Sunday, July 19, 2020

Dyani White Hawk Polk, Artist and Curator


Hello and welcome to the 27th interview for my interview blog 3 Art Questions With Jackson! This time I interviewed amazingly talented artist and curator Dyani White Hawk Polk. I have always liked Dyani's art in person and online and she is the first artist I've asked about the global pandemic. I thought her answers were really interesting and I think you will too. (David Ellis took the above picture for the Walker Art Center)

Jackson: What inspired you to become an artist? Did you have a specific experience?

Dyani: I've been making things, drawing, and creating since I was little. Making and creating has always been my favorite thing to do! But I didn't always understand that this meant I was an artist. My mom actually used to tell me quite frequently as a teen and young adult, "Dyani, you're an artist, and one day you'll believe me." It wasn't until I sold my first painting as an undergrad that I really started to believe her and truly understand that making art was more than something I like to do, but something I was, something I am.

Jackson: Has the global pandemic impacted how you make art? Has it affected your shows? I had some things postponed.

Dyani: YES! The pandemic has prevented me from being in the studio. I had a show in New York City the first week of March. By the time I got home the pandemic was really starting to hit the States and we were all adjusting to the idea that we were going to have to start isolating ourselves. I came home, wrapped up a few things for my exhibition currently up at the Plains Art Museum and then started gathering supplies and getting ready to stay at home. 

I live with my mother and her husband who are both in their late 60s and have pre-existing medical conditions that place them in the high risk category. Because of this our entire family has had to practice extreme caution and focus on maintaining the health of everyone in our home. I have not worked in the studio since the second week of March! We have had to focus on keeping our folks safe and at home, which means me and my husband have taken on all of the errands that need to be done outside the home as well as sanitizing all groceries and supplies that come into our home. In addition to this, we were faced with the transition to distance-learning for our first grader and senior in high school. Then, our lease ended in May, which means we also had to move! Finding a new home, packing and moving our multi-generational home became an all encompassing effort for a few months. 

I have had to maintain a lot of administrative style work from home, on the computer. Unfortunately, the only artwork I have made since the pandemic hit was finishing a pair of moccasins that were already 75% done and making a necklace for my mom for Mother's Day. Now that we are moved and slowly settling into our new home I will be working on finding a way to start getting back into the studio slowly and safely. 

As for shows, yes, it has. As I mentioned, I have a solo show up at the Plains Art Museum right now. This show was supposed to open in March but the museum just recently reopened with social distancing practices in place. I'm not sure how many people will get to see the exhibition, especially considering how much travelling is still a risk. It is up through October 3rd though so hopefully people will still have an opportunity to experience the show!

I had a residency that was scheduled for April that had to be postponed until sometime in the future when things of that sort can begin again. I had an important speaking opportunity at a conference cancelled, as well as a couple of museum acquisitions of my work that had to be cancelled due to budget freezes. I am grateful though that I still have a few exhibition opportunities scheduled far enough into the future that they are still scheduled to proceed as originally planned. A number of acquisitions have still gone through despite the pandemic as well. 

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

Dyani: This is a tough question! There are so many artists I'd love to speak to, both living and dead. SO many!

I thought about this question for awhile last night and got excited about the various people I'd love to talk shop and life with. But what I landed on is this. I would like to speak to someone in the past, from within my family lineage that was an accomplished beadwork or quillwork artist. I don't have any immediate family members to turn to in this way. But I am certain there would have been someone in the past. Whomever that woman is, I'd love to visit with her!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Alyssa Baguss, Artist

Hello! This is Jackson and welcome to the 26th interview for my blog 3 Art Questions With Jackson. This time I interviewed the amazing and multi-talented artist Alyssa Baguss. She also sends me cards to let me know when she has a new show which is very nice. I really liked her answers a lot and I think you will too. Thanks for reading!

Jackson: I only make paintings. You make lots of different kinds of art. How do you get your ideas? What motivates you?

Alyssa: Jackson, this is such a great question! There are so many ways to live a creative life. While I would say that at heart I am a drawer, my practice shifts from 2D artwork to installation to public art projects and back again (or sometimes all at once). I love variety and using creative processes to explore things I'm wondering about. It's pretty rare that I get my ideas when I'm in the studio. Instead, I spend a lot of my time talking to people, exploring places and chasing the things I love. If I do this with the right energy (because it makes me happy) I bubble with ideas and wonderings that lead to my artwork. I call it following my joy compass. It rarely steers me wrong. 

I also make a lot of things that never end up in a gallery or art project. I try hard not to judge these makings as good or bad. Making and experimenting with materials fuels my practice - they're little boosts of energy that propel me forward. 

Jackson: What made you want to be an artist? Did something or someone inspire you?

Alyssa: I was raised in a small rural town in Iowa where I wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember. I didn't know any artists or really know what the path was to become one but drawing always made me feel like my true self. Most of my childhood memories involve drawing in a sketch book or building things with my grandfather and I was always referred to as the creative one. I didn't go to art school until I was in my mid/late twenties after spending years working jobs that weren't fulfilling. People discouraged me from pursuing an art career at that age but I knew that I would live a miserable life if I didn't. I'm so grateful to be doing what I love every day.

