is there a significance to the amount of time you spend?
Yes, the drawings take many hours to complete, but it’s more about becoming intimately familiar with the patterns in nature and the environments that I am looking at. The images, be it trees or rocks or what have you, are composed of years of growth, decay, the effects of weather and other natural elements, so the notion of time is definitely something I am interested in. There is also a meditative aspect to studying and drawing the lines/light/shadow of these natural objects. Creating space for sustained contemplation is a big part of my work.
Why do you choose to portray fallen and decaying trees?
I have always been interested in natural elements, and for the longest time I was studying Karl Blossfeldt’s botanical photographs. At a certain point, I started to study my own photographs of natural phenomena, particularly photographs of the landscape of Utah, but it was really the pandemic that led me to the trees. I had (temporarily) lost all my jobs, so I took longs walks to pass the time.
I started to notice these beautifully elegant structures on the ground in the woods near my house and became fascinated with the linework and patterning in the bark, their sculptural and figurative nature and more broadly, with the cycle of growth/decay/regeneration. Drawing trees is complicated, as you can get lost in the detail in the bark. This led me to think more deeply about mark making, like in a Rembrandt drawing, where hatch work looks incredibly realistic from a distance. In addition to trees, I have been studying rock formations and ideas around repetition, space (boundary-less and defined space) and the documentation of energy.
The backgrounds of your work are quite geometric and calculated — protractor-like circumference circles, arrows, neat and orderly designs — how are you connecting these wallpaper-references and almost mathematical patterns with the organic matter?
I am drawn to the landscape because natural phenomena don’t have to follow any particular order. Nature finds its own order, which at times may seem chaotic, but it makes sense, and with each action is a reaction (for example, when a tree falls, it creates a new ecosystem where one did not exist before). The geometric and decorative patterning is a more constructed system that represents the notion of time, the movement of energy, and how space is occupied. The ‘calculated’ patterns are the defined space, juxtaposed with the boundary-less space that is nature. I also feel like so many of the ‘defined’ shapes and patterns we encounter (whether maps, grids, decorative wall papers, etc) are derived from the natural world, and so this juxtaposition makes sense to me.
Why DO YOU USE GLITTER and gold leaf? Any significance there including those materials alongside traditional graphite? Also, is it intentional that you are using graphite — charred wood — to create work referencing trees?
Glitter and gold leaf add an interesting time element to the work, because they are always reflecting and constantly changing, depending on the light and the angle at which the piece is viewed. Their luminous surfaces are quite different from the graphite, and so they create an interruption or pause in the orientation. Additionally, gold leaf has historically been used in works of art to show devotion and/or to allow objects to be seen as ‘other worldly.’ For me, taking a (seemingly mundane) element (like a fallen tree) out of its natural environment and creating a new environment with materials such as gold leaf, elevates the subject to a new level of significance.
Honestly, I use graphite because I love drawing and the control it offers when making very fine and detailed marks, whether drawing trees or anything else!
Who or what have you been inspired by? What books are you reading, or what podcasts, music, or media are you listening to and watching?
One of the benefits of the original Covid lock down was that several arts organizations started online programming (or at least, that’s when I discovered it). The Dia Beacon hosted weekly zoom sessions on artists in their collection, Gagosian puts out a quarterly magazine featuring interviews, discussions, playlists, etc, and what I found is that almost every artist out there, no matter how famous, still struggles with the same basic questions – what to make (or paint or sculpt, etc), is it good, what do I want to say or address in my work. This is extremely comforting to me because it can get lonely in the studio at times, but it’s a shared experience and part of what it is to be an artist. That, and just keeping at it.
I am always discovering new artists who inspire me, either through their work or personal experiences, and then I have numerous favorites who influence me on a daily basis – Rembrandt and Cezanne for example, as well as more current artists like Gerhard Richter, Rudolf Stingel, Agnes Denes, Rashid Johnson to name a few. I often listen to music while in the studio, anything from classical to hip hop to electronic to instrumental. Philadelphia has a great local station, WXPN, so I’ll usually tune in to that. I recently discovered the Tim Ferris podcasts, and I usually am able to find a really interesting conversation to tune into while working.
