Jonas Criscoe: A number of your works contain subject matter and imagery that is connected to the South and Southern culture. Can you discuss how “place” has influenced your work and/ or process?
Andrew Blanchard: Man, without place, I’ve got nothing-ha. It’s ALL about the American South, my work. It’s people, historical backlog, land management, socio-economic landscape; not to mention the stereotypes and the acres of baggage. All of my images are culled from the lower 48 [states]; living in South Carolina has provided me with numerous visuals, but I actually do road trips to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia quite frequently. I’ve got buddies and relatives sprawled out all over the South; which provides me with such an extraordinary breadth of material for my output. These works tow the line [between] the urban, rural, and country quadrants of Southern living…and all the cuts in between. “Place” for me is stumbling upon gang scrawl out deep in the county, and likewise, running across more and more chicken coups in city folks’ backyards; these aspects of “place” are influencing my current works—where I fear Southern “places” are beginning to homogenize, I run across the aforementioned sprawl and enjoy taking part in witnessing this present evolution of the South. Process wise, it’s all screen print technique and acrylic inks. Those materials work best for how I want my work to look for the viewer—an unbiased honesty only achieved with photo based screen emulsion coupled with a distinct surface texture that lends itself to a painting—how I see the South, man.
JC: As you mentioned, photography in tandem with photo silkscreen plays an important role in your process. Could you elaborate on how you go about collecting imagery (taking photos) and the process involved in bringing that imagery into work?
AB: Yeah man… I mean, screen-print, as you know, is so versatile. I can have a picture perfect photographic outcome via the CMYK process, or I can have a completely unaltered open mesh screen frame, and just go at with inks like two pit bulls wearin’ tights. From there, I scrape, sand, spray, overprint, offset print, stencil, etc…Heart of a painter, if you will, with the brain of a print-maker.
Collection wise, and due to the nature of most Southern towns and cities that fix/clean/beautify and tear down, I try my best to document as quickly as possible when I see something that sparks a possible image or a visual that I know I can utilize further down the road. I have a few buddies that I go on local road trips with; 1/2 day trips. And then I have a duo of compadres that I go to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and to New Orleans with annually. All these friends shoot their own material—sometimes there is crossover, but, they mainly document figures/folks/portraits. If one were to look at my oeuvre of work(s), you pretty much get the gist of what I collect. As a challenge, sometimes I watch subject matter I know I want, but will let it evolve a bit over time; see if it changes color, or if it rots a tad more…Or if, say, an old pickup truck changes owners—I wait and keep a mental collection in my head—just like a sketchbook. One time, I watched this old, shiny black pick-up all over town, for a year—never able to catch it parked or a chance to ask the owner to shoot it. It had Jesus and hearts all over it, most probably airbrushed. Finally not too long ago, he pulled alongside of me at a red light and I pounced; asked what year it was and if I could shoot a quick pic. Obliged, but on a honey-do to the post office, he said he’d meet me at my studio around the corner in a few minutes. An hour later, and I never heard from him. Two hours had gone by—thinking it was a blown chance, and I heard a bunch of horn honks outside…There he was! He proceeded to turn around in traffic, block all 4 lanes and let me shoot his “baby”! Other times or places may be so sketchy, I do “drive-bys” or go super early or on Sunday to shoot stuff. Don’t want any trouble, ha.
From there, as mentioned earlier, I keep a balance between obtaining an honest capture and nuancing it in combination with a more “painterly” surface texture—I cut clear stencils to protect the photo based screen-print portions, then I work intuitively on foregrounds and backgrounds. I layer and strive towards making those two main types of execution blend without one dominating the other. I set up personal challenges too; say, to use a specific color, or try to recreate brush marks, though by using a screen-print squeegee. I have all size widths; just cut them down on the table saw; the size of brushes almost. Man, there are my secrets, shoot.
JC: Who are some the artists that you’re into/looking at these days?
AB: After printmaking since high school (20 years), I’ve shied away from what’s happening now, in academic printmaking. I just needed a different source of inspiration—that’s mainly painting/-ers now; a few sculptors too. I am really digging Charles Ladson’s work. I’ve seen his last two shows at Winthrop and in Asheville; he’s a GA painter. I just saw a new collection of Bo Bartlett’s work, again, a GA born artist. Crazy enough, those folks paint tons of figures, and that’s nice to take in as a viewer, since I usually keep away from folks and I am more interested in the assumption or the notion of them in my work. Of course, I always lose myself in Dunlap’s (Bill) landscapes, as there is way more going on in those than meets the eye. Our show together “Keeping it Between the Ditches” this past October put me and my own work into perspective: an icon and a rookie side by side. We are doing the same thing more or less, layering historical implications and our own perspectives on top of the images of barns and gas stations (among others). Ron van der Ende’s relief sculptures have a real sense of textural maturity that I need to align myself with; and though I can’t say I understand the conceptual prowess of R. H. Quaytman, I enjoy [her] use of screen-print and structural integrity to get across to the viewer exactly what one needs to say.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
ANDREW BLANCHARD earned a B.A. degree from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2000 with an emphasis on printmaking and a minor in photography. Shortly thereafter, he traveled to Paris, France to work and study with Frederic Possot, a master lithography printer. This experience solidified his desire to be a lifelong artist-printmaker. In 2004, he earned his M.F.A. degree from The University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS. Recently, several of his prints were included in Schiffer Publishing’sPrintmakers Today, the 2011 Southern Edition of New American Paintings magazine and the Oxford American magazine, of which he was selected as one of the New Superstars of Southern Art. In 2014, his work will be featured in the International Painting Annual No. 4, published by Manifest Creative Research Gallery in Ohio. He is currently the Associate Professor of Printmaking and Photography at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
JONAS CRISCOE is an interdisciplinary visual artist whose work has been exhibited throughout the United States, most notably the International Print Center in New York and the Minnesota Museum of American Art. Criscoe has also been featured in various art publications, Including Art Lies and New American Painting and most recently was a Jerome Fellow at the Highpoint Center for Printmaking as well as a West Prize acquisition recipient. A native of Austin, Texas, he received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York and the University of Texas at Austin, and his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2008. Currently, he is an art editor for DIALOGIST, a journal of Poetry and Art.