Interviews-2

  • Mitch Mantle

    Artist Interview
    Mitch Mantle

    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.

     

    Artist Statement 

    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.

  • Jiyoun Lee-Lodge

    Artist Interview
    Jiyoun Lee-Lodge
  • Meggan Waltman

    Artist Interview
    Meggan Waltman
  • Aïsha Lehmann

    Artist Interview
    Aïsha Lehmann

    Why did you decide to apply for this residency?

     I was really drawn to the community aspect of residency, such as the opportunity to talk with people visiting the gallery, as well as the chance to host a workshop and event. Being more engaged with my community as part of my art practice is something I’ve been wanting to push myself to do more and this was the perfect opportunity to do that. Also the space is incredibly beautiful and creatively inspiring. 

     

    Your work engages with concepts of identity, race, ethnicity, gender, and spirituality, can you talk more about the influence of these concepts on your work?

     I’m really passionate about these factors of identity, both the personal aspects and the systemic forces that influence and define identity in so many ways. Over time, I added minors in Sociology and Africana studies to my undergraduate which completely transformed my art practice and fundamentally changed my life. On one hand I love social science and historical research on race and ethnicity. That said, I feel that a visual reaction and representation of these complex subjects are just as important to our understanding of them. 

     

    I also am drawn to the role art can play in helping to create a more aware and compassionate community on these subjects. When I learn about aspects of the history of race in our country, or when I hear the personal experiences of those who are constantly confronted with racism, I want that message to be made known to as many people as possible. Art is one way whereby this research and human experience can be transmitted and taught through a more emotional and hopefully accessible means.

     

    I also have a mixed-race and mixed-nationality background that adds a personal significance to the subject matter. While I to make others’ experiences the forefront or central theme of my work, I think my own identity inherently comes through. 

     

    Who are some artists that you are influenced by? or What are some of the non-visual mediums that interest and influence you?

    I’m very drawn to artists who do intensive amounts of research and are able to formulate it into aesthetic and captivating work. In particular I think of people like Kara Walker, Simone Leigh and Glen Ligon. They’re works are stunning and attractive at first glance, but the deeper the viewer is willing to investigate the piece, the more they learn and feel the both the deeply traumatic aspects as well as the resiliency and beauty of the Black experience in America. The rich history and thorough research that is placed in a contemporary setting proves that our past is essential to understanding the present.

     

    I also have to say Kehinde Wiley. His use of patterns is majestic and stunning. He has such an incredible ability to rewrite history in a sense and give his subjects the dignity that was denied their ancestors and is denied Black Americans to this day.

    Non-visual inspirations often come from books, articles, courses at my university, research positions, movies, documentaries, and podcasts. I try to keep organized and thorough notes, there’s so much to learn!

     

    Can you tell us about the concept that you plan to focus on during this residency?

    I’m working on a series of portraits based on interviews I conducted with individuals of mixed race. I’m representing their experience through patterns and motifs that are significant to them and their families. Race is social construct, and one that completely oversimplifies the experience of an individual. My aim was to bring back the individuality and self-assertion of these people’s identities. Furthermore, mixed-race people often find themselves in the middle ground, forced to pick a side from a societal sense, but on a personal level often experience something much more personal and intimate than a overgeneralized binary. 

     

     Can you talk about your previous bodies of work and how they interact with one another?

     The largest similarity might be the overall themes of race and ethnicity, particularly for those of mixed-race. My works often contain patterns and/or figurative work all in order to explore the human experience. That said, they vary quite a bit based on a profound thing I have learned and felt inspired by. For example, I recently completed a series of mixed media intaglio prints called “No Mixing” based on the things I had learned and taken note of while working as a research assistant for a sociologist who studies the residential mobility of mixed-race individuals. While this looked at mixed-race individuals from a macro and institutional level, my other series such as the one I am working on now of portraits is far more personal and intimate. Despite the differences, my hope is that each of these works invite viewers to feel connected on human level.

     

    Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

     I feel really inspired by community. For example, when the traffic light stops working and drivers have to work together as the intersection becomes a four-way stop. Google commercials also have this same community aspect to them that just gets me emotional. I feel inspired and touched when people of different backgrounds are able to come together and have authentic respect for one another.

     

    I get a lot of inspiration from the communities I’m a part of. I consider myself very lucky to be part of a family, a research assistant group, other university communities and friend groups that give me so much light and energy. They help me remember that people are capable of being descent and kind to one another despite differences. 

     

    What role does the artist have in society? Is there a message that you hope to leave with your audience?

    I believe that artists have the incredible ability to remind people of a common humanity. As such, I think artists have a responsibility to make their communities better. That’s a hefty mantel to take on and I am by no means there yet, but that’s my ultimate goal. Making art is an incredible privilege, and I want to use that platform to talk about people and things outside of myself.

     

    I’m trying to balance not being pedagogical and overly political, but also not being so personal that the work is self-centered and egoistic. I want the art to be bigger than me and to be of service to those who need their story or history told. Inevitably my voice will come through, but perhaps a slight personal aspect is needed to invite the viewer to take the message personally as well. 

     

    Can you talk about your artistic process? Walk us through the process of creating a piece, start to finish.

     I do a lot of research, as I said before from the various things I read, watch and listen to and take notes as I do so. I spend a great deal of time thinking, pondering, and processing my notes, which translates into brainstorming, sketching and planning how to portray a thought visually. I usually take a lot of reference pictures of friends and family for my figurative work which I will photoshop to test out composition and color theory. I also make a lot of the patterned and textured paper using relief print ink. I use exacto knifes frequently for the collage aspects of the work. Piecing something together often involves the use of light tables, stencils and tracing paper. I usually finish up a piece by drawing final details with charcoal, graphite or ink transfer. 

     

    What direction do you hope to take your works in the future?

    As I mentioned before, I’m constantly reacting to research I’m reading and working on. After this body of work is complete, I’ve contemplated moving more into themes of whiteness and white privilege of light-skinned mixed-race individuals. We’ll see whats next though, I’m excited to see what comes. No doubt whatever it is I’ll keep making patterns and drawing figures to talk about human identity.