Can you speak about one work in the INTERWOVEN exhibition – what was your process like creating that piece, and what lasting impact do you hope it has on viewers?
“Layers of Time” is a significant piece for me, in terms of the scale, and also in resolving how the upper half (the recognizable imagery of the mountain) relates to the lower half (geometrical shapes). It is also the first time (I think!) that I used collage elements to create the transition in the imagery. I had to sit with this one for a while before recognizing that it was finished. Honestly, I hope that whoever views the work comes to their own conclusions about what it might mean, what sort of response it generates, is it compelling (or not), etc…that’s the beauty of art! It’s a pretty personal experience and one that is unique to each individual.
Anything on your radar in the coming months or year?
I have a solo exhibition at Pentimenti Gallery in Philadelphia in early 2023, so I am busy working towards that, and in general always looking for opportunities to show and share my work.
Like most people I use my cell phone camera to capture impressions from travels, hikes or every day situations. But for me it's like a sketchbook that I can read through when I am back home in my studio.
Using Photoshop, I then create a kind of an ideal, sharpened reality from these snapshots. So the composition of my picture is always ready when I start working on the printing plate.
The template has to be mirrored before I print it out on a 1:1 scale and transfer it to the printing block with chalk.
The first cut is the most important in the entire process because all other cuts are based on it. I choose a central focal spot and first of all cut out the contours of the subject. The chalk lines are always only a suggestion and never stop me from finding new, better lines. I especially love this part of my work and try to get into a flow where the knife moves along the white lines almost by itself.
Every line that I cut has to be found and is irrevocably gone at the same time. In contrast to painting, I take away material and thereby create white, sometimes I think of it as “reverse painting”. I have to cut a separate printing block for each color, sometimes up to 10 different printing blocks.
Now I'm starting to mix the colors. I transfer samples to my color book and note the mixing ratio. When the color selection is done, I do a test print on the material that I want to use for the finished picture. I usually print smaller pictures on handmade paper, large formats on linen. After the test print, I often trim something until I'm satisfied.
The printing itself is done by hand or sometimes with my printing press.
Many of my pictures have become so big that I have to work on the floor of my studio. Once a color has been printed, it must first dry before another layer can be applied on top. So I work my way from light to dark until I get to the master printing block, the last plate with the contoures. I then hang the finished picture in my studio, and only if I still like it after several days I will print the rest of the small edition. Very often I have to change some little things and the process starts all over again.
What inspired the featured body of work? Did you find yourself working in a new way because of the pandemic?
Simply said, yes the pandemic and the events of this past year has steered the direction of my work. The Borders and Boundaries Series began in the early part of 2020, and my initial focus was on how borders or boundary lines, both visible and invisible, alter landscapes, in particular as seen through maps and satellite images. I was looking at maps where borders rendered huge swaths of land empty or uninhabitable spaces, and wanted to draw attention to these. Through this concept, I started to incorporate the empty spaces in my work. As the world went into lockdown, and we were all forced to examine our own personal boundaries, my focus shifted and started to incorporate fence lines, as well as imagined protective space.
Can you discuss your process in making your most recent work? The colors featured are notable and an obvious departure from other paintings. Can you talk about this decision?
The green sections in my new body of work represent gardens and green space. The idea of how important and comforting our domestic green spaces have been to us, yet at the same time represent the freedom of endless fields or rolling hills. The Millcreek works are directly inspired by a memorable day spent in Millcreek Canyon during the Fall. I sketched all day surrounded by incredible glowing Fall colors. The shapes in these works are sections from my sketches, and the colors representative of the turning leaves.
What do you find inspiration from and how do those things influence or impact your work?
My inspiration comes from many sources. I’m continually observing, reading, researching, listening to podcasts, sketching and writing. Ideas for my work are developed as a culmination of all of these. Quite often I’m working through ideas as I run, piecing things together like a jigsaw. Each new body of work builds on previous works.
Following this exhibition, what projects will you be working on? What direction do you hope to take your works in the future?
