Saturday, February 8, 2020

Russ White, Artist, Designer, Writer, and Editor

Hello! This is Jackson and welcome to the 24th interview for my interview blog, 3 Art Questions With Jackson. This interview is different because it is the first time I have interviewed a man. And it's Russ White! He's great! I love his art and he has been very nice to me, he came to an opening for a show I had at Frameworks Gallery with Susan Solomon. I hope you like the interview! Thank you for reading!

Jackson: How did you decide that you wanted to be an artist? What inspired you?

Russ: I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I had a big gallon-sized ziplock bag full of markers and pencils and pens that I would bring with me on family trips — never left home without my “drawing stuff.” I was inspired by comic books especially, first Ninja Turtles and superheroes, later the weirder stuff like Dan Clowes and Evan Dorkin. In high school I was inspired by punk and hip hop albums and started making collages nonstop, cutting up local newspapers and old National Geographics (which I also brought along on family vacations). In college I got really into found object sculpture and fell in love with making things in a woodshop. Once I started working in an actual woodshop after college, standing on a concrete floor over a tablesaw seemed less fun after a while, so I got back into drawing. Full circle. So I guess I never decided to be an artist, it’s just always been a part of my life. Going full-time with an art career, in addition to other freelance work, was a whole other calculation, based on the blind faith that if other people could make an art career work, surely I could figure it out, too. Plus Minnesota is a great place to find an audience and a funding infrastructure. And my wife kicked me in the butt and told me to go for it.

Jackson: I really like how you make different kinds of art. How do you get your ideas?

Russ: Thanks! I try to find the medium that best represents each idea. Sometimes an image works best as a drawing, other times it could be a sculpture or a screenprint or a photograph. I’ve collected a lot of skills in all the oddjobs I’ve worked over the years, and it’s fun getting to put so many to use. 

But as for where the ideas come from, that’s one of my favorite questions. The short answer is “my brain” or “current events” or something like that. But the long answer is that creative people have both a muscle and an antenna for ideas, and they work together. There’s a great book by Elizabeth Gilbert called Big Magic, in which she talks about ideas as these things that float around, looking for an antenna, and if you get an idea but don’t use it, eventually it will move on to someone else. She started writing a novel once, a love story set in the Amazon, but eventually she abandoned it. A year later, in a chance meeting with another writer, she found out that person was working on a new novel: a love story set in the Amazon.

I’ve had that happen several times as well, where ideas I’ve had but not worked on or developed have shown up in other people’s work. Maybe it’s a shared visual culture inspiring great minds to think alike, I don’t know. But sometimes an idea will just arrive, show up out of nowhere almost fully formed, like you just picked up a signal on your antenna.

Most of the time it’s more like a wrestling match. The ideas usually come from practice, from working that muscle of thinking a certain way, of drawing a certain way, of following a train of thought over a long period of time. I also think the stronger your muscle, the higher your antenna will go. Chuck Close famously said, “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up to work.” He’s right, it really is about putting in the hours. But I also like what Maynard from Tool had to say: “If you don’t believe in magic, your artwork probably sucks.”

Jackson: If you could meet any artist living or dead, who would it be and why?

Russ: Oh, that’s a tough one. So many great artists out there. I’m tempted to say Marcel Duchamp because he changed the course of art forever, more so than anyone in the 20th century. Or maybe Lee Bontecou, one of my favorite sculptors, who walked away from her career when the galleries didn’t respect her new direction. One time in college I almost got to meet Winston Smith, the punk collage artist for the Dead Kennedys, but I was too nervous at the time to meet one of my heroes. I think I’ll say Philip Guston, just because I love his work and I bet he was a lot of fun to hang out with, which is really my main criterion.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Sheeba Khan, Artist

Hello! This is Jackson and welcome to the 23rd interview for my interview blog, 3 Art Questions With Jackson. This interview is a little different because I interviewed Sheeba Khan who I met on Instagram and Sheeba lives in Dubai. I noticed her paintings on Instagram and I was so impressed. The paintings are unique and beautiful and Sheeba's story ( like something a person would read in a book. I hope you like it! Thanks for reading!

