by Laura Hutson
For this post, I sent Ron the 10 questions I always ask our artists of the month.
What's the last show that you saw?
I saw a bunch of shows at the same time at this month’s gallery crawl. Some highlights for me were; Rocky Horton’s work at the Twist spaces, and the show at the new Lipscomb space of Joel Parson’s work. It was nice to see performance included in the Crawl. I also like Marin and Heidi’s work at COOP. I wish we could have found a space to set up the whole piece.
What's the last show that surprised you? Why?
The last show that surprised me was the Bill Traylor show at the Frist. I usually don’t go for that kind of work, but there was something really endearing about that work.
What's your favorite place to see art in Nashville?
I suppose the venue that I enjoy most is Zeitgeist, but my favorite places to look at work are in artist studios. As an artist, it’s always inspiring to see how people develop their ideas.
Last summer I stopped by Terry Thacker’s studio. He’s got some pretty large paintings he’s working on, and spread out on the tables were a museum-like collection of sketches and objects that lead to the ideas in the paintings. He and I work really differently, so it’s great to see new options of working through ideas.
Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?
Lately the ideas for my work have come from either what I see when I’m walking the dogs or driving through the smaller roads of Nashville. I’m really attracted to how the constructions we make break down, and the way nature is constantly trying to reclaim its property.
Do you collect anything?
Right now I’m trying to collect all of the Black Sabbath records that Ozzy sang on, but that’s maybe not what you’re asking. [Editor's note: That's totally what I'm asking.]
Lately, I’ve been picking up old postcards at antique stores. I like the ones that are photographs that were hand-colored, especially the ones that the color is exaggerated. I am thinking of scanning them and using them in a video, but I’m not exactly sure how.
In the past I’ve collected things like the old forms dentists used to make molds of people’s teeth, or old photos in which someone has scratched out the faces. I didn’t find too many of those. When I’m looking for something I can get really obsessive so I am trying to not collect things. I only need two more Sabbath records in case you were wondering.
What's the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery?
I’ve seen some weird art in my time, like some students hitting each other with dead fish. You see a lot of strange things when you teach for a while.
I don’t know if this is really weird, but a couple of years ago my wife and I were in Seattle going around the galleries, and on the recommendation of a friend we went to see a show by Casey Curran. His work is kinetic sculptures in the vein of the Brothers Quay. My wife and I were looking at a piece in the window when a little kid walked up and screamed, “It’s a nightmare come to life” and ran away. I think Casey would be pretty proud of that.
What's your art-world pet peeve?
I suppose my art-world pet peeve is how it operates under the guise of being open-minded, when actually it’s just as cliquish and narrow-minded as any other field. The art audience is trained to take hard stances about art, and is very quick to write people and work off. Having been around the art world long enough, I have seen artists go from popular to despised and vice versa. It leads to artists chasing trends, which is pretty shortsighted. If an artist is trying to make work that looks like what they see in the galleries in the major markets, then by the time they would get to show the work in their studio the art world will be over it.
Do you have a gallery/museum-going routine?
I don’t have a routine for visiting spaces. With COOP I am around the downtown galleries quite a bit. I try to visit the museums and other galleries in town when I can. Once the semester starts it gets pretty hard for me to get anywhere other than Watkins and COOP. The rest of my time I have to balance my studio with all the day-to-day things I need to do.
I do try to get to New York at least once or twice a year. Ruth and I [Editor's Note: Ron's wife is Ruth Zelanski, also an artist] usually squeeze in a day or two in the city when we go back to Connecticut for the holidays. We usually go through Chelsea and whichever museum looks interesting at that time. I wish we had more time to go to younger galleries like the Lower East Side spaces and the ones in Brooklyn, but Chelsea gives us the most bang for our buck.
What's the last great book you read?
On the plane to Seattle this summer I read The Aesthetics of Disappearance by Paul Virilio. I had problems with parts of the book, but some of what he said has really changed my thinking. One example was a narrative about Howard Hughes. Virilio has the theory that all of Hughes’ accomplishments and money were for the end result of being able to be powerful enough to remove himself from society. I can’t imagine that being what I would work for, but on our last drive to Philadelphia, Ruth and I listened to an audio book about the history of Scientology, and it seems like L. Ron Hubbard did the same thing. Maybe it’s a specific personality type, or maybe many of us would be a reclusive if we had the power to.
What work of art do you wish you owned?
Most of the art that I own is from friends of mine. I really love that. Having their work around me always reminds me of specific instances with those people.
I would love to have a Donald Judd though. Judd and the other minimalists were the first artists who really clicked with me as an undergrad. I had trouble understanding the modernist sculptors, but when I stood next to a Judd I was physically effected. I guess it’s like some sort of American Zen. The funny thing is, if I went to someplace like Dia:Beacon with a tape measure I could come back home and remake a Judd, but I think he would show up in my dreams with that furrowed-brow look he gave, shaking his head like a disgusted parent. It would be like my personal Nightmare On Elm Street.