As the academic year is just wrapping up, my most productive studio time is throughout the summer months. I’m currently working on a project called ‘A Sense of Place’, which examines the concept of belonging, particularly here in the West. The works I’m creating for this project are a ‘side step’, however they feed into previous bodies of work. I hope to exhibit the Sense of Place works in the Fall. I’m also working on a piece that is made of multiple different colored squares, which will be the start of a new body of work.
Fidalis Buehler is an artist living and working in Mapleton, Utah. In honor of his upcoming solo exhibition, we sat down with him at his studio for an interview.
Esther Voisin is a French photographer who is living and working in the U.S. Her work and vision are “still-frame” moments captured in the daily panorama of modern life. The bare poetry of every day, in the subjects of little matter that our eyes no longer see. Driven by a cinematic vision, her work ponders on the subjective emotion of isolation, composition, texture, and light.
“I first discovered photography through cinema. Then, I just grabbed my camera and started to shoot. At that time with a Nikon & 50 mm. I had my first collective gallery exhibition at 22 years old: B/W works selected by the Kodak Foundation and the museum Nicephore Niepce, by a group of art critics and photographers.” In 2009 Factory editions, Paris published 2 books of her work « Argentic & Cinematographic » Sold in le Centre Pompidou and Le Palais de Tokyo, Arcana in L.A, specialty bookstores, and galleries.
Voisin is developing a new body of work that will be on display Upstairs at Modern West in February 2021.
Tell us about your background and how it has led you to where you are now.
My work explores a wide range of research subjects including physical fitness, endurance, illness, social ritual, and religious tradition.
I was born in Palo Alto, California and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah singing songs about ancestors walking and walking and colonizing the west. At a young age I was acutely aware of how I didn't fit neatly into organized religion. I attended Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts and started to find a critical and feminist voice in painting and photography.
After graduating from Hampshire College I moved to Italy not speaking a word of Italian. It was there I met my artist mentors who continue to be significant women in my life.
During my six years in Florence I focused on issues of identity and invisibility. In 1989 I created an installation titled Anonymous Women in a 13th century Maltese church in the city center of Florence. The installation contained paintings, found objects, and ancient cabinets This work surfaced when I was aware the portraits of five women that were used to mass-produce antique-like brooches sold in Italian flea markets as “antiques.” They were women with no names. They were anonymous yet everywhere. I wanted to honor these women whose images had been reproduced for tourist consumption.
After six years in Florence I returned to the United States for graduate school at Rutgers University and was an early member of the activist group Women's Action Coalition meeting weekly at the Drawing Center in New York. I lived in the YMCA in New Brunswick and spent long days in my studio or in New York City. I focused my painting and performance on the body, identity, cultural codes around the beautiful and the grotesque. After receiving my MFA I was awarded a fellowship to Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture in Maine.
In 2005 I started the interdisciplinary Plural Wife Project and was honored to be included in the 17th Biennale of Sydney presenting both installation and performance from this project. The work received significant reviews in the Sydney Morning Herald, interviews for ABC National Radio (National Public Radio, Australia), and Channel 10 News in Sydney. Works from this project have been cited in publications such as New York Times, Artforum.com, Frieze, Art Papers, Landscape Architecture, and FiberArts to name a few.
Currently I reside in the southwest (Santa Fe, New Mexico and Phoenix, Arizona) where I am a professor at Arizona State University. In 2014 I co-founded the Museum of Walking with artist Seven J. Yazzie informed by his regional Indigenous ancestry (Navajo) and my pioneer polygamist lineage. Merging our individual art practices with a collective interest in walking as it relates to the historical, cultural and political sites that impact bodies and land. Within this project my work continues to focus on making the invisible visible; writing women back into history, honoring land rather than claiming it.
It is apparent that culture and religion have influenced you. How have these aspects impacted your work?
It is true that much of my work has been influenced by my upbringing. I approach the work as a confluence of memory and objective research. My hope is that the work moves beyond my personal experience and opens up an expansive dialogue about human desire to understand what is not always visible.
Who/What inspires you?
Research, reading, and walking. Silence. Absurd encounters in everyday life. Constantly questioning what I think I know.
You often use a variety of materials, can you talk about your selection of materials and how that influences the works you are creating?
Various mediums and materials all speak to each other. The concepts lead the form and material choice. I consider material as meaning.
