1. Welcome John to The Influx Gallery family. Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you are from?
I was born and raised in a small town located just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Coming from a such a history rich region of the US, I spent my early years through High School dreaming of becoming 1 of two things: A US Historian or a politician. That was until I found I had a knack for drawing and all bets were off!
2. Were your family supportive of you deciding to become an artist?
That’s a loaded question for so many artists, the answer is both yes and no. My mother was very supportive of me becoming an artist, her grandfather and Grandmother immigrated from Scotland and London in the early 1900’s where he was a well known and sought after industrial designer and she was an amazing needlepoint artist. My dad on the other hand, came from a very long time of very practically thinking Swedes, who were all focused on woodwork, and became machinists at companies like General Electric, where 3 generations worked on the assembly lines building aircraft engines, my dad became a US Marine when he was 17 years old, worked 3 jobs when I was young. He would encourage me to “Paint Real Things, people don’t want to see things that they don’t understand”. As he got older, maybe it was his own little renaissance or I just wore him down, but eventually he started to understand the beauty behind abstraction and more modern types of art. Sorry for the long answer!
3. Was there anything specific that you can remember that made you want to become an artist?
I started taking art lessons when I was about 7, working various jobs, shovelling snow, mowing lawns to pay for the tuition which I think was only $25.00 a month, the guy who ran the studio was an illustrator who worked at both Marvel and DC Comics, and I was enthralled with comic books as a kid, so he really lit that world up for me. I actually entered college with the intent to become an illustrator and move to NYC and work for a comic book company! LOL, that would have been a very different road to travel!
4. Did your schooling or work affect your creative development in any way?
Oh, yeah, college for sure. I went to a very small school which was focused on creating artists with a very rigid definition of what it meant to be an artist, which was realism and figurative. About ½ way through my 1st year I met a professor and LA based artist named Greg Miller. He challenged my understanding of what it meant to be a modern painter and helped spark a curiosity with painting that I hold to this day. I was his studio assistant for nearly a decade and I wouldn’t be the artist I am today without his mentorship.
5. When did you first discover the ability to create such original and multi faceted works?
In my early 20’s I was fascinated with works by Robert Rauschenberg, George Herms, Clyfford Still, Robert Motherwell, but it was the work of Anselm Kiefer that really hit the prompt in me that painting is about the visceral connection with a viewer and that it didn’t need to remain in a 2 dimensional format to remain a painting.
6. How do mixed media elements inform your award winning work?
As humans, we are constantly viewing and processing visual and audio information, however we often dismiss items that possess everyday beauty because we see them in context and our brains are programmed to dismiss items unless they are out of place. Even then we’ll give them a very basic cursive check, in order to determine if they present some sort of threat and then relegate them to a mental “Huh” and move on from them. By taking those items out of their intended environment and forcing the viewer to participate with them in a wholly different context and location, I’m always challenging the perception of beauty, and the organisational nature of things. Nature also does that to us, rusting metal on a bridge for instance, the rust creates a beautiful pattern on a surface that is usually accepted as mundane or ugly. But our societal programming allows for the dismissal of that type of interaction, so very few people would stop to view the rust patterns. With mixed media elements I’m saying to the viewer: “It’s okay, stop, take your time, have a look. How does this make you feel?”
7. Could you give us a little teaser as to the process that helps you create such fabulous artworks?
Well, as I’ve gotten older I have really come to understand the process of decay in our lives and the surrounding world. It’s a little cliche to say “From the moment we’re born, we start the march towards death” but that is an immutable fact and it helps inform my art work.
