One of our favorite things at the Museum is watching as visitors get lost in our collections. Even our most casual observers stop short to spend time with something they caught just out of the corner of their eye. These moments create a sense of mystery and discovery and encourage us to spend even more time exploring the collection.
It's natural that as we wander the galleries, we wonder. Our minds bubble with questions like "Why did the artist choose that subject?" or "What inspired the artist to create this piece?" or "How did the artist achieve that effect?" Detailed observation and research can answer some of our questions, but often our deeper questions go unanswered as the pieces hang mute on the walls.
At the Museum, we're fortunate enough to work with many artists directly, and this Tuesday, November 1st at 6p.m., the public will have the same opportunity when Jackson-native, Jason Twiggy Lott comes to the Museum to have a conversation about his exhibit Apocrypha. In preparation for our Evening with the Artist, we asked Jason a few questions about his development as an artist and asked him to reveal some of the hidden meanings in this exhibit.
|Jason Twiggy Lott, 36|
1. Please describe your development as an artist. Are there any key moments in your life or pieces that moved you to become an artist?
I’m one of those fortunate individuals that was born an artist. I say fortunate because I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I never had to worry with searching for a profession I was passionate about.
I was also fortunate enough to have had art lessons throughout my school years. I have a vague memory of a first grade art assignment that I apparently completed to such satisfaction that my piece and I were paraded around other classrooms to show off my accomplishment. I recall that as being the first real indication that I had some natural artistic talents.
Besides art classes through High School and a brief stint in college, I’m mostly self-taught. I’ve relied on friends and fellow artists to share with me some techniques here and there throughout the years, but otherwise my work and techniques are a process of experimentation.
There are no specific events that made me want to become an artist. I suppose you could say I was fostered into being an artist. My parents were ever supportive of my artistic pursuits and I had an amazing succession of art teachers and mentors throughout my childhood and teens. It was simply natural and necessary for me to pursue art as a career.
2. Did you visit museums often when you were younger?
Not really that I recall. Probably my first real exposure to museums was in High School on various field trips. Museums and galleries only became something to explore and learn from in my mid-twenties once I was able to start pursuing my art on a more full-time basis. I’ve specifically found museums to be an amazing source of inspiration and study in probably the last ten years after visits to museums in Europe where I was able to see a lot of the old Renaissance masters’ work. Their work really drove me to pursue oil painting and portraiture, as well as kindling my fascination with non-secular or religious art.
3. Does it feel different having your work hang in a museum versus hanging in a gallery or someone’s private collection?
My intention when creating all my artwork is for it to be shown in museums, so having it in the University Museum is natural. Like any working artist, I want my work to sell and to be enjoyed by private collectors. I have bills to pay like anyone else, but I intend my work to be studied as opposed to appreciated on its visual merits alone. I do a significant amount of study and research into a myriad of esoteric subjects and schools of thought when producing my work. It’s ultimately a sort of amalgamation of themes and symbols that shouldn’t be readily apparent to the casual viewer. I suppose my work is intended for viewers not unlike myself who are interested enough and willing to dive in and do some work to extract an appreciation.
4. If you had to place yourself in a genre of art, where would you place yourself?
The Jason Twiggy Lott genre.
5. What was your inspiration for Apocrypha?
The word Apocrypha itself was the original inspiration for this body of work. I simply like the sound of it and its meaning so I decided to do a series of works based on that alone. During my usual research while working I became interested in cryptography and steganography, so hidden meanings, hidden intentions, and data within data became central themes of this series.
|Study of Larson, Mixed Media Assemblage and Oil on Canvas|
6. What was your process in creating pieces for Apocrypha?
The process was no different than my usual work process. There was some research into the themes that interested me beforehand. Otherwise, it was and always is just a matter of getting to work. It’s in the process of working that I find the most inspiration. I’m unable to rely on prior inspiration to drive me to work. I have to get down to it and find a rhythm within the process.
7. What’s the most challenging part of making assemblages?
The biggest challenge for me is letting go of many of the objects I’ve collected to work with. I’m a bit of a pack rat with my source material and find it difficult to incorporate some items into the work. Once they’re incorporated into an assemblage and become part of the work, I have to let them go and can no longer appreciate their solitary beauty. It’s as if I have a lot of puzzle pieces that I admire individually for their own uniqueness and beauty, but once put in place as part of the larger puzzle, they transcend their own particular merits and can no longer be appreciated on their own. I’m always loath to allow objects I’m particularly fond of to transcend.
8. What’s the most rewarding?
The reward for me is the process of creating. I’ve heard many artists refer of their work as like offspring, and my work is no different. Once full-grown and complete I must let them go to find their place in the world on their own merits. I do still love them, but they are on their own. It’s in the creation or procreation that I find the most joy and reward.
9. What’s one tip you have for other artists?
Travel when and if possible and expose yourself to art from all cultures and eras. Inspiration will soak into you whether you realize it or not at the time. You may find you’ve been inspired only while you’re working. Many artists, including myself, wait and wait for inspiration before getting to work. It’s a trap I constantly find myself caught in. Chuck Close said it best. “Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
10. What do you hope to share and or gain from your artist talk on November 1?
Honestly, I’m more excited about the opportunity to interact with students in their classrooms and studios during the day than I am about the evening artist talk. I’m more of an interactive talker or conversationalist than I am a presenter. If I need to present my self or my ideas I’d rather do it in writing or have a one-on-one conversation than be the solitary focus of an audience. I’m better at answering questions than I am at presenting ideas without provocation, so I hope that those attending the evening talk will be interactive and ask questions.
11. Is there anything else you’d like to add or say?
Don’t take anything at face value. Especially art. Get a dictionary, an encyclopedia, and an Internet connection and educate yourself on what you’re actually seeing.
Jason is based in Jackson, Mississippi. He recently moved into a new studio space, and we look forward to doing a virtual tour in the future. Interested readers can see more work at jasontwiggylott.com.
Please join the Museum on November 1st for An Evening with the Artist: Jason Twiggy Lott at 6 p.m.