Following this exhibition, what projects will you be working on? What direction do you hope to take your works in the future?
There are always co-projects going on in my studio. I think of my practice as a continuum.
At the moment I am working on a private commission piece and just opened an exhibition at Lisa Sette Gallery called "Things We Carry." https://
I am in conversation with a curator at the New Mexico Museum of Art to take part in an exhibition in 2022. I am really looking forward to returning to Italy next year for a month-long residency at Bogliasco and leading a Museum of Walking pilgrimage along the path of St Francis of Assisi through a sacred forest. http://www.museumofwalking.
The Museum of Walking screened a documentary on a water walk along the Rio Salado River in Arizona. You can view the film and a conversation on the project here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?
What are some of the non-visual mediums that interest and influence you?
Studies of esoteric and occult practices, listening to birds and podcasts on activism, spirituality, and philosophy.
After you graduated from the University of Utah—with a BFA in painting and drawing—you continued your education as an apprentice to Utah based artist David Dornan. Could you talk a little about that experience and how an apprenticeship or extended internship differs from today's more common learning methods.
My internship with Dave was much more of a direct art education than is generally offered in the traditional university setting. Dave taught me to be a working artist – he supported my technical painting understanding but also emphasized the daily, behind-the-scenes stuff that makes an art career sustainable. Canvas building, framing. Efficiency and really understanding my subject and why I want to paint it. He guided me toward marrying all the knowledge of painting skill with how to run art as a business. It’s been invaluable and I know it shortened my learning curve immensely.
You live in Helper, Utah, which has developed a thriving arts community. Can you describe the town and what it’s doing to support and encourage the arts. How does living there inform your work?
Helper has always been this awesome, hard-working blue collar town with a vibrant history that extended so much farther back than when the arts community started to settle here. It’s kind of a rebellious place with a coal and mining heritage rather than a pioneer heritage so it’s kind of operated on the fringe of Utah. And I think that is ultimately why the artists sought it out; artists seem to gravitate to being outside the box.
We joke that only the strong can survive in Helper and I really think that’s true. Both the historical community and the imported art community give great support to the artists yet it comes with expectation. Expectation that you’re going to work hard and focus on daily improvement. And that’s why I think a thriving art community exists in Helper; people are fierce and dedicated about living here and supporting each other but there’s a cost of admission to truly being a Helper native. I’m still working on that!Your paintings are filled with humorous references to art history and pop culture. Can you describe your process when it comes to coming up with ideas and working them through to a finished piece?
Usually the idea leads the process. I come up with a concept and then I work on how to visually bring it to life, taking into account the art history or pop culture style it might reference. My signature is even different from piece to piece because ultimately, I want to shape my skill set to fit the idea rather than the idea bending to my skill set.
Tell us about your subject matter, I’m particularly interested in the use of trompe l'oeil when you include coloring books, crayons, paints and “scribbled” marks.
The crayons and coloring books started out early in my career as a means to reflect on art history in a unique way. And of course, I was taught in a realist school. So, I had to learn to make a crayon look like a crayon and a swipe of paint look like a crayon made it. I think art with illusion or trompe l'oeil really has the ability to draw us in, the same way a good storyteller or magician gets us lost in the process. And there’s also just a basic satisfaction I get from making a crayon look round or a page look like it’s folding up at the corners. Art is just so fundamental to the life and learning process – I’ve realized that even more so, watching my own kids. So, to make art about art is extra engaging to me.
If you were hosting a dinner party for five people you admire but haven't met—living or dead—who would they be and why?
Vermeer – Best painter of all time.
Banksy – Out of any current artist, I’d most like to pick his brain.
Christopher Harris – Fantasy football expert (my favorite non-art pastime) and novelist. Great thinker.
Nate Silver – Excellent political mind with a well-thought-out and even stance on things (with a sport bent, because I think sports are a great metaphor for everything.)
Quentin Tarantino – Pulp Fiction was the right movie at the right time for me. Love his innovation and reimagination of genre. I’m passionate about good film.
Tell us a little about your upcoming show and the inspiration behind it.
The January show is coinciding with the Sundance Film Festival time frame in Utah so we did a play on movies meets an art opening with “Now Showing.”
