Jivan Lee is a rising star in the Western Art world. After much work and perseverance, he has become one of the most sought-after plein air painters in the West. I drove up from Santa Fe to Taos to visit with Jivan in his studio. Join us for our chat about art and humanity.
Links: Check out Jivan's website at www.jivanlee.com or follow him on Instagram at @jivanlee_art.
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Hello out there. You're listening to Horizons, a series of talks with the people who make collect and present artworks representing the American West. I'm George Irwin. Before we get started today, I'd like to ask you for a favor. If you could please leave a review for the show on iTunes, it makes a big difference in getting the word out about the show. Also, if you could think of anyone who might like the show and you can send them a link that would be great to thanks so much. Today's guest is given Lee and I would like to just say thank you to John for your patients and me getting this published. Giovanna and I had a long and wide ranging conversation in his studio and house, where we looked at some of his newer multi canvas plane, their pieces and another one he had been working on previously, which was a large red and yellow tree that had canvas is not necessarily adjacent to each other but all part of the same peace. And you'll feel here is referenced those in our conversation, which is why I'm describing them photos air in the show notes on western Dot Gallery. If you haven't seen his work, check it out at Ji von lee dot com. That's J I v a N l e dot com, or on instagram at JJ. Evenly underscore art. He's a very talented plane there painter. He goes big with size and with volume of paint, and it makes a big impact when you view his work. Also, before we get started, most of you guys that are listening to this I believe our artists. So I wanted to draw your attention to Western Gallery's first online only show, first show ever actually called New Western talent, featuring new emerging and midcareer artists with the focus on the American West. It's an open call. We've had plenty of great submissions already. It's gonna be a fantastic show. The deadline to apply is April 8th. That is Wednesday, April 8th, coming up quickly. But if you've got three paintings that are ready to go, get your application in be part of the show. We've got three great judges. Brandon Brown, who you've heard previously on the podcast. He's a floor rep at Blue Alan Galleries in Santa Fe. Um, Rose Edmiston is a well known Western art enthusiasts, collector and rancher who lives in Arkansas. And Bill Nee is a collector of contemporary Western artists and follows their work closely and has a good grasp of what's happening right now. So great judges or jury, however you like to say it. Police in your work in we want to make this is good as, ah, as good as it can be. And the only way that can happen is with your participation so that you can find on the Western Gallery website at Western Dot Gallery. And there's a link for call for entries up there. The show itself will be online beginning May 8th, which is a Friday, and hopefully by then folks will be ready for Seymour art in their lives or even more distractions, depending on if everyone still locked in their houses or are out and about in the world. All right, so with that, thank you guys. So much for listening. Thank you for the reviews in your notes. It's really motivating and helpful. Please keep those coming. You can always send me things that info at Western dot Gallery or DEA Me on Instagram at Western Gallery or if you go to the website, I have a little Facebook pop up thing. Messenger. I answer that as well, so I hope to hear from you. I hope you enjoy the podcast. Enter the art show. Check out the art show when it comes out. All the things. Javon Lee. Here you go. You guys have
Jivan Lee: 4:13
a farm? I didn't I didn't realize that the fire was probably a little too generous. I would never say that to an actual farmer garden. Large garden way started. Wild state property. Cool car. Used to be a farmer. Okay, She's, uh, Dr Oriental Medicine now. And she has a whole business is like topical Chinese medicine, things that she makes using stuff that we harvest at the property. Also, a lot of that stuff grows wild, and therefore, we just try to help it be happy in the wild. Um, farmstead expose is probably more accurate. We have chickens and ducks and stuff like that. Cool. Yeah. Had ducks when I was a kid. Yeah, Yeah. What such a coffin is interesting personality, man. Raising them from from babies. They're trusting. Yes, There was always plenty of ah, duck fertilizer everywhere. Yeah, All right. So this is the fourth panel painting and putting together that It's one in the whole set of these. We're talking about these multi panel pieces that yeah, broken picture planes and all sorts of unusual artifacts of being on location I wanted give the space to develop on their own rather than being like, Well, I better so shoehorn this whole experience into one square assure rectangle he had a canvas. I started thinking, Well, how about if I sort of inverted the idea of composition being the what dictates the structure of a painting and allowed the experience of the place to dictate the shape of the final piece literally on DDE, where my attention was most drawn over the course of the day. To be kind of what, um, drives the compositional direction of the peace, and so can I. Yeah, maybe you're about to explain this, but so do you then ad panels as you are going to exploring. Like what? You're interested in money? I mean, it depends on the day, you know, with original idea was just kind of this notion of before saying, just letting things developed cause on location. A lot of times it grew out of, ah, just necessity that originally when I first