I am delighted to kick off this blog with a visit to Dylan Cale Jones's studio. Photos & interview after the jump:
EC: Okay Dylan Jones, how early on did your relationship with art start? Did you make art as a kid, or go to the Art Institute, since you grew up near Chicago?
DCJ: Yeah, when I was a kid my dad owned a print shop in my town, so I was in there all the time. He had tons of paper around...and in order to sort of subdue me, I think, he gave me paper to draw on. So I would spend a lot of time doing that there and was really encouraged by my parents to draw when I was young...and by my teachers, too.
When I was in high school, I took an “intro to art” class and and started going to the museum a lot and looking at paintings, and got really into that. I would go home and research different painters and stuff like that...I became pretty self-motivated in high school. In my junior year I started taking continuing studies classes at the Art Institute..so I was taking classes at the Art Institute two years before going to college there.
EC: When you’re in high school, I think it’s pretty rare to have already begun thinking about the conceptual aspects of art making..were you made aware of that when you started classes at SAIC?
DCJ: Yeah, it introduced me to that way of thinking about things. When I first started taking art classes it was more about replicating an image. As I started at SAIC, I became more interested..or started asking questions about abstraction, and different forms of art making that were less one-to-one... less about developing technical skills and more about developing questions about materials and process. I think during my junior year of high school I started experimenting with materials more and becoming more aware that the things I was making were meaningful, and the way that I was making things was informing the meaning of the work that I was making..which was, at least in our art program in high school, somewhat unique.
EC: Speaking of material, you make work in wood, paint, print, photo..all sorts of things..how do you build bridges between all of them, and why do you work in all of these different mediums?
DCJ: Um, when I started going to school, I was really interested in painting, and wanted to be a painter. I started to feel cornered by that, and the history of painting, and the way critiques were working in that department. I continued to remain interested in painting, but the way I was working was opened up by the art history classes I was taking.. and thinking about conceptual and performance art and sculpture kind of allowed a broader discussion of “what art is” to happen. I think, too, that the school is very interdisciplinary.. so I found a lot of freedom in that ability to jump from medium to medium.
It is essentially a process of figuring out what medium is appropriate for what idea. I do now focus on painting, sculpture and photography..and photography is centered more around a practice of walking, and less about creating an image. It is about the process of walking through an environment over and over again and having repeated encounters with objects or spaces or people and finding a place within those environments.
EC: Yeah, I looked at your flickr page the other day, which I thought I had looked at pretty recently, and noticed at least thirty more images there. I was thinking, “holy shit, he does this a lot.” I was not aware of how much you actually walk around and take pictures, and process the film.
DCJ: That’s kind of been one of the harder things to incorporate into my practice, at least in a way that I am able to talk about and understand..mostly because it is a new thing for me. It was kind of crazy for a while. I was developing three rolls of film a week, and all of them were processed and printed..so I have this giant collection of images. It plays a huge roll in the things that I make. I think that process in itself is really important to me.
EC: I find that when I create my own sources for my work, I feel a lot more connected to it than when I, y'know, try to find inspiration from Google image search or something like that.
DCJ: I feel like I have to be really careful when I’m using resources like that..using someone else’s material..especially something like Google image search that everyone has access to. The fact that it is a Google image...that itself is material for the piece, and sometimes that gets ignored.
EC: Looking at your work, I’ve noticed some themes: shapes, text, and religion..as well as others...but could you talk about one or some of these?
DCJ: Something as vague and general as shape, and something as specific as religion...I like to relate those ideas. I’ve been making a lot more work lately that’s dealing directly with religious content. For example: religious stories that we all are aware of, like Moses crossing the Red Sea..I’m using and manipulating that form in a way that’s sort of uh...that makes that viewer aware that experiencing the story is experiencing a representation.
I’m taking those things and depicting them in a way that creates a separation from the normal experience of taking that story, or an object or image for granted..or just being what it is, or being a spontaneous thing..and presenting it as something that is not all itself or is manufactured in some way.
I like to do that with the photography..the practice of walking,too. For a while, I was taking things I would find while I was walking, like lotto tickets and blunt wrappers and stuff like that.. scanning them, and making stickers of them. When I would find another one, like -- one of the ones I encountered a lot was the “$500 a week for life” lotto ticket-- I would take that ticket and make a sticker from it, and place the sticker down and collect the lotto ticket. I would do this pretty regularly..so I don’t necessarily know what an encounter like that would be for somebody, but hopefully it would sort of make that experience new for the person encountering it, and call that experience into question...make it seem more alien.
EC: So, you’re setting up situations, for someone to be like, “What the fuck?”
EC: You want to set someone up for that experience, because if it happened to you, you would like it?
EC: But you get almost no reward out of it...no satisfaction of seeing a person’s reaction or expression. I saw that picture of the two lotto tickets next to each other, and I had no idea that that’s what you had done. How important to you is it that people know what’s going in the photographic documentation of such a set-up?
DCJ: Well, there’s a big separation between the experience of actually finding it, and experiencing the documentation..so I think the documentation for that piece is maybe a little bit confusing..in a purposeful way. You see within the same place, at presumably the same time, two images that are incredibly similar, but just one thing about it has been changed in a really subtle way. It’s not necessarily important for the viewer of the documentation to understand the process of what is happening, but to sort of..be confounded by the doubling of this image. That’s something that I think I like to do a lot; to take something familiar and alter it in a really simple way by either changing its shape -like stretching it, or fattening it- or duplicating it. Hopefully questions about which is the original..how this transformation occurred.. or the original meaning of that first object..are asked.
I think generally, the reactions I’ve gotten from people have been fairly subtle..which I think is important. Like, you’re not going to be shocked by this image, but it’s hopefully going to be ..or the goal..is a sort of quiet confusion.
EC: Like, ..”Hm.”
DCJ: Yeah. Like..”What is this?”
I like those quieter moments when you recognize something is odd or meaningful in a really small way that isn’t necessarily defined by something obvious or loud. Having to um..in a way, be able to also be quiet and calm in the way that is similar to the gesture..and figure that out. I think we....we experience a lot of loud, immediate and straightforward media..all of the time.It’s really easy to be stimulated by that in an immediate way. I think that there’s a lot of subtlety and a lot of problems with that information that are easy to avoid or to forget about.
EC: Mmm. Do you have any shows coming up, or anything in the works? Anything you’re excited about?
DCJ: I don’t have any shows coming up..I have a lot of plans for pieces I want to do, though..and I’m trying to figure out how to make those happen within a space, or just..y’know, with money. I’m in the process of applying to grad school right now..so I’m hoping to possibly be going to grad school next fall.
EC: Great, Dyl. Thanks so much for your time.
DCJ: No problem, Em!