The pieces will reference everything from “Star Wars” barns and milk cartons, Vermeer painting Marilyn Monroe, a giant typewriter typing up Clint Eastwood, Elvis spray paint, a “Wonder Woman” Pez head, an Art World meets “The Matrix” parody, and “A Rebel Without a Cause” liquor store. I’m really looking forward to a fun and dynamic exhibit.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your upbringing and how art became a primary focus for you?
My name is Patrick Dean Hubbell. I was born and raised in Arizona. I am Dine' (Navajo). I was raised on the Navajo Nation near the Window Rock, AZ / Navajo, NM area, located right on the AZ/ NM border. I grew up in a very small, rural town where family and close relatives are very important to the role of the foundation of community. We were raised close to our Navajo traditional, cultural beliefs and practices, the duties of maintaining ranch livestock with horses and cattle, and the simplicity of rural life. I first noticed advancement of basic drawing skills with eye-hand coordination and draftsmanship at a young age and began to develop this talent as my education progressed. Attending a very small privately funded school that lacked a lot of the standard resources found in public school, but nonetheless, I had a young passion for creating that never stopped and only grew. It wasn't until later that I realized the insufficiency in a lot of the materials we had for the Art programs, but it didn't stop me from trying and growing. From there I went on to attend Arizona State University, where I later obtained my BFA in Painting and Drawing. Within my years as an undergrad, I realized that I wanted to pursue the Arts as a full time professional career. Our Painting Professor used to pose the question for our class to get us thinking, "Less than 10 percent of all Art Students are able to be full time artists, what makes you and your art any different?". This question ignited a determination to create. I always believed that I had an important piece to add to the conversation of Contemporary Art and how my voice through Contemporary Native/ Indigenous Art could be heard.
A connection to the Earth is obviously important to you, can you explain how that connection impacts your work?
A strong connection to the Earth is essential to all Indigenous nations. It is the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual connection to a nation's land. We are centered and in balance with the natural environment through our stories, songs, philosophies, and ceremonies that are rooted in this way of thinking for our people. This is the foundation of where my work evolves from. This mindset is what drives many of my inspirations that revolve around the natural environment, nature's patterns of change and existence, and the physical elements of earth including plants, animals, and the human figure. It is a constant that is expressed through different bodies of work but in turn all comes back to the central idea of how our unique and individual relationship to this Earth exists.
Your current work is primarily abstract but references the natural world through pattern and symbol. Can you speak to that?
Pattern and Symbol is a universal language and crosses cultural boundaries. These patterns and symbols have ancient meaning and correlation to the art work of many Indigenous Nations found in textiles, basketry, pottery, carvings, beadwork, quillwork, etc. I have used the medium of painting to further the conversation of these symbols and patterns to make connection to the natural world in my work by presenting them in way that abstractly touches upon the use and meaning of these symbols. This allows the freedom to explore the possibilities of the realms this work can access. By having the meaning present, the 2 dimensional surface of the painting is able to depict many instances of how nature is presented through atmosphere, landscape, and entities within nature.
Can you describe the imagery in this particular body of work and what inspired it?
"I was thinking about cosmic archetypes and symbols, I was thinking about the human animal as an ancient biological and spiritual being in a modern world. Bodies emerging from the sea or floating amongst the clouds. I was thinking about the symbols of fierceness and helplessness existing in the same person. The sea can be powerful, you can harness it, but you can also get lost in it. I was thinking about the male and female archetypes existing within each person. I was physically acting out chaos and order. I was contemplating unintended consequences by creating unintended consequences. I was thinking about birth and death being a circle. These were the mythologies for this show."
Could you talk a little about your process of layering and obliterating the painted surface.
"I started each piece very traditionally. I began by rendering figures, flowers, what have you. Then after some dry time, I began to layer up paint at the same time I would remove it, loosely pushing it into shapes and lines over the surface of the figures. Drips become rain, figures emerge from water, and the surface of the sea is rendered. If I saw something in the abstract, I would go back and emphasize it using traditional brushwork and blend it in."
Do you listen to music while you paint, if so what have you been listening to recently?
