Briefly describe the work you do.
In short, the work I do is multi-faceted. My physical focus spans painting, installation pieces, and also, multi-layered and mixed media assemblages, whereas my visual and aesthetic focus consists of mimics and reflections of toy packaging and lottery ticket designs, 8-bit video game and pinball graphics, 60s psychedelic imagery, and the pop art genre. Many of these graphics are used by commercial and graphic design industries as a way to entice a visceral response from consumers, and may include the use of vibrant colors, flat and hard-edged shapes, as well as playful geometric patterns. Outside of the aesthetic imageries and influences, I also try to present in my work a focus on critical social commentary. In fact, outside of my current body of work, my most recent body, the multi-layered and mixed media assemblages, often incorporated unscratched lottery tickets as a way of commenting on instant gratification and the desire and determination to “get-rich-quick” that seems to shape much of American culture. My current body of work focuses on the subtleness of those same themes and designs, and their effect of attracting audiences and instilling within viewers a sense of calm, ease, and private happiness.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
When I was a kid, I knew that I wanted to be either an astronaut or an artist. Once I realized I would never get to ride in a rocket, I began really working hard on “being an artist”. Growing up in a wonderful middle-class family in the Midwest, I learned early on the value of hard work and following my passions. My parents were always very supportive of my dream to be an artist and constantly pushed me towards that. They came to all of my ‘shows,’ and hung up my work around the house. I think their support had a much more profound effect on me than I realized even then. That kind of endless support, the “you’re a success to me” attitude, taught me to focus on the passion of making art, and not the result of selling it. Because of all that, I genuinely enjoy my work. Yes, I’d love to sell some of it, but I’m also genuinely happy just making work and being around it.
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.”
To me, being in the studio is more than the physical placement of my body. The studio is my sanctuary – my place of refuge from all the ongoing distractions at work and in life. I’m able to lose myself in the process of making work, and in my own thoughts and ideas. I get lost in preparing new painting surfaces, mixing various paint colors, searching for references and inspiration, or exploring ways to push my work in new directions. I may work on a single painting at a time, or I may work on any number of surfaces. When I’m ready to start a piece, I study the canvas, and I wait for the images to come to me. I’ll start with a general idea and sketch that out, and then various elements will be added throughout the process. This may take a week, or two depending on the size of the painting. During the painting process, I often find myself thinking of new experimental opportunities I can take in another painting. The whole process is very engaging for me: It is like I’m in a different reality when I am in my studio, one where I’m surrounded by the creative process, and everything else – paying bills, running errands – all of that – it doesn’t exist anymore. Because of that, I’ve always felt it important to keep my studio space as close to me as possible, often occupying part of my own living space. Right now, my studio is the basement of my house, and that’s okay with me.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I’ve assumed a number of roles that I didn’t anticipate when I started making art. I didn’t think I’d take on an advocating role, starting my own gallery as a way to curate, educate, and take part in the arts community, but I have, and with that, comes actively engaging in the movements that occur: a pop-up gallery here, a gallery project there – it’s all part of being an artist.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time every day or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I typically spend at least twenty hours a week in the studio, although I desire to spend more time there. I have always found it important to have a dedicated studio practice, in addition to a 40-hour work week. Throughout my artistic career, I’ve had to depend on full-time employment for financial stability. Although I always plan to work during the week in the evenings, and on weekends, life doesn’t always cooperate. Now that I’m engaged to be married and starting a family, I know that my studio time will become a little more flexed as well, and there may be a span of days or weeks where I selflessly focus my attention on my new family, rather than on my next piece.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
As you can imagine, my work has always been reflective of my own psychological and intellectual development. Five years ago, I was a graduate student making humorous performance-based videos about failure. Then, I started adding more and more to the performance, backdrops, props, installations – all of which led me to start building my assemblage paintings. Clowns, carnivals, gaming aesthetics, lottery tickets, bright colors became part of my process, and as such, is now the basis for most of my painting work.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
As mentioned earlier, growing up in the family I grew up in did a lot for cultivating my interests and passions. I always had the support of my family and friends, and I still do. In fact, my family is always the first to comment, share, or even purchase a new piece or print. Outside of my family, I constantly find inspiration in nearly everything around me. As an art handler in a major museum, I’m surrounded by inspiration from unexpected artists and works. I also live in art, in that my living and home environment is also full of visual stimulation and inspiration from a wide range of artists, methods, materials, and aesthetics.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
Being an artist has always been my main pursuit in life. I tried my hand at teaching once, but I found that it wasn’t as enjoyable as making work. Art is my number one passion; however, I am starting a family, and I’m starting to enjoy all that that entails too, such as playing tennis, going bike riding or hiking, and the more-than-occasional binge watching on Netflix.
Timothy Gaewsky is an interdisciplinary artist who currently works in painting, assemblage, and installation. Gaewsky earned an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a BFA from The Cleveland Institute of Art. His hard-edge, graphical, and witty paintings and installations draw on aesthetic influences from diverse sources, such as carnival games, toy packaging designs, pinball machine graphics, 8-bit video games, and more. His creative aim is to manipulate these elements in order to entice a visceral response from the viewer. Gaewsky has exhibited both nationally and abroad in group exhibitions at galleries and museums including: AC Institute (NYC, NY), Punch Gallery (Seattle, WA), The Gallery Project (Ann Arbor, MI), Toledo Museum of Art (Toledo, OH), AQUA Art Miami with ArtSlant (Miami Beach, FL), and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art (Rotterdam, NL). Most recently, Gaewsky was awarded the FY 2015 Individual Excellence Award grant from the Ohio Arts Council. He currently lives and works in Toledo, Ohio.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.