Jackson: Do you think your childhood influenced your decision to become an artist? Your childhood sounds like a fairytale.

Sheeba: Not quite. But my childhood spent growing up in the jungles of India does influence the textures, the choice of colors and the vivid details that were etched in my subconscious. Truth is, I got into art rather suddenly and miraculously only 7 years ago. I had never picked up a paintbrush or drawn a line before that. Ironically enough, it’s not my childhood raised as a ‘jungle princess’ that got me into art. It’s a very dark period that ignited art in me. And it’s those nights spent in doubt, fear and anxiety that actually provide substance for my work. Art saved me. It helped me walk towards light. I dumped the anti-depressants I was prescribed and chose art to fight my demons. It was a tough call but, looking back, the best decision I had taken. Some close friends who know my story say it’s worthy of being a book and I say I prefer telling it with my work. Too lazy to write. And isn’t a picture worth a 1000 words? LOL.

Jackson: Where do the ideas for your paintings come from? Does Dubai inspire you?

SheebaThe ideas come straight from my experiences. If the dark period awakened art in me, the stories and the concepts in my work invariably come from those experiences. But ironically enough, my work is vibrant, vivid, colorful and not dark and ominous. Maybe it’s the hope, the happiness that I seek (and find in art) that shows itself on the canvas. The many layers, subliminal shapes and hidden stories have so many interpretations. That’s the best part about abstract expressionism, people find their own interpretation. Dubai is a very modern and vibrant city full of hope and optimism. A city constantly evolving and moving. I guess the vibrancy and the constant movement in my work may be inspired by Dubai.

Jackson: If you could meet any artist living or dead, who would it be and why?

SheebaThere are many artists I admire. Jackson Pollock, Van Gogh, Janet Sobel, Monet amongst the old masters. And from the living artists I am a huge fan of Gerhard Richter. His work is so vibrant and full of life. He is a living legend. I would love to spend a day with him just watching him work.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Kei Gratton, Artist

Hello everyone! This is Jackson and welcome to the 22nd interview for my blog, 3 Art Questions With Jackson. This time I interviewed a great artist named Kei Gratton. I have been seeing Kei's paintings at Gallery 360 in Minneapolis since I was very young and I have always loved them. The answers in this interview are very unique and I think you will enjoy them. Thank you for reading!   

Jackson: Does nature influence your paintings? I think of outside when I see them.

Kei: Absolutely. I like to think of my paintings as internal landscapes, reflections from within. I grew up in the woods and spent endless hours pretending I was a pioneer living off the land. Spirit animals are my muse and I am always collecting stones...they are timeless sacred objects and their magical properties are certainly present in my paintings. I also love the female body and how she mirrors so much of of nature's landscape. If you look closely there's a lot of female imagery in my "landscapes". It is all so playful and secretive. 

Jackson: When and how did you first become interested in art? Do you think you were born with it?

Kei: I studied Art Education and a lot of my friends were serious studio majors. They ALL went off to get their Master's degrees and I went to Germany and got married. But it was there that I found my voice as an artist and was given the opportunities to develop myself as an exhibiting working artist. I had my first one person show in a really great gallery in Hamburg when I was 27 years old. I sort of felt like a fraud because I didn't follow protocol. Crazy. Was I born with it? I was born connected to another mystical realm. It's like I am always searching to find a way to describe it on canvas or paper......sometimes I feel like I nailed it. Sometimes.

Jackson: If you could meet any artist living or dead, who would it be and why?

Kei: George Raftopolous. He's a Greek/Australian contemporary abstract artist. I'm rather obsessed. And he's funny. Humble. He inspired the Emperor in my tarot paintings for sure. One day he started following me on Instagram and I just dropped.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Krista Anderson-Larson, Artist and Director at Circa Gallery

Hello everyone! This is Jackson and welcome to the 21st interview for my blog, 3 Art Questions With Jackson. This time I interviewed Krista Anderson-Larson. She is a great artist and is now Director at Circa Gallery, with a new location in northeast Minneapolis! I really think Krista's answers to my questions are insightful and I think you will too. I hope you enjoy the interview! Thank you for reading!

