Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Say hello to Jeremy Mangan

Early this Spring, artist Jeremy Mangan and I did this interview. It was going to be published elsewhere but since Jeremy has an exciting show of new work opening this Thursday, I figured it would be the perfect chance to share this.

Visitation, 2012
16 x 12 inches, oil & acrylic on canvas
Joey Veltkamp: Your art seems to celebrate the spirit of the West but without localizing it. Or is that because it's not about a physical place but rather an attitude?

Jeremy Mangan: I was born in Seattle, grew up in Kent, WA. I get that a lot, questions about the West in my work, particularly the Midwest, and if I ever lived there. To me those plains, open spaces and vast horizons are more of an idea of "The West" in general than anything else. But they're also local—if not Western Washington then at least Eastern, like Ellensburg and beyond. And I have spent a good amount of time east of the Cascades—I lived in Ellensburg for a few years, and travel that way whenever I can to fly-fish. I've been through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming a few times, drove through South Dakota once... It's beautiful country and certainly left—continues to leave—an impression on me. Also, they're simply "landscape" in a basic, austere sense and create a wonderfully gorgeous yet melancholy/lonely setting for these characters that are the buildings. So it's not that I avoid localizing it. It's just been playing out as, like you say, more of a spirit, an idea. But I can see it jumping around in the future: becoming specific for awhile, then more general again. It's more about disposition.

Moon Lantern, 2012
9 x 12 inches, acrylic on panel
JV: Your work feels similarly out of time. Are you referencing a specific moment? Or are they intentionally fluid? 

JM: I like "out of time." I like that a lot. In my artist statement I mention "anachronism.". Ideally, they can't be placed. Yes, they reference the past—that's the easy one. But they could also be something you could go and see now, and I think, I hope, that they could also suggest something we might see later. I'm not sure why we might see them—they could be the result of some post-catastrophe necessity, or they could come about voluntarily and joyfully out of a spirit of curiosity and creativity.

Chicken Coop, 2012
12 x 16 inches, oil & acrylic on panel
JV: There seems to be an undercurrent of architecture running through the work. Where does that come from? 

JM: I'm not interested much in architecture, per se. I'm simply drawn to these types of wooden structures that are so prevalent in the rural American West, whether barns, mining compounds, grain elevators, etc. I love the idea that they're built purely for function, yet they're beautiful as a by-product, and maybe grow more beautiful as they slowly deteriorate. I love how they imply some sort of expansive, varied space within. So then when I exaggerate them and "overbuild" them as I like to say, that function comes into question? Why so many rooms? What are they all for? What is in them? There's some nice mystery there, a story of motivations and activities, which I find at once inviting and slightly haunting. Essentially, I feel that these particular types of structures are rich as formal images and rich with implications of content (if such a distinction can be made), and I'm able to push that and play with that as I build them myself on the 2-D surface. And they're really fun to build!

On a more personal level, I grew up around, and in, some barns like these, so I have experience with those spaces. They're incredible. Also, my dad is a home builder so I think that seeps in a little, too.

Good a place as any, 2012
12 x 24 inches, acrylic & oil on panel
JV: Some of the work has whispers of nostalgia (in a good way). Do you see it that way or am I just projecting? 

JM: Yes, I do see it that way. what I'm interested in is how the past seems to try to remain present, how it informs our present, and even how it informs us that we're not always (or even usually!) so clever and innovative and enlightened as we think. Plus, old stuff is cool. It's strange, haunting, beautiful. Haunting is a big one—I love the tension of beautiful yet haunting. 

Its Not Romantic if No Ones Watching, 2012
24 x 30 inches, oil on canvas

JV: The only time we see actual people, they're in the form of mustachioed men that you might find on historical wanted posters. I'm curious about them... 

JM: So far, those guys have always been real "Badmen" of the West, actual historical figures. To me those badmen symbolize the overlap of legend and fact of the American West. Most of the accounts of those guys have been wildly embellished, BUT in that hyperbole is a kernel of truth, and even that small kernel is amazing and compelling. Just like the reputation of the West as a whole: vast, beautiful, bountiful, unforgiving, extreme geographically, full of possibility, mystery, resources, danger, inhabited by individualistic, tough, courageous, industrious do-it-yourself types... It's a cliche, but again there's a kernel of truth. The West is actually like that, just not to that degree and not so simple... But it does have a personality. It IS different than other regions, the people here are here for a reason.

