Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I currently live in Corpus Christi, Texas which by the standards of many is a cultural outpost. I never thought I would live in Texas but ended up moving here for grad school. I just graduated with my MFA in printmaking from Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. My formal education has been an exercise in nose following and faith leaping. I would say that I have a knack for making a satisfactory experience for myself in places that others might not consider.
I completed my undergraduate degree at Guilford College which is a small, Quaker, liberal arts college in Greensboro, North Carolina. During my time at Guilford I also studied religion. The art department there is small but very special. As a student and learner I think I can be strong willed or stubborn. Informally I think I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way. I would contend that it’s been more interesting. One fun fact about me is that I am the great, great, great, great, great, great grandson of Daniel Boone. People say I should make art about it. I haven’t figured out an interesting way to do that yet. I started working at an online auction service as an art cataloger in 2012 and have learned a lot about the resale market in this capacity. I frequently review exhibitions for ÆQAI Magazine.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I was exposed to art very early. When I was two years old we lived in London where my father was working at the time. While we lived there he started collecting British cycling posters. It turned into a compulsive habit and when we moved back to the United States when I was five he quit his job. He decided to start dealing antique lithographic posters out of the guest bedroom in our house. Not long after that he opened his own gallery where he deals in mostly original poster art and graphics from the last 250 years. My father’s compulsive habit of collecting is how I was eventually led into printmaking, and by extension painting too.The extent to which I have been influenced by poster iconography is immeasurable. Because of my father I encountered many of my favorite artists at an early age. For instance, my dad introduced me to artists like Hundertwasser, Wes Wilson, Victor Moscoso, and Milton Glaser. I feel incredibly lucky to have had parents that understand the importance and viability of visual art.
Like many artists I started drawing when I was small. I was maybe seven when I filled a spiral notebook with an outlandish fan fiction of Return of the Jedi. Looking back I think that was the moment I became fixated on using my creative brain. It wasn’t until my seventh grade art teacher showed us a documentary about Keith Haring that things really clicked. I filled an entire sketchbook with copies of his joyous figures. The footage of him defiantly scrawling on the subway walls electrified me. Seeing that documentary really freaked me out in the best way possible.
Around that same time I was getting suspended for fighting which was a big problem for me throughout elementary school. I was impulsive and couldn’t help but react to the constant prodding and teasing. I came home from school one day and lamented to my mother that I couldn’t do it anymore. I badly wanted to go to a different school for eighth grade. So I was enrolled at The School For The Creative and Performing Arts in the heart of Cincinnati. Suddenly I had friends, and stopped getting into fights. They didn’t let me take the art classes because I couldn’t draw the way they wanted, but I loved theater and did bad graffiti with my friends anyway. I also played bass clarinet. I got some distance from the sheltered environment of my home life and tried my best to fall in with the wrong crowd. My choice to stick with art has forever been a romance of weirdos.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
My recent work has been fixated on landscape. This past year I made a series of 126 horizon paintings at 8″ x 11″. I made plenty of other paintings and prints besides all for a more collective purpose of installation. My aim with making paintings as installations is to overwhelm my viewers with the joyful notion of many colors. I think I’m trying to envision atmospheres of potentiality. For all of hope’s purposes it is mine that a love for difference and weirdness shine through my artwork. My painting functions as a very joyful but messy exploration of knowing and being as relates to failure.
What started your current interest in landscape?
Before moving to Texas for graduate school I was making black and white linocuts, almost exclusively. I had also been working as an art cataloger at an online estate sales company. I absorbed an incredible amount of imagery. I think that the landscape emerged in reaction to my slow digestion of that exposure. During that time I really developed a respect for landscape painting and other genres that I had formerly dismissed. I was coming into contact with a lot of art I’d never seen, Lawren Harris, Francisco Riba-Rovira, Nicholas Krushenick, and Forrest Bess are all influences that I first encountered at work. When I moved to Texas for graduate school I spent a lot of time frustrated thinking about what I wanted to make work about. I had been fooling around with some paint I’d used to coat a weird sculpture I’d carved. One night I started painting from some of the landscape photographs in the Life Magazines I’d been working from. I really enjoyed creating space that way and liked the immediacy. It was addicting that way. At the time I was making frequent trips to Austin and found myself falling in love with the landscape on the drives to and from Corpus Christi. I think the landscape became a space of desire for me.
