How did you first get involved in art?
My mom's side of the family is very artistic and I've always felt encouraged be creative. But I didn't start getting excited about art until high school. I had a great teacher (shout-out to Mr. Farmer) who invested a lot in me. When someone who isn't a family member or a friend recognizes something in your art, it feels different. I had always seen myself as an artistic person, but Mr. Farmer helped me to see my potential as an artist. I took an AP art course with him my senior year and that's where a deep passion for the arts was ignited.
What is your academic history?
Failure continues to be my greatest teacher, haha! All corniness aside, I actually just received my undergraduate degree this past spring. I went to the College of Creative Studies where I majored in studio art with an emphasis in painting. CCS is a small school within the greater University of California, Santa Barbara that allows focused students to invest in their majors in a manner somewhat similar to graduate school. During my time there, I worked a lot with UCSB's main art department as well; this is where my interest in sculpture, installation and woodworking emerged.
Where & from whom do you draw inspiration?
I think it is important to balance my personal explorations with what the art of my time is invested in. I watched a John Baldessari interview earlier this year and one thing he said stuck with me: “art comes from art." It’s obvious but important; in order to make great art, you have to see great art. I really enjoy studying the work of Cai Guo Qiang, Yayoi Kusama, Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami and Tehching Hsieh. These artists explore a lot of the same themes that I am interested in capturing, like the human longing for purpose, the passage of time, spirituality, and suffering.
What is your connection to the Foundry Art Centre? How did you discover it?
I first found out about the Foundry through the California Arts Council website. My interest peaked when I saw that the Foundry Art Centre was hosting an exhibition that investigated the intersections of human spirituality and artistic expression. I also have close family friends living in St. Charles that I really enjoy visiting; that seemed like enough planets aligning for me to submit work for the show.
What is it about spirituality that motivates you to create work exploring it?
I was raised in the Christian faith and, before entering college in 2012, I had a really powerful spiritual experience while praying alone. While I don't have a particularly traditional expression of the Christian religion, the powerful experiences I have had in the tradition has left me with a fascination of the spiritual aspect of humanity.
Please talk about your process in creating your award-winning work Torii Suspending Large Scroll in "Concerning the Spiritual." Was the labor-intensive practice of writing the same phrase over and over a type of meditation?
I was initially inspired by a documentary I watched about Shaolin monks. It's amazing; the stone floors of Shaolin temples are laced with indentations. These divots have been carved by generations of monks practicing the same fighting routines over and over again in their respective positions. There is something effortlessly beautiful about how these stone floors had been imbued with the monks' spirit of discipline and for the Large Scroll I wanted to capture something in that aura. The piece also relates to the Zen practice of koan meditation. In this tradition, practitioners provoke enlightenment by relentlessly mulling over an obscure riddle-like phrase. Through tireless attempts to solve the riddle, practitioners gain understanding that logic is an inadequate vehicle for perceiving spiritual truth. This is what inspired the gradient of overlapping text, by "destroying" the words, I found that a more profound truth had room to exist.
What are you currently working on?
Most of my recent work is part of an ongoing series called dust speck. The content is influenced by cross-pollinated research of the various religious traditions, with the most influential being Christianity, Shintoism, and Zen Buddhism. Right now, I am making large hanging scrolls and paintings that utilize intense processes of devotion and repetition as a means of visualizing the passage of time.
I am also making a series of jewelry boxes and cutting boards. I figure it will be a nice way to show my appreciation to my loved ones during the holiday season.
When you are not creating art, what else do you enjoy doing?
Right now I am working three jobs, not including my art career. So free time is usually just synonymous with "MAKE ART NOW TIME." I do love spending time with my friends and family though. Other than that, I don't fit much else in.
One hobby might be that I am a really big wood-nerd. I spend hours scavenging local lumberyards looking for figured or exotic woods; I am liable to buy wood without any intent of using it… I keep a lot of pieces of wood in the studio just because I like to look at them while I'm working. Thanks to an undergrad professor, I also have developed the habit of meandering through the UCSB arts library for undetermined amounts of time. When time allows, I also go down to LA to enjoy the art spaces. And of course coffee; I like drinking coffee a lot.
How do you connect with people through Art? Why do you create?
Art is personal, but it's not healthy to see art-making as an artist's monologue; what I make in my studio exists in a greater conversation. Seeing art as a collective human action rather than an individualistic endeavor automatically makes me feel connected to others. The thought that my own work somehow contributes to the greater discussion of contemporary art makes me feel extremely fulfilled. It’s pretty easy to get hooked.
View Troy's award-winning artwork in Gallery I of Concerning the Spiritual and over 40 pieces by artists from across the nation, on display through Friday, January 6, 2017 at the Foundry Art Centre.
Article by Jillian Schoettle.