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

Alyssa: I would love to have coffee with composer Wendy Carlos. She is so interesting! She's a trans composer who became famous through her pioneering work with synthesizer music in the 1960s. She was born in 1939 and studied physics and music at Brown University. With her expertise in computers and interest in musical timbre, she collaborated with Robert Moog to develop early synthesizers. Some of her early compositions involved a combination of classical music and electronic music and later she created the soundtrack for movies including the A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Tron and many others. Her personal interests include drawing maps and traveling the world to experience total solar eclipses (she's seen 18!). I admire her enthusiasm for anything she puts her mind to and I think it would be fun to listen to her stories about her life.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Bunny Portia, Artist

Hello! This is Jackson and welcome to the 25th interview for my blog, 3 Art Questions With Jackson. This time I am excited to interview multi-talented artist Bunny Portia. I have one of her t-shirts, I really like her art, and Bunny is in WARM. My grandma was in WARM so that is a fun connection. I hope you like the interview! Thank you for reading!

Jackson: How did you know you wanted to be an artist? Did something specific happen?

Bunny: Artist was actually my third choice of careers. Number one was "Cowgirl". Specifically, I wanted to be Annie Oakley, because she got to ride horses ALL DAY. By the time I was 10 it was clear that my second career choice, "Ballerina", was not going to happen either (wrong body type at the time). Although I was interested in art as a kid, my third career choice, "Artist", seemed impossible growing up in Des Moines in the 50s. The only artists I was familiar with were male and none of them lived in Iowa. So I took a typing class just in case my top three choices didn't work out. 

In high school I didn't listen to anyone over the age of 20 but I listened to my art teacher Mrs. Bryant because I wanted to BE her.  She had a newly minted MFA from Drake. She was beautiful and she had that glassy-eyed look that that suggested she had just toked up in the teachers' lounge because it was the 60s and anything was possible. She had it all figured out and seemed to be having more fun than anyone. Yes, I mostly wanted to be her. So I took Mrs. Bryant's advice and went to Drake University to earn a BFA in Graphic Design.

After graduation I worked in advertising for 40 years. It paid the bills and painting was my hobby. I continued to take drawing and painting classes for years but never actually called myself an Artist, even though I was painting regularly.

That changed in 2010 after an event at the Walker Art Center
when a close friend of mine introduced me as "this is my friend. She's an Artist."

It was a memorable moment for me when I realized that she 
saw me as an Artist who had a day job. I saw myself as an Art Director who also painted. After that introduction I finally had the courage to start calling myself an Artist. She gave me the permission that I couldn't give myself.

So becoming an artist was a two-step process for me. First, my (high) high school art teacher convinced me I could BE an artist, then 40 years later my best friend unknowingly convinced me I could CALL myself an artist.

Jackson: My grandmother Linda McNary was in WARM with you. Did being in WARM help or change your art career?

Bunny: I was a late-comer to WARM after spending 40 years working in advertising and only painting at night when I could. When I did finally join the women in WARM definitely helped me on my path. I received lots of support from the group for painting my vision, no matter what it was. The first Bunny Portia show was in Hudson, WI. Many in the group had experienced ageism and "disappearing", the themes that my first paintings address.

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

Bunny: This is a tough question for me. I usually like difficult (eccentric) people because they're the most interesting people and it's their singleness of vision that makes them so interesting. So here's my short list of "Art Heroes" even though I'm not sure I'd really like to meet them. Maybe I'd prefer to continue imagining them as fully formed, perfect human beings who also profoundly changed the art world. 

First, Georgia O'Keefe comes to mind because we share a birthday and she was a maverick. I've read so much about her, I'm not sure what else I want to know. Maybe I'd just like to tell her thanks for being a role model for me, even though she didn't want to be that. Her dedication to art has always inspired me.

I've been fascinated by Andy Warhol since I became aware of the soup cans in high school or college. Was he naturally that fun, eccentric and sometimes mean, or did he dial it up for the media and for fame? Is that a question you can ask a famous artist?

I'd like to meet Edgar Degas just so I could yell at him, "Hey Edgar, stop being such a dick! It wouldn't kill you to be a little nice to people, especially women." I love every aspect of his work (the horses, the ballerinas) but he was reputed to be a misogynist and socially mean to everyone but Mary Cassatt. Maybe if I scolded him in my best Mom voice he'd listen and have a better life. Just kidding, I'd never do that, I'm way too nice. Besides he might yell back. 

Cecelia Beau was a wonderful portrait painter and really had to fight to get educated and recognized. I admire her talent and spunk. If I got to meet Cecelia, first I'd ask her if she knew Degas and was he as big a jerk as he's made out to be. Then we'd tackle her questionable relationships. Maybe we'd even talk about art. 

Perhaps my #1 choice should be John Singer Sargent. I'd like to watch him paint highlights on satin. They always look like nothing up close but are magical six feet back. And those gorgeous hands he painted. I'm guessing he was pretty charming because how else would he have lived off his friends and clients for much of his life? I know he painted great portraits for them, but he stayed for MONTHS with these families. It would take a lot of charm to work that gig as long as he did. I'm sure we'd have a very genteel conversation and I'd probably end up buying him a fancy lunch and then he'd casually ask me if I could put him up for a couple months so he could so he could look for commissions. 

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.