Tom Jessen wants you to make art and have fun with him too

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Maine artist Tom Jessen wants you to go a little deeper. Well, at least as far as the art is concerned, and more specifically when it comes to his latest show, “Play,” which he debuted at the L / A Arts Walk in August.

Tom Jessen is a Temple-based multimedia artist. Submitted photo

The three-dimensional interactive exhibit at LA Art Gallery is meant to be fun, Jessen said. Visitors are expected to approach it closely. While most museums or galleries would probably disapprove of visitors taking art apart and putting it back together, Jessen encourages it. (But only at his exhibit – always check with an artist before touching on his art.) It’s a game, after all, and visitors should have fun with it, he says.

“Some of the pieces in the show were put together by playing a simple game to determine the final shape,” he said. “Anyone can play the game and build the work – it doesn’t have to be me. You can disassemble and rebuild any part as many times as you want; it will always be different, just like the outcome of the match.

Jessen’s exhibition will run until October 18 at the LA Arts Gallery at 221 Lisbon St. in Lewiston.

Name: Tom jessen

Age: 52

Hometown: Strawberry Point, Iowa

Now lives: Temple

What inspired you to start making art? My father was plowing the snow in massive piles at the end of our driveway. On snowy days we were up there on those mountains building forts and tunnels for hours. I keep coming back to these moments because they are the earliest memories of simple, almost meditative repetitive acts that, in the end, seemed to be more about work than using that final ‘object’. In a lot of ways, creating art is really about it for me. I think that sense of process, of work, and of one’s body’s relationship to the world is the thing that has been retained from those days of playing in the snow.

What themes are you interested in exploring in your art at the moment? Lately, it has a lot to do with looking at everyday objects around me with new eyes. I’m trying to transform this stuff so that the viewer can also see these objects in a different way. I guess it has something to do with scavenging and turning what appears to be junk into something that isn’t “worthless.” I love this alchemical process.

The current show is about the parallels I see between making art and playing games. For me, these are two acts of play. I also see this kind of playfulness (and irreverence) in the materials used. Some of the pieces in the show were put together by playing a simple game to determine the final shape. Anyone can play the game and build the artwork – it doesn’t have to be me. You can disassemble and rebuild any part as many times as you want; it will always be different, just like the result of a match.

What are the main mediums you work with in your art? Lately, objects have been found which end up being painted in one way or another.

Usually I just start by noticing something that I didn’t have before. Maybe it’s because I was working with a particular material or object and then it led me to look at other found objects that were similar. For example, at one point I had the idea of ​​doing something with this roll of fence that I had leaned against my barn forever. It all looked like a nest of tangled metal in the center of the scroll. I was struck not only by the inherent grid, but also by the network of threads resembling drawn lines. This led me to paint each individual strand of thread a different color. I was impressed with how the enamel paint looked like nail polish – shiny but with a shiny crust, like creme brulee. After that I started to look at the metal differently, noticing it everywhere and what it might look like painted in enamel. In the end, I think my attraction was for materials. I made a number of parts from found metal objects. There are a few pieces in the show that use cans.

In other cases, it’s the shape of something that’s interesting. Like the show with the plastic containers # 2 painted and glued to the wall (“Nothing hides the color of the light that shines”). Initially, I just started looking at the hole at the top of the bottle and wondering what it would look like coming out of the wall. This led to seeing it as a vessel and trying to light up the interior by cutting it up. It all started just with experimentation, however.

In many rooms in the exhibition, I just have the impression that I am drawing with objects.

Sometimes the piece I’m working on inspires me to look at other similar things. But then other pieces begin with the attraction to the object, fiddle with it, and then later realize what it should be.

What do you hope visitors will take away or learn from your “Play” show? Lighten! Art doesn’t always have to be so devoid of humor. Have a little fun.

The common denominator between the pieces in the exhibition is that the shapes of many of them are put together in varying degrees of random operation. This is where the games come in. For some pieces, games have been designed so that (me) or the audience can put the works together. Theoretically, we could delete the whole show, replay the games, and those parts would be entirely different.

Other works in the exhibition involved chance operations in their construction rather than their installation. All of my impetus for bringing luck into the process was just to stay engaged and hopefully be surprised. Before that, I felt like I had gotten to the point where I was nauseatingly bored with my own choices and felt like I couldn’t stumble in any meaningful way to keep it legitimately exciting. .

Some of the other works in the exhibition just have a playful aspect to them, which to me generally has something to do with considering materials and objects in the context of what is normally considered a “serious place” ( like) an art gallery or museum. Choosing these items / materials is another way of not being precious and overly serious about what you are doing.

Because the works are designed for anyone to put them together, I want people to understand and consider that there may not be so much “talent” or “genius” in artistic creation afterwards. all. It’s about recognizing the types of expectations and baggage you are carrying with you. You feel like you need to put on your “art glasses” and look at him in a special way. “No” artists feel that this can only be done by some sort of wizard with magical powers. The power dynamics are astounding.

People who go to the exhibition will probably see that there is nothing too complicated about any of my work. It’s not difficult or heavy on technique. I often use accumulation and repetition as a way to get to a place where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

So, I guess if there is a political motivation, I’m interested in questioning these assumptions about observing art and artists and how the art world perpetuates these perceptions.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received and what does it mean to you now? A mentor told me a long time ago, “making art should be as easy as falling off a log”. I always try to follow this advice. This opened up the possibility that it was not necessarily a tortured activity.

I think in many ways that saying refers to a lot of what I was talking about above. I think that ultimately for me that means if you were really in tune with your own motivations, the process should be effortless and fun; the job should just fall off of you. But our expectations and judgments often get in the way, and then everything becomes “worked on” or “forced” because we end up overthinking.

It seems like it’s really about letting go of those expectations and staying present, allowing the materials to do whatever they want instead of forcing them to bend to your will. It’s a dance – you have to dance with your materials, not drag them across the dance floor. But you also dance with your own head if that makes sense. You are constantly in a keen sense of self-reflection, noticing what you are thinking and feeling.

One of the main reasons for introducing chance trades into the process was not to have so much control. At this point, you can watch the art come together (instead of dragging it across the dance floor). Ultimately, I think a lot of this is just about acceptance. Just let the moment be what it wants to be. You can never get completely out of the way, but you can at least try to mingle and dance with your situation, instead of trying to push the river.


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kurt watkins

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