"Oh boy. Okay, you asked. When I started this project I was listening to 80s new wave music from my childhood, midway through, I went on another nostalgic trip and put 80s British metal on my playlists. By the end, it was all melodic post metal, and experimental electronic music for me. I’m really open with music in general though. I listen to, and work with many genres, from hip hop and jazz to traditional Bulgarian folk music."
I’m interested in the connection between art making and the meditative state described as ‘being in the zone’ or ‘flow state’ how does this relate to your work?
"For me, being “in the zone” is knowing when to “get up and move.” I don’t know what my pieces are going to become in advance, so I don’t plan them without room to breathe. So I spend hours with the work, sometimes months before I touch them again. I think you have to make them sink into your subconscious. Stare at them, think about them aesthetically all day and all night, talk to yourself about them in the shower, do nothing until you get “that feeling” and then burst into action. The most intriguing parts of the work are the parts that were worked the least. Those parts took minutes, not hours. Or in this case, minutes on top of hours. So I guess in the end, my version of being in the zone would be having a constant conversation with yourself and your work, and then acting upon it when you are ready. Then repeat. Over and over again. This brings the work from the unconscious into reality, and back again, when something is finally there, flushed out on the canvas, you can stop. The message came out of you. Now you’ve cleared up a bit of the mystery for yourself, and deepened it for everyone else!"
The tensions that arise between stillness and movement seem to factor in your work, could you speak to that?
"Yes. The movement you are seeing is placed on top of stillness. The movement is acting upon something still and sculptural (Say, a figure rendered with brushes). This is a good thing, because it’s not supposed to be that the two things exist at the same time, in the same space and equally important. Also, tools I use are very sculptural as well, so the marks they make “build up” on the surface. You may notice movement with this technique, but also you may notice built up lines that reinforce the stillness at the same time. These lines add a graphic, illustrative comic book feel here and there. It’s not over-the-top-hit-you-over-the-head, but it’s there."
We had the honor of hosting Rebecca Campbell, a California-based contemporary artist, who spoke to us about creating her works that were inspired by her family history. Rebecca's roots in Utah and the West were revealed in her compelling artist discussion. Below are a few highlights from the night.
Throughout the discussion you referred to your works being constructs of the mind and the body. Can you expand on those concepts?
Going back to the first piece of art I created I recall thinking about my mother teaching me how to make a cake. I was thinking about holding the ingredients, the feel those ingredients mixings…and all of those things being incredibly important fundamentally, aesthetically, and as part of the intellectual experience. The memories and thoughts generated and recalled are an expression of the mind.
I have painted works that are all body; they’re the intellect of the hand, the eye, and breath. I try to push those polls around to emphasize their relationships. All of these forces working together end up giving you something you didn’t know you were going to get. To me that is a very important experience of being human. What I love about painting is that it ends up being a kind of artifact of the relationship between the brain and the body.
Many of the works give us a glimpse into your family’s history. What is it that you find interesting about this subject matter?
My black and white [paintings] are based on old family photographs and the family photographs are true, in a way. They are a document of the actual experience that my family lived. And yet, what I think is interesting is that they lived completely different experiences then what was captured and what we’ve been told. My paintings cross the blurred boundary between memory and imagination.
What do you think is the greatest challenge an artist faces when producing bodies of work?
I think there is a real cleave between the brain and the body, a lot of artists don’t make their work. They see their idea as being the pinnacle of their art experience and the object as almost a tangent to that experience. The interesting thing about being and artist is that you come up with an idea, and if you are a painter, you have to throw the idea through the body and the body has its way with it. It changes your idea and it might not be what you expected.
Modern West Fine Art is thrilled to feature new works by Woody Shepherd. The exhibition is currently on display until March 11, 2017. Woody Shepherd's bold landscapes demand presence in not only their scale but also their execution. His dramatic technique of layering and removing paint creates depth, texture and compelling composition in his work. We took a moment to ask Woody about his newest works...
Your captivating compositions engage the viewer to take a closer look. The bold colors through out your works are balanced with the serene subject matter. What inspired you to focus on creating pieces that were inspired by the wilderness with such a vibrant palette?