started painting, I have this beater 1989 Toyota sedan with a trunk and a back seat and nothing else, you know? And so I had no room to do giant work on location. I thought until I was like, Well, why don't I wanted to do was really, really wide 10 foot piece in a spot that I was really excited about. And I thought, well, I could split it up, I guess. You know, it was like that was a new idea in my head to do ah, landscape planter piece at the time because I wasn't, You know, my interest wasn't as abstract. Yeah. Turn into these days, which, you know, breaking up panels is obviously has done all over the place. An installation work, right? Yeah, but sort of for me and my own personal process. That was a new development in whatever was kind of driving the show of my interest. No, no. Probably seven years ago, I guess, and I So I split up this 10 foot piece into 3 40 inch long panels and then painted it on location on the side of my car and the wind blew over, came up and blew the entire thing down. Face face down was crying location because it is such a first really big painting. I did. I did not have a great body for paint, so that was extremely expensive. This this one was a different one. Is 10 foot one that that was the first idea of splitting things up catch up on then? Uh, eventually I fit. I got fed up honestly with day because it was so rough out there. I have to go back to my studio and I finished it. I didn't have any room at my house because I didn't have a studio at the time when I finished it in a closet that was Lenny three by five or not, probably five by seven, I guess with some weird shelves that made a very small and so I had, like, a panel sort of separate and wood, you know, be messing in this little closet space because it smelled so bad it was at home, and usually it was just outside anyway. Necessity man, mother of invention. And when I saw the piece done. I was like, Wow, well, I'm really happy I got this giant piece, But it's really cool to see this scene that I normally would have thought of is only one thing separated into three moments of artwork. And even though it's one united image across the panels, I left the spaces between the panels because I didn't want to pretend like they weren't there and just be this weak point that didn't actually just own that. There was something separating, and I just ended up feeling like a filmstrip. Except, you know, it brought me back into the surface of the painting. And it was just a sort of jumping off point for thinking differently about why I was still painting at all really and what was happening with the image and material sort of of the paint itself. And this this this, you know, constructed world that I was falling into in terms of this, this big view into Mexico anyway, that's where there's first idea came from with the multi panel things and this one are located. And it was, you know, now I know that was kind of the seed of this idea. Well, I can change the shape of the panels. So in any day later on, I would still do these more. You know, the rectangular general forms. But if I had, I wanted to do say, patron, all outside of Santa Fe were O'Keeffe painting a jillion times, which is this incredible mountain, and go and basically be right underneath it. And I was out painting another 10 foot piece. I found out later, Like where Maynard Dixon had painted a painting like Look in the opposite direction. I had no idea. That's cool. Yeah, I saw a painting posted online. I was like, Wait a second. I was I was just there. That's a fun. So fun. Yeah, anything. You know, Mexico. I mean, a number of these places with a strong our history and just constantly bumping into the coolest stories or happenstance. And you find out later while you know, you were in the spot where some idol of yours was painting and at the world differently. Anyway, so I spend in this large piece and I have done a 48 70 sketch, which is pretty big. And then I was like, Well, but Actually, it's the entire sweep of this mountain shoulder that I want in the peak and everything. And so I added a whatever another 48 50 something like that, and continue drawing the whole composition. And that kind of idea of letting it grow as it as it goes is the foundation of this more developed notion where instead of it having to be continuous pictures, you know where even the panel's kind of at least you're our frame together and look like one image I started letting, like with this tree behind you that's 100 inches square. Yeah, have space even more on the wall letting the picture plane be broken and have you know, a foot or two feet between different sections of the painting such that it almost looks like a Tetris. Yeah, this like that, I think, is a great example of the concept you're describing about letting the composition kind of like you are letting the focal points drive the composition right, which I think happens in single campus pains A lot. Sure, people will focus in with contrast in detail on what they want you to do and, you know, pay less attention to background or other elements. But here there's actually nothing, right, in a way, yes. Oh, I like this idea of letting it grow out of my attention. And then I realized how I look at landscape, and it seems like from talking with people over the years, it's kind of comment is you. You go out on a you know, you see a giant tree and you love the moss at the foot of the tree where the trunk is going into the ground, or some of the branches and the contrast of the blue sky. And in the case of this big cottonwood you know and fall into Mexico, it turns so brilliant yellow. And yet they're these still hints of the green that once was in the summer, and the bookers that enter in and then the orange is behind everything because of all the brush and everything else. And then still, you get this almost acid green