JB: The foundation of my art practice is deeply grounded in a photographic vernacular though in recent years some works have found different finished forms beyond printed photographs.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
JB: Sounds trite but I tend to draw inspiration from almost everywhere. Other visual artists, philosophy, psychology, advertising, and language/literature are all regular considerations but a conversation overheard from another table at a restaurant, something I come across in a strange corner of the internet, or a scrap of paper found on the ground are all fair game for inspiration in my book.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/piece of artwork?
JB: I typically start a new project well before I consciously am aware that I have. I tend to work very serially under a broad general framework as opposed to individual pieces. At some point in the process, I start to divert from that initial framework, usually without knowing it. When I pick up on this change, it is usually a signal it is time to wrap up the older body of work and start thinking about what makes these new pieces different. There is always overlap too though and I find the process of working on at least 3 projects at once that have slightly different modes of making to suit my workflow well.
CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?
JB: Artwork is only as interesting as a viewer is in it. Context and circumstance create meaning.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
JB: I’m very lucky to be currently employed in academia. I run two student art galleries on the University of Oregon campus and also teach Photography and Digital Art courses. This in addition to trying to keep up a studio practice and somewhat of a social life usually keeps me quite busy during the school year but affords the opportunity for a lot of flexibility in other ways, especially in the summers. I love my current positions because I get to talk about art all day and the relationships feel symbiotic in what everyone involved gets out of them. I’m also a founding member of the artist collective (Tropical Contemporary) based out of a warehouse space in Eugene, OR. We put on themed group shows, do group critiques with the members, use the area as a shared studio space when exhibitions aren’t happening and are working on other types of programming to engage with the community in different ways. My partner is a cellist working on her D.M.A. (Doctor of Musical Arts degree) so I have one foot in a classical music lifestyle too.
JB: Depends on the task… something I learned early is that artists wear a lot of hats. In terms of making work out in the world, most of the time I act pretty intuitively when I find something interesting but that decision is still grounded in previous experience and the framework of the project. For my more studio based work I might have a loose idea for the objects/composition/lighting. However, I certainly don’t sketch things out beforehand. I just let it develop in my mind and find a way to make that happen while allowing some tweaking during the shooting. Applying to grants/shows/responding to emails and so on is also artistic work too, though. If you don’t work toward putting your art out into the world or if you are professionally hard to work with it will close doors for your art. For those sorts of tasks, I find setting a strict plan for when to do them throughout the week works better for me.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?
JB: Learn to be your own harshest critic (don’t show your failures).
CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?
JB: No, I actively work against creating only a single “style” of work.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
JB: Having the guts to start something new when what you are currently doing is being well received but mentally you are done with it.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
JB: It is a license to be curious, to explore, to go down a rabbit hole, experiments without needing to produce “marketable” or quantifiable results every session.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?
JB: Being a teacher and wanting to present different viewpoints leads me to actively engage with a variety of artwork that is admirable but not necessarily a direct inspiration to my own practice. However, anything you are viewing can inform your own ideas, even if by simply affirming what you are not currently interested in. My point being that I think you learn more by difference than by only looking at work which looks very similar to what you desire to make.
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
JB: Artists have always used tools to execute their vision but in many cases, the ideas/perspectives contained in the work are the meat of art, not the technology used to create the pieces. I certainly am interested to see how art changes as technology continues to advance but I tend to be suspicious of work that is too much about the technology itself as opposed to bending the technology to suit the artist’s intentions.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
JB: No, I don’t believe so.
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
JB: I find new locations fruitful for the type of work I make. In terms of recreational travel though I’m much happier piling a bunch of camping gear in an SUV and exploring the nature as opposed to hoping on a plane to LA.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
JB: I enjoyed reading Boris Groy’s “In the Flow” recently. I mostly stopped reading for pleasure in graduate school and have kept up that habit of mostly only reading art theory, exhibition reviews, introductions to artist books, artists statements/interviews and other similar materials. Perhaps the closest thing to “pleasure” reading is that I do a lot of research on the side into the social effects of technology (so people like Sherry Turkle, Kevin Kelly, Nicolas Bourriaud, Lev Manovich, Simon Penny, David P Marshall, Henry Jenkins, Brad Tromel, Anna Everett.) A lot of the quicker to digest information I find in regards to technology with social implications ends up on this blog: http://personal.jonathanbagby.com/
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?
JB: Professionally I definitely have some milestones I want to hit (a big solo show, curatorial pursuits, and finishing some art books stuck in various stages of completion, among other things) but more importantly, I want the work to continue to challenge me. I don’t want to fall into the mechanized production of pumping out similar work year after year.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
JB: As an artist, you run the gamut of emotions akin to Shakespeare play on the regular. The highs and lows, both externally and internally, are totally worth it to me at this point. I plan to keep riding the wave until they are not.
CH.89: What’s the last song you listened to?
JB: I’m constantly listening to music when I’m in my studio/office but it is something I, for the most part, have outsourced to technology. I make huge playlists titled with different beverage names themed to a mood. This morning I have been listening to “Cream Soda” while typing up this interview. Alternatively, if I happen to enjoy an album in its entirety (which is rare) I will use it as a specific duration of time to divide up tasks and then I know it is time to move on to the next mode of working when the album finishes.
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?
JB: The work in this interview is all from a recent series called “Satellite Beach”. For my other projects check out www.jonathanbagby.com