I think I saw Gavin Zeigler’s work www.gavinzeigler.com for the first time quite a few years ago at either The Armory Show or Art Basel Miami Beach. I also recall seeing it at ArtHamptons and thinking, I’ve got to try to interview that guy! Well, one day he emailed me and told me about his 30-year retrospective exhibition and offered to send me a show catalogue. Needless to say I said yes and the rest is history … or at least this cool interview …
MICHAEL: Hey Gavin, I love your work. I must say that as we're chatting, you're celebrating a 30-year retrospective of painting and sculpture show at Peter Marcelle Gallery in Bridgehamton. Congratulations! What would you say are the most important things you've learned during this career thus far?
GAVIN: Hi Michael, Yes, I am celebrating 30 years of painting and sculpture at the Peter Marcelle Gallery in Bridgehampton, NY. Very exciting! In working as an artist for thirty plus years, I have learned several important things. One, never stop working. For me, working everyday just makes me a better artist. In working every day, mistakes are made and I learn from them. Two, work with the best materials you can afford. I personally hold work that is well made in high regard. Lastly, I would have to say get out and see things! Museum exhibitions, art openings and meet people in the process.
MICHAEL: 30 years is long enough to see fads come and go. Still, it seems that painting has basically remained the same. Has your technique changed radically? It doesn't look like it has.
GAVIN: I have always "built" my paintings utilizing various mediums and techniques. The only constant has been acrylic paint as my paint of choice. In the early 1990s, I saw small paintings by Kurt Schwitters at a NYC gallery show and about the same time met Richard Kalina. Both of these extremely talented artists used techniques that basically speaking got me to thinking! These two individuals in their own way influenced my painting in that it was at this time that they started introducing everyday objects, such as pennies, stock certificates, keys and old bank checks into the mixed media paintings. Living in NYC had numerous effects on me and my work, even down to the grid pattern that so inhabits my paintings to this day. Over the past thirty years, the work has evolved as I have become more comfortable with color and various techniques that I have picked up in wood working and by accident.
MICHAEL: How has New York changed for you?
GAVIN: New York City is quite an amazing place on lots of levels. Art is everywhere and the quantity and quality of the museums is unsurpassed! On top of that, there are galleries representing art from A to Z! NYC's art not only resides in galleries and museums, but in concert halls and show houses. New York City for me has a treasure trove of interesting people and ideas. If anything, it has made me a broader thinker.
MICHAEL: Your work seems very sophisticated, refined and orderly to me. These are qualities that young artists simply can't achieve without experience. What is it about only the passage of time that can make this reality?
GAVIN: Thank you Michael! The work has evolved over time and that is really just a product of having an idea and continually trying to improve upon it. I tend to work in series, for example, I have a "Bandwidth Series," "Delta Series," "Cityscape Series" and "Construction Series" just to name a few. It is working within these series that I make discoveries and it is these discoveries that cause the work to change/grow/develop. Working is the only way I grow as an artist.
MICHAEL: Your sculptural work is sort of human, but not really and it's very modern and relate-able. It's a perfect match for the paintings. Is this by happenstance?
GAVIN: Michael, you would be correct to some degree as some of my sculptures do have a human element/feel. An example of this would be "Angular Presence." This particular piece certainly has attributes that would seem almost human. The sculptures, unlike the paintings, are influenced by objects I have experienced visually. The act of discovery is not as important in these pieces. For example "Venus" is my contemporary version of the famous Venus of Willendorf sculpture that was created some 35,000 years ago. "Orchard at Night" is based on an orchard of trees in Amagansett that I frequently pass by. "Victory" is just that a proud V, for victory. "Shogun" is based on Japanese armor that I had the pleasure of seeing the in Arms and Armor exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The sculptures are made in mahogany and cast to bronze by the Modern Art Foundry in Long Island City, NY. I only do editions of six with one A/P. All are signed, dated, numbered and carry a foundry mark. Virtually any size is possible. The paintings are more about taking everyday objects and presenting it to the viewer in a different way with the element of discovery. Color, the fact that people have "handled" the material is important, an unofficial history if you will. Painting came first and it was a very logical progression to go into sculpture.
MICHAEL: Where does your talent come from? Do you come from an artistic family?
