Jamey Hart Interview - The Hopper Prize

Jamey Hart

Jamey Hart on looking as a tool, productive delusions, and developing a practice that operates like a spider web.

How did you get into making art?

My first aesthetic experiences were seeing a sock on a fencepost leaving a funeral, admiring roofing pitch, and misreading trashcans buried in the snow at night. From those early observations, I started to sense that looking was a tool that I would come to rely on. I used to draw birds from books in the library while I waited to be picked up after school, and arrange sticks in the driveway into mazes and house shapes. I remember I made an ink drawing of a church when I was seven or eight. I still have it somewhere.

What are you currently working on?

I make objects that distill an experience that I have of the world, after it has already taken form in words. Making the object is a means of witnessing the translation of that experience from language into something wordless. The bridge between those two kinds of articulation serves as a common center for all modes of my practice.

Currently, I am making an object about a sign that I saw: a series of overlapping arrows that point elsewhere; a bright reflective surface that commands some level of attention; this felt like a kind of meaning that is resonant with my own motivations in making an object; something about the tension between the implication or direction of an object and the object itself. What I love in painting is the feeling of the object in suspension between numerous forces. I see it as an apparatus in defiance of gravity, something struggling to hold, slow, or stop time entirely, something touched trying to touch back.

I’ve also been working on three books over the course of this past year: one compiling the pictures that my mom takes and posts on facebook, titled “All of My Mom’s Pictures”, one that archives poems and phrases that I wrote on people’s packages as a delivery driver after moving to Massachusetts titled “Box”, and a book of thirty-four paintings on paper, each representing the color of the sky, the sea, or an object that I saw on the path while biking, that I mix from memory, titled “Closet Colors”.

I make objects that distill an experience that I have of the world, after it has already taken form in words.

Jamey Hart

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

I have been thinking about how my internalization of the world is not necessarily a faultless mechanism. When I make an object and when I am painting, I am trying to double my life and use time to produce time. There are aspects to this that feel adjacent to delusion, but never quite that. Regardless, I have been thinking about productive delusions and remembering a period where my family and I started to look for my dad in everyday objects after he died. Eight balls, the number eight itself, a blue jay, maybe a stick that hits the roof and makes a certain noise. For some reason I was never able to fully inhabit a total belief in the alterior dimension of those objects, but I was equally unable or unwilling to accept the opposite. My current approach feels entangled with this time. I wonder about the boundaries of objects, what a surface can and can’t hold. I wrote these two questions on my table this year: “Can something be a container if it has no opening? What if that opening only reveals itself at certain times, in certain places?”

The books that I’ve been making come from an impulse to have a practice that operates like a spider web. I wanted to catch the negative spaces in my peripheral experience. By calling something a project and making a book about it, I am trying to reclaim that thing for its poetic potential, or frame it out as conceivably significant to my practice. When I was delivering packages, it could feel dystopic, and I needed to find a way to house what I doing within something else: to see the eleven hours inside of the van as a way of making a painting, or writing a long poem, or starting a rumor that could exist within a neighborhood of people. There is a side to this which is me lying to myself and inventing fictions to follow. But math is some kind of invention and it still sends rockets into space.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I understand my entire practice as broad in approach. I don’t work with any seriality in regards to the objects. They come from singular experiences that I process through language before attempting to describe them through other means. I see the object-practice as parallel to a record or a logbook in some ways. There is this broader external structure that the things are embedded in.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

Part of my work happens in the studio. Part of it happens within everyday life. I work in two to three hour intervals. I work on one object at a time, and try to make one primary decision within the object a day. I prefer working around a set schedule, even if that set schedule is arbitrary. While I am working, I am usually in disagreement with myself in terms of how to make whatever I am trying to make. I usually pick something up on the road while walking to the studio, and mix the color of it when I come in. I clean the studio at the end of the night before leaving.

Simultaneously, I maintain a habit of writing, I gather materials on my bike, and make on-going projects: these are usually durational and routine performances for no audience. While in Houston, I would bike to White Oak, Brays, and Buffalo Bayou and cry. I did this two times a week for the first two years that I lived there.

Who are your favorite artists?

Agnes Martin Hong Hong Carla David Horvitz Matthew Wong Paul Chan David Hammons Carl Ostendarp Diane Cescutti Noah Leen Valentina Jager Molly Zuckerman-Hartung Josephine Halvorson Stella Zhong Leeza Meksin Jim Lee Brad Tucker Dana Frankfort Fergus Feehily Laurence Graves Michel Carmantrand Francesca Fuchs Keiko Narahashi Anne Mailey Maja Ruznic Joshua Hagler Keith Allyn Spencer Janice Nowinski Annabeth Marks Emil Halmos André Cadere Sean Sullivan Al Svoboda Jordan Danchilla Bas Jan Ader K Sarrantino Peter Shear Welly Fletcher Xyl Lasersohn Lael Marshall Altoon Sultan Lauren Yeager Emil Robinson Satpreet Kahlon Rachel Pontious Rachel Hecker Renana Neuman Sterling Allen Kim Faler Mie Kongo Russell Webb Enrique Figueredo Allison Miller Christina Tenaglia Paul Simmons Juan Logan Anna Horvath Russell Maltz Ever Baldwin Robert Guillot Christian Marclay Michael Snow Baxter Koziol Kelly Hannah Beerman Michael Cuadrado Blinky Virgina Lee Montgomery Fawn Kreiger Anne Wu Mike Cloud Wilma Vissers Francis Fontaine Forrest Bess Tom Friedman Nancy Shaver Etel Adnan Brian Belott Bill Davenport Jamal Cyrus Kevin McNamee-Tweed Matthew Feyld Sebastien Boncy Beverly Fishman Luc Fuller Ben Weathers Cauleen Smith Steve Riedell Hervé Garcia Vincent Hawkins Guimi You George Brecht Rick Lowe Arlene Shechet Jose Bonell Leslie Jane Roberts Claudia Keep Marcel Broodthaers Anna Hepler Hernan Ardila Delgado Kyle Staver Hiroshi Sugito Robert Ryman Judith Linhares Yevgeniya Baras Tess Jaray Alice Tippit Jane Bustin Tuttle Thomas Nozkowski Vija Celmins Robert Filliou Clare Grill Jaakko Pallasvuo Katherine Bradford Micah Lexier Daniel Euphrat Robert Gober Jake Walker Cyrilla Mozenter Johanna Blank Alberto Casais Pete Schulte Loren J. Munk Sherae Rimpsey Lygia Clark Richard Rezac Kevin Beasley George Blaha Suzan Frecon Harriet Korman Adrian Piper Kishio Suga Alison Knowles Kevin Kautenburger Charlotte Posenenske Libby Rosa Dorothee Joachim Dominic Palarchio Clare Koury Chadwick Rantanen Merlin James Domenico Gnoli Yutaka Matsuzawa Karin Sanders Katelyn Eichwald Marley Freeman Richard Bosman Brenda Goodman Harry Roseman Sophie Barber and certainly others.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

Things like this are helpful as a kind of archive. I often rely on artists and friends to point me in a direction. I used to work as a watchman at a museum and would learn of artists while walking around at night. And I routinely go to a number of galleries carrying a notepad and write down names.

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