Briefly describe the work you do.
I always describe myself as a collage artist to those who ask what my medium is. However I come from a drawing and painting background. I really don’t have a medium as of now and I am more interested in breaking boundaries with whatever I can explore. I’m not interested in creating what has already been done but rather explore elsewhere. Subjects that always seem to keep coming up are satire and sarcasm. If I can imitate or mock what I don’t like in art, politics, and religion I feel very comfortable. Overall I think I am trying to question those in charge.
At what point I your life did you want to become an artist?
Since the beginning, ask my relatives. When you were a little kid and your parents or teachers asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up I ALWAYS said artist. My parents used to put a sticker or a stamp in the left hand corner of an 8 by 10 inch piece of paper so I could then redraw it bigger. There was a brief time when I was child that I wanted to be a pest exterminator but thats just because one came over to my friend’s house and gouged a huge hole in their wall just to shoot a bunch of poison foam inside of it (how is that not art?).
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
For about the past ten years I would say that I was very used to seeing the art in Waukesha and Milwaukee and seeing the art in history books and comparing the differences. What influences me is the extreme dichotomy between these points of view. Essentially I feel that we as Midwestern artists can be ourselves in a non-cliche way and show the world what we have to offer. This is a constant influence in my work. If I can’t shock people with how different my work is at least I can tell people in my peer group that we aren’t trying hard enough and that we have a lot of work left to do in order to make ourselves known.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media your use?
Collage is unique because it can use almost any material. Its also my favorite because it is so fast to use as well. That being said it is the art medium of our culture, it is constantly changing and malleable. If I use imagery from the past and reference the present with collage I am always creating things that are aware of the time they are born in. We live in a world that is working towards some sort of climax. If you look throughout history you will find that this doesn’t happen much, only once in a great while. I think that the time that we now live in is fundamentally perfect for this type of work, a progressive form that is well aware of its year, date, and time. I make things that comment on this truth through my own paradigm.
We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?
I tend to agree with him, especially because I know his paintings require a lot of endurance on his part. If I am not making something or working towards some goal I am completely lost creatively. I will say that the mundane inspires the ideas behind most of my projects. There is the everyday collage that I make that requires no inspiration other than the need to create but my long term projects come from just everyday boring. I can’t explain to you where ideas come from but I know they come when I’m not looking for them. I make art every day but once and a while a day is different where I just come up with something that sounds ridiculous. Usually this is the space where I come up with a substantial project.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
Can I say none/all? I have a thousand favorite artists and a thousand hated artists in my head. All of them influence me equally if that makes any sense. If I had to pick any one artist it would probably have to be Bruce Nauman because he is just completely beyond any classification. I love how his work is usually a riddle with no answer and that even now in his older years he is still “making” work that is just as cutting edge and aloof.
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
For the longest time, and I mean almost my whole life, I never had any hobbies. Art was always what I have focused on but within the last year or so I have forced myself to find an actual hobby, which is homebrewing beer. Its fun because I look up recipes to brew and I just follow them. Somebody gives me the directions and I just brew, plain and simple. Some creative decisions are inevitably made but I like being given simple instructions rather than always having to reinvent the wheel. However I will say that every batch I make is different and in that way I’m just doing the same thing as before. (Sigh) I’ll probably never have a real hobby.
Calvin Whitehurst is an artist from Waukesha, WI who lives and works in Milwaukee. Whitehurst attended the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. He graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Arts focusing on painting and sculpture. Whitehurst has since shown his artwork in various group shows, galleries, and educational institutions in south eastern Wisconsin. Among these are UW Milwaukee, Cardinal Stritch University, The Green Gallery West, The Jackpot Gallery, and others.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.