Jason E. Carter – Detroit, Michigan

MEDUSA'S GAZE #5, 2013, oil on linen,12x 12 inches

MEDUSA’S GAZE #5, 2013, oil on linen,12x 12 inches

Briefly describe the work that you do.

Light has had a continual presence in subject and concept throughout the history of painting, but how it is understood and interpreted has evolved over time.   My current paintings are meditations on a new perception of light. The light we live by today is not what others experienced in the past. The digital age has brought a new age of illumination through glowing rectangles that demand our attention and are used with an almost religious fervor as they are essential to our day-to-day and culture.  A dichotomy arises as we connect to our digital world but disconnect with our present environment.  The sole light source for the paintings comes from a screen (laptop, tablet, smartphone), which with its digital flicker manipulates and defines the space. This particular artificial light not only allows us to see but also is a source of information.

At what point in your life did you decide to become an artist?

I think I always new this was what I wanted to do.  Plus, I could never handle the idea of sitting in a cubicle everyday.    

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.

After receiving my BFA, I eventually got a job assisting in painting conservation for a private conservator in Detroit.  That experience had a profound influence in every aspect of my practice. To physically hold paintings from different periods and see the normally hidden underbelly and provenance on the back, to sit with them intimately face-to-face for long periods of time and study brush stroke layers, all provides a very different understanding and education than standing in front of a painting at a museum or even projected on a wall in a lecture. Equally influential were the types of paintings that were brought into the shop.  I was exposed to artists outside of the big names and movements I was taught in school, along with a better understanding of painting done in the Great Lakes Region. Having that perspective certainly provided me with a greater understanding and direction to my own work. 

DOMESTIC #16, 2013, oil on canvas. 37.5 x 51 inches

DOMESTIC #16, 2013, oil on canvas. 37.5 x 51 inches

What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?

The conversation of light through out the history of painting drives the concept of my painting.  The way it has been used and understood has evolved over time.  Carravagio and George de la Tour painting’s were dominated by the mood set by a single light source that was either out of the frame or in the painting. The mood and spirituality set up by the artificial light allows the viewer an access into understanding the painting, without having to know the religious narrative just by simple observation.  In the mid 19th Century, Albert Bierstadt, painted large landscapes of the American west.  The drama of light from the sun and the use of scale, by placing a tiny human figure in the foreground in a vast landscape showed the riches and beauty of the land in America.  These images could be interpreted as types of propaganda, and reflected the views and ideology of America at the time.

As part of the art world made a move to a more minimal conceptual art, artists like Dan Flavin and Robert Irwin used actual fluorescent tubes of light.  Dan Flavin following the footsteps of Marcel Duchamp and his readymades, declared that the tube itself could stand alone as the work of art.

What is learned through this history is that light has been continually evolving for human kind in terms of perception, understanding, and manipulation. 

The paintings I create are speaking to a new perception of light.  Light that is produced due to our move into the digital age.  This combination of using the past to inform the present, moves the paintings forward and hopefully adds a new perspective to the conversation on light in painting.

DOMESTIC #17, 2013, oil on canvas, 37.5 x 51 inches

DOMESTIC #17, 2013, oil on canvas, 37.5 x 51 inches

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?

Yes, working hard everyday is undeniably important and every serious artist does.  I cannot though, just dismiss inspiration.  Our environments inform aspects of the work, whether one is aware or not.  Ultimately what motivates me is my everyday walk through my home heading to the studio, I have chosen to surround myself with only objects that challenge and inspire in every aspect of my life.  I collect, and I collect with purpose.  Objects like furniture, fabrics, art, architecture etc., all can reflect design philosophies and or ideologies and not just aesthetics.  So just this simple walk through my home has great impact heading into the studio.

What artists living or non-living influence your work?

Villhelm Hammershoi, Michael Borremans, Zoltan Sepeshy, Charles and Ray Eames, Elliel and Eero Saarinen, Michael Hall and Pat Glasscock, Beverly Fishman, John Frederick Kensett, Frederick Papsdorf, Albert Bierdstadt, Hughie Lee-Smith, Nick Cave, Abigail Anne Newbold.   

When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in? 

Checking out antiques and record stores, but mostly playing with my daughter.


headshotJason E. Carter received his MFA in Painting from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2011, and a BFA from the College for Creative Studies in 1999.  Carter was awarded the Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant in 2011, and a 2013 Kresge Visual Arts Fellowship, awarded by Kresge Arts in Detroit, a program of The Kresge Foundation. His work is in many public collections, including the Cranbrook Art Museum.  He is represented by Paul Kotula Projects and currently lives and works in metro Detroit, Michigan.

The Studio

The Studio


All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission. 

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