  • Jorge Rojas

    Artist Interview
    Jorge Rojas

    Your work varies widely in content - can you talk about your different bodies of work and how they are formed? Discuss your alternating style and approach.

    Sure—and thanks for asking me to discuss my work! Over the past two decades my art practice has involved the following disciplines: 2D and 3D artwork using traditional and non-traditional media, and performance art. These distinct explorations are connected by my interest in the art process—how art gets made and how audiences see/interact with it. 

     

    In recent years, I've focused primarily on performance and video documentation. Performance art interests me because of its ability to bring people together, as well as provoke public engagement, action, and creative collaboration. Participatory action and interactivity are often present in my performances as I construct environments where communicative and social encounters between the public and the artist/artwork can take place.  

     

    Some of the themes I explore through performance include spiritual histories, interpretations of ancient rites and customs, and abuses of power. I’ve also recently done performance work on police brutality and racial profiling, immigration and the cruel and inhumane conditions that immigrant families and children face at the Mexico/U.S. border, and the way Covid has disproportionately affected people of color. These are important issues, but they’re also ones we sometimes avoid because they can make us feel uncomfortable. My performances are designed to hold space for participants and observers to come together in gestures of protest, solidarity, remembrance, and healing.

     

    My 2D and 3D artwork on the other hand is primarily driven by formal and sensory explorations and exists in many forms: painting, sculpture, mixed media, photography, and installation. I use tactile and sensory elements such as wax, light, sound, layers of paint and found materials to create works that deconstruct materiality to discover new meanings. While my performance work fulfills my interest in working with people and communities, my 2D and 3D work is more personal, intimate and abstract. But both bodies of work are important to me and reflect the different ways I think about and make art. 

     

    What inspired the featured body of work? How does your work comment on current social or political issues?

    This new body of work is a return to the art I was making around 2007 while living and working in New York City. The inspiration comes from many things, but primarily it reflects my interest in reducing materiality to its purest form and energy. Using sensory elements like color, texture and translucency, I'm interested in communicating impressions we often feel (like love, joy, desire) but because of their nature remain unseen. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry writes in The Little Prince, “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.” I believe what makes us most human is not merely our capacity for logical understanding, but our aptitude for love, compassion and empathy. 

    When we allow our hearts to take the lead, we change our understanding. We give ourselves permission to be less confined by logos, less rational and more receptive to feelings —our own and others — and to form emotional connections more effectively.

     

    I've been thinking a lot about Covid and the many forms of injustice we encounter in the world. While my performance work directly responds to political and cultural tensions that come about from social and racial injustice, my 2D/3D work is more personal. I'm still thinking about things like race and identity, but I'm approaching these concepts less from a place of criticality and activism, and more from a subtle place of love and universality - thinking about and celebrating difference as something beautiful that makes our world unique and interesting. Through this work, I'm attempting to bring forth joy, beauty, pleasure and sensuality. This work is not really meant to be political or intellectual, at least not overtly. It's meant to resonate with the viewer on an energy level. I want people to feel the work first, and then think about what it makes them feel. Any readings and interpretations are personal and important. I hope that when looking at my work, the viewer experiences a sense of curiosity, awe and wonder. 

     

    You often use a variety of materials in your work. Can you talk about your selection of materials and how that influences the works you are creating? Walk us through the process of creating a piece, start to finish.

    For my 2D and 3D works, I use a number of tactile and sensory elements—such as wax, sandpaper, sound, layers of paint and found materials—to deconstruct materiality and discover new meanings. I'm interested in getting to the core of these materials and do this by melting, pouring, carving, layering, and using various reductive techniques to transform a surface. Also, the Zen aesthetic (especially its emphasis on simplicity and naturalness) plays a significant role in my work as I strive to attain purity in form. Thus, I create patterns and grids that involve geometry, and through repetition generate rhythms, harmonies and vibrations. Similar to Zen, much of my work is based in contradictions: the organic and the technological, the corporeal and the spiritual, order and chaos. 

     

    Through the use of wax combined with other materials like paint and organic resins, I am able to explore the sensation that something familiar elicits when it is viewed through a window or from behind a veil, revealing something new about its character. Wax, in particular allows me to achieve a level of transparency, depth and fluidity, which I use to communicate some of the ethereal qualities inherent in color and forms. In these works, controlled accidents also become an important part of the process and infuse the work with a sense of playfulness. The textural and tactile qualities of the finished work reflect the mark-making process and the environment in which the artwork is created. 

     

    I often begin a piece with a feeling rather than an idea or mental image of a finished product. I meditate on that feeling and try to embody it as I work to create something that captures it in abstract form. I work with my materials to try and capture and communicate this feeling - something pure and honest that feels right to me. Along the way the materials do their own thing and often guide me to where I need to go. My process is really a conversation or exchange between myself, the materials and time. It is in the act of making that the meaning is revealed. 

     

    How has your experience as a curator impacted your work?

    Curating other artists' work is an important part of my practice and one that brings me great joy and satisfaction. Most of the shows I curate have something to do with what it means to be human. And this part of my work allows me to tell stories and create narratives inspired by artists whose work I respect and admire. I love researching and learning what other artists are doing. Curating the work of other artists impacts my own work by helping me be a more thoughtful and understanding artist and human. It's always an honor to get to work with, collaborate and learn from artists. 

     

    I also enjoy working with and learning from the people that run the spaces and institutions that commission me to curate. Making sure that my vision for an exhibition aligns and supports their goals and missions is always an exciting challenge and makes for more meaningful projects. Learning about others’ work expands my appreciation for nature, art, culture, and society. Curating the work of other artists makes me smarter and more sensitive. It makes me a better artist. 

     

    Following this exhibition, what projects will you be working on? What direction do you hope to take your works in the future? 

    I'm really enjoying spending time in the studio and plan to continue making 2-3D work in a similar vein to what you see in the Variant show. That being said, I find that the materials, process and experimentation often drive the direction my work takes, so we'll see what comes of it. 