lawn because it's warm enough, the grass is still happy, and usually it's wet enough. In that season, the grass will be growing. You know, all these color contrast for me were so exciting and so in this big cottonwood piece. I ended up skipping around and then landing in certain spots and almost paying no attention to other places. And when I saw that was happening, I thought, Well, why don't I just let that be what it looks like, Which was, again a natural progression that I didn't know I was coming to an a team moment. I arrived there, felt pretty uncomfortable, but but exciting. And so, you know, took me about four months, actually figure out the painting in the composition, because when I was on location, I clamped stuff together and I painted different pieces and, you know, just because of wind logistics, it didn't look like what it looks like now. And sure, studio. I had to tease the experience apart again and try and figure out what was cool when I could remember the, you know, the intensity and the sort of emotion of the day. Yeah, Yeah, it's fun to think about, too. After you do these. Kind of like, if you could break pieces off tohave as sort of individuals. Yeah, I think about that a lot. Yeah, I have Ah, favorite my favorite panel in this. I think is because it's 12 different panels and you know, between 36 by 30 down to six by six inches and some there's a 36 by 18 inch piece in the trunk. I love as a azan individual piece. It's almost totally abstract. And I think, you know, I almost just wanted to keep it when I first got it into the studio, let the rest of the pain and go because it was not as large as it was at the time, you know? Yeah. Five panels, I think on location. But Dennis, that painting grew, and I figured everything else out became one of many who you say you did. Five panels on location. Was that in one session, or is that okay? Yeah. One afternoon was the core of this piece. I got to. Actually, I may have been more on location now that I look at them. But in terms of what was continuous, it clamped together on my easel. It was five panels, these kind of the Centre Court here, the men around them, I did some quicks, you know, studies. And when I looked up in the sky, I just painted it literally these six by six squares in my hand and no one would hold them for whatever. Half on hour, while I was painting got very messy, I think, on location, even these two were in locations. So probably 23456789 10 panels, and then a couple in the studio. Cool. You have such a just a bright aesthetic. Do you work with, like, a consistent palate, or do you go to, like, go to, like, set of colors that you use or do you just kind of see what you've got in your truck and work with it? Well, I mean, yeah, I definitely have my go to colors, you know, in terms of like, I have a set that I buy, okay? And I don't really vary that a lot. I makes everything fresh every day, so that yeah, you know, I can't think of any time I use pure pain, except occasionally may be white, but honestly, even that's not real, right? I mean, not appears on unmixed color. Everything's Pierre paint on, actually, but, um but yes. Oh, there's a set. I mean, a gambling and m graham are my two companies that I I like the most, like, the consistency of what they do. And, you know, I like the feeling of how they mix the paint. And then, um you know, I get some earth tones more interesting. Yellows, variety, and then go from there, Keep it pretty Consistently laid out in my palate, too. Your jet Your palate, right? Yeah. It's like the giant Tupperware thing. Yeah. Yeah. They're also got my giant Tupperware. One of the many that I carry around. Yeah, Or, uh, it looks clear. Storage boxes, I guess. Or what they are. Yeah, right. I mean, they slide under beds that have wheels and one of the most like That's perfect. I can slide him into my truck on a shelf on top. He knows That's kind of where the idea came from. So Okay, just to get really, like, crazy detail when you are prepping your talent, do you, like, put like a whole tube of color in there? Yes. So I have to use a lot of pain. Is a tremendous amount of pain. Yeah, that tree one we're talking about us. Three leaders of painting that one piece most pieces around in a leader and two, if they're of any real size, my sort of spectrum of sizes. So 48 by 50 60 is almost always about a leader paint these days. I don't know. I used to paint different, you know, and he's just been ongoing development. But yes, so I have ah, 20 by 16 paint carrier. Basically that I think I think people usually use it to mix paint and also be their palate. Uh, I just have piles of paint in the wound. Okay, that's all I do and then So that's my paint carrier. Gotcha. I mixed colors fresh on a, you know, down to scrape down my Tupperware, you know, storage box every day that I can on location. And then that's where I mix. And so I have. You know, I have a lead and I have the base and I can flip it up and then I can, you know, keep one clean for as long as possible and then switch it in and it allows me. It gives me more time on location, and then I can save the color to bring the color back in right, so it's a really excellent visual notation. Device makes sense, not a notebook, but works like a notebook puss on steroids. I don't know. I don't have to sit there. Writing things is a really pinky magenta, You kind of yellow in this left quadrant. It's like that doesn't work. It's too slow. And this is super fast and in the in, the sort of flow of actually painting so awesome. Yeah. Do you use any like, I mean, I'm sure use some kind of medium, but like to get like the thick and pasta stuff. Is there just kind of like, you know, that's that's what I mean when I say, if your paint I'm not using, like a paste to add into it, I do use, uh, al kid medium, you know, on the recommendation of