Jason Ferguson

Jason Ferguson is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Art & Design University of Idaho and describes his work as conceptual, he lives in Moscow Idaho USA his web address is www.jasonjferguson.com

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How long have you been making art?

As long as I can remember, however, I’ve been dedicating my life to my work for the last 10 years.

Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?

Music, literature, philosophy, and poker.

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What are the main medium/s you work in…

My approach to art making allows me to freely flow between mediums and techniques. For some time now, concept has been the driving force behind my work. The medium and form that my work takes on is determined by the most efficient, provocative, and compelling approach to present the idea to the viewer. Video and photographic documentation, site-specific, installation, performance, kinetic, steel and wood fabrication, and altered found objects have all been used in creating my works within the last few years.

Artist’s statement…

The human condition has been defined as the paradoxical state of having awareness of an individual’s limitations and mortality, while lacking the ability to alter fate. Through my work, I intend to contribute to the evolving dialogue of the human condition. I believe that visual art is a forum in which questions can be posed in the absence of immediate answers. Therefore, art has the potential to present new imagery and provides the artist the capacity to stumble upon new information.

It is because of the experiential nature of the human condition that I have chosen to use scientific approaches in order to better understand philosophical questions of existence. The sciences have a generally accepted reputation for proving or disproving hypotheses through observation, experimentation, and repetition. My work utilizes scientific protocol and the collection and analysis of empirical data to explore the minute details of human experience more thoroughly.

Using situational satire and a variety of materials and processes, I juxtapose seemingly unrelated subjects to create compelling imagery. For example, medical protocol is applied to domestic objects, geological analysis is used to study architecture, and agricultural practices are related to human social interaction. To complete my projects, I solicit assistance from professionals working in a diverse range of scientific disciplines. Collaborating with practitioners in various branches of study gives my work a level of authenticity that I could not provide on my own.

My work is driven by conceptual intent. Once an idea is fully developed, aesthetic decisions and material choices function primarily to communicate the concept to the viewer. Humor plays an important role in the communication process. I use humor in my work because I have found it to be a suitable catalyst for extended thought. Whether performing a postmortem examination on La-Z-Boy recliner, or working with a live cow in order to establish an isolation from the herd, my work exploits objects of direct experience and explores our relationship with our daily surroundings.

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What are you currently working on?

My current research has elaborated on my use of scientific protocol as a tool for philosophical investigation. I have been using search engines to seek transcendental salvation, I am working with forensic arts techniques to identify bogeymen, and I am researching New Media technology, including circuit-bending and physical computing, to develop a scanning device that uses a Theremin to confirm physical existence.

What fascinates you?

My son, Beckett.

One word or statement to describe your current works?

Absurd

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Why are you an artist?

I can’t function without a creative outlet. Visual art allows me to engage in a dialogue with artists, curators, theoreticians, educators, and patrons of the arts without having ever met them.

How important is art for you?

My wife calls art the “other woman.” I am constantly working, thinking about working, or thinking about thinking about working.

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What is it about Visual Art you find compelling?

Its ability to raise questions and alter perception.

Your art education was…?

BFA Towson University, Baltimore, MD

MFA University of Delaware, Newark, DE

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The craziest thing you did at art school was…

I drove the forklift down the hallway in the art building and into my studio so I could lower myself into a makeshift graduated cylinder. I needed to find the volume of my body (at the time 4,851 cubic inches) for a series of volume studies in which I recreated my volume in found objects.

I would also take naps on a scale stainless steel autopsy table I fabricated for my Inanimate Autopsy works. My classmates thought it was humorous, but kind of morbid.

Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?

Extremely helpful. Throughout my undergraduate studies I developed the skills and confidence to be able to make nearly anything I can think of. In graduate school, I furthered my cognitive development and conceptual direction. I was given the space and time necessary to thoroughly think through my ideas. I had the opportunity to reflect and truly question my artistic approach.

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What did you do before or during becoming an artist?

I was a bartender for about 5 years while I was working towards my BFA. Prior to that I had been involved in a variety construction positions: demolition, HVAC, deck building, etc. I am currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art & Design at the University of Idaho. I am in charge of the Department of A & D’s 3D curriculum, I manage and maintain the Art & Architecture East building that houses the departments 3D facilities and the George Roberts Art Gallery, and I work with MFA candidates on thesis development and the progression of their works.

Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far? (Seeing your work in a particular collection etc…)

I was ecstatic about a positive review of my work in SCULPTURE magazine, July/August 2008, written by Sarah Tanguy. She reviewed my solo exhibition A Dialogue with Objectivity at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. This was a pretty big buzz. Sarah Tanguy is a well-respected curator and critic in Washington DC and the review could have gone either way.

