Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mind Body Spirit Artist Series: Adam Fergurson

Some theorists maintain that as people grow older, they really don't change that much.  That they retain and emulate the initial characteristics and qualities that they had as a young child.  Through writing this interview series I've come across many artists who have said that they have "always made art" or that they "knew that they were an artist from an early age".  In my son Adam Fergurson's case, I can honestly say that by observing him literally through his entire life, that really is what happened.  Intelligent, engaging, confident and always inspiring those around him by pushing the envelope just a little further, Adam is a grown man now, an artist in his own right - blazing a unique trail down the path of life.  Always a pleasure to discuss art with, I hope you will enjoy this lively interview with him as much as I did.
                                                                                                                     ~ diane fergurson

Bloom
MBS:  Can you tell us a little bit about your background?  How you got started in art?

Adam:  As far as I can remember I have always made art, and can distinctly remember wanting to always "be an artist."  I can even recall being in elementary school in suburban Missouri, and aside from yearning to be the man to discover Bigfoot, I told all my teachers that I was going to art school for college, no doubts about it.  Having open minded and artistic parents I was always encouraged to make art, express myself, and the idea that being different was not only OK, but was very cool, was ground into my brain regularly.  As a result while the other kids played soccer at recess I was often making pictures of what I now know were mini comics about The Blob, Dracula, and Wolfman.  My mother, also an artist, was teaching classes at a community arts center in downtown St. Louis while I was growing up and instead of hiring a babysitter would often bring me along to sit in her classes or signed me up for other programs happening in the building.  This gave me my introduction to "real artists" and the cultural plethora of things happening in the city.

I then moved to the northern New Jersey/ New York Metropolitan area around the age of twelve.  Suddenly I wasn't the only kid who was good at drawing and this drove me to be the best in my class.  I don't believe art should be competitive but I think its important to be around other artists in order to be inspired and driven to work harder.
I moved to Philadelphia in 2004 to attend The University of the Arts and have been in Philadelphia ever since.

MBS:  You mentioned having an introduction to "real artists" when you were at the 
community arts center.  What did you mean by "real artists"?

Adam:  I think my view of what "real artists" were as a child had a lot to do with admiring people who seemed to do their own thing, and made artwork because they liked doing it - regardless of what others may have thought.  As a kid I thought nothing was cooler or more admirable than being a rebel.  Along with my monster drawings, anything I ever drew that had a human in it involved Mohawks, tattoos, guitars, etc..  I still think one of the most rebellious acts one can do is to be an artist.  To have the gall to think you can bring something into the world in the face of all that has ever been, and then to think its valid and deserves to command attention is very rebellious.  I always felt any "real artist," if you will, blazes their own trail and is always one step ahead while the rest of the world follows the trail of candy they leave in their path.  I must note though that this statement does not imply that if you are not pushing the envelope that your work is not valid.  Art serves millions of purposes in millions of lives, but innovation and new ideas have to come from somewhere and I call that place the mind of the "real artist."

Six of Swords
MBS:  You're a sculptor, but also a painter and musician too.  Do you favor one medium over another?  Also, which comes first in the creative process for you when you are working?
The idea or the materials you use?

Adam:  I had a friend say to me once, "It's not what you do, but that you do." I think this holds up well with my own working practices.  I feel like so many artists I know get so hung up on an idea that they inhibit themselves from actually making the work.  I try and do the opposite when working on paintings. I often lay down several pieces next to one another and pour and splash mediums on all the surfaces until I feel as if something magical is taking place. At this point I separate the pieces from one another and deal with the consequences of my actions artistically by becoming more considerate of aesthetic formalities and composition as a whole.  I often go back and forth between these processes umpteen times on a single painting till I feel I have captured something.

As far as sculpture is concerned I apply this philosophy most often in my use of materials.  Living in an urban environment I am consistently confronted with waste and trash.  The same openness I bring to abstract expressionist chance practices in my 2D work, I bring to the discovery of materials from the street in my 3D work. I see something interesting, I take it, and then I look at it and let the inspiration flow.  The big difference between my 2D and 3D work has to do with the intensity of the battle which takes place between me and the work mentally. With 2D its more playful, where as with 3D and bringing objects from the mind into space I do much more racking of the brain.

Drumming has always served as a great place for collaboration and therapy for me.  As a teen, drums helped me release a lot of angst and stay out of (some) trouble by always playing music with friends. Currently staying active with three bands and teaching drums to addicts, I use drums as an excuse to connect the ideas of many - into a single.  Also to vent my frustrations, and to be with and collaborate with friends.  This gives me a calmness and piece of mind which I can then bring back into the studio to work on visual undertakings.

