Briefly describe the work you do.
I am a ceramic artist who creates sculptures, installations and performance art. My current work focuses on artists and athletes to show how similar their mindsets are. As most movements are minimized to be more efficient, I bring a kinesiology aspect from athletics into my art process. These movements in my performance pieces emphasize the concept that the process of creating art is more important than the product.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I grew up in Des Plaines, Illinois and have remained in the Midwest for my art education. I have an athletic background ranging from little league tee ball through pitching in college. As an athlete, I have always believed that one needs to work harder than one’s opponents in order to become successful. If the opponents are getting to the gym at 6am, I need to force myself out of bed to be there at 5:30am in order to get those extra repetitions. I brought this competitive mindset of athletics into my artistry, where I still believe that in order to be the best that I can be I have to want it more than the person next to me. Thus, athletes and artists both share this same philosophy of practicing to be the best in their fields.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I find studio time in between teaching 3D Foundations courses, working in the undergraduate ceramics studio, and my own classes at Northern Illinois University. I try to utilize all of my time in the studio working with clay. Clay is my real sketchbook, whereas my actual sketchbook is more like a Post-it note pile. Clay is a forgiving material and I use it for just that reason. Sketches and ideas on paper can be mesmerizing at times, but my sketches are usually writing and scribbles of shapes and forms. Those few marks create the foundation of an idea, but I learn how it is going to look, feel and exist in this world by making it in the clay.
My studio will never have a door. If I feel uncomfortable or embarrassed doing my work in front of others, this will skew the development of my art. My studio space has 8 other artists in different disciplines, which enables us to bounce ideas off of each other constantly. However, I do enjoy the hours I find myself alone in the building. This is when I can concentrate on creating whatever I desire without feedback.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Initially when I started making art, I never envisioned myself in performance art. Making art was satisfying, but after a while I realized I missed being an athlete. Performance art allowed me to incorporate both of these passions into my art while giving me the excitement of anticipation and allowing my work to focus on the process instead of the product. The results of my performances are variable, which lets me to find a middle ground between my past athletic and current art practice.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I am an early bird and a night owl, in other words, I do not sleep. My mind is constantly envisioning new ideas and I become anxious to get to the studio to turn my thoughts into art. I try to spend any amount of free time in my studio.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
Dramatically. My first body of work as an artist was creating clay sculptures of aquatic sea life: coral, sea urchins, and creatures. I did not feel a connection to those pieces. I do not like swimming, I get motion sickness, and the work was not coming from within. I did not find a sense of inner art until I auditioned to be a clown for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. After not making the final cut, I made a series of woodblock reduction prints that represented my perspective of my ambitions of being in the circus. This series of work was when I started to become an artist, and not just making art.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
I receive support from my family and friends, but the figures with the biggest impact on my work are the artists I am surrounded by, my fellow graduate students. I am interested in many areas of art and contemporary artists. However, it not until I get to know an artist’s personally and hear the emotion and excitement they feel when making their art that I become that much more interested, connected and inspired by individual art pieces.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
It is important to me to be part of a team, whatever profession that entails. Currently, I teach at the undergraduate level in order to supplement my graduate studies and studio practice. I would like to continue teaching upon graduation, but I am also interested in coaching athletic teams. I admire the idea of a successful team, both in and out of sports. As a result, I am always interested in how to become more efficient and how to create systems that utilize teams and their players. I could see myself being a part of collaborative art projects in the future or, in the very least, part of a community studio space.
Jeremy Foy is currently an MFA candidate with a ceramics emphasis at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL. He writes, “As a former athlete, I am addicted to the repetition of movement. In the studio my goal is to replicate an assembly-line of movements in order to test my physical ability to adjust and adapt to different challenges. My assembly-line technique could be compared to someone shooting a piece of trash into a garbage can. If I miss, I am not going to pick it up and just throw it in the garbage. Instead I am going to return to my original spot and continue to attempt the shot until I am successful. These repetitive assembly-line actions eventually become muscle memory, which evolve into an instinctual action I employ when creating art. These motions require both practice and mistakes, which is why my preferred medium is clay, a reclaimable material, naturally suited to make errors. My inspiration to endure the physical exhaustion of repetition for the sake of art is a combination of my athletic motivation and studio practice”.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.