Briefly describe the work you do.
My most recent work is a suite of mixed media prints that I created for a solo exhibition entitled Icons of Confessions. Inspired by the phrase, “digging up dirt,” Icons of Confessions explores the significance of secrets with respect to personal identity. Utilizing the American Imagery Bank — a website conceived by Zach Fitchner to create participatory art — volunteers were asked to virtually confess their secrets. The icons in each piece represent anonymous confessions that have been figuratively dug up, and literally brought to the surface. Each piece lies on the ground measuring 4’ x 6’ and is made using woodcut and serigraphy on muslin, Mylar, and acoustic foam.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
The majority of my upbringing took place in Lakeland, Florida, where I turned out to be a fairly normal human being despite living in an extremely religious, conservative community. I spent most of my time at hardcore shows and pretending to be an apprentice at a local tattoo shop where my friends worked. Although it wasn’t a formal setting, I was always surrounded by creativity. As a junior in high school, I chose to pursue an MFA in hopes of making a career of art and teaching.It wasn’t until college that I began to draw inspiration from my hometown. It eventually found its way into my work in the form of farm animals and cast iron skillets. I made drawings, paintings, and prints depicting traditional southern culture and southern imagery, but that would eventually change.My work no longer focuses on southern culture, but I’ve found that the community in which I grew up directly molded some of the ideas about religion and culture that I explore in my work today.
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.”
Because of the frequency with which I move, having a permanent studio space has never been practical, and I would assume this is a very common situation for artists in a similar position. Instead, I utilize my apartment and the facilities provided by the institutions at which I teach. My studio practice consists of sketchbook drawings, list-making, research, experimenting with materials, writing, listening to music, editing photographs, and production. Most of this takes place on my laptop computer.
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?
One of the greatest things that I’ve learned is that artists can take on almost any role and tell any story, and I hope that in some way I have accomplished this.
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?
I plan and research whenever I have time, but I prefer to physically produce work very late at night.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
My work is constantly changing and evolving, but in the last five years it has undergone an especially drastic transformation. Viewer participation and social practice have emerged as a major focus in my process. I feel that I have improved the connections that I make between my concepts and my materials, and I also feel that I have begun to place more value on the ideas that make up the content of my work.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Too many people have had an impact on my work for me to list, but my friends and family have always been very supportive and motivating factors for the work that I do.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
If I weren’t an artist I would almost certainly be a chef or restaurateur.
Zach Fitchner is a printmaking artist and Visiting Assistant Professor of Printmaking at the University of North Florida. Driven by his desire to interact with people and share creative experiences, Fitchner’s work calls upon the participatory conventions of social practice in contemporary art and the graphic, reproducible properties of print media to portray his outlook on identity, religious, social, and cultural philosophies. To accomplish this, his work is guided by the American Imagery Bank, a conceptual platform created to direct artistic interaction and creation of iconography between he and his viewers.
Born in Atlanta, Zach split his growing up between Sugar Hill, Georgia and Lakeland, Florida where he spent his time playing in creeks and roaming the streets as a rowdy juvenile. His art career began when he drew an eagle for the cover of his 5th grade graduation ceremony program. Zach has shown in numerous galleries and museums, nationally and internationally, and his prints are included in various public and private collections in the United States, Egypt, Slovakia, and Australia
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.