Guy Nelson's playful, vibrant works are a return to painting after finishing up an MFA at Pratt Institute. I love the touch of humor and kitsch in the Sasquatch theme, and the energy of the brush strokes in all these pieces. More at the links after Guy's fantastic Q&A!
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Tell me a little bit about you!
I was born in Fargo, North Dakota and grew up in western Minnesota, which is where I had my Sasquatch encounter. Now I reside in Maplewood, New Jersey, where I frequent the South Mountain Reservation and knock on wood in hopes of calling any beasts. I’m an interdisciplinary artist who most recently went back to the canvas after over a decade working like a mad scientist with polyurethane resins, other polymers, and random bits of the natural world. In 2016 I graduated from Pratt Institute with an MFA in Integrated Practices.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I’ve wanted to make art as far back as my memory goes. My understanding of art throughout my childhood reflected the region, nature calendars, and Bob Ross on TV. But as to when I really discovered art? It wasn’t until high school when I was exposed to Contemporary Art, and I was hooked. My drive to be an artist solidified.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
Hiding. Mimicry. Danger. Self Preservation. Mysticism. Plants.
The core of my work hasn't changed radically over the last year, but the mediums have -- I decided to go back to the canvas after over a decade of taking time off.
What is your process like?
Research is an important part of my practice. Some of my research includes sitting in the woods, allowing my eyes to struggle with the depth of field caused by light and shadows on many layers of branches and foliage. This is the time when our brains make shapes, images appear and disappear, and when monsters are made. I surround myself with questions of the unknown as it relates to real stories, legends, and anything that challenges the basis of normal. When not outdoors, I mine the Internet for stories of strange encounters and read about brain consciousness and processing.
My work addresses the natural world as a place of continued exploration and plants as silent witnesses to human experiences. I’m engaged with and explore shared habitats as a way of connecting into the greater ecological web. I examine the act of looking and discovery as it relates to being surrounded in outdoor settings, and respond to the experiences and phenomena that confront and disrupt cognition.
My painting process starts with a loose plan of attack. I work in acrylics mixed with mediums to enjoy longer working times, and usually work on multiple pieces at one time.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
Many years ago a professor said that every single day I should do something for my art. I’ve held true to that all these years. If I’m not actively working on a piece, I’m reading or researching for one. Hiking included.
Describe your studio.
A recent move to New Jersey has split my studio in two -- one for painting; the other for everything else. The painting studio is a brightly lit room with low ceilings, and the other is a small steel building full of tools and lots of spiders.
What do you find most challenging, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
Canceled studio visits are always frustrating and dancing with the gatekeepers makes for a mental roller coaster.
If you could sit down for dinner or a drink with anyone, who would it be and what would you chat about?
John Muir. I would ask him his thoughts on climate change and the possibility of humans merging with machines.
What are three words you would use to describe your work?
Playful, challenging, organic
What do you do when you find yourself in a creative rut?
I have the opposite problem of a rut; I have too many ideas in way too many mediums…
What do you love most about your medium? What challenges or surprises you most about it?
I enjoy the immediacy of acrylics yet the flexibility to extend working time.
What do you need or value most as an artist?
Alone time. (I have a five month old and five year old. Both girls.)
What keeps you creating?
We only live once.
What are you working on right now?
? Paintings of outdoor settings with a twist of the absurd and otherworld.
Anything else you would like to add?
I once placed a PeeWee Herman doll on top of Stonehenge for a photo-shoot.
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