I have also used playing drums and being in bands as another outlet for my visual work.  With each project I am involved with I try to have a heavy hand in developing the visual aesthetic of the band, whether it's posters, logos, album covers, or even costume and face paint.  The thing that really strikes me about being a musician, is that music cannot be avoided.  You can have an art opening and have people be there but can't guarantee they are actually experiencing the work, meaning they don't HAVE to look at it.  With music its inescapable.  I am also working towards using drumming as a tool to reach transitory states of consciousness which I try to tap into when I create my visual work.
Phone It In
MBS: Spirituality combined with street art is reflected so strongly in your work, and in a manner 
that is much more then just style and content.  Could you discuss that a little bit?  Also, what are you referring
 to by the "transitory states of consciousness which I try to tap into when I create my visual work"?

Adam:  After moving from the suburbs in Missouri to the New York area I began to experience graffiti for the first time and I found it to be so alive and captivating.  I've had tags in the past and meddled with "getting up" but in reality I've always been more of a fan than participant. In my own work I think the graffiti aesthetic fits well, especially in my 2D work.  I work very fast and try to milk out as much expression as I can as quickly as I can.

Living in the city I don't know how an artist couldn't be inspired by graffiti. I see graffiti as energy manifested quickly and unfiltered.  When I say I try to achieve transitory states of consciousness while working, this is what I meant.  I am a clairvoyant, and am sensitive to different energies including those coming from the other side. When I'm working on my art my goal is to be so open that I don't even think about what I'm doing.  This way I can be the clearest channel possible, the work stays uncontrived, and the spiritual experience of creation can be felt by the viewer.  I often prepare my studio for this activity by regularly sageing and burning specific candles.

Tune in Every Sunday, #1 Magician
 MBS:  It's been my finding that mainstream art literature normally doesn't approach the 
subject of energetic connections in artwork.  It may be brought up in interviews with individual artists or it is often veiled in "inspirational quotes" from the old Masters, but not openly discussed.  Of course the opposite is true in non-mainstream art literature.  I know that often times artists who practice Reiki, for example, will automatically infuse their work with healing energy.  I also know that there is artwork that is created with purposeful non-positive intentions.  That, unfortunately, also comes through in the work.  As you mentioned, there is a real vibrancy and spontaneity in graffiti and street art.  What are some of your thoughts about energy and vibrations in artwork?
 
The Chariot
Adam:  Well let me first say that at this point in our culture I believe that spiritually based work has become taboo.  Attending art school and making spiritually based work was difficult for me because concepts which I would think endlessly about were quickly dismissed as too weird.  I was labeled a "stoner artist" by some of my peers, and there were professors I had who didn't know how to engage the work aside from formal aesthetics. That being said, and this interview aside, I have had to learn how to only hint and tiptoe around the themes of my work for the purposes of show proposals and artist statements with out making people think I'm nuts.

As far as energy imprinting I think you imprint energy in anything you make but it becomes stronger based on the amount of time and effort you put into the piece.  I am a level 2 Reiki healer and can't say I have consciously imprinted any of my work with energy, but I know its there.
 I look at the experience of creation more in the realm of riding the energy of the universe instead of creating it and putting into the work.  If the viewer has an energetic reaction to my work I want it to be because they feel a connection with the work organically, not because I have in some way willed it to happen or cast a spell on the work.  That is manipulation and against my spiritual morals.

As I was coming into my own spirituality I was very exited and told everyone about all kinds of things I was experiencing and learning, now I'm getting to the point where if someone wants to engage in that topic I am more than willing to have the conversation, but I'm not going shove it down peoples throats. I also think that since spiritual art is so taboo that sometimes the greater understanding can be achieved through the artist who doesn't put all his chips on the table.  By this I mean if you let the viewer figure out the spiritual correlations between the work and their own lives, they are more willing to expand their field of vision.  Most people simply do not want to be force fed anything, especially something as personal as spirituality.  This is the reason why I feel so many well known artists have had spiritual intentions, but don't necessarily make that known to their audience. They want them to figure it out themselves.

MBS: Video has also played center roll in many of your sculptures and installations.
  What is it about video as a medium that you find so compelling?

Adam: I am a very big fan of Nam June Paik (RIP) and his retrospective at the Guggenhiem was very inspirational to me.  What he did is that he has taken the big box we stare at in our living rooms and brought it into the gallery.  Instead of being something to "watch," the TV becomes a compositional element or an atmospheric meditation within a greater context.