the pain maker of both companies. Thio even drying time through the layers and increased kind of the flexibility of the dried film on the surface and, you know, add some fat back into the colors that need it. Usually colors out of the tube need a little extra fat according to what I was told from from gambling at one point, you know, I suppose That depends on the paint company, too. But, yeah, so that's That's like a couple of drops per inch that comes out of the tube. Say, that's a little bit of wanted oil, basically without get at it. Cool. So obviously use a palette knife or something like that. Something like that. Yeah. And actually don't like paradise. Okay, Strong, strong dislike. Possibly spatulas, right? Yes, it actually is. Yeah, and I didn't know this when I started and blessed the people who love Fallon eyes. It's for me. I couldn't stand the scraping sound all the time. I was on location, you know, if it's like five dozen living, your metal scraping, and so it's constantly and whatever, it's fine. But But I found out that aside from the sound truly, the Palin eyes, in my opinion, sometimes can can impart a bit of sterility into paint, texture and surface that can. It doesn't necessarily have the movement and the organic quality of a human because it's so straight. Yeah, it's such a straight edge thing, and some people use that to great effect. It's not no judgment on anybody else's work about it, but for me, my taste I found that I was. I felt it was missing something that I loved about brushes when I was experimenting with palette, knives and no to scale up, especially because the great thing about Palin eyes is they have this big surface and they apply paint really quickly and deeply. And you can get very specific edges, which is essential to make sense of all the cacophony of color and motion that Ryan's when one paints. So then I found these silicone spatulas, and the minute I got one in my hand, that was it. I knew that that was my favorite. It's like flexible, too. Yeah, so you know, I mean, I use big brushes. A lot of people, you know, if you see my paintings in person or online, especially, wouldn't necessarily know there's a tremendous amount of brushwork, usually, if my brushes Air Queen, which is admittedly a always so sometimes there are no brushes. But when I have all my tools clean and ready, I love brushes because they have this flexibility. They, you know, the in part their bristles and their personality of age and time, and where that's gone into them and you know it was kind of, ah, cool story that each brush has by itself. And then they're special tools that have a really important place in my practice. The silicone spatulas are more versatile for me. Um, because again, I could get a tremendous amount of paint on there and I can cover, especially when I'm doing a 12 foot painting. All right, Yeah, I need to move extremely fast. And so they're pretty big and they school. Oh, yeah, well, and all the paint you put on him goes right onto the canvas, whereas with brushes, a lot stays in Brussels and then you try and mix in a sense, Yeah, muddied color. And so it's easier to keep colors fresh. You know, there's a lot of these kind of embedded things that allow quick painting toe happen. And it, you know, I don't know if it's exponentially changed my practice in terms of time commitment, but the amount of time I need toe to achieve a certain sense of color and structure and dynamism and work is really reduced over time, and in large part I think, to just finding the right tools and learning how to use them. cool. So those silicones bachelors are awesome. Love him. And that's primarily you know what you see on the surface of my paintings? Because they even if I use brush underneath a lot of times, I'll smooth out the surface so that I don't have too much interference from the bristles and really think paint. You know, you get all these ridges and in a dark spot, If you have a ton of ridges that are picking up a lot of light, it'll diminish the contrast and really diminish the impact. So, uh, when you're starting painting you And so you went to a liberal arts school, Bard College and Northeast and studied environmental science or full ride? I had a full ride in science and starting from day one in bachelors And then did you study painting in school? Or did you paint before that or after that? Or when did when did that start to happen? Yeah, I started painting in 2001 and that's when I started grad school. Um I mean, I had done, you know, stuff in high school or whatever, but it wasn't so Yeah, I wasn't one of those artists, just like I knew from five years old, I was gonna be an artist then. You know, that wasn't Yeah, just was kind of like to draw. My mom is a wonderfully talented artist, and so I saw her paint and illustrate in such when I was growing up. But mostly, you know, I just was kind of floating along and seeing what was interesting. And, you know, the scholarship I got got me into a school I really liked. And so I was happy to do that, really happy about it. And it barred was great because it allowed me to focus on our in science at the same time. And I didn't know I wanted to take some sort of art courses at Bard because it's a pretty well known art school in its own right, just in terms of the Study Arts program and the curatorial programs for grad school and all that in the cafe. It's great. It's really wonderful place toe be exposed to art. And so I took art classes parallel to my science courses and did that for three years and then ended up dumping my grand my first year of grad school into my last year of undergrad, and that was more specifically in environmental policy and end up with a master of science and environmental policy. Okay, during that time, I focus more on photography, actually, because I didn't have time to paint. Yeah, And