8. Where do you get your inspiration and influences from?
A good friend of mine and amazing artist Chad Bohren and I were just talking about this specific topic the other day. There are these gateway or portal triggers that we both experience, it could be music, another artist’s work, the shadow of a tree swaying in the bright sunlight or a very lucid dream. For me a good deal of my work is informed by the pain and joy of being alive. The moments of agony and loss combine with a visual element that finds purpose within you at the precise moment you need it the most. As of late, the song “Close Your Eyes” by The Chemical Brothers has been playing a lot in my studio, it speaks to the pain of love and loss, the expectations that never come to fruition and the eternal hope that they will. That song is a portal to me, it’s speaking to some shared thematic values I have in my artwork. Inspiration is a weird thing, it comes at me as an artist through so many different channels and angles. Tomorrow it could be a bird playing in my garden, or a wad of gum on the sidewalk, however always being open, aware and just letting the weird moments happen are critical to my inspiration.
9. We particularly love how you have intertwined Scandinavian influences with your own life experiences, particularly your expressions of the feelings of loss and grief. Can you elaborate?
The inevitability of death isn't a frightful or mournful thing to me, it’s simply the process of living and once I (you, we) accept that everything across the universe is part of that same process, I think you can start living a more full and beautiful life. My art is also part of this process, visually I am always trying to connect with a moment in time, a suspension between two places, a gate between the here and the “Other” as it were. The moments might read closer to the decay side of my visual vocabulary, however they are always a celebration of the best parts of living. In ancient Scandinavian cultures they believed in the hierarchical existence of “Realms” where different gods, deities and factions lived. There was also a very strong emphasis placed on what happens after this life, as it was just one of many ways we can exist. My fathers family emigrated from Sweden in the early 20th century and I grew up with great aunts who spoke the language and although they were contemporary roman catholics, their stories about the natural world were often tinged with stories from a more distant and ancient place. Those stories always fed my imagination, so I’ve always been fascinated with Norse Myths and Lore. I lost both of my parents in the years right before the pandemic, but the passing of my father was particularly difficult for me. I leaned on him for some much advice, as in 2015 I was divorced and suddenly found myself a single father, so his calming presence and wisdom was really missing in my life. About 3 months after his passing I was having a cycle of nightmares about being lost in the woods, at night, in the dark, alone, cold and scared. As these dreams progressed, I started to have a vision of a stag deer/elk, it was massive in scale, and projected a paternal energy of calm, presenting itself to me as a guide out of the woods and the thickets that entangled me in my dreams. In Scandinavian myth, deer are sacred, they are messengers between the “Here” and the “Other” having partaken in eating the golden apples from Yggdrasil, the tree of life enabling the transmission of knowledge and wisdom from ancestors to the living. I’m by no means a pagan, nor am I christian, but moments like that are always a source of amazement to me as there are no real concrete or scientific reasons they exist. They are just the way the particles that make up the dust of life organise to help you in a moment of need I suppose.
10. How has fatherhood impacted you as a person, and upon your oeuvre of works?
Well, my son is domestically adopted, but he is of African-American,(Multiple West African Countries) and Indigenous Brazilian persons (via the Dominican Republic.) Being the very privileged parent to my son has made me even stronger the ally to people of color not just domestically, but world wide. Defeating racism and fascism in the US as well as globally is the clarion call to all people, but it’s especially personal to me as I see first hand the structural and institutional bigotry and racism that impacts his world. Social justice is a very strong component of who I am, however it minimally impacts my art work, perhaps it’s something that I should be exploring in greater detail. One of the things that I appreciate about creating the work that I do is that my tone and subject matter isn’t immutable, it’s always evolving both visually and thematically.
11. We love how a wide range of artistic materials is used within your work. How long does it take you to finish a piece?
On average 3-6 months, but to be honest sometimes pieces take a lot longer to finally come together. I have a piece which I started working on in July of 2022 that I just finished. I painted over the original concept twice before I found the right message for the piece and it took only a few days to finalize- It’s funny how things come together so quickly at times!
12. Thanks a lot for your valuable time and interest. You can include any other details you want to talk about here?
Well, just a heartfelt thanks to you and Dylan for inviting me to join the gallery and the community, it’s lovely to have the work recognized and I’m excited to be part of the experience!