When bold colors interact and/or clash on the eye, it excites our senses. That is what I am trying to do not only with color but with texture as well. Instead of mixing every color in paint down to a "local color," I employ optical mixtures of vibrant colors next to each other in which are mixed on the eye rather than in paint. I find this effect to be interactive and exciting. The wilderness is a similar situation. There is light, color, texture being chopped up in all ways. I am trying to simulate the same feeling and excitement in my paintings that I experience in real life.
You have been exhibiting your paintings with Modern West Fine Art since we opened three years ago. Our collectors love the large scale in which you work but some ask if you paint smaller. This is often due to the fact they don't have the space to feature your work. In your latest exhibition you provided us with new works that were smaller in scale. What influences the format in which you work in? Was it challenging for you to work in a smaller format? What draws you to paint in a larger format?
I have been scaling down my paintings for the time being (but not abandoning the large scale ones). Ive been slowly tricking myself into being "Okay" with painting smaller by gradually scaling down over the past year or two. The demand for smaller works from collectors has finally caught up to me. For a long time I would not work under six foot in the smallest dimension. I am aiming to stay in a smaller format for a while, but am excited for the days to work larger again. Lately I have been particularly drawn back to the square or "close to square" format. Square is a difficult format to work in, but when it is done well, it is a powerful shape.
Many of your works have incredible texture created by the building up and taking away layers of paint. Can you tell us more about your process and how you create such dynamic paintings.
Just like color, I like to interact and clash texture in my paintings. I find that it adds a whole extra dimension to my work. Just as you can witness colors as sensations, texture activates another sensation. I also like to confuse the relief of the surface texture with the illusion. Often the deepest space in the illusion is sticking the furthest out of the painting surface. The textures are created by many processes.
Often I throw thick painting onto the surface, use a press, add textured mediums, use pallet knives, masking, and many more techinques. I find texture, mark, speed, and movement to all be very expressional elements. I make paintings, not pictures, therefore I like to keep the paint gritty and remind the viewer that a painting is made by a human with a soul.
Modern West Fine Art is thrilled to have introduced Ben Steele's most recent body of work The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly! The exhibition is currently on display until January 13, 2017. Ben incorporates nostalgic imagery with iconic characters throughout his works. We asked him some questions on his process and thoughts behind this outstanding show...
Your exhibition The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly has a stylized western theme with many iconic personas. What inspired the selection of this theme and these characters?
I take a lot of pride in being from the west; the spatial and time freedom that comes with it, so getting to do a show focusing on some of those themes is extra cool for me. It's hard to picture the West without thinking of Western films and the whole cowboy and Indian stereotype, so I wanted to reflect those notions and juxtapose them with branding and art commentary. Mostly, any time I take on a theme, it's just me having fun in the studio.
You use many different techniques of painting to achieve results that look like crayon or other mediums. Can you tell us about one or two of them?
I usually try not to impose my techniques on the painting, rather try to let the concept behind the painting impose on me how it should look. For example, the crayons became a very early theme in my work because they allowed the technical rendering of the scene, yet, I could mimic the way a child uses a crayon to almost an abstract effect. The technical stuff sets up with time and training but so much of it is also a trial and error process. A brush can be used to make a crayon mark but I found a q-tip replicated the thick and thinness of crayon on a page much better, the way it drags.
You had mentioned that when establishing your own style you were encouraged to paint what interested you. That was when the crayons and colored pencils started showing up in your work. What other themes or subject matter do you find showing up when you paint?
I find just about everything shows up in my work because I paint to the common thread of art or pop culture commentary. So, the fun part is that it can appear just about anywhere or on anything, whether it’s a studio still life, landscape or portrait. That’s been a saving part of my career in that it provides such a wide berth for change and growth in style and technique.
What artists inspire you and have influenced your work?
There are a lot! I look at the history of art as an accumulative whole, which makes most of the artists before me influences. My mentors David Dornan, John Erickson and Paul Davis hugely impacted my work because they shared their knowledge and voice to help me find my own. And historically, I’d say Vermeer, Warhol and Dali probably inspire me the most today but tomorrow the answer could be completely different.