so photography kind of became my creative expression. And I'm really grateful, man. I would so advocate for artists have to use a camera for a while, too, because it was so different. You know, the voice, the breath of that particular medium was its own thing and taught me a lot about what I was interested in when I was painting versus what I was interested in. What is taking a photo, You know, there were there was differences and also then just fundamental questions about composition and experimentation. And having the opportunity toe iterated on an idea in these days infinitely is a luxury that we have, You know, whether it's on an iPad, er, digital camera, you could do a bazillion different variations of one thing without any real risk to your right, you know, makes a final creation because you have undue have, you know, years and all these things you can more haul anything you want, you can Yeah, turn it into anything and then just go like I hate it. I'm gonna turn back. You know, it was like nothing, right? No oil painting. I can't do that if I think Oh, this looks like I'm off there. I better know what I'm doing. You know, um, before I go ahead and jump into it or I better have some sort of estate planner or just risk. I didn't, uh, stuck up a creek that I can write, you know, having lost all the time. Yeah, just such a substantial investment that it could be very painful. And it's interesting. I've been thinking a lot about that lately. Just how the value of that risk, I think, and what I had written just recently was talking about came out of this thought process, but essential function, that uncertainty and risk plays in propelling us forward. I think it is so important in terms of just you know, if you don't have that edge, you don't necessarily mobilize your full faculties. You don't necessarily realize what you're capable of. And I love planner painting, in part because it introduces an element of unpredictability. and uncertainty in the process every day. And I never know I don't have the luxury of preplanning. What? I'm gonna paint it. Just don't because even if I think I'm gonna go to that spot where there's a thunderhead, you know, usually it's never the same brand very frequently. What I think would be there in a strategic sort of, you know, this is what the West today usually isn't. What happens, you know, Oftentimes the thunderhead won't develop over that mountain, even though it has for the last two weeks. It'll develop somewhere else, or whatever version of that happens. It's there's a spontaneous element and unpredictability. That means if I dedicate three hours to drive into a spot and then it doesn't turn out how I hoped when I get there, well, I better figure out something else or else I've lost the entire day pressure, and there's these things that could be super, super, super beneficial, I think, to a process of our and also kill it. Honestly, you know, you know, it's I definitely had days where I just all the worry and the concern or the uncertainty gets to me, and my mood will decline. Cramps, air cramps, the free flow, you know, And I don't necessarily catch the moment that I have to adjust my posture mentally or, you know, emotionally or whatever it is to receive the change in my plans. And if I can't adapt, and instead, I have this rigid attachment to some other thing that wasn't ever going to be reality. That was reality. That was just some image in my head. Then I usually that'll be a really rough day. I don't have toe come back into my studio process and, you know, take a few moments and remember what the point was. And then, sure, try again the next day type thing. So remember when I got off on that? Yeah. I'm talking about I guess art at Bard. Oh, yeah? Yeah, on dhe, uh, painting. And then what happened in grad school with the digital photo? Sort of. Yes, I was doing in the printing. And, you know, I informally showed that work the value of the sort of freedom that less risk in certain ways. I mean, there's plenty of risks and all sorts of things, but right. Particular quality of you don't lose a painting. If you decide in, you know iPad procreate. Do another layer and experiment something wild. You could break open stuff in wonderful ways. And I felt like digital photography. Help me do that with my own bigger creative practice and helps you. You know, I think you mentioned also It kind of helps you work through and get to know, like, composition. Yeah, well, you just design properties. Yeah. I mean, you could do these micro variations and realize that you really actually the inch left and change, right? Really mattered. And that becomes some part of your muscle memory of a certain sort. I feel like, which is part of why. And now I can see I really benefited because when I'm on location, I don't have time to quibble over composition. And this way I once did. I just don't usually I mean less. So now, even with having a kid, But even without a can, things change so quickly that whether I, you know, if I thought a cloud was gonna be a certain mass in the composition and then it completely and utterly changes there's an adaptation. I need toe right. Like go through Pretty quick dining. A panel? Yeah, I got in a panel. Yeah, you know. So it's just it's cool that, like, look back and then having gone to grad school and then start my career doing consulting work for big nonprofits Ah, tribe in New Mexico and teaching for the University of New Mexico and doing these variety of different faces of God, you know, environmental work that eventually started emerging back into my art I did not expect. And the manner that that happened was interesting. And eventually, Then there was a point at which I just came. I came to it, I guess I hadn't saw that. I wanted to go back into painting full time, which felt like odd jump to make after doing a lot of sort of