But, clearly, these guys are dead! So is the West dead? No, but some of it is, some of it's gone. Some of it we've obviously outright stripped or over-exploited, and some we've actually loved to death. And some we've recovered or are recovering! But mostly I think those guys represent a longing in ME personally for the West, both legend and actual. So they can be read as an elegy, a remembrance- not just for what may be lost or ruined, but for what is there now that is actively missed and longed for.

Every Effort Made to Preserve the Original Structure, 2011
30 x 40 inches, acrylic on panel

JV: The wry impracticality of your structures in paintings like Every Effort Made to Preserve the Original Structure are borderline absurd. Do you think of them as having a sense of humor?

JM: Yes. And "sense of humor" is what I'm going for, as opposed to "funny." So, again, tension: a hint of humor or whimsy against precariousness, vertigo, even outright danger.

I find that, in life, humor and poignancy often overlap, and I hope that some of my images contain that overlap. 

Congratulations, Canyon, 2012
52.5 x 69.5 inches, oil & acrylic on canvas
JV: I think that definitely comes through. In fact, it seems like many of your paintings read as petit celebrations about the little moments in life. A roaring camp fire, colorful pennants against a menacing sky, fireworks—they all feel very optimistic.

JM: I'm with you 100% on petit celebrations. Absolutely. As for optimism, yes, but very often a "deliberate" optimism- genuine and robust to be sure, but also partially as an act of the will to ward off the melancholy or isolation. The optimism "vies."

Dancefloor, 2011
18 x 24 inches, acrylic on panel
JV: Speaking of isolation, your work frequently depicts people coming together (in the form of multiple boats anchored around one pole, tents in a circle for protection, and your clusters of buildings). How community fit into your work?

JM: I think this goes back to optimism. That optimism is achieved, is realized in part by the dynamic of community. What better way to combat isolation? And how about community for rich, poignant tensions! It can be so light, wonderful, energizing, and effortless, and it can be...the opposite. But in a way it's almost unavoidable, almost a default for me to deal with community on some level--that's just how we live, how we interact with our world. We're all in this together.

Bird Kite, 2012
11 x 14 inches, acrylic on panel
JV: We did this interview several months ago...what has changed since then?

JM: I think the main thing that's changing is that I'm opening up my subject matter. I still have a fondness for the buildings and structures and they certainly still appear, but I'm happily admitting most anything I find interesting. I think of it as "introducing new characters" in a way. The foundations haven't changed, though. I feel the disposition of the work is the same, as is my interest in the West, broadly or narrowly defined. I feel the whimsy and humor remain, as do the different tensions I like to explore and incite. The work still has a lot of exaggeration but I think in a different way: now it's couched a little more in specific, actual or seemingly actual, landscapes. The result, I think, is that the exaggerations become more subtle and more evocative at the same time.

Eagle Kites, 2012
42 x 54 inches, oil on canvas
JV: What's been driving this approach in your latest work?

JM: The changes are all happening very organically, which is best, but also deliberately to a degree in order to keep things open and fresh, and to avoid cornering myself or being redundant. I find myself drawing more directly from personal experience these days, too. I can't say for sure why that is, but I think it has to do with a desire to see how our individual, particular worlds so often overlap and are shared, common, collective. As if to ask "do you feel this way, too? Is this true for you, too?" Mostly I feel myself "along for the ride" more than ever, letting go and being carried along, which is absolutely wonderful and a great place to be.

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Congratulations, Canyon by Jeremy Mangan
November 1 - December 1, 2012
Opening reception: Thursday, Nov 1, 6-8pm
Linda Hodges Gallery

all images courtesy of Linda Hodges Gallery and the artist. 

1 comment:

harold hollingsworth said...

super excited to see this body of work, nice interview and highlight Joey!