Please give our readers a little bit of information about yourself.
Well, I was born and raised in Independence…
Well, I was born and raised in Independence, MO, a suburb of Kansas City. Before pursuing my arts degree, I received an Associates degree from Longview Community College. At the same time, I completed a four year program at a theological institute that focused on Biblical Studies. And, while I was very young at the time, this was a serious pursuit of mine. Growing up in a religious family, I was very faithful to serving God and attending my church and so it was a very easy decision for me to pursue such a goal as the Pastorate. (It seemed fitting.) But as I was finishing my education there, I began to believe that possibly it wasn’t the right path for me. Additionally, I knew that my interest in the arts needed to be explored and cultivated and so it was at this point that I enrolled into the Kansas City Art Institute. At KCAI, I received my BFA, double majoring in Painting and Art History. And then finally I went on to receive my MFA at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA.
As far as paying the bills, I’m pretty busy. I teach at the Kansas City Art Institute and at Longview Community College. I am the Curator/Director of Longview’s new Art Gallery and last but not least I occasionally will install artwork for a company called Artworks of Kansas City.
I have a studio in the West Bottoms of Kansas City, MO and a studio at my residence in Raytown, MO (a suburb to the East of Kansas City). I’m happily married to my wife, Caroline and have a 5 month old son, named Phinehas. And I can’t forget to mention our really cool cat, Elliot, who unfortunately, but not surprisingly, has reluctantly welcomed our son into the home.
I guess for upcoming news… I [gave] a Slideshow lecture at the Kemper Museum on December 10th. And I am curating an exhibition called, “Betwixt & Between” at the Longview Gallery set to open on January 13, 2009. Please join us. The opening reception will be January 16th.
Many of us don’t grow up with painting and art as part of our daily life, especially many of us away from the coasts and our routes into the fine arts are circuitous. Was that your experience? How and when did you say, ‘I’m going to do this?’
I was very fortunate to have parents who supported my interest in the Arts. My dad would always say that if I didn’t do something with my art, that he would be disappointed. So, with that said, I was always being encouraged to pursue it as a career. But, as I finished High School, the money factor kept popping up in my mind and no matter how I looked at it, a career in the Arts seemed financially improbable. While I was at Longview, and attempting to get a Marketing degree (failing Accounting I mind you) I had a conversation with a co-worker of mine…and he asked me very simply if it was what I loved. Well, being ever the pragmatist, I responded by suggesting that it was hopefully the closest fit to what I loved. I figured that marketing was at least in some way a creative release. He then quickly responded by saying, if you don’t love it, you have to get out. You have to do what you love.
It was because of this conversation I made the decision to pursue a career in the Arts.
Tell us about one useful thing you were taught or told.
When making art, there is no ‘they’, there is only you. [When] I was a Senior at KCAI, all of my work was firmly devoted to art theory and history and as I was struggling through a piece and describing it to one of my instructors, I off-handedly said, “Well, I can’t do that because ‘they’ would say…” (I did this referring to all the French theorists’ writings that were in my head). Well, it didn’t take long for my instructor to say, “Wait, wait, wait… who are ‘they’? There is no ‘they’, there is only you.” This conversation also stuck with me. I basically realized that you can’t make art for other people. When you begin to make art for others, you set up an artwork based on hypothetical results.
Tell us about one useful thing you learned for yourself.
“Why?” might be one of the best and most annoying questions ever to be asked.
What is the hard part of making art?
Insecurity: The concern that what I am doing is legitimate or noteworthy. It’s funny though, because the very thing that is hard or dreaded is the very thing that also pushes me to continue and progress in my practice.
What is the fun part?
Every time I apply paint to a surface, it’s an exciting moment. It’s never dull. (I’m sorry if that sounds overtly romantic.)
What is the importance of Scale in your work? The works I’ve seen in person seem to be scaled to a specific relationship to the human body, a common Minimalist strategy.
I’m glad you noticed that. Yes, I do find some kinship to Minimalism. Scale is a very important component of my work; especially in my “sculptural” works. I’m interested in the visceral and visual experience that takes place as one enters a space. I feel that this pushes the discipline’s autonomy into question [by] allowing the viewer/participant to more freely relate to the work being displayed.
I’m interested in how 3D can become 2D and how 2D becomes 3D. (How can a physical experience be visual and a visual experience by physical?)
Specifically in relation to the work you are referring too, I was interested in [what happens] when the viewing person becomes a participant. (This is very much in line with Michael Fried’s essay, “Art and Objecthood” where he blasts Minimalism for being too theatrical, but by doing so ironically provides the basis of its foundation.)
The word ‘riffing’ is big with a lot of my artist friends right now. Does this word mean anything in regard to you or your work?
I don’t know if that really applies to my work. The work usually has no “intentional” inherent reference… now whether or not a reference attaches itself later to the work is another story. Although there is a conceptual reasoning for each piece it usually doesn’t begin with the basis of a commentary on something or someone else.
What is the role of drawing in your work?
What is drawing? Is it mental, physical, electronic or melodic? I don’t know the state of my drawing, nor do I understand its importance or lack thereof, but I do know it is there.
I think previously I would have stated that my drawings are comprised of sketches I do with my mouse using Illustrator or Photoshop, but now I am not so sure that is my only method. I feel that now sometimes I draw with my car, or my lawnmower.
Is there generally any specific theory guiding your color choices?
Typically my color choices have been decided by Illustrator’s predetermined swatch palette.
