Briefly describe the work you do.
Much of my work grows out of examining and questioning how we conceive of our relationship to the physical world and how we make sense of our place on earth and in space. In it, I explore various ways of thinking about how we relate, in both individual and social ways, to the physical world. My many years of cycling and running have played into a number of works in which I test my body’s endurance at the same time as I perform futile actions, trying to assert volition in absurd ways. A number of other works grow out of my study of language and work as a translator. I’m also interested in volition in this work, in poking and prodding at the ways language is used to coerce and persuade. Although I have been working on these two overlapping bodies of work for some time, it’s also important for me to be constantly experimenting with new ways of thinking and working. Lately I have been thinking about visual rhetoric in ways similar to some of my language work, examining how images are used rhetorically, as persuasion, propaganda, or advertising, and pulling apart that kind of image production. Video and photography are natural tools to use for this work because of video’s durational nature and because of both of their use in mass culture.
At what point I your life did you want to become an artist?
It happened gradually through my late teens and early twenties. Previously I felt pretty certain that I would end up doing more math/science/engineering type stuff, but as I took art classes at the end of high school and early in college I realized that I was far more invested in art than in the other things I was doing. In college I had a hard time settling on one thing to study and eventually chose art because of its radical openness; I could think about and explore anything as an artist, so I didn’t feel like I was closing off any paths. (My other degree, in Spanish Translation, was both a backup way of making money as well as just something I loved and couldn’t give up.) I worked for a while as a legal interpreter, but I knew I wanted to go to grad school for an MFA and make art a long-term commitment.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
My family moved around a lot when I was growing up. About as soon as I started to feel like I had figured out my physical and social surroundings we would move, so I was a perennial outsider. I think that has had a lot of influence on how I see the world. Any other attempts to draw lines from things in my past to my work feels like bad amateur psychology. I grew up swimming competitively and spent thousands of hours staring at the black lines that run down the middle of the lanes in pools. That has to have done something to me.
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?
Hmmm, I don’t have a good answer for that. I only half agree with Chuck Close. I think that the flashes when good ideas come are only possible when you’re working and thinking about your work a lot, but I don’t think they’re just a function of the number of hours you put in.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
It’s hard for me to tease out how other artists influence my work. I definitely know artists whose work excites me and who I find myself thinking about frequently. In no particular order: Michael Craig-Martin, Elizabeth Price, Robert Smithson. Some photographers like Richard Misrach and Hiroshi Sugimoto, Artie Vierkant and a lot of others are doing really interesting things with photography now. I’m a sucker for perceptually focused work by people like Doug Wheeler, Olafur Eliasson, Robert Irwin, etc. But like I said, I don’t know in what ways my interest in this work makes its way into my own work.
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
Walks/runs/bike rides with my family (I’m married and have two kids),starting too many books and not finishing enough of them, getting in over my head in projects I’m woefully unprepared to take on and googling my way out of it, working on bikes.
Collin Bradford grew moving up all over the United States, always in suburbs of mid-sized cities. He received a BA in Spanish Translation and a BFA in Painting from Brigham Young University. He worked as a legal translator and interpreter before graduate school at the University of Illinois, where he received an MFA with an emphasis in New Media. He is currently an assistant professor at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he teaches courses that use video, sound, digital 3D modeling, interactivity, and photography. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States, as well as in exhibits and film and video festivals in Germany, Italy, Ireland, South Korea, and Australia.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.