How did you first get involved in art?
I have always had a strong connection to the arts and an intense desire to make. This natural curiosity and inclination toward creative endeavors was pivotal in how I developed an interest in the visual arts. During my second year of undergraduate school, I decided to forgo my intended major to explore and pursue other academic areas. A friend, who was studying art education, suggested I try an introductory art course to see how I liked it. My impulsive nature led me to take three classes instead of one. I can honestly say this was one of the best choices I have ever made. The educators and future mentors I met embraced my passion for learning and welcomed me with no former art training. I began to understand the importance of visual literacy and developed an ability to interpret and use images as an alternate way to communicate effectively. My instructors pushed me to explore art making as both a physical and intellectual process. They were avid supporters of my work in masculinity and gender studies and helped to foster the ideas that have become so important in my current work and research as an artist.
Out of curiosity, what was your "intended major" before you switched to studio art?
I began my education at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, MO on scholarship as a vocal music education major. I usually avoid telling people this so they will not ask me to sing for them (or at another wedding). I will occasionally do karaoke with friends, but that is in a less serious, non-competitive atmosphere. Music was a huge part of my life growing up, and I am grateful for all the opportunities that came from my involvement in it. Singing was enjoyable and helped foster skills such as determination, confidence, storytelling, and persistence. I connected more with visual art, however, and found a deeper, more meaningful purpose through it.
Do you have any other art-training?
I completed my BFA in studio art in 2011 at Northwest Missouri State University and the majority of my training and advanced coursework was in traditional darkroom photography and drawing. I received my MFA in studio art in 2015 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. My time there was spent rigorously studying historical and alternative photographic processes, exploring cross-disciplinary media such as printmaking and sculpture, curating exhibitions, organizing community projects, and traveling to and speaking at conferences.
Graduate school was really where my ideas and conceptual development began to flourish. The demanding nature of the program at UNL taught me to confront and address every choice I make as an artist - from the amount of time I spend working in the studio to my use of particular and distinctive materials.
Where and from whom do you draw inspiration?
There are many sources from which I find inspiration. My experiences growing up desperately trying to understand my relationships with other males has played a significant role in my current work and research. When I use the word “relationship,” I am almost always using it to describe social interactions. A natural inclination when discussing relationships between males is to assume the conversation is about sexuality, specifically homosexuality. I feel it is important to distinguish that my work is addressing all males, regardless of sexuality, and the shared experiences they often go through when developing a gendered identity. I think about the bonds I have had with the significant male figures in my life, especially my stepfather, and how specific interactions have shaped my understanding of masculinity and what it means to be a “man.” The work I am currently making addresses a time in my adolescence when I felt pressured to play sports. Although at one point I resented this time in my life, my exploration of these memories through art making has allowed me to better understand their significance in my adulthood.
I try to read and travel as often as I can and have found inspiration from many voices and diverse cultures. I always felt a connection to the vulnerability and strength of the characters in Toni Morrison’s novels. Philosopher Ernst van Alphen wrote a chapter in his book Art in Mind about “homosocial” relationships between males that I read frequently. It is incredible and changed my life. I find Federico García Lorca’s poetry to be sensitive, poignant, and powerful. I have learned a lot from traditional Japanese culture, as well, such as the ability to imbue and embed meaning in materials and objects. Fashion designer Alexander McQueen was a true innovator and a hero of mine growing up. There are far too many visual artists I am influenced by to list them all, but a few are Félix González-Torres, Kara Walker, David Hammons, and Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio.
What is your connection with the Foundry Art Centre? How did you discover it?
This is the first time I have ever exhibited at the Foundry Art Centre. I have not yet had the opportunity to visit, but I am from Missouri originally and plan on making a trip in the near future. Hopefully I am able to see the current exhibition that includes my work. I discovered the call for entry for Humankind online and am truly glad I submitted my work.
What are you currently working on?
The past year I have spent the majority of my time teaching and gaining as many valuable experiences as I can in academia. I have found a passion for teaching foundations courses, such as drawing and 2-D design, as well as working with beginning and non-traditional students. I see a lot of myself in these particular students and relate to the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty they have when first taking an art class.
In the studio, I have become less focused on basketball as a specific metaphor and have looked to a more broad view of sports and athletics. A lot of my newest works addresses the insecurities I have experienced with my body and the self-consciousness that occurs through different modes of looking and comparison. It is all very new. I have been working more with printmaking and sculpture lately, but photography always seems to find its way into my work. I am hoping to update my website in the fall with new works.
Where are you teaching?
The past year I have worked full-time as an instructor at Central Community College in Columbus, NE teaching drawing, painting, printmaking, art history, design, humanities, and a multimedia portfolio course. Quite a list, right? This summer I have a much more relaxed schedule teaching only one beginning drawing course at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, NE. I have yet to finalize plans for the coming fall. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has asked me to teach a beginning drawing class if I am available. I am also considering museum education and curatorial positions as new and exciting potential careers.
How do you connect with people through your art? Why do you create art?
Making art has always been an alternate way of thinking for me. The process of taking a concept and trying to communicate it visually is both abstract and complex. It makes me think about and examine my ideas with much more scrutiny and consideration. This process has drastically impacted the way in which I navigate the world and the circumstances with which I am confronted. I found art-making has taught me patience, something with which I still struggle, as well as humility. Overall, being an artist has made me a more mindful and well-rounded human.
Knowing how art has impacted and positively affected my life, I have found a passion for sharing these experiences with others. Beyond my time teaching in a classroom, I make a special effort to connect with communities through workshops, events, and outreach projects. It is my hope that these opportunities will allow others to form and develop a meaningful relationship with visual art.
When you are not in the studio or teaching, what do you enjoy doing?
This question may be the easiest to answer. My other passion outside of studying and making art is cooking. Food may be a borderline obsession for me. A lot of this stems from watching my mom cook for family and community events growing up and the enjoyment she received from doing it. She claims the food I like to prepare is fancier or more "hoity-toity" than the meals she makes. Regardless of our differences in ingredient choices (or plating design), she is still my go-to for all kitchen questions.
I spend a lot of time reading. Most of the books I enjoy are for academic or research purposes and cover issues on art, gender, sexuality, psychoanalysis, the body, race, and performance. At times, I am able to sneak in a book of poetry or non-fiction. I watch way more Netflix, or movies in general, than I care to admit. I can do that while working in the studio though. My roommate has taught me to love gardening so I spend ample time outside. Hiking and camping are a lot of fun for me. I absolutely love traveling. This year has been full of adventure with trips to Dallas, Phoenix, Fort Collins, and San Francisco. I am hoping to make it back to Japan next year.
Article by Jillian Schoettle.