GAVIN: My mother is artistic as was her mother. So I would imagine it came from that side of the family. I'm dyslexic, so as a child drawing and making things came before reading. I have always been very visual.
MICHAEL: I wouldn't have known you were dyslexic. I don't know how that affects your life, but it certainly hasn't hurt your work. Has it helped in any way? Although I would imagine you might not have anything to compare it to.
GAVIN: It has very little effect in my life aside from reversing numbers or switching numbers around. I certainly have to measure twice! LOL. As far as helping or hurting, I don't think it has affected my work as an artist.
MICHAEL: What do you think about the art world/art market and how they function today? Many emerging artists and even some established artists are struggling.
GAVIN: I personally think being an artist is quite a difficult way of life for 98 percent of artists, present company included. It is really the last cottage industry in this country. As a result, health insurance and other perks offered to employees of companies aren't available to artists. I certainly don't want to be a gloom peddler, but it’s just the facts. I do know of and read about artists who command and receive large amounts for their paintings and sculptures, though this is not widespread. On the other side of the coin, being an artist has some wonderful perks corporate folks don't have available to them. Things such as being you own boss, taking off when you wish, working on your passion and working with someone or not. The art world is just that, one without borders. The Internet has changed business practices and made getting yourself out to the world easier.
MICHAEL: What do you think is needed to get more people interested in contemporary art? There are certainly stumbling blocks.
GAVIN: Education. On another note, people in my opinion, don't often show an interest in things they don't understand and I attribute this to education. People need to be introduced to new ideas. Getting someone out of their comfort zone can be challenging.
MICHAEL: That's for sure. Do you work on art every day? What's your routine like? Do you listen to music or watch TV while working? Is painting a meditative process or something else for you?
GAVIN: I work every day, at least try. Life creeps in every once and awhile. My household is up early every morning regardless of the weather or other factors. I could swear Olive Oyl, one of my three dogs, has a wristwatch with an alarm or can read time because she gets up every morning between 5 and 6. Jodi, Chase and the dogs all have breakfast together. I try to be in the Shelter Island studio at 8 and work ‘til 5:30. From some perspectives, it could almost seem like a job, hours that is ... I don't look at it that way though. My three dogs, Lola (16), Olive Oyl (13), and Samson (6) do seem to view it as work and love to pile into the truck to go with me to the studio. We spend 24 hours a day together! They have various beds and sofas from which to watch me work, while also having an amazing view through the glass garage doors to fuss at people walking by. I work without TV, always. I do sometimes listen to NPR, a local radio station or music from my iPod. I occasionally take breaks to read or do work on the computer. Most days, it is just me and on rare occasions, I have a helper. I work alone. I tend to work on many paintings at once. Sometimes, as many as 20. While one is drying, I move to another. There are even times when I'm working on a piece of studio furniture and painting at the same time. Lots of balls in the air so to speak!
MICHAEL: That all sounds great Gavin, but honestly, isn't contemporary art really just subversive bull crap? I mean, what's the point of it all? No one thinks art is as important as health insurance or paved roads. Many, if not most people don't think art is important at all, so why should anyone care?
GAVIN: Au contraire Michael! By definition, Contemporary Art was created in the late 1960s and continues to be made up to this very second. Contemporary Art reflects a modern way of thinking and viewing the world we live in. Furthermore, it projects a new way of presenting ideas, beliefs, and practices while having roots in history, many kinds of history. Contemporary Art represents growth, where artists are creating works of art that are unexpected and unique. For me and people who understand my work, people who understand my "language" so to speak, they know it's a passion. They understand the significance of a contemporary view point. In some respects, it’s a way of living in a world where you can escape paved roads and health insurance, albeit briefly at times.
MICHAEL: Indeed. Finally Gavin, with 30 years of creating art behind you, What do you want to do now and in the future?
GAVIN: Michael more than anything ... to live a healthy, long and productive life as I don't plan on retiring, but rather working ‘til it's time to go. At least another 30!
MICHAEL: I hear you. Thanks Gavin. This has been great.
GAVIN: Thank you for having this conversation with me.
Check out Gavin Zeigler’s fantastic work at www.gavinzeigler.com.