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Gavin's Underground

October Gallery Stroll: Jethro Gillespie

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2008-10-21 -

Back to the Stroll we go this month, taking a trip to Broadway for a single showing down in one very artistic basement.

Signed & Numbered opened up its doors once again for another showing, continuing to be a must-see stop along the night. This time to display the work of Jethro Gillespie in his work titled "Glory & Woe". Showcasing his perspective on life in an almost autobiographical way, in different forms from profiles to collages that focus on every emotion across the spectrum. I stepped in this past Friday to take photos of his showing, and I also got a chance to chat with Jethro about his art, his education, his thoughts on the scene and a few other questions here and there.

Jethro Gillespie

http://jethrogillespie.com/

Gavin: Hey Jethro. First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Jethro: Hi. I just turned 29. I teach art classes at Springville Jr. High in Utah County. I'm married and we have a one-year old son. I like good music and friendly people and bowling. I finally figured out how to spin the ball last week.

Gavin: What first got you interested in doing art for a living, and what were some of your inspirations?

Jethro: I've always enjoyed making drawings and paintings. I think I started out similar to a lot of kids, feeding off the encouragement of others. Then when I studied in school, I really got into the theory/history/concept side of things. I've had great teachers and friends along the way.

Gavin: For those unfamiliar with your work, what are you most known for in the local art community?

Jethro: Ha. I wouldn't say that I'm very well known. I've experimented with a lot of different techniques and processes, but lately I would say that I'm exploring some simplified portraits with an introspective, metaphorical focus on my perceptions of culture, God, and the general troubles of life.

Gavin: You studied art at BYU and got your BFA in 2006. How was the program up there, and what were some of your experiences with it during that time?

Jethro: You know, I think BYU has a great visual arts program. The professors there are great. Wayne Kimball is probably one of the most meticulous lithographers in the nation, if not the world. (I did mostly printmaking while I was there). I felt like there was a big 'conceptual' push developing while I was there, as the whole program was encouraging students to be critical thinkers and observers as well as skilled in their craft. I think the main thing holding BYU's art scene back is the number of committed students. My friends there were making some really great stuff, but I think BYU just needs more of them.

Gavin: Why did you choose to study Maroi style paintings?

Jethro: Part of my experience at BYU included 2 field studies trips to New Zealand. We made friends with a lot of Maori people there and became quite close. I don't pretend to totally understand everything about their culture, but I feel like I understand a bit of their history, struggles, and current situation. My paintings don't include traditional Maori imagery. I think what I got from my exchange with my New Zealand friends was an expanded perception of the world, as well as some more specific ideas/symbols that give a cohesive, thematic foundation for these latest portraits.

Gavin: You also teach art over at Springville Jr. High. How did that opportunity come about, and how has you’re your time teaching there been like?

Jethro: With my BFA, I also got my teaching certificate. I got the job because the principal of the school contacted BYU and the professors gave him my name. This is currently my full time gig, and I really like it. You'd think being a Jr. High teacher would just about do me in, but the kids are really great. My room is the old cafeteria in the basement of the school, between the dirt floor crawlspace access and the boiler room.

Gavin: A lot of your work is oil based and focuses on profiles. What made you decide to paint like that?

Jethro: You know, after studying so many different styles of painting, I sometimes felt like I had to do it all. The images for this October Gallery Stroll have been purposely simplified. I'm not after photo-realism. I'm after the idea. I'm not trying to paint people, I'm trying to paint the idea of people. I think that's what Plato was talking about.

Gavin: Do you ever feel like oil works aren’t getting the appeal they once were, or that it’s become more for a selective audience?

Jethro: As for painting with oil, I like what British painter Fiona Ray says. That basically oil may be old fashioned, but so is using TV, Video, or Installation. After something's been around for a year or two, it becomes 'not new'. And more important than the media you're using is what you (as the artist) bring to these artforms that matters.

Gavin: You also do some mixed media prints. How do you usually go about starting one?

Jethro: They usually start as experiments. I'll do a handful, and if one or two sticks out to me, if I think something has potential, I'll end up doing about 8-10 for every one 'successful' one. The mixed media prints for this show started as transfer drawings of chairs, then I added spray paint, raw gesso and acrylic paint. Sometimes the biggest challenge for those ones is knowing when to stop playing with it. I hate it when one looks good, and I take it too far and end up ruining it.

Gavin: Tell us about the “Glory & Woe” display you’re showing for the Stroll.

Jethro: The short answer is that "Glory & Woe" for me represents the space I find between being a saint and a sinner. For me a saint is someone who can deal with the woes of an imperfect world while striving for the glorious ideals of a better one. Read this for a more thorough explanation.

Gavin: Where did the idea come from to do a show at Signed & Numbered?

Jethro: I just met Leia a few months ago though a friend, furturtle. He does great screen print posters for bands. When I tell people that I'm showing at Signed & Numbered, some act surprised, like "Oh! that's the cool one." So I feel lucky to be there. Leia and her staff are great.

Gavin: A little state-wide, what’s your take on the local art scene, both good and bad?

Jethro: From the little I have seen and know about, I think SLC is becoming a stronger art scene. I think it needs to continue to grow. We need more people that care about art. State-wide, I think we have our work cut out for us. I love being in a (teaching) position where I get to show 12-14 year olds some contemporary stuff that they otherwise would not know about. It blows them away, and most of them really like it.

Gavin: Is there anything you think could be done to make it bigger or better?

Jethro: You know, I think if there was more support for the arts in the public schools (I know I'm biased), we would have stronger numbers in our art programs, and it would become more competative, and therefore yield better results. Most people think of art teachers as crazy, burnt out, crafty, or all of the above. We need to change that perception. If we had teachers that were socially conscious, producing artists, that would help. My short answer is that the kids here in Utah secondary schools need to be exposed to more contemporary art, in all forms.

Gavin: What are your thoughts on Gallery Stroll and how it’s evolved over the years?

Jethro: I think its a great thing, I think it would succeed faster with some more publicity. Again, exposure is the answer. I always have a good time when I come up to it.

Gavin: What can we expect from you the rest of the year?

Jethro: I am going to make some more larger paintings after this show. I have a lot of ideas that I want to try. I will also be part of the November Gallery Stroll with Signed & Numbered -- "This Is The Place"!

Gavin: Is there anything you’d like to plug or promote?

Jethro: KaiserCartel, King Khan & the Shrines, The Grand Archives, Dr. Dog, Josh Ritter, the 'Stuff You Should Know' podcast, Brian Kershiznik, Cassandra Barney, KRCL, babies, Kurt Vonnegut novels, frosted flakes, and the sea.

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