     

    I'm currently working on a new Corn Mandala installation for the Projects Space at UMOCA, which opens on June 4th—and preparing a new performance that deals with the artist's body and the landscape for an exhibition curated by Kristina Lenzi.

     

    On the curatorial side, I’m building an exhibit for Ogden Contemporary Arts and Weber State University's Department of Visual Art and Design titled Vida, Muerte, Justicia / Life, Death, Justice, an exhibition of Latin American Contemporary Art that will open in October and run through November. This exhibition features artwork by twenty-five contemporary Latin American artists whose practices directly respond to social justice issues locally, nationally, and internationally. It will include an ambitious visiting artist and lecture program hosted by Weber State University and designed to create opportunities for engagement with various Ogden communities. The show is co-curated with my friend and amazing colleague, María del Mar González-González, assistant professor of global modern and contemporary art history at Weber State University. 

     

    Lastly, I'm in conversation with a few art museums and nonprofits about consulting with them on their equity and inclusion work, as well as helping them reimagine their institution's public roles and how they can better engage with and develop more meaningful, long-lasting relationships with the communities they serve. 

     

    You have a residency coming up at the Kimball in Park City. Is there a specific subject that you plan to focus on during this residency?

    Yes, I'm very excited about this! I will be the first artist in residence at the Kimball Arts Center so, in a sense, I'll be their guinea pig and helping them think about how to build their program. In speaking with their director, curator, and head of education, we all saw an opportunity to utilize my residency to help develop a new program focused on public engagement and creative collaboration. 

     

    I've worked for years to help transform museums into more inclusive spaces, so this seemed like a natural continuation of that work. My community-based work is all about using art and participation to bring forth societal change through more inclusive ways of being and operating. For this project I’ll be building off of my My space project (2008-2009), a series of durational performances that took place inside museums and galleries where the public was invited to participate in a series of interactive, community-building projects. 

     

    With The Kimball and Park City communities I’ll be working to build a space where transformative social encounters can occur. I'm excited to develop an art project that will culminate in an exhibition made with the community. Also, Park City has a vibrant, growing, multigenerational Latin@ community. So while my project is intended for everyone, I'm especially excited to use this project to connect with and help facilitate meaningful and lasting relationships between the Latin@ community and the Kimball.   

     

     

     

  • Paul Reynolds

    Artist Interview
    Paul Reynolds

    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.

  • Pia Van Nuland

    Artist Interview
    Pia Van Nuland

    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.

  • Al Denyer

    Artist Interview
    Al Denyer

    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.

     

  • Amelec Diaz

    Artist Interview
    Amelec Diaz

    Why did you decide to apply for this residency?

    I’m Amelec Diaz - I recently moved to Salt Lake City, Utah from Phoenix, Arizona. In order to have a broader understanding of the Arts in the Western States, I found this gallery (Modern West) was aligning serendipitously into my life through the friendships I began developing around art in Salt Lake City. I saw Rebecca Campbell and Angela Ellsworths’ work in Modern West’s roster and that pushed my interest forward into working with Modern West. I first became familiar with their work in Arizona and very much respect the works they make. Therefore, I can appreciate when a gallery takes part in leading conversations that potentially change pre-conceived notions of members in society, arriving at a enlightened view toward each other. I see the artist in residency program to be a start in beginning to acquaint myself with the people who make Modern West function, which can allow me to bring an educated perspective into the conversations about art in Utah. I am happy to get my foot in the door and continuing my body of work during this artist residency program. 

     

    Your work involves many separate layering components, can you talk about this multimedia process?

    I started this multimedia process in 2012 with paintings and sculptures from my series called HB2281. These current paintings are reflective of the layers involved in social interactions. When we begin to know a person we begin to uncover the different layers  and social contrivances until we understand how each layer relates to each other. As well as how the entirety of the layers from first glance are understood as we live with the art it begins to unveil its energy to the viewer. I really enjoy using acrylic, spray-paint and oil paint with archival integrity in mind. I allow the surface of the painting to embody the sense that these different materials can work toward the strength of each material to make an impactful painting. 

     

    What are some artists that you are influenced by?

    I am directly influenced by the great Eric Fischl. His work enlightens social psychological aspects of suburban culture to the viewer in a remarkable style solely his own. Besides his work, his philanthropy also inspires me, he continues to create a noteworthy legacy in the Art world. He is a mover and shaker in creating opportunities for young artists in New York State and Arizona State. I am also influenced by other great artists such as Frida Kahlo, Jean Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Ai Wei Wei- our generations’ Marcel Duchamp. 

     

    Is there a specific subject that you plan to focus on during this residency?

    In brief, I have a few series that I have created and one series which has proven over time to have a potential to continue is HB2281. HB2281 was a law that was passed in 2010 in Tucson, Arizona. HB2281 banned ethnic studies in the K-12 education system and it is what my work reflects. 

     

    The law was passed in 2010 and since then similar laws such as HB2281 and SB1070 have been enacted in several places in the United States. Besides the law, the work is a reflection of the systematic approach toward turning a blind eye toward the effort in understanding the complex and rich history  that The People of the United States of America have created on this great Continent. The series is a material reflection of the law and the complex relationship between people of many ethnicities/cultures on this continent. I reflect the sanitary practice of lime washing my paintings similar to the lime washing of barns in the United States in order to remove bacteria. I source children’s tv programs that are projected onto the youth across the planet.

     

    Specifically cartoons that project racial stereo types which in a young mind define and create an understanding, of a youth of colors’, environment. Cartoons such as 1950-2000’s Disney and Warner Brothers productions. I reflect graffiti which also is painted across the planet by drones of artists or writers that paint their craft in the same psychological space we view daily such as McDonalds, Walmart’s and at times historical monuments in Europe. These are juxtaposed with ancient artifacts from the Americas. These ancient artifacts are ignored in history classes. They’re important because as people - as Americans we all need to know we are represented in order to live more civilized with each other. In order to know where we are going we must learn where we are from. This body of work is more than just about identity politics in the United States it is about defending and protecting the Constitution of the United States. HB2281 was deemed unconstitutional in 2017 and now the Tucson school district is allowed to teach about the regional history in advanced placement classes in their schools. Dropout rates of students from the Tucson school district decreased to 2.5% a significant contrast from the 56% dropout rate of Latino students nation wide.

