by A.J. Fries
How did you come up with the idea to create The Last Ride?
These paintings were an extension of my ongoing series of works using Monopoly tokens and other childhood toys. These paintings, done on found prints, were specifically inspired by the artist Wayne White. Although there are a lot of artists who paint over or adapt found paintings, I found his work so fine tuned in its vision….and endlessly fun. I soon started acquiring these prints (I was seeing them everywhere), and decided to experiment with them to see if I could add something interesting to them, and further explore the visual subject matter that I’ve been using.
What did you want to say with The Settling of Susquehanna (There Goes the Neighborhood)?
Like most of my paintings, I don’t try to think of their meanings or “what I want to say” with them while I’m working on them. I just try to make a good/interesting painting. It’s usually after a painting’s completion that meanings reveal themselves. In this case, ideas about gentrification, sprawl, and the environment became apparent.
The Last Bale is another work where an ordinary object becomes the focal point in its supersized version. Why?
I thought that the giant wheelbarrow would be fun. It was also a matter of the objects in the landscape print that I painted on being relatively small. In the end I was thinking about how daunting a new or big job/project can be in the beginning.
How do you see the role of artists evolving side by side everything else that’s changing in the world?
I think the artist’s role has always been the same…to ask questions.
What is the power of art (personal or that of others) when navigating life as an artist?
Ha! I think art is just the coolest thing around. It almost makes me sad to know that the majority of the population doesn't think the same way. Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out how to navigate life as an artist. That said, I constantly get inspiration from the work of other artists. Personally, making and seeing art is a constant drive for me.
How does art benefit communities and regular people who are not art connoisseurs?
I think art is meant for “regular people”. What’s the point of making art that can only be appreciated by a select few? Art can and should challenge perspectives, and make the viewer question themselves and what they’re looking at. Of course, the person needs to be open to that. I think art benefits the individual and that in turn benefits a community.
What are the most overwhelming feelings you share with your community so far in 2017?
Uncertainty is the most overwhelming feeling I have at the moment, I can’t really speak for my community. Frustration, as well, is weighing heavily on me. Frustration with the level of discourse going on. It seems people from both sides of any discussion are unable to see things from another’s perspective.
But I’m still hopeful…………I have to be.
What do you wish to see happening in the days ahead that will have an impact on your artistic life and the arts community to which you belong?
Although the arts community in Buffalo, NY is passionate, it’s relatively small. It’s always been my wish for it to grow. I try to be a vocal cheerleader for art. In the past a friend and I staged a tailgate party for the opening of a large exhibition at The Albright Knox. We did the whole thing, grills, coolers of beer…We even wore custom made hockey sweaters with the logo for the show on them. We attracted a steady crowd. My goal was to show that art is and can be fun. If I got just one person to think about going to see art then I won.
I have no problem being a clown in the service of art.
As far as my artistic life is going, I just need to finish the next three series of paintings that I’m working on. I’d also like to expand my audience…..exhibiting more outside of my region would be cool, but who doesn’t want that?