I respond to this idea because much of my sculptural work and satirical work has to do with regurgitating the trash the media pumps out, which implies you should think and be a certain way.  In a society which makes its chapel the living room, it makes sense that the brainwash weapon of choice is the television. I think that it only fits that I use it to fight back to help others realize that this is what's happening.









   
Photobucket

Many times with my film work the narrative and story aren't the main focus. I try to create beauty foremost in order to get the viewer to understand the greater meaning of the piece.  In this way I look at the shooting process itself as very mystical and ritualistic, and the editing process similar to painting. It's a hard task to include video with other elements in a work because people are so trained to solely focus on the screen and anticipate a narrative.  This is why I admire Paik and his ability to make film and TV elements within in a larger concept.


MBS:  What is a typical work day like for you?

Adam:  I really enjoy and thrive on working with multiple pieces at once, so a typical day in the studio usually begins once I've decided which pieces I'm going to jump into first.  I will burn some sage, light a candle or two, put on some music and sit for as long as I need to with the work, until I feel drawn to a specific piece.  Music is also very important for me while I work.  It disconnects me from my own internal dialogue and allows me to tap into the creative source more easily and with less distraction.  I love listening to all kinds of music while I work but some favorites are Fela Kuti, Lee Scratch Perry, The Four Tops, Dungeon, and really cheesy commercial hip hop mixes.

My process isn't that far off from Paul McCarthy's "Painter," a favorite video piece of mine - but not really but really, ha ha. Since I tend to work quickly I often attack the work briefly and then either sit and contemplate the next move or continue to move around the room using the same paints, pigments, concoctions, or technique on another piece in the space. I also share studio space with friends so when I need a break there is someone usually around to get feedback from/ chew the fat with, which is important to me.  I don't try to limit myself to time frames either because I know my process well enough that when I force myself to work it doesn't come out how I'd like and I end up re-working it later.

MBS:  Ah, yes, McCarthy satirizing and ridiculing the "tortured artist" - pretty funny.  You mention saging and candle burning in your studio. What is the importance of ritual for you in your process?

Adam: I have a small alter in my space which holds various things. I often begin the creation session by saging because I want to clear the space of any negative energies which may be lingering around me or the space. Along with this I often light a white candle to further enhance purity of thought and intention, strengthen a connection to the divine, and to create ambiance.
Brain Rain
MBS:  What are you currently working on?

Adam:  I just recently finished a large installation at The University of the Arts Sculpture Gallery in Philadelphia called "Tune In Every Sunday."  The piece encompasses 2D, 3D, on site, and video work. I re-contextualized the language of tarot to an American Midwestern language, and created shrines empowering sports deities to portray the ritualistic and consumer culture of watching sports every Sunday in contrast to going to church.

Since the show has been up I have more space to spread out in my studio and have started to do more  painting again.  I feel like I'm the most at play when I'm painting.  Whether I have a show deadline or am finishing a specific body of work, or not, I always try to keep working all the time even if its just chipping away at the same pieces for months. Not only does this keep me happy, but it makes me a better artist because I am always experimenting and furthering my own techniques.  I like to make make make so that the work doesn't become a precious thing to me.  In this mindset when I do get a show I can choose the best work for it out of many, not just the one thing I made for that specific purpose.

MBS:  Do you sell your work online?  What has your online experience been like?

Adam:  I don't sell my work online in the sense that I don't have a webstore and a Paypal account, although many times I have directed people to my website and my Facebook fan page which have resulted in shows and sales.  The thing that I find most fascinating about the internet is that no one really knows where its going at any given time, or how big its going to get, or what it will encompass next. When I was in fifth grade and I got an AOL account, that was all you needed.  Now I have a mobile me account, a gmail account, a website, a personal Facebook, a Facebook fan art page, a twitter account, a tumblr, a stumble upon account, etc etc. The internet is great for exposure and meeting like minded communities, but I know with my own work that no image on a screen can do justice to actual size, the energy of the pieces, and other witnessed aesthetics such as motion, reflection, lighting, and iridescence.


MBS:  What advice do you have to anyone who wishes to (seriously) pursue an 
artistic path?

Adam:  My biggest piece of advice is to keep working and thinking creatively.  The biggest key to making art is to make art. Keep yourself inspired by being around creative people and don't be afraid to let the world know what your doing.  Some people will get it, many may not, but at least you tried.



Thank you Adam!


To see more of Adam's work, you can visit his website, also his Facebook Fan Page.
You can contact him at adamfergurson@me.com

Animation gif of the video instillation "#1 Magician"  was created by Thomas Puleo.




To read additional interviews in our Artist Series, you can visit this page.


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