This past Friday was relatively okay as far as February weather goes; decent enough to get in a couple of galleries for this month's Gallery Stroll. --- Most of the strollers I saw were simply looking for a place to hang and chat, which is a tad insulting to both artists and galleries. We are in an age where you can communicate several different ways throughout the day -- couldn't you just go enjoy the art and not look for a reason to talk about how your cat isn't taking its dietary drug? But, I digress ...
This month, we made our way over to 400 South and the small-but-impressive showing at the House Gallery, where artist Jared Clark was displaying his exhibition of conceptual painting works. We chat with him about his career and the displays on hand, plus his thoughts on the local art scene, all with pictures that you can check out here.
Gavin: Hey, Jared. First thing, tell us a bit about yourself.
Jared: I've been back in Utah for two years now after some time in Virginia and Brooklyn. I work for the Road Home with Salt Lake's homeless population and teach some adjunct art classes at Weber State.
Gavin: What first got you interested in art, and what were some of your early inspirations?
Jared: I was drawing at an early age as a toddler living in Mexico; my father is an archaeologist and also talented with drawing, and never stopped. I'm the result of sustained illicit experimentation with art through my entire schooling.
Gavin: You originally went to BYU for your BFA. What made you choose that original field, and how was BYU at the time for you?
Jared: Choosing art as my major was the natural decision due to the truth of the previous answer. BYU was completely great; I loved it. It was a fantastic BFA program with top-notch teachers and students and an unusually large amount of opportunities to show nationwide. Many of my friends from that time have gone on to some of the best grad schools and are continuing on to greater and greater acclaim with their artwork and curation . Check out Casey Jex Smith, Mike Kelly, Todd Chilton, Christopher Lynn, Gian Pierotti, Chris Coy, Ryan Browning, Sean Morello, Shawn Bitters, Chris Purdie, Joe Penrod and Mike Whiting.
Gavin: What drew you toward mixed media at that time, specifically sculpture works?
Jared: I think the thing that drew me to mixing medias came from the fact that I just had large piles of useless stuff hanging around at all times. In addition to drawing, I grew up always collecting. Being a third grader collecting marbles and Garbage Pail Kids to the thrift store enthusiast I had become by high school led, perhaps inevitably, to a marriage of my artwork and my junk.
Gavin: Shortly after, you transferred to Virginia Commonwealth University to earn your MFA. Why the change rather than continue with BYU, and how did VCU compare to BYU's art program?
Jared: I think this is true in other studies other than art, but it isn't recommended that one obtain their MFA degree in the same place as one's BFA, so it's kind of a moot question; but I applied to VCU because it was so highly ranked (first in sculpture and 10th in painting) and was open to painters experimenting with installation and video. VCU is also a wonderful school so I feel really lucky with both of my institutions -- and extra lucky to have studied with the people that coincided with me both times. One big difference is that with VCU's proximity to New York, it had made many connections with artists and critics working there and would invite them to be studio visitors and visiting instructors so I got those kind of interactions in a greater quantity than at BYU.
Gavin: What made you decide to return to Utah, and how was it for you breaking back into the art scene?
Jared: My return to Utah was based on pursuing a relationship; otherwise, I had planned on staying in New York. But I love Salt Lake, and contrary to New York logic, my career has been flourishing here. Being an artist here is, in some ways, more exciting because there is an underdog growth happening right now due to ambitious artists and curators. I feel lucky to be a part of it, meeting people, and getting chances to show my work.
Gavin: How do you decide what kind of a piece you're going to make, and what's the process like for you in bringing that to fruition?
Jared: I have various things I do so it's hard to make a broad answer to this question, but many times my process begins by making a collection -- sometimes over the course of years -- and playing, literally -- like a child plays with toys -- with possible combinations of objects until I find something that works for me. Also, an overarching theme to my decisions is to relate back to painting, so that informs and gives structure to my direction.
Gavin: Do you tend to mix up the designs or change things around while making something, or do you tend to stick to the original concept you started with?
Jared: I need to always have something "next" in mind -- a way to challenge or improve upon what I made before -- or else I will lose interest in that particular concept. As far as the installation work goes, the creation happens on site so there is always the aspect of flexibility with my original concept at play. It makes things exciting and sometimes stressful. I think the risk is apparent in the work and gives it some vitality.
