Donald Morgan – Eugene, Oregon

Black Flag 2013 Wood, Acrylic Laminate 47 x 20 x 7”

Black Flag 2013
Wood, Acrylic Laminate
47 x 20 x 7”

Briefly describe the work you do.  

I generate work from books, fiction and memoir.  I select themes and elements to rework into sculptures and paintings.  I suppose one could think of many of my pieces as sort of wayward, errant illustrations. Overall, the many small bodies of work I make function as loose, idiosyncratic, partial adaptations of the books I choose to use as source material.  In adapting writing into physical form, I am concerned with how the viewer physically encounters the work.  My pieces are constructed so that one’s experience of them leans toward the phenomenological, in the sense that our bodies are deeply enmeshed in the perceptual and cognitive process of viewing.  Much of my work is “passive-aggressively interactive”, resonating in a highly tactile manner, as if you could sit on it, touch it, or place something on it.  

Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.

I saw tons of art growing up, we lived for years overseas (Middle East, Europe) and I was inundated with museums.  My father is an architect, both my parents are real aesthetes, we had tons of books, big paintings on the walls by their friends, everything seemed hand made by bohemians. I think at one point we had 3 pianos in the house. All that stuff that rubbed off on me and I knew pretty early I was going to be a writer or an artist.  I even went to an arts grade school where you could do calligraphy instead of math. I’m still bad at math. After undergrad I moved to Chicago and landed a job making furniture for a couple years which gave me access to a shop and the skills to make things. The limited fabrication repertoire I have is all from that time, about 20 years ago.

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 tend to have very studio intensive 3 or 4 month stretches when I will complete a body of work, usually for a solo show, during which I am in the studio or a shop of some kind day in day out.  The rest of the year I will work on pieces intermittently but mostly focus on sketchbook stuff wherever I’m at, figuring out the next body of work.

My favorite studio time is when I’m in the early stages of a project and I’m sketching out ideas , ordering materials and making cardboard mock ups and listening to NPR all day long.  After that it’s a very shop heavy and exhausting.  I could never be one of those hermits who spend their entire lives holed up in their studios, brush perpetually to canvas. When I look at paintings that look as if they took longer than a few days to make, I feel queasy. 

Display Unit 2013 Maple Plywood, Wood Dowels, Acrylic Laminate, Plexi, Rubber 35 x 26 x 6.5”

Display Unit 2013
Maple Plywood, Wood Dowels, Acrylic Laminate, Plexi, Rubber
35 x 26 x 6.5”

What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

Being a professor.  It’s a very humbling job.  Being part of an artist run space that’s been around for almost 8 years now (ditchprojects.com).  I’m also a co-director of a residency (coasttime.org). 

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?

Whenever time allows.  Teaching and having a 2 year old make it tough to keep a regular studio schedule.  The summer months are generally the most productive for me.  I’ve gone on a couple of residencies, most recently Macdowell. Those are good for me, but mostly because I get some head space while I’m at them.  It’s good to get away from it all. 

Studio Installation shot The Green Towel 2010 Acrylic Panel, Maple Plywood, Enamel 35 x 37 x 22”

Studio Installation shot
The Green Towel 2010
Acrylic Panel, Maple Plywood, Enamel
35 x 37 x 22”

How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?

Aesthetically it’s similar: hard edge, geometric.  But it’s getting funnier, which is good.  Before I moved back to Oregon a lot of my work addressed nature, trees etc… now that I’m in nature that subject matter is a lot lower on the totem pole for me.   Now I look to fiction as a source material. 

How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?

Though I got my MFA at Art Center and have read tons of theory, and teach it sometimes, it’s become less of a focus…different enthusiasms get me out of bed in the morning now.

Like every artist, influences are always bopping around in my head. Mostly Artschwager, Judd and Mccracken.  Often in a very nuts and bolts sculpture kind of way; volume, color, weight, arrangement etc…but I gravitate towards Artschwager the most, and for more than formal reasons.  He’s more interesting to me than Judd because of how idiosyncratic his overall practice was.  His drawings on celotex are just so weird and wonderful and deadpan.   He was funny.  Not many artists are.

Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests? 

I read a ton of fiction.  I love sentences. Right now I’m half way through Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief and I feel a certain connection to his prose, how tightly coiled and surprising it is.  He sweats the small stuff, there is nothing casual in his writing. Similarly I obsess about the 1/32nd of  an inch, getting that shade of red exactly right in relation to that shade of green.   But writers can’t listen to music or public radio while they work.  And writing is a thousand times harder than sculpture.  You can just put an orange broom in the corner and it will look pretty great.  

I generate work from books, fiction and memoir.  I select themes and elements to rework into sculptures and paintings.  I suppose one could think of many of my pieces as sort of wayward, errant illustrations. Overall, the many small bodies of work I make function as loose, idiosyncratic, partial adaptations of the books I choose to use as source material.  In adapting writing into physical form, I am concerned with how the viewer physically encounters the work.  My pieces are constructed so that one’s experience of them leans toward the phenomenological, in the sense that our bodies are deeply enmeshed in the perceptual and cognitive process of viewing.  Much of my work is “passive-aggressively interactive”, resonating in a highly tactile manner, as if you could sit on it, touch it, or place something on it.  

About

IMG_1728Donald Morgan received his MFA from Art Center College of Design. Prior to his current position as an Assistant Professor at the University of Oregon he was a sculpture lecturer at UCLA. He is a co-director of Coast Time Artist Residency in Lincoln City, Oregon and is a curator and member of Ditch Projects, an artist run space in Springfield, Oregon. In 2014 he was the recipient of grants from the Ford foundation, the Oregon arts Commission and was a resident at the Ucross Foundation and the Macdowell Colony. He has shown widely in the US and internationally and is represented by Fourteen30 Contemporary in Portland, Oregon. Reviews of his work have appeared in Art Forum, Art Issues, the NY Times, the LA Times and the Oregonian.

Gallery Installation shot from left to right Stove 2012 Acrylic Laminate, Enamel, Rubber, Maple Plywood 55 x 37 x 26” Firewood 2012 Acrylic on Board 17 x 30 x 17” Heater 2012 Enamel on Acrylic Laminate 34 x 40”

Gallery Installation shot from left to right
Stove 2012, Acrylic Laminate, Enamel, Rubber, Maple Plywood, 55 x 37 x 26”
Firewood 2012, Acrylic on Board, 17 x 30 x 17”
Heater 2012, Enamel on Acrylic Laminate, 34 x 40”

fourteen30.com/Artist-Detail.cfm?ArtistsID=257

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.

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About 365Artists/365Days

The purpose of this project is to introduce its readership to a diverse collection of art that is being produced at the national and international level. Our goal is to engage the public with information regarding a wide array of creative processes, and present the successes and failures that artists face from day to day. The collaborators hope that this project will become a source for exploring and experiencing contemporary art in all its forms.
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