Last summer I found myself in the glitzy and bizarre world of contemporary art during the frenzy of Miami Art Fairs. Working during one of the shows I noticed Jason Myers work right away, there was a seductive quality to his use of rich saturated colors, the candy like glaze of the surface, and the enigmatic subject matter. And yet had I not been looking at the work everyday, I would have possibly missed its complexity. A few days later I was fortunate enough to meet the man behind the art and thus the obsession began.

Myers is a man of few words, who works in a remote studio with no assistants. As complex and layered as the art that he creates or perhaps the art that comes out of him. Every word spoken by Myers brought a new meaning to his work and life at large.  Wanting to do right by the artist I couldn’t think of a better opportunity than to let him do the bulk of the talking.

How do you draw inspiration for your work besides personal experiences? 

I consider personal life experiences to be my primary inspiration; I draw from culture/history and society/social issues. Most importantly, my subject is “ourselves.” My figures are both a reflection and metaphor for all of us. Since the beginning of art, with the cave paintings at Las Caux, artists have emulated themselves. As humans we recognize and relate to our own reflections better than anything. A common element we all understand and a narcissistic view of the center of our universe.

Are your works in some ways reactionary to the current political climate? Do you watch a lot of news/documentaries?

I would not describe the work as reactionary as much as simply asking questions.

I don’t think of my paintings as comments or answers in a general sense; I do access a variety of news media, from more of a current events point of view. I find myself to be Apolitical and not interested in the drama of American Politics, a situation that no longer represents the will of the people over the 1%. We perpetuate the problem by becoming a society that is no longer interested in the reality around us and more interested in the healthy diet of distractions: sports, celebrities, and reality TV. Our lives have become inundated with the trivial and preoccupied with all things of little importance.  

To you personally, is it more important to concentrate on the good or the bad experience? Are you an optimist or a pessimist in life and art?

In my opinion, experiences are neither good nor bad by immediate perception. Often we determine as such initially, but they turn out to be the opposite in hindsight. I tend to focus on the most powerful or impressionable experiences, ones that have long term impact on our psyche. Experiences that become seared into our memories and essentially shape our paths for the rest of our lives. Due to my photographic memory, I have imagery linger in my head for decades, which triggers the emotional context from which they were born. Raw expression and energy from these memories is very much a driving force behind the work.

Regarding Pessimism and Optimism, which I have been both in certain stages of my life, I find that notion absent in my current impression of life. I do not believe that we can really alter, control, or even manipulate the world around us. I do not believe we have reason to weigh in on the outlook of such things. I subscribe to the belief of life as energy. We can work with it or attempt to go against it, which has its own path of least resistance. There is a beauty to being open to a future that you do not yet know.

In your work you use a lot of references to Chinese money is that something you are actively thinking about ( the threat China poses on the US economy)?

I do reference the Chinese currency in some of the work and I would say the general metaphor is as you describe, but the discussion is much larger than the Chinese threat to the American economy. I am critical of the concept of money in general, and its means to control. The threat it poses to our psyche and the chaos created by those who print it, in attempt to “save us all” from reality. A history of money has taught us that the fiat monetary systems inevitably will always fail. Between an unaccountable private Federal Reserve printing money as needed for an ever-expanding and insatiable government and threats of Fiscal Cliffs, Debt Ceilings, and Stock Market Fluctuations, we live in a constant state of fear from economic uncertainty.

In one series, In Whom We Trust, I am asking the questions about the direct impact of money on our lives and how our society has become addicted to consumerism. We spend our entire lives attempting to acquire and hoard as much money as possible. We go to school to get better jobs, to make more money. The monetary notes themselves are inscribed with religious quotes to further implore our desire and willingness to be consumers and have faith in an “almighty” piece of paper. Nonetheless, this paper has, can, and ultimately will again become valueless under certain conditions.

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Is technology friend or foe?

Technology is both. On one hand we can look at infinite examples how technology has improved our lives immeasurably. On the other hand, I tend to view the information society lives we live counter productive to our lives. The amount of information on the planet has turned into an almost exponentially impossibility that we somehow find ourselves responsible to be cognitive of. We find ourselves with the burden of ability to access infinite information and constantly trying to update our lives and keep up with this technology. A struggle of unknown end, updating multiple devices to access millions of databases throughout a normal day, to juggle what was once just simple lives. And this is only what we are aware of. The digital world controlling every single thing around us is not even visible until there is a hiccup in the system.

Translating this idea into my work seemed to be inevitable. The idea of living a simple life just enjoying and interacting with the world around us is no longer an option. We live immersed in a screen of digital static and cannot help but to be influenced by it.

I find it cleansing to retreat into nature and absorb the natural environment, to clear the sounds of this digital life from my head.

What draws you into your process? Why do you incorporate non-traditional art materials? Was that the natural outcome of experimentation or a definitive move away from the traditional studio practice? 

Process is the magic part of making art. The unpredictable and unexpected accidents in this completely explorative approach are what make the creations real to me. My process allows nature to intervene into my ideas and concepts, inviting chaos and energy to collaborate through the materials. My studio is my sanctuary and I subscribe too much of the ideology of the Abstract Expressionist regarding these fundamentals.

Ad Reinhardt spoke of “apophatic aesthetics” in reference to his work. Stemming from the concept of Apophatic Theology, Apophatic is a classical Greek word meaning “removed from speech” or “unsayable,” so that an apophatic theology is one holding that you cannot use human language to speak meaningfully about God, because that concept is unknowable and completely “other”.

I relate well to this concept in the making of my own work and prompted me to explore new possibilities from non-traditional industrial materials. The adoption of resin was a key point that opened up my process to any element I could trap between the layers. This also allowed for a more clear depth to the layers inviting the viewer further into the history of the piece.

Living away from the art market, in the traditional sense, what are the benefits and difficulties?

I really enjoy having one remote studio. I work most of the year there and enjoy the solitude and clarity that it provides. It allows me to focus on my work free of distractions. The studio in Europe is the complete opposite. That studio is frequented daily by artists and creative people, always engaging discussion, collaboration, and critique. I often spend a good deal of my time there visiting other artists studios and seeing current shows. I usually attend 8-10 of the big fairs in the States and that keeps me in touch enough with the art market, maybe even too much. The mainstream “art market” tends to be filled with new shiny things and one hit wonder conceptual art work, which interests me very little. The more years I have spent making art the less I care what the rest of the art world thinks about it. My work grows out of itself and hopefully has very little influence from the marketing side of the business of art.

Myers’ digital multimedia work is currently on view at the Long-Sharp Gallery in Indianapolis.  In 2017 Jason Myers will have his first museum solo exhibition at the Polk Museum of Art in Florida.