NATALIE KATES PROJECTS

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Image: Artist Damian Aquiles site specific sculpture at Core Club curated by Natalie Kates

Studio visit with Jordan Tinker

Artist Statement: I'm interested in the space between reality and memory, figure and ground, looking and seeing.  I'm searching for those moments and thoughts that are not wrapped in language.  Art for me is a byproduct of ritual.

Natalie Kates: I’m in the studio of Jordan Tinker in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  I’m always interested in meeting new artists in their studios and getting a perspective of their creative process.  Today I am in Greenpoint, Brooklyn at the studio of Jordan Tinker. The first thing that occurred to me is the cohesiveness that exists between his paintings, photography, and sculpture. One of his projects I found really interesting are the found stuffed animals that are layered with acrylic gesso until they become new forms, a sort of ecto skeleton or cocooning of the object.  Can you tell me about these pieces and your process?

Jordan Tinker: I guess I’d call them “gessoed animals”. The process, I think, started in Maine when I was visiting my parents, I went to a thrift shop and found pretty much a garbage bag full of used stuffed animals.  I was thinking about using them as a surface for paintings. I’m pretty much from a painting background, but as I started layering them with this gesso they really kind of took a life of their own. I guess it’s not even about the result, it’s about the process and the act of layering is a process that I feel brings up memories, imagined memory, thinking about the owners of these animals and how they imposed or projected their own feelings onto them, and how they are really not animals, they are just these dumb objects made out of polyester and then there’s paint on top. But I was also thinking a lot about the ground and, like, in painting you have what’s called “the ground” and usually the ground is created with gesso which, I think, is just Italian for “plaster”. So, that’s why I specify acrylic. I worked for an artist while I was in high school, sometime in the ‘80s, Kenneth Noland, he was a pretty famous color field painter, and his whole contribution was sort of, in the history books at least, sort of an extension of what Jackson Pollock’s big breakthrough was, about this idea of getting rid of the ground, or the paint and the surface, paint and the support, all become one. This idea, this kind of democratic surface, where the figure-ground relationship is just a field of experience, evolved into color field painting, and I was thinking about this notion of art history and American art history and it’s really kind of silly, that it’s a big breakthrough, you get rid of gesso. And how Helen Frankenthaler and Mouris Louis, these guys are all staining canvas, and Clement Greenberg, the star critic at the time, he was talking about how there’s no longer this illusionistic depth, everything has to sort of happen on one picture plane. The importance of that movement, I chuckle about it, it’s like “So what?”, you know. I feel like art has to go a little further than that. This work here has a kind of playfulness but also a kind of art historical reference at the same time. I don’t know if it is obvious in the work or not, but at least that’s what I am thinking about.

NK: There are certainly lots of artists who take found objects and create and use them in their works. I like the fact that they are found objects and they were objects that were once loved by children and how you re-imagined them.  In your studio, you have paintings, sculptures, photography, light pieces. Is there one medium you prefer to work in?

JT: No, I am pleased that we have access to so many tools and mediums. I don’t really want to be the gesso guy, I don’t want to be the light box guy. I don’t feel there is one particular medium that sort of characterizes my work, maybe I try to avoid that. If anything, I think drawing has the most importance to me. It always has. I feel like drawing is the essential vehicle for looking. I feel like any of these mediums is just a way for me to try and see things differently, or really see – I think there’s a difference between seeing and looking. You know, you can look at something, but at what point do we really see it? Drawing is a great tool for that process. I like charcoal, pencil, even though they might not be so apparent here, I feel like that’s the backbone of it all.

NK: Did you study art?

JT: Yea.

NK: And what school did you go to?

JT: I went to Cooper Union from 1986 to 1990.

NK: I grew up not knowing you could make a career as an artist. I also was raised to believe art was something you had to experience at a museum.  What was your experience with art growing up and when did you realize that you want to be an artist?