We asked Ben what his words of advice would be for emerging artists: "Good instruction can't be overvalued and you have to put in your hours if you want to grow." If you have not had a chance to view The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in person, stop by the gallery before its too late! The exhibition is currently on display until January 13, 2017.
We are honored to present Dick Jemison's solo exhibition, Limelight, which features his latest works and will be on display from September 16, through October 15, 2016. Dick has been producing works for over 30 years and remains highly collectable and sought after. His rhythmic patterns and bold color palette captures the viewer and encourages them to step closer to interact with the pieces. Upon closer inspection the works are composed of a vast array of mixed materials that range from different types of cloth, seeds, paint, horsehair, micro-glass beads, and wood.
Dick recalls going to the Museum of Modern Art in New York in his youth. It was there he first encountered a piece by Sam Francis. The vibrant free flowing paint and dramatic splattering caught his attention. That was when he decided that he would become and artist. From there he was encouraged by his family to pursue his interest and he did so. With help from a few key teachers in various points of his life he found the drive and desire to explore this style of "action painting."
The use of bold colors is a common occurrence in your Limelight series. What draws you to this bold color pallet?
"My two favorite colors are orange and raspberry, I think it come from popsicles...No, I really think they come form the West and I identify with the West, thats my palette, thats my soul...I also love to work in black. It may come from being back in Alabama with the coal and the steal."
here are "primitive" patterns throughout many of your works. Where do these influences come from?
"My influences have been gathered from all around the world, from my late 20's and on..[It's said] Collecting is habit-forming. They say it is a sickness." Dick started collecting African Tribal art when he was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. From there he amassed one of the largest African Pottery Collection in the country. "Everything I collect, everything I do is related to how I exist and who I am." This shines through his works in many of the pieces.
Tom Judd has shown extensively for the last 30 years in prominent galleries and museums. His work is included in major private and public collections. Judd continues to establish himself as an original voice in the contemporary art world. Read our artist interview with him below.
Your upcoming exhibition at Modern West Fine Art is titled “Don’t Fence Me In,” tell us about the history behind the work and the title.
The title comes from the famous Cole Porter song of the same name. I love the title because it suggests a romantic version of the west, which I steadfastly decompose in most of the work in this show. The west that I portray is a contradictory place, full of strange characters and odd happenings!
You currently reside in Philadelphia. How does your environment impact your work?
Living in Philadelphia, I have always felt like a transplant, a fish out of water, an expatriate. But I like that. I love living on the east coast. I love living near New York. In the case of this show, I think it gives me a lot of perspective on just how strange the west is, especially Salt Lake. By the way, I love the west and Salt Lake.
Give us insight into your creative process.
I’m a collector. I collect books, magazines, postcards, found artwork, materials of every description. I like to use different mediums as well, combing a collage ideas as well as materials. I like working large. I love creating installations. I love challenging myself and the viewer to think differently about something.
How do you gather found photographs for your paintings?
A lot of the new smaller collage pieces I think are especially uncomfortable and really work well. They create an uneasy presence. I’m not interested in making just pretty things. I want to make work that questions, that leaves people wondering, maybe about themselves. That is the purpose of art for me.
“I grew up in Salt Lake City... Entangled with the Mormon religion, the settling of the Salt Lake Valley was considered nothing short of Gods plan… I’ve always been fascinated with the larger than life version of ourselves that emanates from this time in our country that seems to never go away. We keep trying to live up to something that never happened. It is a distorted story that is romanticized and reconstituted as a context for our grandest hopes and dreams. We want to believe the vision that Hollywood presents. It is not only regarded as the truth but also held up as representing something noble about our national character. It contributes to how we see ourselves and relate to the others, it truly clouds our thinking.” - Tom Judd
View more of his work here.
Special Artist Interview featuring Black and White Photographer, Michael Coles, interviewed Jill Lingwall.
We recently visited newly represented artist, Nathan Florence, in his Salt Lake City studio. Everything about Florence from his home, to his art, is rich with history, layers, and symbolism. His remarkable studio is filled with paintings, books, tools, knick knacks, and pieces of his past and friends. Seeing the beauty and potential in everything is a clear theme in Florence's life, adding elements of authenticity and originality to his work.