Briefly describe the work you do.
I use comic book text and imagery as a physical representation of information. The work bounces between medium to large-scale installations of word balloons and smaller drawings on top of actual comic pages. The work is symbolic of how information is presented by one party and then received by a secondary party. I’m interested in the product of information that has been filtered through a series of omissions or alterations and the affects this has upon the original. This reorganization is an example of the confusion caused between two parties who are trying to share an idea but are hampered by the lack or perversion of total information.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up in eastern Tennessee, which was an unbelievable place for a kid to be a kid. Miles of wilderness, all fodder for my imagination, surrounded my house. I truly believe that this childhood molded me into a naturally inquisitive person and laid the groundwork necessary for me to be an artist.
I discovered comics when I was around nine or ten and was immediately hooked. My allowance, seeing its death before it, didn’t stand a chance. After that it was a natural progression to high school art classes, the inevitable decision to devote my life to being an artist, and eventually higher education.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My work has a large level of assembly line grunt work. Once I have my concept and the design worked out I can knuckle-down and plow through, which is a wonderful opportunity to catch-up on music and movies. This process also means that I don’t necessarily need a large space. A table and a comfortable office chair suit me just fine.
I can’t say that my practice is really that different from anyone else. If I know what I want to do then I can jump right in. I have a home studio, which allows the “pop-in” of 5-30 minutes worth of work when there isn’t enough time for a full day.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
When I began making serious work I thought I had to have all of the answers, all the whys and hows figured out long before anything came to fruition. It was suffocating. I soon learned that this unnecessary weight was me trying to fill the role of the maker and the viewer. Once I let go of that weight, of trying to understand and explain every aspect of the art, I was liberated. A little mystery goes a long way to not boring yourself.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
Admittedly, I’m a 9 to 5 guy. I enjoy the quiet of the day and if I need to run an errand for supplies then everything is open and most people are at work. But when it comes down to it, I’ll take whatever I can get.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
The content of my work has remained similar, I just have far more variations of a theme. The process has certainly become more focused. There’s still a fair amount of experimentation, but now the experiments tend to end without the lab exploding in my face. I feel that I’m better able to dispose of bad ideas sooner and move ahead with what interests me. In the end, this makes me more excited to always get back into the studio.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
One of the greatest gifts is to be surround by creative and enjoyable people. Family and friends with fun and exciting ideas, art related or not, recharge my batteries like nothing else. Being depressed in the studio is a disservice to the work.
John Steinbeck’s Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters is, by far, one the most inspirational books I’ve ever read. He started each day with a letter to his editor to get the creative juices flowing and it’s fascinating to watch him struggle through the building of an expansive story. I find it encouraging seeing a person toil through a process that yielded such impressive results.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I’ve worked on and off as an art handler in museums since undergraduate school. It’s fulfilling and inspiring…and you get free access to a woodshop.
Or a Ghostbuster. Those guys make $5000 a ghost.
Adam White is an artist living and working in St. Paul, MN. In 2007 he received an MFA with a focus on Installation and Paper Sculpture from the University of Maryland, College Park and in 2004 he received a BFA in Painting and Drawing from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
His current studio work focuses on story/information narrative and how information can be processed and confused by and through people. The work takes on two formats: medium to large-scale installations composed of paper word balloons taken from comic books and smaller crosshatch drawings on top of comic pages.
He has exhibited work in Cincinnati, Detroit, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Minneapolis, and Washington DC.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.