     

    These paintings from the HB2281 series are meant to be a reflection of the law not a judgement. It is pleasant to know in my own mind that the body of work I embarked on in 2012 had tapped into a national educational dilemma that reached the Supreme Court. What started in Tucson is an example of a microcosm that in reality reflects a macrocosm in this case an underline cultural belief that (in consequence of distributing similar media) Americans have toward each other. How this body of work currently relates to the broader perspective or macrocosm of the United States is as follows. A new law passed by the 2016-2020 Presidential Administration, put into place a similar law to HB2281 but now targets Universities nation wide. Therefore, Universities and professors across the country are plagued by having to delete books and entire curriculums from their classes. The law reads as followed:

     

    (A series of White House memos and an executive order have issued an immediate mandate to investigate and ban anti-racism and diversity training to federal contractors and federal grant recipients. The memos and executive order, listed below, obstruct efforts by corporations and universities to support diversity and anti-racist endeavors. • Office of Management and Budget (OMB), September 4, 2020, “Training in the Federal Government” • OMB, September 28, 2020, “Ending Employee Trainings that Use Divisive Propaganda to Undermine the Principle of Fair and Equal Treatment for All” • Executive Order 13950, September 22, 2020, “Combatting Race and Sex Stereotyping” • Office of Personnel Management (OPM), October 2, 2020, “Mandatory Review of Employee Training under E.O. 13950” *) Senator Mitt Romney has taken several stands against the 45th Presidential Administration and I believe Senator Mitt Romney and his entire team don’t necessarily believe in the long term benefits of approaching the United States with such a demeanor as the current presidential administration is doing whether from the dominating republicans or democrats.

     

    Can you talk about some of your previous projects? 

    Previous projects before HB2281 - were works leading up to HB2281. I was making paintings on tent awnings, and objects collected from gentrified areas. They were personal discoveries of regional histories on this large continent known as America. I was mastering my ability to realistically render objects in a general European oil painting tradition. While innovating with the materiality and space the work took on in Phoenix art galleries. 

     

    The structure of your work often involved a grid, repetition and symmetry - what is the intention behind this as a stylistic choice?

    The grid that is repeated in my work is reflective of the grid Phoenix, Arizona was structured in. I find a similar grid here in Salt Lake County which I learned starts in the heart of the City, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints Temple. Repetition is reflective of the bombardment or propaganda we receive through watching television programs. There is symmetry and asymmetry in the work but that comes naturally the relationship between the work and I navigate that sense you feel. 

     

    Can you give us a little bit about your background? 

    I was born in the 90’s at a time where our continent began under going a great shift. George Herbert Walker Bush promoted a New World Order September 11, 1991 which came into vision. I was making my way to the United States at 3 years old from Michoacán, Mexico (where avocados originate) to where I lived most of my life Phoenix, Arizona. Since globalization started and NAFTA was enacted our ability to have a chance of survival was in the United States where we would have an opportunity to get an education, where we wouldn’t be oppressed by violence enacted by feuding criminal organizations trying to meet the demands of a global black market. I made it through many trappings the lower classes are oppressed with and received an education from my teachers and most importantly Femtors and Mentors at Phoenix College and from the art magnet school I attended before Phoenix College. 

     

    Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

    Well being targeted by laws such as HB2281 and SB1070 inspired me most importantly - The first time an appreciation for art was evident to me was when I was flown out to Washington DC to tour the White House, tour the many important monuments to our nations history, watched a Wizards game and visited the local mall. From my childlike perspective I thought, all this for winning a state wide water color competition in 7th grade? That experience made a great impact in my perspective of Washington DC and in my life since then. I felt appreciated, honored, cherished in an environment where kids would get into fist fights over chips or adults taking advantage of powerless kids. To this day those moments influence me. Because of that experience I gained a respect for this great nation. I decided that for the next  four years of high school I would travel 15 miles on the city bus to learn how to make sculpture from my mentor during my formative years. I seen my purpose to make relative artwork for this growing nation and since then I have a Betsy Ross painting in my portfolio commissioned by a direct descendant of Betsy Ross. 

     

     

  • Fidalis Buehler

    Artist Interview
    Fidalis Buehler

    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

    Artist Interview
    Esther Voisin

    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.

     

  • Matthew Sketch

    Artist Interview
    Matthew Sketch
  • Dimitri Kozyrev

    Artist Interview
    Dimitri Kozyrev
     
     
  • Angela Ellsworth

    Artist Interview
    Angela Ellsworth

    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://lisasettegallery.com/exhibition/

     

    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.org/new-index-1#/pilgrimageitaly/

     

    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?v=2PdRcMm3EmQ

     

    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.

  • Andrew Alba

    Artist interview
    Andrew Alba

    What defines success?

    For me the most fulfillment I fill from painting comes while im painting. Creating work that you're happy with is so important. I don't feel like artists ever fully get all of their ideas out. Thats why artists keep working, why they keep chasing this idea-chasing the process. I feel most successful when I finish a painting, but then I get hungry to create more.

    What role does the artist have in society?

    The artists job is to fill in the gaps, the gaps that language leave out. Language is flawed and isn’t going to be perfect ever. The artists job is to fill in those areas and create a new avenue of thought for people. When you see a piece it can trigger something, it can make you see things in a way you’ve never seen it before. That is the artists job, to awaken certain parts of the brain to activate things. Im always trying to propose questions rather than create propaganda, so it’s important for me to pose the question.

