Scott Andrew Nedrelow is an abstract expressionist artist. He’s a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago. He’s also a photographer and filmmaker. He spends a lot of time in his studio, which is located inside a barn house-like structure in the woods of Ely, Minnesota. I own a lot of his work http://www.scottnedrelow.com/, which to me reveals influences of Kandinsky, Pollock and other great artists. I published this interview in my first book, “Art In King Size Beds: A Collector’s Journal” and recently re-discovered it. It was never “lost,” but it’s fun calling it “The Lost Interview.” I haven’t spoken with him since.
MICHAEL: Scott, Why did you become an artist? Did you always know?
SCOTT: I didn't always know I would be an artist. As a kid it's much easier to feel that there are possibilities in a very abstract sense -- it's like potential energy in the textbook sense. A rock at the top of a hill has it. So being an artist is about feeling that same sense of possibility and potential-- and acting on it as an adult. I'm an artist because it allows me at times to be in a state of becoming.
MICHAEL: That's what I love about artists. They believe in possibilities. What do you think you learned at the Art Institute that fostered your sense of becoming? There are so many artists who don't have formal training. Would you be where you are now without formal training?
SCOTT: I don't think I would be where I am now without formal training, but that isn't to say that formal training makes an artist. What it does is allow young artists to be around more experienced artists. There's something about just being around the personality of an experienced artist when considering the formal side of things. I had a printmaking professor who had been teaching at the Art Institute for 30+ years, so something in their way of approaching creative problems rubs off hopefully. The state of continual becoming that is important for artists to successfully approach creative problems -- they ultimately have to arrive at that on their own.
MICHAEL: So, I guess training is all about having access to greater knowledge. Who doesn't want that? You know Scott, most people aren't artists, but it seems to me that if they're aware of this "sense of becoming" in life and they try to apply it, then they can always do artistic things or at least gain greater insight ... art or not. Do you agree?
SCOTT: Yes, I agree completely. I feel that anyone has the potential to be an artist or to express themselves creatively -- it just takes a commitment to do it.
MICHAEL: When I look around my home at your paintings, I definitely see the sense of becoming. Most abstracts are fluid and seem to keep changing with light and my own personal moods as opposed to figurative works which are pretty much locked into their own narrative. Is this whole sense of becoming the reason why you're focusing on abstracts right now? Is it a freedom thing?
SCOTT: Yes. In my abstract process it is about allowing myself the freedom to make a simple and pure expression. It's interesting though about comparing the motivations that artists have for creating abstract and figurative work. When Philip Guston shifted to a representational style in his later works from an abstract expressionist style, he said it was because he was tired of all the purity involved in abstraction -- like he wanted a more concrete sense of narrative in a figurative style.
MICHAEL: In my travels, I'm seeing more and more types of art. For example, digital photo prints and computer art, which you've also done, and so on. Do you think painting will one day be considered old-fashioned and perhaps fade out?
SCOTT: Well there's something to be said for using the latest tools that technology has to offer. And with computers and the internet playing a bigger role in especially young people's lives, there's going to be a natural opportunity for art to shift along with the culture. In an art history sense, the idea of painting is pretty old -- but it seems to be a constant -- for example, I think with the advent of photography and all of the new technological tools, painting adapted to the latest cultural moment, even if by differentiating itself. And later with film, the visual information presented in movies through the framing of dramatic action in close-ups had an effect on abstract painting. There's a story about Franz Kline being a movie fan and this somehow relating to his iconic black abstract expressionist paintings. Because while the paintings are large, they also carry the drama of the close-up in a cinematic sense. I think that de Kooning suggested that he project drawings on an overhead projector to see what they looked like on a larger scale -- so the idea that a magnified portion of a larger drawing, like a close-up, is heightened in a visual dramatic sense within a large frame. That came from the movies. I think there have been attempts that painting has made to adapt to the 21st century (whatever that means), but painting is a stubbornly material art form, so it's not always seen as able to compete in relevance on a digital playing field. A previous comparison in history would maybe be the accessible reproduction of painting in print -- and that certainly changed the way the world thinks about painting. So I guess we'll have to wait and see!
MICHAEL: I love Franz Kline's work. The cinematic reference makes it even clearer to me now. Speaking of deceased famous artists, whose work do you think will stand the test of time, let's say, another 100 years from now? Will yours?
SCOTT: That's really hard to say. I think it's a question of influence -- whose work will influence the most artists in the next 100 years? One trap that younger artists (or any artist) gets into is to project a history of themselves into the future. This kind of pre-emptive historicizing of oneself can hurt the development of artists, because they are too aware of the whole, "what's going to stand the test of time" scenario, which can cause resentment and alienation, because most of us won't be remembered by the culture as a whole. And it's not an ideal situation for artists to be concerned about how their work will be seen in 50 or 100 years instead of focusing on creating in the moment. That's what will be remembered, if an artist worked to express themselves within a cultural moment.
MICHAEL: You're a wise man, Scott. Thanks for talking.
Check out Scott at http://www.scottnedrelow.com/.