Artists & Makers Studios opens in early 2015, and I’m excited to announce that I’ll be renting creative space in this new home for the arts in Rockville, Maryland. The thriving complex spearheaded by Judith HeartSong will also offer education and exhibiting opportunities, plus foster networking and community connections. Judith is passionate about supporting local artists. Plan to visit as soon as A&M opens and be sure to follow their Facebook page and bookmark their website.
To get to know other artists who’ll be practicing there, I’m starting up interviews again, and I’m so pleased that the talented and dedicated Glen Kessler is the first to profile from Artists & Makers. If you're interested in art instruction, Glen is a respected instructor and mentor offering in-depth, affordable classes.
Artist Glen Kessler
Photo credit: Evan Goldman
Glen was born in 1976. He earned an MFA from New York Academy of Art and a BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. He is an internationally collected and awarded artist based out of Rockville. His paintings combine high technique with cutting-edge concepts. He is also the founder of The Compass Atelier, a revolutionary new art school delivering art instruction in a logical step-by-step curriculum.
Why do you make art?
I believe that the most important role artists play in culture is to observe the world around them as it is and to offer insightful commentary that improves people’s understanding of what is it to be alive at that time. I make my art (which is about the reshaping of our world as a result of technology, specifically the computer) because I believe this is the most important issue of contemporary culture. The computer has woven its way into every aspect of Western life in an absurdly short period of time. Without research into the effects of such a rapid, culture-wide paradigm shift we are all canaries in the mine, so to speak. Computers could promise a utopia where access to information is totally democratized, innovation skyrockets, and perhaps human brains can one day be backed-up just like computer hard drives (the result being cognitive immortality); or it could mean a breakdown in people’s humanity, an insurmountable divide between the culture’s haves and have-nots, or perhaps even extinction at the hand of a super-intelligent artificial intelligence. And while scholars, futurists, technologists, and other intellectuals explore these scenarios in labs and classrooms, I advance the dialog in my poetic visual terms.
My work presents images that appear to be familiar urban or industrial landscapes, but are in fact magnified computer circuit boards. The work explores the strange new world that is setting up around us, informed by unknown and largely unseen mechanisms, in many ways resembling our old comfortable world, but utterly alien in truth.
Does my work focus on utopia or dystopia? The answer is both... because I think both are equally plausible. I have carefully chosen compositions and colors to connect with both hope and despair. Many of the compositions I use are appropriated from early American landscape artists like Church and Bierstadt. Their images of the untamed New World were awesome and frightening. My colors utilize Albert Munsell’s complementary-colors, saturation-based model of color mixing which ensures a beautiful vibrancy even in browns and neutral grays. But I also use a healthy amount of black paint to adjust value, which results in an ominous undertone that aligns with the gravity of my study.
Describe your studio practice. For example, do you keep set hours, listen to music, or have unique rituals?
It often surprises people what I listen to in the studio, but really it shouldn’t. I listen to either high BPM (beats per minute) electronic music like Skrillex, Daft Punk, etc. or podcasts about technology. The music pushes my brush and my mind to work more quickly; the podcasts grab my attention and keep me intrigued throughout the day. I think most people have this idea that artists should clear their minds with background music or throw-away talk. I see the mind as more plastic than that—it can expand to incorporate multiple streams of activity. Of course it helps greatly that the focus of my artwork is technology and its impact on culture and the human mind.
What's the most valued tool in your art business tool kit and why?
Élan. Anyone who knows me knows of my energy and enthusiasm. As much as any technical skill, innovative concept, or heady philosophy, the delivery system by which those are shared is every bit as important to its message coming through effectively. I love everything I do; I try to convey that sense of joy and wonder in every interaction. And, especially in the unquantifiable arena of art, how one presents themselves can play a huge role in how successful they are.
CircuitScape 26: Harbor Plant
Oil on Canvas
30 x 48 Inches
CircuitScape 59: Power Coupling
Oil on Canvas
24 x 48 Inches
What tips would you give someone who wants to buy art but is afraid to start?
Trust your own taste, no matter what the establishment says! This is no easy task these days. Since the beginning of Modernism and much more in this era of Postmodernism, art has strayed from being a purely visual art form. The viewing of artwork is now generally accepted as an activity of scholarship first, visual aestheticism second. As most collectors don’t have degrees in art history and contemporary art theory, they have ceded connoisseurship to others, namely gallery owners and curators. That works so long as there is trust in these individuals, but recently there have been a number of outspoken members of this establishment who have punched holes in this system (see references below this paragraph for more information). The result is a growing ‘emperor’s new clothing’ situation. You don’t need a crystal ball to predict what is next. Culture and art operate in cycles. What was the avant garde becomes the establishment; then a new vanguard emerges, often resembling the previous cycle’s establishment; and forever it continues. So as the faith in Postmodernism fades, I foresee a return to artwork that collectors can connect with (without a translator). Recognizable imagery, relatable narratives, and a shared language of symbols seem the most likely attributes of this new work. In the end, collectors will want to trust themselves. What alternative do they really have anyway?
‘Why I Am Leaving Gagosian’ by Kenny Schachter http://www.artmarketmonitor.com/2012/03/20/why-i-am-leaving-gagosian/
‘Doyen of American critics turns his back on the 'nasty, stupid' world of modern art’ by Edward Helmore and Paul Gallagher http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/oct/28/art-critic-dave-hickey-quits-art-world
Thank you, Glen, for sharing insights into your practice, connecting with art, and more! Your enthusiasm will be a cornerstone of Artists & Makers.
To learn more about Glen, visit the links below or see one of his upcoming shows to personally experience his intriguing, earnest work up close.
www.GlenKessler.com / www.facebook.com/GlenKesslerArt / Twitter - @GlenKessler
www.TheCompassAtelier.com / www.facebook.com/TheCompassAtelier / Twitter - @CompassAtelier
'Size Doesn't Matter'
Glave Kocen Gallery
1620 West Main St
Richmond, VA 23220
January 9-31, 2015
A group exhibition featuring small works. Glen will have many 2"x3" and 4"x6" works on view and for sale.
Hillyer Art Space
9 Hillyer Ct
Washington, DC 20008
A solo exhibition at one of DC's most well-respected exhibition spaces.