Jackson: How did you first become interested in art? Did something specific happen?

Krista: Art has always been part of my life—my dad is a graphic designer and a great drawer, so he always encouraged creative endeavors and took me on trips to the Art Institute of Chicago. Funnily enough, I ended up not taking any art classes until my senior year of high school and up until that point I wanted to be an accountant. During senior year I changed my mind and decided to pursue an art major in college instead. It wasn't until the end of my first year of college that I realized being an artist is an actual career goal you can have and the professors at Bethel University (also where my dad got his degree in art) were amazing at preparing students for a career in the arts.

Jackson: How do you get the ideas for your art? I like how you work in so many different styles.  

Krista: One of the reasons I chose to focus on working in sculpture is that there is really no limit to the materials you can work with. I like to keep my options open. At any given time I have a variety of different media and styles going on in my studio; I think that everything feeds into each other and helps to produce the end product. My finished sculptures are quite minimal, but are anything but that during the creative process. Currently I have a few large sculptures in progress for my Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant in the studio, but alongside a couple abstract oil paintings and charcoal figure drawings! These other endeavors are more "for fun" to keep creativity flowing even if I'm too exhausted to work on the sculptures, which take a lot of physical energy.

Jackson: What has it been like taking over as Director at Circa Galley? You must be very busy.

Krista: It has been overwhelming but so so great. An amazing opportunity that has pushed and stretched me in many ways, but is also a great learning experience. I love being able to love my "day job" too—not something that all artists can say. It's really rewarding to be able to work with, and encourage the development of, other artists' careers through the administrative side of the arts. I love it.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Amenda Tate, Artist

Hello everyone! This is Jackson and welcome to the 20th interview for my blog, 3 Art Questions With Jackson. This time I interviewed Amenda Tate who is a super unique and great artist. My Dad and I saw her show at Artistry in Bloomington and we loved it. I watched the video about how she makes her paintings many times! You can watch the video and many more at I think Amenda's answers to my questions are fascinating and I think you will too. I hope you enjoy the interview! Thank you for reading!

Jackson: How did you come up with the idea to use a motion-controlled paintbot to make your paintings? Your video in your Artistry show was so cool.

Amenda: I had never attended a ballet performance until adulthood. I had a preconceived notion that it "wouldn't be for me." The experience was transformational in my ways of seeing. I didn't know I needed it until I had experienced it, and I didn't want it to end. 

After that, I wanted to work with the ballet to create artwork. I wanted to capture the essence of what was happening, not just be inspired by it.

I came up with the robot, Manibus, by modifying an electronics project that my kids and I had done together. I had no idea if it would work or not initially. It was all an exercise in curiosity and experimentation. Once I had a working prototype, I proposed my project to the professional dance company, Ballet Des Moines. We spent six weeks creating together and refining the process. 

Jackson: How old were you when you first became interested in art? Did something specific happen? 

Amenda: I have always been interested in "how things work." From a young age, I put things together and took things apart; I repaired things and made things. I have always been creative and curious. I wrote, I drew, I learned calligraphy, I did theater. At my small rural school, art classes were limited and basic and did not hold my interest. As a result, I did not take art classes in high school. 

I did half of a Mechanical Engineering degree in college and came to realize that I needed a discipline with more aesthetic and creative freedom. I took a jewelry & metalsmithing class and found what I was seeking. I could use science (chemistry, metallurgy) and create something that wasn't strictly functional --something that had the power to connect people and convey emotion or meaning by visual means. I suppose that was the point at which I truly turned my focus completely to making art.

Jackson: If you could meet any artist living or dead, who would it be and why?

Amenda: That is really a tough question! Do I have to choose only one? Aaah!