    What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

    I used to share a studio in Portland, Oregon with one of my really good friends. We were having a conversation once and he said the most important thing you can do is just show up to the studio, even if you just sit and eat a sandwich or something, its about discipline. Sometimes its hard for me to want to paint. Its not until I start painting again that I remember how much I love it. After I paint I feel like I vomitted out all the junk from the week and have been baptized in a way. So always just showing up really is key.

    Describe a real-life situation that inspired you.

    When I had my show at UMOCA it was the day before they took it down and I hadn’t been there since the opening so I wanted to go see it again and spend time with it. I was in the gallery and a young Mexican mom and her son came in and I heard her start talking to her son saying, “This artist is like you, he has Mexican roots too.” That melted my heart. Thats what I want to see, I know for me seeing brown artists as a kid was so important, artists like Diego Rivera. I never ended up telling them that I was the artist, but that was a very special moment for me.

     What do you listen to when you're making art?

    I listen to alot of hip hop, heavy stuff, alot of ambient stuff. One of my favorites is Arthur Russell. His albums and songs are very non linear. That type of music allows me to work without being distracted by lyrics or beats. I listen to a lot of jazz, Pharaoh Sanders, Ornette Coleman. Stuff that I feel like pushes the medium of music. Really, music is the most inspiring thing to me.

     Who are your biggest influences?

    Arts that disrupt things. I wouldn’t be an artist if it wasn’t for Bob Dylan. Watching his process throughout his life and how he stayed true to himself inspired me. He started off doing something and people expected that, and then he switched it. Seeing how he moved throughout his career has been inspiring, the amount of work he has put out has inspired me. As far as painters, no one beats Matisse, I think he is ahead of his time in a lot of ways. Phillip Guston, like Bob Dylan was doing something and transformed it completely. He is my favorite out of the abstract expressionists. He is one of the few painters I feel like actually owns a color.

    What’s your background?

    I would go figure drawing up at the U with my friends from high school. After high school I thought I would get into music, but I got injured and was unable to make music, so I took to painting. It was a dark time in my life and painting really helped me to get my ideas out more clearly than music did. That was when I got very serious about painting. 

    What is your process when creating a piece? 

    It depends. Sometimes I’ll have a clear idea of what I want to paint and sometime that idea comes on the first blank canvas, but most of the time there’s about three or four paintings underneath all the finished paintings that you see. I don’t like to hold onto an idea if it not working out. 

     

  • Kiki Gaffney

    Artist Interview
    Kiki Gaffney
     
    Whats your favorite playlist to work to?
    I listen to a variety of things when I'm working in the studio - sometimes a little NPR to catch up on what's going on in the world, but for inspiration and energy when I'm working, I like to listen to our local alternative radio station here in Philadelphia - WXPN, they always have a nice playlist going when I tune in. I also listen to electronic/dance/hip hop, which really helps me get into a groove, especially when I am focusing on a tedious drawing..and classical music too, to help me relax!
     
     
    What currently inspires you and how has it influenced your work?
    I think, because of the pandemic, a lot of arts organizations/galleries created online platforms to stay connected to their audiences, and thankfully I have discovered many of them! I've been listening to weekly zoom conversations with curators and educators at the DIA Art Foundation about the artists in their collection, which has been really fascinating. Another source of inspiration is the Gagosian Quarterly, where I'm able to find terrific interviews with contemporary artists, playlists, writings, and discussions on a variety of art forms. What I love about it is that so many artists, no matter their level of success, still struggle with the same questions of "what's next? is this any good? what am I trying to say?" etc.  It is easy (at least for me) to feel somewhat isolated in the studio, but listening to artists of different genres talk about their work/successes/failures reminds me that, on some level, we are all in this together.
     
    Are you working on a new body of work? If so, what's the medium?
    Since the pandemic I've been working on a series of drawings of fallen trees. I take photographs of them on walks here in Philadelphia, and also when I'm in Utah. For me, they are so majestic and sculptural, and possess a quiet beauty and elegance, especially in the patterns in the bark. I've been thinking about their transformational process - from these massive standing structures, to decaying sculptures on the ground, and all of the ecosystems that they nourish through the entire process. I pair the drawings with intricate designs along with gold and silver leaf to add a sense of reverence to these natural wonders - essentially taking them out of one environment and creating a new context.
  • Ben Steele | Now Showing

    Artist Interview
    Ben Steele | Now Showing

    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.

     
  • Patrick Dean Hubbell

    Artist Interview
    Patrick Dean Hubbell

    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.

     
  • John Berry | Solo Show of New Paintings

    We chatted with John Berry about his most recent paintings

    Can you describe this body of work and what inspired it?

    "… I do not think of it as a "body" of work, there's not a starting or stopping point. It is just one stream of consciousness that has come from inside. As far as inspiration, I am not sure I have inspiration per se, rather, what is in my thoughts or what is currently happening in my life, that is the genesis of all my work..."

    Could you talk a little about your process?

    "… Routinely I try to change the way I work. Whether that is starting differently or using different materials or ways of application. I try to constantly mix it up, make myself uncomfortable with what I am doing. Even buying arbitrary colors... By doing this though, I hope to let each work become what it needs to be, if I am doing the same routine over and over, I feel it becomes stale. I think you can see this if you look at my work over the last few years."

    Do you listen to music while you paint, if so what have you been listening to recently and does it influence the work?

    "Yes, I do. It always influences the work in one way or another... Music produces such an emotional response, whether it is the pace, sound, nostalgia etc.  So I usually select music that is in rhythm with my feelings for that day. But sometimes I do put something on that is the opposite of what I'm feeling, that is always interesting... It will range from Indie Rock to Reggae to Classical, to 80's music I grew up with, but more times than not it is what the kids call Alternative. Spoon and Metric are my favs."

    What have you been reading?

    “The Last River”, a nonfiction story about people trying to kayak a river near Nepal, that has never been run before. I like adventure stories, but if you wanted to get artsy, I did recently finish a biography of Matisse. Biographies of artists are a mainstay of my reading, go figure."

    Can you talk about how you come up with the titles of your pieces?