JT: Yea, interesting question. I kind of have to tell you may whole life story. My dad is an artist, and he has a Master’s degree and an extensive knowledge of art history, so I grew up on that. Probably, my first real epiphany, life-changing moment, was when we were taking a family vacation. We never had money, so our family vacations meant visiting relatives in the boonies and we went way upstate, somewhere up there, near Canada, and on the way back, I was five and he said “Oh, there’s a famous sculptor” and this was in early 70s, so he had just passed away I guess a few years prior, but he said David Smith had a studio up there, near Lake George, in a town called Bolton Landing. And we stopped on our way home from this family vacation, and I remember as a kid we pulled off the road to where there was a chain link fence, and I remember looking through the chain link fence and seeing this property full of sculptures, and I am just thinking, like “Wow, this guy, this was his job” and they looked like giant toys to me and it just blew me away that it was clear in the work that he was only making it for himself, and it just really struck me. And then, I think that my first research paper that I did in 3rd or 4th grade was on David Smith. Nobody knew who he was, even my teachers had no idea. So that kind of really started it and then, my father was friends with a painter that he taught with and I remember going to his studio and then going home, and kinda mimicking his paintings in tempra paint on newsprint and then came back to his studio, my dad brought me back, I had a little critique, he was like “Oh, you need to use better materials, this stuff is gonna rot eventually”. And so, I was lucky to have a really good support system and grew up on that.  We had books about the Renaissance on our coffee table, and it was a really creative environment.  The alternative art college where my dad taught closed, so he made a living in our garage, welding. He became a welder, and then he opened a business in town, doing wrought iron work; fancy gates, railings, fireplace tools and stuff like that, and he pretty much stopped making art. He was a tradesman at that point, and at the end of the day, instead of going to the shop and making sculpture, he hit the bar. He hung out with local plumbers and electricians. And so, I could tell that he was kinda bitter and it was a tough path that he chose. I showed interest in art pretty early on, and he always told me I would never make a living at it. And I was sure that I would never make a living at it and I still don’t make a living at it. But then, I remember the first year at Cooper Union, I really had planned on taking commercial art courses, and I probably should have pursued more practical courses. I remember with a couple of friends of mine, we planned to go to a club and instead went to the village and bought some LSD – but, instead of going to the club (we were all dressed up and ready to go clubbing) we ended up going to Grand Central Station and finding the last train that was leaving the station. We ended up going upstate on this train, tripping on acid and found a rowboat, went out on to the Hudson, it was a full moon, spent the night out on the Hudson, came back, got back on a commuter train along the Hudson. There was beautiful mist rising over the river. We came back to the city, got to drawing class on time and the drawing professor that we had took a leave and we had this new drawing teacher who gave us a slide lecture of great drawings and I remember my friends were really passed out in this dark lecture room, and I was looking at these slides of artists that were kinda heroes of mine – everybody from Rembrandt to Mondrian, and there was an image of an elephant drawn by Rembrandt, and it was kinda in that moment – you know, I wasn’t in a tripped out state or anything anymore – but still I realized that this is what I am meant to do. I felt the connection. It’s pretty pompous to feel connected with Rembrandt, but still I was like “This is the course I have to go” and at that moment I knew that everything I was going to do is to make sure that I could live the life of an artist and create art. It was just a matter of figuring out how to make it all work. At the same time, when I was in high school, I worked for this famous artist, and I had seen, witnessed what it is like to be a professional artist and have critics come, and get shows in NY, and so it was clear that there was a possibility. It still seemed out of reach cause I know how rare it is that that actually happens and works out, so, I think that this answers your question

NK: How big of a role does social medial play in terms of promoting your art?

JT: None

NK: If you could be in any museum which would it be and why?

JT: The Met because it has given me so much

NK:  What is currently on your playlist?

JT: Playlist? I like vinyl records.

NK:  What is your website address?

JT: www.jordantinker.com