365 Days 365 Artist Interview

365 days, 365 artists, frank juarez, gallery, greymatter, interview, sheboygan, 2014

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Posted on February 20, 2014 by greymattergallery

Briefly describe the work that you do.

I collect, cut, saw, arrange, glue, nail, rearrange, paint, sand, wax, heat, rearrange, paint and edit, edit, edit

At what point in your life did you decide to become an artist?

I never made a conscious decision to become an artist. From as early as I can remember I’ve been making art.

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.

Some of my earliest memories are of watching my mother paint set designs for local theatre productions. I was enthralled with the scale and the feel of being able to walk into a painting. I was 14 when I was invited to help. Being the second of eight children I’d squirrel away to the quiet of the outdoors to explore and draw. My work still draws from these early connections with the nature world and the wonder of it all, big and small. The photos in National Geographic magazines were a preteen influence [obsession?] I spent years on pen and ink drawings of under-water universes and microscopic organism.

What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?

The finite I encounter every day is the subject of my work and can best be explained by three simple wabi-sabi realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.

The beauty of imperfection lies in my choice of materials. I have no control over what I’m drawn to. Just like I can’t explain why I prefer butter pecan ice cream over strawberry, I can’t explain why I’m drawn to random things that are marked by the passage of time. It is this reliance on chance encounters with found objects for inspiration and assemblage material that spark discoveries of new combinations of forms, textures and colors that excites me. Using natural material that will decompose sooner than I’d like doesn’t stop me from using materials that tug me to do so.

I work in an interchangeable format. The collage element is but one. After creating many pieces I assemble multiple pieces/panels to create a larger piece. All pieces are dependent on the others for a cohesive balance [for their very survival, less they get painted over!] Knowing when a piece is done is a delicate balancing act; when I can no longer add or subtract anything without weakening the whole, the piece is done. Or so I think. I find myself editing and repainting well after I’ve declared a piece finished.

We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?

If I wasn’t inspired everyday I wouldn’t be creating. It takes both inspiration and hard work.

I collect nuggets: bits and pieces of scrap paper, weathered wood, peeling paint, rusted metal, beach combing treasures. Most of my motivation happens outside the studio.

When I find my responses dulling or the work becomes too predictable, it’s time for a change. Working as I do in mixed mediums, exploring new materials propels discoveries which keeps me challenged and engaged. There are times when interest wanes but I look forward to these lulls; a few weeks vacation from the studio allows me to disengage and return with a fresher eye to re-evaluate my direction. Looming deadlines are always an incentive. And when all else fails, clean the studio.

What artists living or non-living influence your work?

Early on Edward Hopper’s strong geometric compositions and his concern with light and shadow to create mood influenced me. Later it was Richard Diebenkorn’s use of line and division of space in his Ocean Park Series. Most recently, I’ve been influenced by Mark Bradford’s large multi-layered collaged paintings.

When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?

Dumpster diving is definitely at the top as well as late chats/drinks with fellow 16th St. Studio artists. It’s hard to separate art making and my activities and interests. When I’m not making art, talking about art or going to gallery openings I’m busy promoting the arts regionally. I am on the Racine Arts Council board and gallery chair. I organize six exhibits a year with the focus on emerging artists. Four years ago I co-founded the get bEHIND the aRTS Studio Tour, a self guided tour of over 75 artist’s creative spaces in Racine and Kenosha and I help organize the annual December open house at 16th St. Studios where I have a studio


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