Briefly describe the work you do:
I am a multidisciplinary artist that is currently living and working in Boston. I am working with performance, printmaking, photography, and installation. I explore concepts of the fragility and imperfection of memory as it relates to personal history and identity.
At what point in your life did you want to become an artist?:
I think I’ve always been creative and imaginative as a child, but I don’t think art ever became something I was seeking to do as a career until college. I started getting into ceramics and photography more deeply during my undergraduate years. I went to a work college and was already working within higher education in student life positions. It wasn’t until I started both working in the ceramics studio as a studio assistant and simultaneously creating my own work that I realized this was something I could potentially do as a career; it was more wholly satisfying.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist:
I have used a variety of different mediums throughout my artistic journey up to this point. I’ve worked with everything from ceramics and photography to printmaking and performance. Those experiences, both failures and successes, offer me skills and knowledge to draw from when working on ideas and creative projects. I went to a really great liberal arts college where I didn’t major in art or spend my time pouring over art history books and theory (until grad school), so I didn’t ever really feel like I had to just work all my creative process into one medium or subject. It was freeing and afforded me the opportunity to explore my ideas with whatever was and will be the most rewarding and enjoyable.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work?: How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
Much of the work is concerned with the exploration of identity, masculinity, and sexuality, especially in relation to memory. Through this lens I examine the relationships I have established with people and specific locations, usually portrayed through narrative forms. I think my family history, traditions, and upbringing play a huge role in my work. It’s one thing to grow up in East Tennessee; it’s another experience being a queer man raised by a single mother. It definitely gives me a different sort of set of memories to draw from.
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 believe that I’m motivated by excitement and possibility. I’m always looking for opportunities that would motivate me to create something new or put me in a situation that will let me experiment or learn something new from someone. I think when I am working I have to be open to failing. Not everything I come up with is a great idea. I also think I get a lot of motivation and encouragement from my peers. I’ve met some really amazing artists and creatives during my graduate school career. It’s great seeing them create outstanding work and/or performances that end up in galleries, exhibitions, and residencies. Continuing a dialogue of earnest critique and conversation has been helpful for me.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?:
I’m really in love with Ryan McGinley and his photographs. I think they’re gorgeous. Nan Goldin and David LaChapelle were early photographic influences, and Gregory Crewdson’s work. Cornelia Parker and Doris Salcedo are sculptural influences. I studied under Marilyn Arsem, and I think her approach to thinking and speaking about performance art has had a huge impact on the way I approach my performative work. Writing and poetry also influence my work, so I am continually re-reading just about all of Joe Brainard’s writings and also the Dream Songs by John Berryman. I am slowly, but surely, still making my way through the book Art and Queer Culture, and I highly suggest it to those who are interested in the subject.
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?:
I will read, sometimes for pleasure, sometimes for study. I love playing board games and I’m a pretty competitive person when it comes to that. I even made my own screen-printed card game, which unfortunately I don’t always win. I’m pretty addicted to the reality TV show Big Brother. One day you’ll see me on there. I also like traveling, especially visiting friends, so if the opportunity arises, and I have the money, then I am totally up for it!
Nathaniel received his undergraduate degree in English/Theatre, and a minor in art, from Warren Wilson College before he pursued his MFA in Studio Art from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He is currently a founding member of the Petrichor Performance Collective in Boston and a Post Graduate Teaching Fellow in screen-printing at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. He recently received a grant through the Boston Arts Commission for a series of durational public performances that is currently taking place August through September 2014. He always wears hats, is up for playing games, and constantly wishes it were sweater weather.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.