Patrick Whitfill: You’ve moved around and lived in a variety of different places—from Mexico to Seattle to Spain—and I wonder how you see place in relation to your process as a painter. Do you find that the two are linked in any way?
Jonas Criscoe: Well, I have always chosen my path based upon a commitment to my work. Though this has not always left me in the most secure position, it has provided me with the drive and determination to pursue my passion—my Art.
It has instilled within me the need to create, the focus, drive and motivation to explore different modes of making, and in turn alternative ways of seeing the world around me.
The influence of “place” is a common thread that binds a number of my past works and series’ together. Though its impact might change in focus, degree, content and form, it is a significant element in my creative process. From the distinctive light that radiates from a particular sky, to the resulting tones and hues that electrify the landscape; from the languages and dialects that drift upon the air, to the people, stories and adages that I become acquainted with, all of these elements combine to form the palette of a place and in turn inspire me to create.
PW: Many of your paintings utilize images of “contemporary” American structures—from corporations to name-brands and advertisements—and I’m curious what started this fascination for you. Also, how do you feel that your approach to this issue has evolved into your current work?
JC: It is what it is. I saw them for what they were when I first really looked at them: generic sets created for commerce, made of sheet rock and plastic, blanketed with a patch of sod and every now and again a few windows to let the light in. I suppose I animate them in the sense that they take on their own characteristics by way of advertisement and marketing. Such is the governing structure of the world we live in. Fascinated, appalled, Art is about understanding the world- it is an existential scenario. So, yeah, I’m trying to ‘get’ at things, which means there has to be an attracting force. The most intense attraction is a mere fact: this is what our life and a good portion of America looks like. This is our cultural landscape, our capital’s design. So, yeah, I’m trying to ‘get’ at things, more as a witness rather than as a critic.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
PATRICK WHITFILL: lives and works in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In 2008, Texas Tech gave him a PhD, and since then, he has served as a writer-in-residence with Hub-Bub in Spartanburg, taught as an instructor at a few colleges and universities, waited some tables, and sold some books at an independent bookstore. His poetry has been published in such places as The Kenyon Review Online, 32 Poems, Beloit Poetry Journal, Best New Poets and in other online and print venues. Along with poet Eric Kocher, he is the co-creator of the New Southern Voices Reading Series. In the fall, he will join the faculty of Wofford College as a Visiting Assistant Professor.
JONAS CRISCOE: 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 and a West PrizeAcquisition 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 lives in Minneapolis where he is on the faculty of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts as well as an art editor for DIALOGIST, a journal of Poetry and Art.