work that was directly helping, you know, people who were trying to get a job to be ableto just put food on the table and stuff, and that was satisfying in a special way. And art is spiritually nourishing, but it doesn't necessarily help that person who doesn't have bus fare get bus fare, you know? Yeah, it might. I mean, I've actually been blown away in the ways that it actually has. You know, like I donate a painting to an organization that's that's one of the women. It's been more financially helpful tonight. Oftentimes, once when I was doing my career fundraising, you know, like that, that's that's been a total fun surprise. That's really cool. Yeah, and so I mean, what joy it is to be able to actually have something I adore and get to have fun doing help, you know, somewhere else for people who really need it, that's been amazing. Um, but there was another little leg of that notion, which is the part I didn't expect was doing a lot of work environmentally, you know, I met a lot of people in business side of things and oil and gas or, you know, major league baseball or whatever. I mean, all sorts of weird, so interesting clients and projects that I got to participate in and then teaching for you and m. I was trying to get. My students are trying to relate to people on an emotional level about something that's really big deal, which is how we, you know, relate to our environment as a species and what we do to other species on the planet. And, you know, these were all sort of choices that we collectively make, even if individually we don't. Our single choice doesn't necessary is a drop in a lorry. The collective is the ocean. Come on. But what got me was that so I was trying t hit, you know, my students with a real emotional argument, but I was doing it from a place where they weren't really buying it, you know, in in a way, I was hoping for. And then when I went and started doing what was really resonating for me, which is sort of paying homage to these places in the land and places and cultural landscape, I mean, I have a 10 foot painting, a gas station at night over there. You never saw that, but, you know, like it It doesn't have to be some big vista, right? Same thing. This experience of place and landscape to them and the like, the Volvo excavator up there, too. Yeah, right. You know, I mean, I love that painting. That's what One of my favorites that I've kept for myself. It's It's just something about it just got me and it's a fricking Volvo excavator like the little boy. And he was so happy that day. What was happening was the interstate was being constructed and they were actually quote bringing a deceleration lane next to an old historic New Mexico chapel And the interstates Vibration is cracking the face of the chapel. And there's this really interesting story behind you know, the Mountain Peak. That's that's sort of behind this excavator and behind the story of the excavator and the images, this whole no, you of related needs and purposes and human life and the natural landscape. So anyway, trying to talk about this stuff in class kind of got, uh, long in the tooth that didn't really grab people, but then sharing something that grew out of a passion and a love that I have oftentimes was hitting people. That a really strong emotional level that was a total blew my mind. I had no expectation that that would happen and really ended up meeting a lot to me and so mysterious. It's mysterious, you know, kind of unfolding in these things that is mysterious. Maybe it's just like a like you're most like simple expression of truth or something, you know? Yeah, maybe. I mean, I was here to communicate. Yeah, right. When it's not so constipated with all these, like judgments and, you know, assessments. Whether you're polite or in polite and how you judge and assess. And when you decide to do with your opinions, it still is a very tricky sort of unwieldy, massive, anything to deal with. Whenever you talk about any of these social, economic environmental dimensions, there's a jillions of people are involved, and therefore it's a complex conversation. Brad. So there's something in just the director. No, no, no. Purity is the word but simplicity. Maybe, I'd say of getting to be on location and look down like this painting of the gorge right in front of us, right? No, that's 1000 foot deep rift that volcanoes made however many millions of years ago, and now this beautiful river runs at the bottom of it. There's just a simplicity of looking deep into that and trying to find kind of something that feels alive in the visual stimulation of being there, and also the tactile feeling of smelling the sage brush and feeling the rain out in the distance pushing wind towards me and getting that smell of moisture, which is so apparent here in Mexico, causes so Dr s O more thunderstorms coming in. Really smell the rain. You know, I'm in a uniquely sort of desert kind of way, I guess. High desert way. There's something just very comforting for me in that, You know that I I seem to have needed it spiritually or for my soul. Sure. Yeah. You know, general well being, you know, So I'm very grateful to get to keep doing it. So did you just you just starting. You started just painting kind on the side and people started responding to it. Yeah, uh, doing this I mean, yeah, you know, after grad school, I went back to painting for a while, so I went painting and science and then total science immersion in grad school with some photography. And then I got out of there and I wanted to do more paintings. I was doing interiors and of like, my niece in her room. And she was like a teenager, and she had a wall of photos and a flat screen. Little tiny, you know, TV on her dresser, and was working on her laptop, a comforter billowing off of her bed and then a wood floor stool in the water container in a window. And as