My top 3:

Eva Hesse
I would love to have had the opportunity to chat with her regarding her innovative choices in materials. She was experimental using new materials and mediums. She challenged expectations in art-making. I feel a kinship to her process of discovery.

Louise Bourgeois
I am inspired by how bold and confident she was in her resolve and her creative choices. I would enjoy spending a day with her asking how to awaken such a sense of confidence within myself.

Yayoi Kusama
While I do admire her current work, I would time travel to participate in her happenings in the 60's. I would ask her how can an artist do this type of work and still make a living? Having her current art world and art market knowledge, would she go back and do anything differently?

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Mandy Madsen, Artist and co-owner of Frameworks Gallery

Hello everyone! This is Jackson and welcome to the 19th interview for my blog, 3 Art Questions With Jackson. This time I interviewed Mandy Madsen who is a great person, a great artist, and co-owner of Frameworks Gallery with Sydney Hintz. Frameworks has been nice enough to show my paintings twice. I really liked Mandy's answers and I think you will too. I hope you enjoy the interview! Thank you for reading!

Jackson: You are co-owner of a really great gallery. Has that changed the way you make art? 

Mandy: Thank you for thinking our gallery is great; I love co-owning it and having the chance to enjoy art at work. I love the connections it brings and giving artists a chance to display their work brings great joy to my heart (you're a great example!). The gallery has certainly exposed me to different styles and mediums, so I'm sure it has influenced my own creations (although I haven't thought consciously about that until you asked!). I grew up drawing and didn't start painting until my 20's; it was new to me, so I wanted to just feel the paint and enjoy the process without worrying about what it would look like. It resulted in a lot of abstract work. I currently am more into representational painting, especially places or subjects that I love. I think they still show the enjoyment and feeling behind the process, but it is more intentional in what I'm trying to portray. This shift could be in part from what I see through the gallery, and in part from being less fearful to try and create something that is recognizable. I recently started experimenting with watercolor, and that's definitely because of observing two artists whose styles of work I love - Susan Solomon and Andy Evansen.  I'm going to be taking a watercolor class from Andy in Hastings this spring and am excited to see where that will take my art.    

One other thought about the influence co-owning the gallery has on my art is that I have a limited amount of time on my hands. I not only create pretty quickly, but I think I cherish it even more than I used to. Whether it's stealing some time alone in my art room at midnight after the household is in bed, or asking my two kids to paint with me, I really savor the moments.  Oh and painting with my kids... one of the best things in life. They have no inhibitions, which is refreshing.  

Jackson: How did you first become interested in art? Did something specific happen?

Mandy: I have always enjoyed working with my hands and creating, whether crafts or fine art. I was the only Kindergartner in my school to have a piece in an art show - a sculpture of a bird. I remember feeling so excited for parents night and the reveal of the work. We lived in England from when I was in first through third grade (side note: I learned to read there and had a British accent, which you'd never guess now!). I remember sitting in my first grade class, looking at a photo of an eagle, drawing it with pencil and all of my classmates making a big deal about how realistic it looked. It really inspired me to keep trying to replicate what I saw through the use of graphite. My folks took that pencil sketch to a custom framer, had it framed and we entered it into an art contest that was going on in that shop. I was the youngest participant, won 4th place and remember feeling such a joy out of the experience. I was a quiet child and found drawing to be a place of peace and comfort. I mostly drew animals and portraits, but as I grew, I used my sketch book as an outlet. 

Jackson: If you could meet any artist living or dead, who would it be and why?

