Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lisa Iglesias interviewing Jason Mitcham

Although primarily a painter, Jason Mitcham's work has expanded into the realm of video, creating stop-motion animations from paintings. His videos explore the development of our society's landscapes and notions of temporality, suburbia, and modern ruins. His video for The Avett Brothers, "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise" was premiered on NPR's website, and featured at the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival. Mitcham's work has been included in exhibitions at the Queens Museum of Art, the Greenville Museum of Art in North Carolina, the Parrish Museum of Art, the Lumen Festival, NurtureArt, and the Wassaic Project, among others. He is a recipient of the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant (2005), has been an artist in residence at Yaddo (2012), and is a 2012 NYFA Fellow in Interdisciplinary Work. Jason received a Master of Fine Arts in the Painting and Drawing Department at the School of Art and Art History at the University of Florida in 2005. He lives and works in New York City.

<---------Lisa Iglesias with her son, Bowie 

Jason Mitcham is the School of Art and Art History's Emerging Alumni Artist for Art Bash 2013. Art Bash is the University of Florida School of Art and Art History's open house event, showcasing the breadth of the school's disciplines to the community and featuring a projection of Jason Mitcham's videos, live music, refreshments, student exhibitions, open gallery hours and participatory projects. Art Bash is a free, family-friendly event, Friday, October 18th from 6:00 to 9:00pm.

Also join us on Thursday, October 17th at 6:30 pm when Jason will be presenting his work at the Fine Arts Building B lecture hall.


LI: What have you been up to since receiving your MFA in Painting and Drawing from the School of Art and Art History at the University of Florida?
JM: I moved to New York City immediately after I graduated from UF and have been here ever since. I hold other part-time jobs, but my focus has been on maintaining a sustainable studio practice. One of the biggest shifts in my practice happened in late 2009, when I started making animations with my paintings. This has lead to collaborations with filmmakers, musicians and writers, and has pushed my work into realms where I originally had no intention of pursuing. It all happened pretty organically.

LI: As a graduate student in the School of Art and Art History, you focused on painting, creating imagery full of accumulation and decay. Can you discuss how your studio process began to expand to include work in video?
JM: You know, I’ve been thinking about (or maybe re-thinking) those paintings from graduate school a lot lately. I think they relate pretty directly to what I’m investigating these days, in terms of sites of ruin, and states of liminality within these spaces. The videos came right on the tail end of a series of paintings that I did for a solo show in 2008. The paintings were layered images of aerial views of landscapes, over which competing images of future development were painted. I was hoping to show the vast changes that happened in sites that I was exploring, but in the end felt unfulfilled that I had done that. In late 2009 I flew down to Greensboro where I had grown up. It had been maybe 8 months since I had visited last. My parents picked me up from the airport and drove me home on a new beltline that had just been built, and as we passed through a landscape that I had known inside and out, I found myself completely lost, unable to position where we were. I had explored this place thoroughly, navigating it both as an individual and as a land surveyor for my father’s firm. I had even surveyed some of the sites for the placement of the beltline years ago! I decided then that I had to figure out a way to actually make this happen in the paintings, and when I got back to the studio in NY I immediately made the first animation, “This Land is Your Land.”

LI: Do you think of your videos as moving paintings?
JM: I do. For a while I called them “films”, until I learned enough to realize that they were shot 100% digitally, thus they were videos. I think this had to do with me wanting them to be considered analogue, because the meat of what happened was just simply painting. There is really no editing other than slightly adjusting the speed at which one frame transitions to the next. The primary language that they function in is painting, and so I think “moving paintings” is a great way to describe them.

LI: What has most influenced your work?
JM: I spend a good deal of time visiting places that are of interest to me and my work, such as Detroit, Levittown (NY), Passaic (NJ), abandoned architectural sites, etc. My short list of crucial influences would be Gordon Matta-Clark, Robert Smithson (both his work and his writings), and William Kentridge. Some of the artists that I’ve been looking at/thinking about heavily at over the past few years include Cyprien Gaillard, Anslem Kiefer, Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla, Ellen Harvey, Julie Mehretu, and Jackson Pollock. I’m a huge fan of those early Disney films, and I think there’s a lot to be gleaned from them about visually and sonically scoring. Stanely Kubrick is a master of this also. Some of my top individual scenes of sound and visual interaction would include the Pruitt Igoe scene in Koyaanisqatsi, Night on Bald Mountain and the Stravinsky score in Fantasia, and Kentridge’s The History of the Main Complaint.

LI: What are your favorite spots in Gainesville?
JM: Paynes Prairie! I don’t know if that’s technically Gainesville, but I spent a lot of time painting, writing and thinking there. In fact, when I painted the opening scene from “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” I was imagining Paynes Prairie. Other favorites included The Top, Chopstix (for both sushi and alligator watching), Burrito Brothers, the Hippodrome, the Thomas Center, the Harn Museum, and the School of Art and Art History Library…I think it’s an incredible resource, and I loved spending time in that space.

LI: Can you share some advice with young art students?
JM: Looking back, a few things I would recommend would be don’t take on too many student loans, take risks in the studio while you are in a supportive environment, and embrace failure. I think it’s really important to be proactive, especially in preparation for getting out into an art world that will most definitely not come to you. Something that really shaped my thoughts on this happened the summer before I started graduate school. I did a two-person show with Scott Avett, who was a fellow painting student in college. He had just started a gallery space in small-town Concord, NC. He put in a ton of work to open the space, built frames for both his and my work, put out ads in local papers, and put together a huge mailing list. We spent an afternoon hand addressing hundreds of cards to mail, and then he said we should drive into Charlotte that evening to pass out flyers during the gallery crawl. He literally approached every single person on the streets. Hundreds of people turned out for the opening in this small town, and as I found out that night, Scott would not be in attendance…he was playing a show somewhere for probably less than 30 people. I realized he had been two steps ahead of me the whole way. This do-it-yourself, proactive approach really stuck with me, and I think it’s a good tool to have when it comes to navigating things these days.

LI: What's next?
JM: I have a lot of different projects started in the studio…too many probably! I’m continuing a series of paintings that mirror photographs, as well as a series of photographs that are cut up and reconfigured, and I’m starting a new series of paintings(?) that are very sculptural . In addition I’m planning new animation work, while contributing some animated sequences for a full-length documentary film. I have a few unconfirmed shows that will hopefully happen early next year, but for now I’m intensely invested in the studio!
For more information on Jason Mitcham, visit his website: www.JasonMitcham.com

Lisa Iglesias is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Painting and Drawing Department at the School of Art History. She received an MFA from the University of Florida in 2006.

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