you know, this insanely really portrait. Yeah, very busy, sort of. I wanted to capture totality of space, and I realized that the person existing within all this stuff of our life had such a story that I was really interested in. You know that this type of painting is not something that I left because I was done. It just happened. That landscape beginning my obsession and has remained so so far. I have seen some of my interest return into people. Some, you know, and cultural landscape especially like the gas station or the excavator signs. There's, you know, um, habitation in my land. And my Llewellyn solo right now is a painting out the back door of our house in winter. And you can see all the houses in our neighborhood. You know, it's very rural, so there are many. But But if you think offenses and you know, the story of human habitation has has been re entering my work, you know, not by any Yeah design. Exactly. but just the sort of progression of its own. So Okay, so what was the first painting that you even the first painting you sold, or like, your first, like show that you felt like was a success or something? Yeah, I guess. But it's that kind of mystery. A progression, I think I was just hitting me a little bit while we're was talking. We were chatting here because I'd say there, you know, the first show I really put together was at Bard, and I put it up at the school, and it was a combination of sketches from living in the back country in Montana and photos and some travel. I did toe Ghana on a couple occasions and, you know, I put together this almost travel log type of exhibit that at the time I wasn't conceptually aware of that. It just was stuff. I just wait years Diane and is reflective of my life. In hindsight, it was kind of, you know, I would talk about it maybe differently, But for me, that was a real success, because I put it up on bunch in front of a bunch of people and it was a lot of work, and it was hard to do. And I had to go through a lot of thinking toe learn at that point what I was even doing. Yeah, but if you know that wasn't for sale is just the measure of a personal moment of achievement in terms of selling work and especially this leg of oil painting as my primary mode of artistic expression, my first really successful financially show and where I started to put together kind of what has become my voice of sorts for the last decade or more was I'd say 2013 was really when it started taken off here in house, actually, and it was a tremendously successful show from a sales standpoint on that was where I first really genuine solo I had and where things that things started to get momentum had work in a group show that I'm really proud of having been a part of hope in Denver the year before called Towers Contemporary. And that was a period show curated by a couple of people involved with the Metropolitan State University and the Center for Visual Art up there in Denver, and that had us was a survey of heart practice and houses a Narn colony that's pretty famous and what's happened. And throughout history. There is a question of what's going on now because there's so many people living here then you'd never know that don't show in town necessarily. And our world famous. That was really cool because I had work up with Larry Bell or Ken Price and these, you know, a bunch of artists who I just adore and who are, so, uh committed to their practice. And I found stuff that I find to be personally meaningful for me and then also critically has found a claim or whatever else. And it's a it was really fun show to be a part of. So that was a big moment. And then since then, I'd say the recent shows I've put up the last couple of years at Lewellen Galleries Santa Fe, and then this one that's at Altamira and Jackson Hole right now, they've kind of been a combination of things I didn't accept, expect because my work is so pretty Well, you know, for a while now I've been lucky, really fortunate. I mean, I work hard, but but it's Also, that doesn't mean work's gonna find home necessarily on. But, um, these have had a combination of something going on that's been exciting. I don't know what it is, you know, because I'm in the middle of it again. It's like I'm new like of learning. But there's something about it getting to put up. Like the show in Jackson holds some of the biggest work I've ever done on location or off, actually, And all in one show, and they put it up and it felt like I was walking into I didn't know I was in the gallery, I would've thought, Well, this is like a museum, and it felt like That's cool. Yeah, that was a weird feeling. You know, I I don't I don't mean Theo, Air Gunner sound everyone all right. But I mean, like, the honest experience was, this feels so spacious and has breath, and I I feel something I didn't know was gonna I was gonna feel it because in the studio I don't I mean, I get the hang my stuff up. I have a great studio, but it's not the same. You don't see that you don't see it presented like that. Yeah, I'm not. It's not done and over. You know, like, I'm sitting here thinking I could do something more with that. And this is not right. And I may have to repaint. You know, there's no it's not a spaciousness. And so, seeing it in this in Jackson, all this recent show, it was really exciting and had a conceptual sort of framework. That was fun for me. You know, There was some conceptual things that I've been have been percolating for a while, but I haven't known, like, yeah, you know, out of the work. In a way that's new, huh? It's like, um, there is something that and I haven't seen the show in person. I would love to be able get up there and see it. I don't think it's gonna happen, but there's, like, some some kind of, like, more straight contemporary art vibe to some of it than just more like some of the traditional landscape stuff.