Is it important to you to be authentic?
Authorship is an interesting topic for me. The presence of “authenticity” depends on the viewfinder you are looking through. Is it a macro lens or micro lens? One of the reasons I have used the computer so exclusively to make my marks was because of my fear that every mark I would make with my own subjectivity would be guided by the marks of those that went before me. So, by taking my own intent out of the equation I am allowed to more freely make work that (I would even suggest) is more close to my internal thoughts.
What is your studio like?
I would say that I try to be methodical with my studio but that usually the days of order are short. Entropy is very present in my studio. It is actually much like my works. I most often think that they fail in some manner, but for me the failing is where the excitement is.
I just recently organized my paints in ROYGBV order, if that helps give a picture.
What is a day in the studio like for you?
It depends on what I’m working on. Some days I’m sketching on the computer for a couple of hours, other days I am plotting out vector paths for my vinyl plotter to make future paintings and some days I actually get to paint. When I am painting I typically try to focus on two or three paintings at once. If I don’t do this I get bored.
Talk about your creative mulch—that is your daily inspirations, ‘fine’ art & not fine art:
Well, I’d say first and foremost I’m inspired by my faith in God. It’s a very inspiring notion to believe that you can know or be known of God. If one considers the nature of that statement, I believe it can lead to great revelations. On top of this, I am greatly inspired by my family. (I know, I’m sounding like a self-help book right now.) And, as corny as it sounds, there’s nothing better for me than looking at my son for about an hour straight, just watching him. He makes me realize what is real and what is not. And the funny thing is the things that are real are usually the most ephemeral and the things that seem to be the most concrete are usually the most artificial and non-substantial.
I find a lot of inspiration in billboards and commercials as well. Although I don’t know if the inspiration is positive, it does allow me to think proactively about my concerns as an artist. And since I drive for about an hour each day to and from work, this gives me a lot of time to think about the new and old items that I pass by each day. Construction is also very interesting to me; especially along my commutes. (Who said let’s do this? Who raised the money? What committee got in the way?)
I guess along these lines, another thing I’m really drawn too are abandoned buildings, but not the destroyed or dilapidated ones. I’m talking about the ones that are brand new, but no one is occupying the lot. I like to think of the potential of the space and also the rationale for its inception. When I drive by local store fronts I imagine how they survive. I think of the way in which they find ways to compete with the chains. And who is it that frequents these places.
Especially Texas Toms! That place kind of sketches me out. I’m somewhat concerned when I drive by a Texas Toms. But that place really intrigues me.
Is there any other art or artist that you feel your work is in direct dialogue with?
It’s hard to say. There are different components of my work that I feel resonate with different artist’s practices. Sometimes I feel the form relates and other times my method of application, while there are also times I feel that my concepts or materials align themselves with other artists but as far as having a direct dialogue with any other artist, I’m not quite sure.
I have a close friend in San Francisco who is making some very interesting work. Our practices cross paths sometimes. His name is Jonathan Runcio and you should check his work out. It’s fantastic. I also really like Liam Gillick’s work; he’s an artist that I definitely look up too and hope to have some resonance but I think it would be a little presumptuous to assume that we have a direct dialogue. When I was at CCA there were a few really talented artists where I found their work to be very refreshing. And although our work had no physical similarities or sense of ideological coalescence, I do believe we had a way of thinking that was similarly critical and honest. Daniel Purbrick was my closest friend in San Francisco, but if you saw his work and my work together you would not once be tempted to think of any similarities or connections. But in regards to criticality and an approach to artmaking we held many of the same convictions. (We also liked to sing Elton John’s “Daniel” loudly while in studio, which is always fun.)
What are you looking at? What are you reading? What are you listening to?
Well, I look at my students work everyday. They always find ways to surprise me with their ingenuity. I’ve been looking at a lot of gestural painters. (Eric Sall, Tomory Dodge, Claire Sherman…DeKooning and other great first generation AbX artists) I really enjoyed Byron Cohen Gallery’s exhibition of Elizabeth Huey’s paintings. And I also just went to the Charlotte Street Exhibition at the Nerman Museum which was great. (You should check it out!) I’ve been enjoying some of Luc Tuyman’s work along with the likes of Alex Katz, Fairfield Porter and Elizabeth Peyton as well.
I have a daily habit of reading the Bible. As a Christian I find it very valuable to include this into my day. On top of that I also am constantly reading some form of art theory. If it’s an essay from “Art Theory 1900-2000,” I’m either just finishing it or am attempting to read it again. And last but definitely not least, there isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not on CNN or kansascity.com… and I also check my email way too often.
Regarding music, let’s see, in my 6 disc CD changer I’m listening to: MIA, Crystal Castles, Jesus and Mary Chain, Metronomy, Frog Eyes and Portishead. Everywhere else, it’s Leonard Cohen, but I can’t claim any coolness when it comes to music. My best friend, Brandon Briscoe always burns my music. If it’s cool, I didn’t find it.
What are you working on now?
I’m just painting a lot right now. I have about 4 small canvases in the works. Painting with a brush actually; this is worth commenting on, since it has been about 5 years or so since I’ve done so. I’m kind of trying to reacquaint myself with the palette knife. We’ll see what happens. Not much, other than that though; I wish I could give you a more exciting answer.
Thanks for the opportunity to discuss my work with you.
Thanks, Daniel. To see more of Daniel Reneau’s work, visit his website, www.danielreneau.com .