Mandy: My family is from Terre Haute, Indiana, and if I could sit down and have a long conversation with one artist, it would be with an artist named D. Omer "Salty" Seamon, a man from that area. I love his story and my grandparents knew him, so I think that makes it extra personal. He grew up sketching, worked some jobs like window trimming for department stores, and in 1929 moved to Minneapolis for a span to paint theater posters for Paramount.  He served in the military and after WWII decided to become a full-time freelance artist back in Indiana. He created artwork for local companies, including the Terre Haute Savings Bank where my grandmother was Vice President. I love his style of work and that he just went for it. He has passed now, but I actually did meet him as a child. I grew up singing with my mom and siblings; my mom played guitar and the four of us would sing for people at nursing homes, banquets, shut-ins and for family/friends. Because of the connection to my grandparents, we went out to his studio once and sang to him. As an adult involved in the arts for a career, I would love to have the chance to hear about his experiences and even draw or paint next to himI try to honor his memory each Christmas by reading a children's book he illustrated about a Christmas tree. My kids love it and seeing the illustrations takes me back to my childhood and the fond memories that surround it.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Lisa Bergh, Artist

Hello everyone! This is Jackson and welcome to the 18th interview for my blog, 3 Art Questions With Jackson. I have a too cold day off from school so I am publishing this during the week! This time I interviewed Lisa Bergh who is a super creative artist whose art I am lucky enough to see every day on the walls at my home. My Dad and I have really loved her art any time we have seen it. I hope you enjoy the interview! Thank you very much for reading!

Jackson: How do you get your ideas? Your art is different from anything else I have seen.

Lisa: I am always looking at and thinking visually about the world around me, the mundane visual poetics of the day to day are often a formal source for my creative output, but rarely the direct content. For example, the installation you enjoyed titled “Unfurled” was queued visually by watching my young daughter flying a kite, but the piece has nothing to do with that experience, me, or my daughter. The piece is ultimately about moving through landscape, engaging the architecture of the specific gallery it was created for, the language of painting and sculpture, visual gestures, beauty, movement, engaging the audience in a way that questions who the real actor is – is it the sculpture that is walked in and around, or, is it the viewer moving around the work? I also allow the objects and ideas I am experimenting with in my studio to organically inform and lead me to the next project or point of inquiry. There is a list of ideas/concerns/goals I am continually working to dissect/ contemplate/achieve in my studio practice:

objects which are simultaneously presented as drawings/paintings and sculptures

abstraction and conceptualism with figuration and narrative

tension and gesture – formal, intellectual, and emotional

beautiful and thoughtful moments and casual and residual artifacts

specific and vague experiences

intimacy and aloofness

I am trying to connect all these dots in the most visually direct way I can.

Jackson: How old were you when you first became interested in art? Did something happen that made you think wow? 

Lisa: I was not a child who plugged into the arts beyond the basic art classes in school. I drew and wrote stories, but I did not have a kind of overt affinity for picture making that when children showcase it, adults immediately nurture it, until it becomes natural for a child. Instead, I was given real access to the arts in college when I was working towards a degree in Cultural Anthropology and was required to take a Basic Design Course. I loved the process of making and thinking about ways to articulate the principles of design for the class assignments – learning a new language. After that first class I signed up for a photography course. The next thing you know I had a BFA in printmaking and photography, and soon after, an MFA in spatial arts. My visual language was developed and nurtured through the practice of photography and I still feel a strong aesthetic alignment to the works of Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, and Edward Weston – photographers I deeply admired as a beginning art student. My work may seem quite different than theirs, but the foundation of my art ABC’s was constructed by studying these artists.

Jackson: If you could meet any artist living or dead, who would it be?

Lisa: I would relish a conversation about art, aesthetic experiences, materiality, New York City, politics, and the 80’s with Felix Gonzalez Torres. I have long admired his work. While I am not driven to create art rooted in political activism, I am deeply drawn to his aesthetic, his ability to charge mundane materials with intense poetry and intimacy, and of course, the theatrical nature of his work. While he has long ago passed away, when I have the opportunity to experience his objects in a museum space they feel incredibly alive and present. It is always exciting for me to stand in front of his artwork. I marvel how he masterfully achieved many of the objectives I strive to reach in my studio practice. His works are tools for experience and contemplation; curious and mysterious while being incredibly direct and intimate. I can’t think of an art work by Felix that is not a slam dunk. He died so young … I wonder what he would be interested in making/expressing if he were still here.

Oh and I would love to time travel to 1927 to spend a long weekend in New York City with Dorothy Parker – that would be a real education.