    "Most of the time my titles come from songs or phrases I read or hear that resonate with the piece. Sometimes they are straightforward, sometimes I try not to reveal directly what I was thinking or feeling, just hint at it... I hope by doing that I let the viewer fill in the gaps, make the piece their own. Kind of like connecting the dots, that is the hope anyway."

  • John Vehar | Adrift

    Artist Interview
    John Vehar | Adrift

     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."

  • Jann Haworth | March

    Artist Interview
    Jann Haworth | March

    We had the chance to sit down with Jann Haworth after her opening reception to talk more about her inspiration for March, her new and timely body of work investigating the conventions of representation of bodies, of materials, and inevitable dissent. March is now on display through October 14th, 2017. 

    Can you talk about the bodies as mannequins in your work? They're at once completely individualistic, yet faceless and consumed by large groups and masses.

    The idea of the mannequin as an archetype, a simplification, an abstraction, a substitute, a surrogate, and an objectification is of prime interest to me. I see the mannequin as the center point of a great many things that I want to talk about visually.

    I like the idea of Plato's “forms,” and his thinking about archetypes that stand for the multiplicity of variants. Like the word 'dog' stands for all dogs, of which there are a myriad of types and individuals within types. I see in this the concept of the simplified human; the Brancusi version--smoothed and pared down to essential forms. I see my figures moving away from realism toward geometry and abstraction, like the trajectory of bodies in the art historical tradition.

    Then is the idea of the substitute. The doppelganger, or the fake, really appeals to me, and this is straight-up Hollywood. On the sound-stages you would see a stand-in or a double for the “star” or a latex version of Kevin McCarthy, or Dana Winters...it’s them but not them. I love how that messes with reality. This too is the surrogate, or something that takes the action replacing another. And that surrogate is a point in psychology, as is “objectification,” where one person takes the place of another, or is de-personed all together and is only a fill-in for someone else's reality.

    It’s all very complicated, but we have all been in that Alice in Wonderland-like position where, like Alice, we are insisting we are real and yet we are not being treated or really perceived as real, with respect, or focused understanding.

    So, the mannequin for me is a very powerful nexus of a multitude of ideas.

    You're known to utilize and repurpose unconventional materials. What was the inspiration behind using cardboard?

    For me, form follows idea, not the other way round. Cardboard as a form arose out of the idea that this was a parade, protest, or a march. The signage of marches is often cardboard and the images and writing may well be chalk or things that are at home, hence the use of pastel -- a refined version of chalk. Further, most of my work involves cutting. I like exact edges and I am drawn to the cut line, the stencil, the collage, cut and sewn fabric. I don't like blurred edges like you might find in impressionism.

    Were there any particular challenges you had or insights you gained with this new material?

    I decided that I wanted to make the composition difficult. I did this by relocating the larger figures on the edge of the picture plane, or putting the smallest figure in the middle, or reversing my normal color pallet, or having a frieze of figures rather than one central *punch* figure.

    I wanted, basically, to destroy pop art.

    Knowing that this new body of work was inspired by your 2008 single page comic strip Mannequin Defectors and your experience at the 2017 DC Women's March, can you speak a little more to these concepts of "dissent" and "defecting" that appear in March?

    I guess it is a continuing theme that, for me, began in the Girl Scout Brownies. The expectations of the Troop Mothers made me entirely rebellious. I started a mini-Brownie rebellion, which makes me laugh a lot now.

    I also think artists have a compulsion to turn left when everyone else is turning right. If the general opinion is set on something, your reaction is, "Why that? Why not x, y, or z?” I think most, all my work is probably a dissent of some sort. There is a needle in the work somewhere.

    The DC March was deeply moving, it can’t really be explained. The work is an homage to the event and an offering to all marches and protests. I kept the pieces generalized, and there are no pink hats for that reason.

    Could you elaborate a bit on the titles of the individual works in March and of your broader title Mannequin Defectors in general?

    The pair of 1 Robert, 1 Dennis, & Gabriel are referencing four men whose paths I crossed and had meaningful professional encounters with who helped me in my career. They reference Robert Fraser, my gallerist in the '60s, Dennis Hopper, actor and photographer I showed with at Robert’s and knew later in Sundance, my good friend Peter Gabriel, and Robert Redford.

    The other titles pick up on the fact that March is a month (my birth month) as well as a physical march. The month is generic like the march depicted, not a particular march that took place in February, etc.

    The idea of the mannequin defecting is, directly, the mannequin defecting from the male studio as an objectified thing. They are refusing to 'pose' anymore.

    The pair of 1 Robert, 1 Dennis, & Gabriel are referencing four men whose paths I crossed and had meaningful professional encounters with who helped me in my career. They reference Robert Fraser, my gallerist in the '60s, Dennis Hopper, actor and photographer I showed with at Robert’s and knew later in Sundance, my good friend Peter Gabriel, and Robert Redford.

    The other titles pick up on the fact that March is a month (my birth month) as well as a physical march. The month is generic like the march depicted, not a particular march that took place in February, etc.

    The idea of the mannequin defecting is, directly, the mannequin defecting from the male studio as an objectified thing. They are refusing to 'pose' anymore.

     

     

  • Rebecca Campbell

    Artist Interview
    Rebecca Campbell

    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.

  • Woody Shepherd

    Artist Interview
    Woody Shepherd

    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.

  • Nocona Burgess | The Legendary Plains

    We were honored to feature newly represented artist Nocona Burgess for January's Gallery Stroll! Burgess is from Lawton, Oklahoma, and is the great-great-grandson of Chief Quanah Parker of the Comanche Nation. We had the opportunity to ask Burgess a few questions relating to his latest body of work The Legendary Plains...

    They say, "Our past is what makes us who we are." You have traveled around the country throughout your youth and were exposed to a lot of different people and cultures. The Legendary Plains is a culmination of those experiences. Tell us more about this body of work and how it relates to your past.

