Jamie and I are two of the newer members of GearBox and I was intrigued to visit him in his studio. We first walked through his house where the walls are filled with Jamie’s paintings, very tempting to just stay there and absorb the work. His studio is also filled, on the walls and in racks suspended from the ceiling. He obviously has a dedicated regimen for working, which happens after a full day of teaching and on weekends. I asked him about his process, inspiration, and history, and I’ll let him tell it in his own words.
What inspired the images you are making now? How long have they been your focus?
My current work is born from the underbelly of the forest: eroded hillsides, gorgeously profane fungal protrusions, nests, webs, and rotten stumps. Much of this work is from the point of view of kneeling and peering into a world not made for the human body. It’s a world made for scurrying insects, worms and arachnids. I’ve been working on this current series of acrylic paintings for the past two years, but they are part of a larger body of work that started nearly eight years ago.
When did you settle on painting and drawing as your means of expression?
I fell in love with painting because of color and surface. I adore the variety of marks a brush can make. I remember when I first learned the term “plastic space” and I was amazed that you could create the illusion of depth with just color. I love the idea of creating an illusion and playing with optical mixing. I always come back to drawing because it can be done anywhere, and it’s such a marvelous escape. It transports me from a boring meeting, a cramped flight or being sick in bed. My work is about organizing the world through form, marks, and color. I find comfort in that organization; it calms my panic and gives me hope.
Did anyone inspire you to pursue art-making, if so who and what influence did they have on you? My great aunt Joan Tanner is an artist, and I grew up seeing her work develop. I loved seeing her constantly pushing boundaries, experimenting and surrounding herself with other creatives. Another influence was one of my painting professors at the University of Michigan, Jim Cogswell. I worked as his studio and project assistant for a few semesters, and I really saw what it was like to balance one’s family life, studio life, and teaching life. I was moved by how driven he was to create no matter what life would throw his way. I’m fascinated by the lives of artists for whom making things is non-negotiable. It must be in their lives at all times. In graduate school, I adored the work of Louise Bourgeois. I remember watching a studio interview with her on Art 21, and I knew I wanted to have a full life art practice like that. Every corner of her house, her studio, even her bedroom was a site for creative inquiry. I’ve achieved a life like that. It amazes me to say that, but I actually get to think about art every waking moment of my day…when I’m teaching a student how to draw with a weighted line in my classroom, to my quiet moments alone in my studio.
Photos in this post by Rachel Kantor