I had a chance this week to chat with artist Alan Skees about his work in our current show Locus 100 (opening reception March 18, 2-5pm).
“Consider this series as my sublime, digital meditation on the forces that created and continue to change our beautiful planet.”
LOCUS 100, curated by John Lee Matney and on display now thru April 22, features four pieces from Skees’ photographic series Neu Naturalis. Skees has roots in Alabama, living and studying in Birmingham thru the completion of his BFA at the University of Alabama. Here he primarily studied printmaking, in both traditional and alternative forms, digital arts, and design. His MFA took him out West where he achieved his MFA from the University of Arizona in 2007, studying printmaking, book arts, installation arts, and digital image making. Now he works at Christopher Newport University as an Assistant Professor of Digital Arts and New Media. He and his wife, fellow artist Kristin Skees, live and create art in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
Skees is the perfect bridge between the Southern and local art featured in this show as his work can be categorized as both. His work embodies the spirit of Locus 100 with its abstract forms colliding and manifesting new shapes, lines, and colors.
AR: What has inspired you most as an artist, can we see evidence of this in the physical manifestation of your work?
AS: The Neu Naturalis series was inspired from two main areas. My usual source of inspiration is from my experiments in technical process. I'm always fascinated with blending old and new technologies to see what appears. This came from dabbling around with PROCESSING scripts and an old camera technology called slit scan photography. It was mainly used for motion capture in science and racing. The other source was an unusual one for me. I'm not one to go camping and hiking and roughing it outdoors. My family took a road trip across the country and we went through such crazy terrain. We saw the mountains of the Appalachians, the northern plains through the Dakotas and the badlands, Wyoming was amazing and Yellowstone blew me away. It's the twisting and contorting of the land that I drew a lot of the forms in my work from.
AR: What informs your use of color?
AS: The color in this series comes directly from nature. Fossils, minerals, and shells are the main sources for the images.
AR: What has been the biggest change in your artistic work and style in the past few years?
AS: This particular series is a big change in my work. I haven't worked in abstraction in at least 15 years. My other work is generally illustrative printmaking or photography. There has always been a bit of a humorous political edge to my work, but I've been totally exhausted from that and wanted to escape into something totally different.
AR: Discuss your process, physically and mentally.
AS:This series was a pretty crazy series of events to get it where it is now. I was working with a student and a colleague on two separate projects about automation in image processing. I drew lots of ideas for this set of images from that work. I think the raw data being ran through a series of scripts to see what comes of it is an adventure in trail and error. Sometimes I feel like its playing the slot machines in Vegas. I usually like to keep an extreme amount of control over process, this series I let chance run rampant and then curated the aftermath. I created and destroyed quite a lot of pixels!
AR: What do you see as the purpose for you art? What goals do you set and achieve with your pieces?
AS:I'm always exploring in my work. I love to learn new processes and techniques and blend them with things from the past. As an academic and an artist, I have the luxury of being able to float easily between a lot of worlds and blend them all together. If I can get
people talking together from wildly different backgrounds about things, I feel I've been a success.
AR. Discuss your background as an artist.
AS:I'm from Birmingham, Alabama and grew up in the city. I always drew, built stuff, and took photos. I was lucky enough to be introduced to computer art in the 80's as a kid and just kept making things on my own during the boom of the internet. There were painters in my family and my grandfather was a printmaker, so I feel I have ink in my blood. In high school I was on the yearbook staff and did most of the design and formatting only because I was so adept at it. It wasn't until college that I formally got into art and design.
AR. Where do you see your art going in the future, or how do you see it transforming in time?
AS:I've always been a tangent based artist. I read, study and test until I have an explosive run of art making. I get an idea or a process in my head and I have to exorcise it by just doing it if I'm capable. I think I will always blend the old and the new and continue to explore emerging tech and ideas in science, culture, and politics. I hope to continue to work with interesting students and fellow artists from all over!