What is your process like?
I generally don’t front load content. I like to work intuitively within my attention span. I enjoy creative space when it feels blindly alchemical, as opposed to starchy and dictated. One of art’s greatest merits is the sensation of mystery. I like to be led by it. The quality of weridness has never felt prescribed to me. I think that most of my tastes have been things that I’ve had to search for. Sometimes they find me. To happen upon these kernels of righteousness in one’s own stinky ether is very gratifying. Maybe that’s a flowery way of saying I work from my subconscious.
Most of my work happens fairly quickly, and I make a lot of it. Typically I do not take longer than two weeks to complete a painting. If I’m working small I tend to work in batches working on as many as fifteen paintings in one night. When I work in batches I feel like the ability to cycle through compositions and ideas is an advantage. It is like playing a bunch of different games of chess. Moves on one board against opponent A reveal currents of strategy elsewhere against opponent Z. Lately I’ve enjoyed updating older works with fresh materials and moves. I’m also trying to take my time a little bit more now because I’m done with my Master’s. I want to reflect on what I’ve made and productively cull the devices that have more to say.
Because I work so quickly there are paintings, and entire series that fall out of stride during the times when I am searching for some green excitement. Old failures become fresh fodder, and I often find myself hurriedly cutting up old woodcuts for pasting onto dead paintings. Sometimes I feel bored by my studio environment so I keep up a sketchbook where I design images for woodcuts. This makes it so I can switch processes on a dime if I feel the need. The cooperative experience of the printshop and the visceral engagement of gouging out a woodblock are a welcomed change if I’ve been doing the solitary thing for a while. I come back to squirting paint with new perspectives.In the studio I like to be surrounded by all of the work. It has been a constant goal of mine to make the walls of my studio like a big art cocoon. I like to feel the work bearing down on me, and to stand in it and feel like it’s around me. All of these ways help me decenter myself and become immersed.
As far as themes and ideas that inform my work from the outside in I really enjoy reading Buddhist philosophy and queer theory. The sublime has been a major object of investigation too, and in the interest of thesis writing I’ve been slamming theory. I have most enjoyed reading Timothy Morton’s books lately because he is a wild combiner of different theoretical stuffs. His writing puts his creative process of arrival on display, running circles around itself, he writes to deliver you at the conclusion so that you might think you arrived there without his help. I’ve also been reading Patti Smith’s M Train and as far as reading experiences go it’s one of the best I’ve ever had.
Finally, I would be nowhere without the people I reach out to on the phone. I have several regular phone calls and make a point of reviewing exhibitions that I cannot attend. When I write about exhibitions I usually interview the artist and I always learn something and often make a friend in the process. I think art, in any case, is about relating.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
Ryan O’Malley, Richard Gere, and Dr. Laura Petican have all played patient surgeons throughout my graduate school experience.
I consider Caroline Wells Chandler to be a mentoring force in my cosmology of making stuff. I have been extremely fortunate to get to know him and his work.
Jeffery Dell and Michael Krueger have also been kind forces of influence and affirmation.
“The job of artists is to get comfortable at being really uncomfortable.”
Phoebe Washburn said that during a lecture of hers I saw.
I also really love that token Chuck Close quote that’s haunted me from the office door’s of many of my teachers. I now find myself relating it to students. It says that inspiration is for hacks and that successful artists just show up everyday even when it’s not fun or sexy.
I feel like my parents have been incredible mentors. I think the motivation of compassion is in my work because of my mother. My dedication to a manic process of searching through ephemera to find the crystalline tid-bits is a shard of my father. I get mystery from my brother.
The one piece of advice that I am glad I so spitefully refused is that of my first printmaking professor who suggested that I’d “…better find something else.”
To be fair, having now taught two sections of print one, I’d probably have told me the same thing.
What is your studio like?
My studio of the last three years during grad school was kept with a lot of my personal collection of art objects and prints on the back wall by the sink. The remaining two walls not made of cinder block were always hung nearly floor to ceiling with my most recent paintings. The entire place was strewn about with countless tinsel garlands, collage material, and smaller remnants of each. Leading up to an exhibition, or in the middle of making something new and exciting, things get really messy.