First, I’d love to know a bit more about you! You’re currently in Brooklyn, but from Germany originally?
When I was 19, I moved to the US from southern Germany when my father decided to take a job in Columbia, South Carolina. It was quite the culture shock – but luckily I grew up speaking English because my parents are originally from London, so I was able to adjust fairly easily. After my graduate studies at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, I moved to Brooklyn in 2004. I’d love to move back to Germany, but the “escape from New York” keeps getting postponed- working in New York City has many advantages, but it’s very expensive to be an artist here now.
What first interested you in making art?
I had to complete one year in high school in South Carolina and was faced with applying to college – an issue I had not given much thought prior to moving to the US. I always loved to draw, grew up skateboarding and painting graffiti in Germany, so my parents encouraged me to apply to art school and suggested I study graphic design. It was either art school in Atlanta or studying history in Chicago and I decided to go to the Atlanta College of Art (RIP). I soon realized that I was much more drawn to the fine arts and switched my major to painting and printmaking.
Do you have any particularly influential interests, inspirations, or mentors who have had an impact on your work?
Having grown up in Germany, I was always very aware of how history is transcribed in the built environment. My hometown was close to a large US military base and the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union had a big impact on how I viewed the society and world I lived in. When I began to seriously make art years later, I gravitated towards subjects of history and place- and the use of appropriated imagery for context. My favorite artists in undergrad were Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Gerhard Richter. I was fortunate to have a great painting professor during my undergraduate studies (Marcia Cohen who now teaches at SCAD, Atlanta), and studying printmaking alongside painting introduced me to process and the importance of a rigorous studio practice. In graduate school I mainly worked with the sculptor Barbara Gallucci and the painter Ann Craven who helped me tremendously in pushing my work forward.
What is the role of photography, and by extension architecture, in your paintings?
I was in my first month of graduate school when the events of 9-11 took place. That totally shook things up for me and I realized that I wanted to make work that reflected the times we live in. I turned to news media coverage for subject matter and searched for images of places that were either directly or indirectly linked to unfolding events, geopolitical and social changes in the U.S. and abroad.
I became interested in the potential divergence of images of places and the places themselves – and the media’s role in covering the events that were shaping our lives, especially in the build up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The built environment is most always present in the news- sometimes it is the subject of the reporting and other times it’s merely the backdrop. I began painting pictorial architecture because of its ability to act as an icon for political, religious and social systems and beliefs.
What is your process like? How do you plot out a piece, and how long does a work typically take to complete?
A large work often times takes about 2 – 3 months to complete depending on the complexity of the image. I confuse myself explaining my process so I won’t get into the weeds too much- I basically trace the photograph onto a transparent vinyl mask that is applied to the panel, and then through a process of drawing, stenciling and re-masking paint the image in shape by shape. I pre-mix as many colors as possible and assign each one a number which is recorded on the enlarged photocopy of the photograph I used for the tracing. It’s kind of a paint by number system and some of the large works have over 300 colors. Even though it can take a long time to finish a piece I enjoy the process- it’s pretty meditative.
How would you describe your studio or workspace?
I share a store front space with my wife Emily who is a textile designer. It has a large frosted window in the front, a nice backyard, and it’s only a block and half away from our apartment- it’s a great space.
You’ve been out of the university setting for a little while now; have you learned anything along the way that you would go back and tell yourself as you were just getting your start?
I would definitely advise anyone who is getting their degree in art- especially their Masters, to make sure you get teaching experience while you are in school. It is also very important to be able to write about your work and I would advise art students to take writing classes if possible.
What do you consider the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art, creatively or professionally?
Life as an artist can have its ups and downs- creatively and professionally. You can’t neglect any part of your life because you are most often completely self reliant. You have to make sure you are on top of things and establish good professional relationships, maintain your financial records for taxes and such- always keep an eye on the future. It’s easy to neglect those things when you are focusing on your work meeting deadlines and expectations.
What is the most rewarding aspect?
It is very rewarding to complete a piece, a project or a show and to feel good about it- and to be able to sit back and reflect on it. Making art is a huge luxury and it’s important to remember that. And of course it’s always rewarding to get positive feedback.
How would you define “success?”
That’s a hard question to answer- I would define success as being able to go to the studio every day and to interest people in what I’m doing. Success is tricky because you are always striving for it and it can be exhausting. Whether it’s a sale, being featured on a site such as yours, getting that residency you were really hoping for… you have to be thankful for everything and try and make the most out of every opportunity.
What are you working on right now?
I just became a dad so my daughter is kind of my biggest project right now. In the studio I am finishing up a large painting that I began in December and I look forward to working on some new pieces on paper and smaller paintings this spring. Exhibition wise I’m preparing my next solo show for my gallery scheduled for the late Fall of 2017.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thanks so much for featuring my work on your site – you are doing an amazing job giving especially younger artists great exposure.
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