A really wonderful look into the work of Jamison Elder today, who when we spoke was in the process of finishing up a residency in Leipzig, Germany at Pilotenkueche. We chat about the connection to place and the value of residencies, among other things! More info at the links afterward!
+ + +
First, I'd love to know more about you! Where are you from? What first interested you in painting?
Where I am from is kind of a complicated question, and one that informs a lot of the art I create. I was born in Riverside, California, but I have spent the majority of my life in Atlanta, Georgia. Two very different sides of the country, but in a weird way, I feel a connection to both. I studied sculpture and creative writing in college, and now a lot of people would call me a painter, but I really think of myself as a “bad” sculptor - always thinking three-dimensionally even when I am not necessarily creating physical work. I love painting for many reasons, and for such a traditional and limiting medium, we as artist, have created so many variations on the form. I really enjoy the challenge of creating something new in the field of painting, and I have yet to get board with paint on canvas.
You're getting close to the end of a four-month residency in Leipzig, Germany at Pilotenkueche -- how has that been? What have you been focusing on there?
Leipzig is a pretty amazing city to work in if you are a painter. The artistic energy here extends from group studios to cafes to bars and to alternative spaces. In some ways I want to say Leipzig is the Brooklyn of Berlin, but comparing the US to Germany is a little more complicated than that. I defiantly feel like I have relearned what it means to be an artist while living in Leipzig and that might be the biggest complement I can give to the city. Pilotenkueche (the residency) has been a great place to work. I have created a new body of work here that I am calling my Acidity Works along with participating in collaborations throughout the city with other artists.
What are your thoughts on artist residencies? What do you gain most from participating in them?
I can not stress the importance of residencies enough for young/emerging artists, but I think there is a smart way to both apply and to participate in a residency program. Many of them are very expensive, and if you are an American you know the struggle of getting absolutely NO FUNDING when you are young (don't even get me started if you don't have a MFA), but residencies remind you that your art bubble is not the art world. They have been the push and the encouragement I need to keep fighting to have my voice heard and my work seen.
Can you tell me about your work? Where do your ideas stem from?
I was raised in the land of superficial hospitality, over salted everything, and strong family values. For the good and for the bad I call The South my home, but I could never ignore the fact that within this home I was an outsider, and as I became older, my orientation as “other” forced me to confront my own identity and the identity of my sounding community with genuine scrutiny. My artistic practice has developed from this investigation of personal and cultural identity, and is rooted in two simple questions - Who am I ? What can We be ?
Deceivingly collaborative and often times multidisciplinary, I view my work as a stage - an invitation for dialogue - a set for forward momentum. Wrestling the topics of baggage, guilt, privilege, whiteness, authority, queerness, and lineage, I rely on obsession and spontaneity to create artwork that is first, the most genuine representation of my own identity politics, and second, a vehicle that can be applied from the personal to the communal - the specific to the general.
I find myself in constant correspondence with elements of folk culture, and the motifs of narrative quilting, embroidery, weaving, storytelling, and collage help inform many aspects of my visual discourse. Like obsession creates chaos through order, I believe the most successful forms of visual activism create discomfort through familiarity.
What is your studio space or workspace like?
Looking at my paintings you might imagine my studio… it is a little all over the place. In Leipzig I work in a group studio and have the luxury of atwo 12 foot walls and a ton of floor space, but back in Atlanta I work in the second half of my bedroom. I try to fill it with as much plants a possible to mask the paint smell, but it doesn't always work!
What is your process like? Do you plan much ahead, or research, or work more intuitively?
I write a lot. It is a habit I picked up during my last year of undergrad, and while some of my writings end up in the trash, some turn into paintings, others installations and some remain as poetry. I also use collage as a major form of sketching, but I never have a painting fully plained out before I start. Genuineness and authenticity are very important to me and I feel like a painting is the most successful when the artist adapts to it while it is being completed.
What has your art education been like (formally or informally)? Is there anything you particularly enjoyed about it? Anything you wish would have done a bit differently?
lol, I have a complicated relationship with my art education. I went to a university with many amazing resources, but I feel like the faculty of my program was only interested in creating copies of themselves and not new artists. My favorite professors in school were the art historians, and I while I call myself artist, It is thanks to the lessons I learned in their classes that I also think of myself as a scholar.
Is there a piece of advice that you've received, which you find yourself coming back to? Anything you're glad you ignored?
One of the most influential people in my young art career always made us answer the question Who am I. at first I thought it was a simple and rhetorical question, but to this day If I am ever stuck I ask myself that question and it helps me make the next move.
As for worst advice… A sculpture professor of mine in college once told me that Men Make Trophies and Women Make Nests. (every time I think of that, I have to take three deep breaths and reframe from gathering sticks and straw)
What do you consider to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art seriously?
Being an artist is a Non-Liner profession. We don't get the luxury of starting at a small firm and working our way up the ladder with hard work and a smile. Of course it takes those things to be successful as an artist but we all know artists in their 60’s that still fight for a solo show and artists in their 20’s that are on the cover of Art Papers. As I get older and my friends start getting promotions and having a “Normal Life” I have to remind myself that its ok to not follow the pre-prescribed path for success.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects you're currently working on?
I just had an exhibition featuring the paintings I made in Leipzig. My goal for when I return to the US is to exhibit these paintings again state-side.
Anything else you would like to add?
Toni Morrison has famously said, “It is in times of turmoil that artists go to work,” We are living in an age of anxiety, and it is time for artist to be radical. It is time for artist to be relevant. It is time for artist to represent their communities. We have a responsibility both as artists and as YOUNGE artists to stand up for the voiceless and fight for the unheard.
xoxo gossip girl.
+ + +
Support Young Space! Like what you see? As an independent curatorial platform, this project can use your help!