Chicago, United States.
Hi Colt, let’s start with your biography, could you tell us a little about yourself and about your path to art.
I am an abstract painter and multidisciplinary artist located in the USA just outside of Chicago, IL where I currently live and create. I graduated from Wheaton College with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies where I studied the disciplines of art & theology. My background in art began when I was a child taking art lessons from my Grandma. She was a professional artist in Door County, Wisconsin so I was surrounded by her art from an early age and always admired her oil paintings, landscapes, and mosaics. Growing up, I found ways to create my own art and took classes through high school and college. In college, I spent a lot of time printmaking and doing graphic design. I first explored painting for my senior show and from that moment on, I fell in love with the medium. My Grandmother passed away last December and a few weeks prior, she gifted me her entire studio — her brushes, easel, drawing table, storage shelves, etc — it was her greatest gift to me and an inheritance I am deeply grateful for. She really enabled me to pursue my art full time and is a big reason for why I paint today.
It’s a pity about your Grandmother, I’m sure she was proud of you. It’s about your previous studio, right? It looked very cozy!
Yes she was deeply proud! She was still alive right as my art career began, so it was very special for the both of us. I would always show her pictures of paintings and she would offer her affirmation or critique — she had a way of knowing if the work was honest and she always spoke her mind with me. And yes, this was all when I was still in my old studio, which was super cozy!
Recently you moved to a new studio, more spacious and bright. We would like to know more about your new space, perhaps new ideas, thoughts.
Yes I did! It’s a beautiful new studio with a big garage door and lots of wall and floor space. Having plenty of room for me to create is essential to my practice since I constantly have multiple paintings in process and will bounce between them, paper works, and sculptures. My studio is quiet and I like the isolation of it. It gives me a calm place to sit with my ideas and be intuitive with them.
Since being in the new space, I’m exploring new diptych paintings and have been developing a deep interest in sculptures and objects — I’m really excited about these new works and how the ideas are coming to life.
Your new works really require a lot of space, you constantly experiment a lot, where does such activity and thirst to find something new come from?
It comes from a deep necessity to create, it is essential to living. For me, art is action based, it is a behavior. It requires action and action simply fuels a deeper curiosity to discover all its possibilities. The possibilities to explore are endless and I must pick up a brush, spend time with it, and take risks. The more I practice this, the more freedom I find to try ideas, develop works, and make discoveries that wouldn’t have been found otherwise. I’m finding that if I am faithful to stay diligent, the work will be faithful in return.
Please tell about your new series of works (God Has A Telephone) which is presented in our exclusive online show.
On the surface, the works explore the relationship between figure/ground, color, and balance. I am fascinated by the beauty of the raw materials I use — canvas and oil paint. These pieces are created by torn and cut scraps of canvas that I collage into the painting to add layers, depth, and subtle moments of imperfection where the scraps fray and paint isn’t perfectly applied. Each composition evolves spontaneously by painting blocks of color, wiping the paint off, tearing/cutting scraps, and covering up sections of the painting with painted or raw canvas to find balance. These paintings really are a meditative and contemplative process, always seeking to resolve the tensions between the different elements of the painting.
I’m sure readers are curious to know about the title of the series!
Yes! There is much room for interpretation in the title and I always like to see what others interpret but I do have some meaning of my own. This series of work contemplates human relationship with God in the spiritual and physical realities of everyday life. I’m really interested in life’s big questions and paradoxes — specifically between the spiritual and physical; certainty and uncertainty; seen and unseen; perfection and imperfection. Life is full of them and its questions are vast — it’s almost as if to question life is a prerequisite to the very existence of life itself.
The title, ‘God Has A Telephone’, acts as an exploration of all of these things. It considers what prayer is and relates it to our modern world. It also explores this world where distractions are many and God-talk can be polarizing or simply uninteresting. In some capacity, I think there is an innate human curiosity in God, his existence, and where we fit into the story. I believe there is meaning in life and my hope is for these paintings — through the relationship of figure/ground, color, and balance — to embody the rawness of human questioning and encourage others in discovery.
Please describe your usual working day in the studio? Perhaps some habits, or the music that accompanies.
I like to have a slow first hour of the day at home with my wife drinking good coffee over a nice breakfast. I then get working in the studio by 9am and typically work quite diligently until about 6 or 6:30 at night. My days in the studio are often full of spontaneity but they often involve a supply run, emails, prepping new canvases, mixing colors, and exploring curiosities. Music plays an important role in my process. I listen to a lot of jazz at the moment — it simultaneously calms me while keeping the energy high in the studio. I’m a long time fan of Miles Davis and John Coltrane and recently have been listening to a contemporary jazz musician, Matthew Halsall. A favorite non-jazz group of mine is an instrumental band from Texas called Khruangbin. If you haven’t heard of them, you’re welcome!
Already added them to my playlist and recommend to our readers! In addition to your work, you probably have some other hobbies?
Painting is mostly what I do, but I love a simple way of life! My wife and I love to spend time with friends and family. Usually we have a dinner party on the calendar at least once a week. We like to host, so we will often cook up a nice meal, open some wine or make some cocktails and enjoy the evening with our people. When it’s warmer out, we like to be outside as much as we can so we will take walks by the lake or go listen to live music in the park or in the city. We try to enjoy life’s little moments as much as possible!
What inspires you the most in your work?
I find inspiration from just about everything around me. I enjoy researching artists who have contributed beautiful or provocative work to the world and that always inspires me to push my creativity and to be original. I also find inspiration comes in the most unexpected moments or from the most seemingly random things. I often find inspiration from nature and the decay of old buildings, signs, bridges, or other rugged raw materials––things like golden prairie grass, rusted steel, sun shining through the trees, crumbling concrete — they all have beauty waiting to be recognized. The contrast between nature and man-made objects is fascinating to me. It is beautiful how nature finds a way to overtake something that has been neglected or forgotten by man. It sort of accepts it back into the natural world. These things seem to work themselves into my paintings in some way. It might be through the process of reworking an old painting or in a new color palette I’m exploring. There is always some connection and I love to see how inspiration from the world around me finds a way into my studio practice.
You talked about the provocative artists who inspire you, could you call a few of these artists?
This is one of my favorite topics to talk about! Christo and Jeanne Claude are very provocative to me. They embody the understanding that there are no limits to ideas and that time is not the enemy. Many of the incredible installations they conceptualized were many years before they realized them. I love how their ideas made it through the test of time and how relentless they were in making them a reality.
Larry Poons is another one. He is an artist that didn’t succumb to a way of painting that the art world wanted. In a way, he sacrificed his fame and success at a young age to pursue a new way to paint and evolve his work. It really paid off too, his work is stunning and his mentality toward painting is something I admire.
Clyfford Still is my favorite. He was one of the most provocative painters in my opinion. His work is other-worldly and his philosophy is deeply inspirational. He was another, like Larry, who kept the art world at an arm’s length. He believed there was something special about his work — he was even particular about who could purchase it! I admire that he kept and donated roughly 95% of the art he made in his life to what is now the Clyfford Still Museum. He fought against consumerism and fame to uphold a very raw, honest form of art.
Thoughts I would like to share with our readers?
Slow down, take risks, and remain open to new ideas. Life is too short not to learn something new or pursue a dream you have always held close.
Photos by Thomas Gavin