Another big moment in my career was when I was one of three American artists invited by Monique Besten, cofounder of Stichtiing Mista’peo (a contemporary art and music organization located in Amsterdam), to live and work in Kolderveen, the Netherlands for nearly a month. We created work for an exhibition entitled New Riddles & Constellations 4, on display at Kunst in Kolderveen last spring. The opportunity to live and work with Monique Besten, Mary Rothlisberger, Christian French, and Albert van Veenendaal for my first international experience was exciting and special.

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Was art a “thing” that was encouraged in your family?

When I told my parents that I had decided to pursue a career as a professional artist they were sceptical but very supportive.

Has your work changed much since your early efforts? (e.g. as a student).

My current work is vastly different, visually, from the sculptures I was creating as a student. The interesting thing is that the content, subject matter, and conceptual direction are not entirely dissimilar from my early works. When reflecting on the artwork I’ve created over the last 10 years, there is a clear trajectory in direction. It is quite apparent how one body of work was the impetus for the next, and so on.

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Does the “creative process” happen easily for you?

If the process is easy, in conception and fabrication, then I seriously question the piece’s integrity. I either give the idea more thought or drop it all together.

How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?

I need to be really interested in an idea before I invest the time and effort into its manifestation. The most difficult aspect of my artistic approach is reaching full confidence in a concept. Once the idea is fully resolved conceptually, the act of making is purely perfunctory.

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How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?

This is a topic that I discuss with my students during nearly every critique. It is my belief that if the craftsmanship is distracting or unsupportive of the work’s concept, then craftsmanship issues must be readdressed. It should be available to the viewer that any gesture or mark that is questionable was executed intentionally, and was not the result of a rushed approach or lack of ability.

Does the sale of your work support you? If no what else do you do to support your art (job)?

I haven’t sold my work in years. Unfortunately one would need a virtual warehouse to store my pieces. I primarily focus on moving my larger pieces and installations from venue to venue, mainly museums, non-profit exhibition spaces, and academic galleries. My main source of support is grant writing and my career as a professor at the University of Idaho.

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Do you get to other artists exhibitions, openings etc?

I do my best to keep my finger on the pulse of contemporary art.

Do you have much contact with other artists?

My network is always growing.

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Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?

I wouldn’t say daunting, but it is definitely involved. I crate my own work and, as I stated earlier, this is no small task. The contracts, bills of lading, and coordination involved can certainly be time consuming.

What sort of research and or reference material do you do for current works and has that changed over time?

My research and reference materials change with every body of work. I generally work alongside practitioners in professions outside of the arts, usually related to the sciences, and attempt to learn as much as possible about the theory and protocol related to that area prior to beginning a new piece. For example, part of my preparation for the Inanimate Autopsy and dissection series involved working with a pathophysiologist to learn the procedures involved in performing a postmortem examination of a human cadaver. I actually worked on a male cadaver to learn autopsy protocol, and then I applied what I learned to a La-z-boy reclining chair. With every new direction that my work takes I am given the opportunity to learn about another profession. I enjoy the freedom and potential for collaboration that is opened by this approach.

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Do you hope the viewer will “get” what you are trying to communicate or do you feel compelled to spell it out to them?

“Getting” my work is not my primary goal. I am pleased when I’ve presented a scenario that is compelling enough for extended thought and, if lucky, the desire to revisit the work.

Respond to the notion “Art is a device for exploring the human condition”…

This question hits a little too close to home for me. To avoid a lengthy response, I will say that there is a certain existential quality in the act of making art, regardless of subject matter. In a sense, we as artists are acting out the key ideas behind existentialist thought on a daily basis. We attempt to isolate ourselves as individuals through the things that we make. We perform repetitious acts, struggle with content and aesthetics, all to complete these one of a kind precious extensions of ourselves, that, once complete, we hold out to claim, “see, I told you I was here.” This however is no different from artists who use the idea of existence as a point of departure. Artists acquire their inspiration from different sources. Whether the human condition is a central theme in his or her work is unimportant. The fact that we choose to create, links us directly to existentialist thought regardless. This is the nature of all artists, the need to create and the need to leave something of significance behind.

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If someone says to you “Oh your work is decorative and lacks any meaning…” your response would be…?

Don’t quit your day job to become an interior designer.


Is your work process fast or slow?

Slow in ideation, fast in fabrication.

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What would you say are the top three things that make you successful as an artist?

Drive, determination, and a thick skin.

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