    The time line of The Legendary Plains is from the 1890's to 2016. I wanted to touch a bit on the history and diversity of the region, including some imagery from the past as well as contemporary images. I've lived and traveled throughout the Plains region; I've lived from Poplar, Montana, to Paris, Texas, traveled from Saskatchewan to Chihuahua and Coahuila. I mostly stuck with the imagery that was identifiable as "plains." In reality there is so much diversity in culture than I can show in just 15 paintings.

    Studying at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), you learned more about how traditional forms have evolved into more contemporary styles. Tell us more about your process and how it has evolved.

    At the IAIA I found what was possible for contemporary Native artist and what it would take to begin a career. Seeing the artists that came through the school was sort of a stepping off point. I've seen the traditional form evolving to contemporary form before my time at IAIA. I grew up around art and my dad was going to college to studying the arts when I was young. My process really began at the University of New Mexico (UNM), under Nick Abdalla. I had always leaned toward contemporary paintings, probably from my dad, but as far as working on a true technique, I found that in an advanced painting class at UNM. During that time I was forced to develop my own process and vision. That's when I started painting on black primed canvas and painting almost in reverse. I call it painting outward.

    You have an incredible approach to promoting the history of the Comanche Nation and various other tribes and their stories. How does your heritage influence your work?

    I think being from a significant historical family and tribe has contributed to that, it really made me aware of history in general, as well as, my own tribe and family. I've always been an avid reader and from an early age just fell in love with history. I have the complete collection of the TimeLife old-west books. My granddad had given me a couple when I was young and it all went from there. Along the way my art and my love for history collided.

     
  • Ben Steele | The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

    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.  

  • Tracy and Sushe Felix

    Artist Interview

    Husband and wife duo, Tracy and Sushe Felix, have been producing works of art for over 27 years and are on display from October 21 through November 12, 2016. We asked them a few questions on what inspired this body of work and how they created it. 

    Tracy, you are known for your whimsical Western Landscapes and candy-like clouds, what encouraged you to define your own style and step away from the more traditional landscapes?

    The early modernist artists that worked in Colorado and New Mexico are my biggest influences.  Artists like Charles Bunnell, William Sanderson, Andrew Dasburg and Kenneth Adams to name a few.  They approached the landscape in a more cubist way and also used bright vivid colors.  Another group of artists that I admire are the Hudson River artists mostly Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran.  Both of these artists travel west with survey crews mapping and exploring the new western wilderness.  Their paintings tended to more exaggerated depictions of what they saw.  The mountains were higher and the colors brighter because they wanted the Easterners to be impressed with the new frontier.  I want my paintings to have this same spirit and yet look different.

    Sushe, your works are very detailed and often look like they have been airbrushed. What is the process you use to get that type of response from the acrylic paints?

    I paint in acrylics, however I always start with a small drawing so I will know exactly how the composition will lay out and where all the darks and lights will be. I then square up the drawing onto my panel and then put a complete reproduction of the drawing down using black and white paint. I then go on top of that with a thin underpainting using all the colors I intend to complete the painting in. On top of this thin loose underpainting I begin to scumble over it with a thicker acrylic using a bristly brush. This creates the soft blended look of airbrushing, yet also looks hand brushed.

    You both compose dynamic and captivating landscapes. Do you use references or are they landscapes of your own creation?

    Tracy works with both reference materials at times, but for other pieces will also make the landscape up. I more often than not make up my landscapes from my memories of a place or the combination of many places put together. Most important I wish to create pieces with life, energy and a positive joyful spirit! -Sushe

  • Dick Jemison

    Artist Interview
    Dick Jemison

    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. 

  • John Berry

    Artist Interview
    John Berry

    Modern West Fine Art is thrilled to feature Duality by John Berry for our July exhibition. Berry's work combines an incredible tension and incorporates a new direction. His bold colors and shapes reference the landscapes he has painted in the past with a dynamic new body of abstract work. We took a moment to ask Berry what inspired him and how his process is evolving...

    Compared to your previous works, Duality, has taken a more abstract approach to your Western Landscape. What was the inspiration for the change?

    The initial change had no inspiration. It was one of necessity. I felt I had reached a point in my career/work where I could go no further with what I had been doing. I had felt this coming for some time, but didn't know where it would lead or how to even start that dialogue. The Western Landscape was not even on my mind at this point.

    I began by revamping the method in which I worked and the tools I used. I even changed the type of music I listened to in the studio. It was a period of great experimentation. It was exciting. I think this fueled me, this unknown path was the impetus for my continued searching. It was akin to standing on the edge of a drop off, not being able to see what is below or ahead, and then just stepping off.

    Throughout your work there is a sense of tension, that is enhanced by complimentary textures and colors, could you speak to your process that helped achieve these results? 

    Once I found myself on this new path, I revisited past ideas I had wanted to incorporate in my work. One that resonated with me was duality or opposition. To put it simply, I believe all things are a dual being. This intrigues me. Through the medium of paint I wanted to explore this idea. Let the paintings, by the marks and they way they were painted, tell that story:  Line versus Shape. Thick versus Thin. Rough versus Smooth etc. In the actual creation of the work I found this idea spilled over as well. Periods of expressive painting abandon contrasting against periods of slow contemplation. It was very exciting to be a part of this, to see it unfold.

     At first, I did not see a correlation. I thought this was a completely new undertaking, which in it's own right it was. It was not until I had completed the whole body of work that an artist friend from NY pointed out to me, that he could see and feel the Western landscape incorporated into this new body of work. At first this took me aback. Then as I pondered on this, I realized this was all part of the duality I was trying to capture. It amazed me.

    There is this part of me, even though I did not think about or consciously address, that found it's way into my work. Even though this is a body of non-objective work, it still captured the ideas and matter, that is a part of me. That duality has a tendency to blow my mind if I think about it too much. 

  • Dave Newman

    Artist Interview
    Dave Newman

    Dave Newman's new work show, "Words of the West", will be displayed at Modern West Fine Art during our June 2016 Gallery Stroll.   Newman's work is inspired by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and other pop artists. Dave works with silkscreen on wooden canvas with collage, acrylic paint and 3D objects. His mixed media work is about no rules, any objects, paint or no paint, collage, metal, wood, you name it anything goes. 