Gavin: In recent years, you've had the opportunity to take your works around the country, hitting up major spots in California and New York, and several others along the way. How has it been for you being able to display for a wider audience, and what's the reaction you've received out of state?
Jared: It's been fantastic. Art can create a great excuse to travel and see friends and make new friends. I mostly feel like I'm sharing my work with those friends, so it's been surprising and encouraging when strangers approach me at shows and express delight and/or inspiration due to my work. I guess it feels like the ultimate true compliment coming from a stranger.
Gavin: Tell us about the works you have on display for this month's Stroll.
Jared: The work at House Gallery is about painting but there are no conventional paintings in the show. I'm conveying painting concepts via objects that are more associated with non-art, or kitsch. It's really about generosity. The colors are bright and generous and the work is generous in the way each piece rewards further inspection with surprises. Because of the generosity of the work and the candy-like surfaces on some of my wall sculptures, the show is titled Free Candy. My co-worker, Mindy Ault (and her daughter, Kate), came up with the title when I invited my office mates to help me come up with a name for the show. "Free Candy" instantly resonated with me and led to an idea for a collaborative piece. Visitors to the show are invited to take some free candy from a bowl of lollipops I’ve provided and, after enjoying a taste, are asked to help make a lollipop sculpture on a white box sculpture plinth in the middle of the room. Aesthetically, it goes perfectly with the rest of the show, and conceptually it takes my "found object" approach to a level where I am not even choosing the final outcome of the piece since the composition is decided by the collective of visitors to the gallery.
Gavin: What are your thoughts on being displayed at House Gallery this month and working with Julie Dunker?
Jared: I'm thrilled to show at House with Julie. She has a great eye and her space is gorgeous. She keeps her walls and floors so pristine that it felt like a crime to drip ink all over them -- but the wall/floor paintings also look best within that immaculate environment so I'm grateful she let me do it.
Gavin: Moving on to local art, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?
Jared: The Salt Lake contemporary art scene seems to be growing in leaps and bounds. I don't focus on anything that would be considered bad about the scene. Complaining about art in Utah is too obvious and boring a conversation. It's more exciting to focus on the great people that are here and the amazing shows and events that are growing in this city despite its diminutive size.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make things more prominent?
Jared: You know, I saw this -- "things becoming more prominent" -- happening in Richmond, which is similar in size to SLC, and they have an unusually vibrant art scene, and Gallery Stroll was a huge event every month. I'm not sure how to do that, but it definitely had a lot to do with the strength of VCU and the contemporary-art museum there. It seems the more they grew in prominence and attracted more and better artists to the city, the more contemporary galleries and art centers sprung up, collectors were born, and the more pride the city took in its contemporary arts.
Gavin: Who are some local artists you believe people should be checking out?
Jared: Jorge Rojas, Kenny Riches, Cara DeSpain, Mary Toscano, Jessica Peterson, Adam Bateman, Roland Thompson, Allan Ludwig, Kate Mooth, Jason Metcalf, Matt Choberka, Daniel Everett, Josh Winegar, Morganne Witchfield, Paul Crow, Gary Barton, Von Allen, Brian Christensen, Susan Kruger, Joe Ostraff, Jared Steffenson, Stephanie Leitch, Peter Everett and the legendary Bruce Smith, to name a few in no particular order except for the last one.
Gavin: What's your opinion on Gallery Stroll today and the work being displayed each month?
Jared: I love Gallery Stroll. Let's create a thesis that explores: As goes Gallery Stroll, so goes the civilization of a city.
Gavin: While we're on the topic a bit, what's your take on our local galleries and what they're doing to support the scene?
Jared: I'm familiar with House, Knox, Stolen & Escaped, Kayo, Blonde Grizzly and Rio and I'm impressed with what's going on, because it's hard to keep up, it's a labor of love. It's the people running these spaces and sacrificing to keep them going that are enriching our lives and allowing people like me to contribute to that.
Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of this year and going into next?
Jared: Man, I think you can expect me to stick around and amass collections of refrigerators, aquariums, knife blocks, and ceramic bunnies. Beyond that, art is a fickle game and you never know when the next show is coming or going. My secret gallery aspiration right now is to show in Mexico City for an excuse to hang out with artist Pablo Rasgado and poet Benjamin Morales.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Jared: My job here in SLC has me sensitized to the plight of the homeless, hungry, and/or abused of our city. Please support The Road Home, The YWCA, and other shelters, and above all, treat everyone with respect to their face and behind their back.
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