Interview with Contemporary Artist Jason Appleton

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You are very prolific and have so many painting styles. How does that work for you?

Appleton: My creativity is mercurial…it will shift from day to day. I have a lot of different aesthetics in me. Iʼll be in a certain place creatively, and then the next day it will have changed. Itʼs the process… my styles vary from fine line to grungy wide strokes. Iʼll look at something Iʼm working on the next day and I may not feel the same way about it anymore. Because of the emotional and conscious shift I will morph the painting into something different, and I think the viewer can sense a composite of ideas in that particular work.

"MIRANDA" by Appleton

Is it the same with your contemporary ceramics works?

Appleton: Yes I would get bored doing just one style.

How do you think having no formal art training, has affected your art?

Appleton: I’m not schooled in the contemporary “tricks of the trade”….I’m not brainwashed by the academic dialogue that has dominated art for the last forty years or so…

So, I’m not speaking a “canned language”… With a lot of artists, I see their intentions immediately.

When I create art, I want my intentions to be wrapped in ambiguity. The mind takes a break and allows emotion to flood in. Then the viewer goes back to try and pick apart the work intellectually.

Ultimately I donʼt want to create art that is in pre-agreement with its audience. There seems to be a strange conspiracy between academia, museums, galleries, collectors, dealers, writers, and critics, a kind of big brother mind meld. I always thought that was laughable even when I was 15 and green and going on instinct. All I had to do was go back a few decades in art and see how these true greats were carving up the creative landscape to see how paltry and pretentious the art era I was living in was.

What era is that specifically?

Appleton: The late 80ʼs to now.

But are you saying Post Modernism is worthless?

Appleton: No, I’m saying it’s inadequate. Itʼs too dry for my tastes. The main problem as I see it is this stratification between feeling and intellect. You divorce intellect from emotion and you get a very dry, boring, and inauthentic intellectual impact. It is only the visual art world since the mid-sixties that has had this obsession with dryness. You donʼt see it in any of the other arts- music, theater, prose, poetry, movies.

I’m not totally against conceptualism…I have conceptualism in my art…I use it as one ingredient in my art…itʼs not the whole entree.

I understand youʼre from Chicago, originally…

Appleton: Yes, I was born here in 1973, but I grew up in upstate New York. I moved back when I was 18. I lived in Wicker Park. A year before I got there, the Smashing Pumpkins and Liz Phair had lived there.

What made you go back?

Appleton: I was making art every day and was hungry for a real art scene. When I arrived, I totally immersed myself in the city. I was working a day job at the café at Neiman Marcus. I was a terrible bus boy. I was dropping plates left and right. After work Iʼd go directly home to paint. I lived in a one bedroom flat with a broken front door off of N. Damen. I had to crawl through a back window to get in and out. But it was in that place where I had many creative breakthroughs.

What were your creative breakthroughs?

Detail of "MIRANDA" by Appleton

Appleton: I started to draw and paint the female figure for the first time and because I was free to work after I got laid off, I started to draw and paint constantly when I was home. I was literally starving because I no longer had a paycheck and I would do art to feed myself and to kill the pain of hunger. This is when I realized that not compromising was the key to my existence. Iʼd paint on everything and anything I could find. I used to go on cardboard hunting expeditions in alleyways to get my canvases.


Lets move forward a bit to some of your recent work. How long did it take for you to make the gigantic Vase FETKET and why is it called that?

Appleton: FETKET is the Egyptian Sun Godʼs drink supplier. His bartender, essentially…and I figured a vase that gigantic was fit for a supernatural being. It took a year to produce it. I was talking to a guy about doing a four foot tall vase at one of my openings, and he said, “Well, if you ever want to do it, call me.” One thing led to another and I found myself hiring a man in Albuquerque to create a mold for a vase that size. There were multiple mishaps along the way. Failures, cracks…the first attempt resulted in losing 90 gallons of liquid clay that flooded the garage and the room below my studio. It took five attempts over a course of five months to successfully cast the piece. It took me several months to paint it. Then I had to actually wait another two months to test the glaze for the second firing. There was a one in ten chance that the vase was going to fire successfully. When I opened the kiln door, it was absolutely perfect. I couldn’t believe it, but I was relieved. Fetket was a big challenge.

What are you working on now?

Appleton: Itʼs a secret.


Jason Appleton currently works and lives in Santa Fe, NM, with his wife and business partner, Kathy Haggerty.



Photocredits: Brad Bealmear, Kathy Haggerty Interview: Nicole Glassman