     "My inspiration is a drive that comes from wanting to create and work with my hands.  I want to make art feel alive."

    Do you have a mission with your work?

    "My mission is to continue creating art for the rest of my life and hope to contribute something that will be relevant after I am gone.  Maybe a slice of life in the present that will be a marker or a time capsule in the future."

    What is your hope for your collectors?

    "I want potential collectors to know that when they acquire a 'Newman' they are getting the real thing.  A part of me that truly believes in what I am creating.  Our life is built around my art.  We travel for art, we live and breath art and it means the world to us.  Our friends, our home and everything in between is all about art" 

    Dave and his wife live in Prescott, AZ, where his studio is connected to their home. 

    We are honored to feature Dave Newman during our June Gallery stroll.  Hope you will join us, June 17, 7-9pm.

    View Dave's art work here

     
  • Michael Swearngin

    Artist Interview
    Michael Swearngin

    Michael Swearngin’s new work will be displayed at Modern West Fine Art during our May 2016 Gallery Stroll. Swearngin's work combines his interest in contemporary art with the fading heritage of the American cowboy. His fluid acrylic paintings create unique imagery inspired by the rugged spirit so vividly seen in the West. 

    During Swearngin’s years as a traveling artist he has had the chance to document his ever-changing surroundings. As he follows his passion he gathers inspiration from places like Utah, Colorado, Texas and Wyoming. Swearngin sketches on location then reflects on them in the studio. He enjoys leaving his own creative comfort zone to gain more experience from the outside world.

    "Driven by design, I use simple shapes to establish a strong composition on the canvas. I then work the underpainting with dramatic color and texture for high visual impact. It is through my art form that I intuitively paint to express the worn rugged spirit of the American West in my contemporary style. Every painting is an exploration of these experiences and my objective is to share them with the viewer."

    What research do you do for your work?

    I go on-site to visit various ranches and take photographs that I use to help inspire my paintings. I also visit various museums, read about other artists to see what they are engaged in, their successes, and to stay current.  All of that helps me stay focused on my personal goals to grow and create more works.
     Tell us a little about your process?

    Traditionally I work on stretched canvas, paper and board.  I then work the underpainting with dramatic color and texture for a high visual impact.  Then intuitively express the warm rugged spirit of the American West in my contemporary style.  

    What's the best piece of advice you’ve been given as an artist?
    To read, write and sketch, to stay in the moment and stick with the project you are working on. 

    View his artwork here

  • Tom Judd

    Artist Interview
    Tom Judd

    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

  • Jody Plant

    Artist Interview
    Jody Plant

    We recently had the opportunity to visit our artist Jody Plant in her studio to talk about her March show at Finch Lane Gallery. Her unique multimedia artwork gives the viewer insight into her imagination and self discovery over the last year. Read our interview and visit the exhibition beginning March 4 through April 15, 2016 at Finch Lane Gallery.  

    What would you say is your biggest inspiration for this exhibition? Or the motif behind the work?

    The major inspiration is Frank McEntire, and his enigmatic, unfathomable mixed-media masterpieces. I value the collaboration and stretching myself.  As always I am inspired by the natural world and the great mystery it continues to hold for me.

    This exhibition is entitled Double Vision, what is the meaning behind this title?  

    As assemblage artists we are exploring the four elements and more, often mirroring and exchanging similar materials in our individual and combined pieces to form cohesion for the entire body of work. Double Vision is about two veteran mixed-media artists exploring their uniquely varied approaches to assemblage, falling down a few rabbit holes and curiously finding common and uncommon ground.

    While working with Frank Mcentire, how has he inspired your work?

    By his generous and visionary spirit, his deep smarts, sense of humor, and his inscrutable ability to know when to add or take away materials. He just knows!

    What's your favorite part of collaborating with other artists, specifically Frank?

    Being able to lose myself in their certain realms of enchantment and observing what drives their creative process.  When I am in Frank's studio I am a time traveler. It is a world of worlds that I don't want to leave.

    What inspired your self portrait?

    Surviving the loss of my brother, my father, my mother and my health last year. It is about carrying great grief and gratitude.

    Do you enjoy having political pieces incorporated in your exhibitions? Such as the Who are we? piece.

    Yes when the timing is right. Perhaps all art is political in the sense that it engages and informs society in some way, either by influencing or being influenced by it. There is tension between art and politics and often I feel compelled ask a question or send a message. Who are we? reflects the ongoing madness of our nation's immigration debate. I am deeply concerned and incredulous.

    Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your work and your upcoming show?  
    I am enjoying the collaborative process with Frank and the great fun creating much larger scale pieces. I am challenged by the process, the gray matter in my brain is singing, and I feel more expansive than ever before with my artwork. I have fallen down a wondrous rabbit hole. The following quote soulfully speaks to me and rings true. 

    "Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul.

    The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you."

  • Dolan Geiman

    Artist Interview
    Dolan Geiman

    Special Artist Interview with mixed media artist, Dolan Geiman, Interview by Robin Sessions

     

  • Micheal Coles

    Artist Interview
    Micheal Coles

    Special Artist Interview featuring Black and White Photographer, Michael Coles, interviewed Jill Lingwall.

     

  • Nathan Florence

    Artist Interview
    Nathan Florence

    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.

     

  • Phil Epp

    Artist Interview
    Phil Epp

    Phil Epp was born in York, Nebraska in 1946. Phil was awarded the Kansas Governors Artist award in 1985. His paintings have been shown at Galleries in New Mexico, Chicago and Kansas City and New York. Numerous monumental public works have been awarded honors including “8 wonders of Kansas Art” in 2009 and ”Water Tower of the Year” in 2010. In 2009, Phil was selected as a U.S. cultural  ambassador to Kazakhstan with the Department of States’ “Art in Embassies” program. His work is currently on display at the U. S. embassy in Riga, Latvia. Epp's studio is based in Kansas and he continues to travel, photograph and paint the empty western vistas.