Even though the landscape like your Did you title that Roy G. Biv like
Jivan Lee: 41:34
your Yeah. Yeah. So I had this. Yeah. The spectrum pieces that I did does cool, which all sold to one person. I was like, Good. I really, I think was gonna happen, man, because that was that's a big bite. I think I look like I was, like, zooming out a picture to see if they like
individual. Or if it was like a
Jivan Lee: 41:50
group that was like, this would not be the same separate. No, Well, you know when I like them separate. And I think, you know, I didn't want to price work in such a way that it was not attainable for people who are passionate about it. It's always a dilemma, you know, because that painting took two months of that work, took two months to figure out in a bunch of mistakes. And, you know, there's a tremendous amount of embedded costs, so it's just a lot expensive. They're expensive. Do you know, period, when a frame on one piece is, you know, however many thousands, it's scary, you know, difficult. I've used this word scary because I don't want to, like, pretend as if you know that two people who are listening are, you know, are my friends. When I talk about it, who are wanting toe approach hard, I don't want to sound as if like it's some answered thing that settled. Or you know, that all of a sudden something happened. I was successful when I was making money to pay for my known 1000 food and everything was okay and I didn't feel concern and fear and uncertainty. And it's like that hasn't changed. The only thing that's changed really is this awareness that the uncertainty is coming along with me, whether or not I'm okay with it. So probably want to try to find a wayto befriended rather than, you know, combat it. That's it. That's important. That's an important realization. Oh man, it's really important. And so hard. I mean, I'm crap at it, you know, I'm better than I was, but it's not, You know who posted that bid on Instagram? Because I'd spent like a week being like I can't stand not painting. I don't know what D'oh Yeah, and I was driving myself crazy and I was like, Wait a second, this is all right. I've been painting almost 20 years, and I know that there's ups and downs and I know you know, and I've been doing these shows for about 10 years now in some way, shape or form. And I know that there's just a a space that is necessary that is essential. It is a healthy, appropriate space after doing a big push, you know? But that doesn't make mean that me and that it's easy to not want to fill in that space with, you know, jitter JIA. Well, I mean, like, you know, you talk about like, having that feeling of uncertainty, uncertainty, and you can understand it and be certain that there will be uncertain deep, but it doesn't mean you don't. Still, you still feel it, right? Yeah. So, um, these shows that you know the multi mirror one with this Roy G bibs that red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet The spectrum of what happens theoretically in light, which I found out in doing this project. It's kind of outdated and not is reactivated. It was good enough. It's an approximation, will go with it. And it looked cool and felt great. And it ended up being was of the Grand Teton in this sort of really reduced down composition peak, and taking instead of the grand range would usually on location what I'm out there doing is trying to pay homage to the totality of feeling. And there I was in one of the most spectacular ranges anywhere that I've ever been us air beyond, you know, just so vertical, so extreme. And I I was on location and I did a wide painting and plenty air and 2015. And then I did a vertical one, and it did this weird composition. I hated it. I brought it to the studio after this road trip, and then after, like three or four days, started to be like, I think I like it, you know, is one of those ones that changed as a sat with it for a while. It's such a good reason to not destroy things unless you're so certain that you have to, because it it ended up being that after I sat with him for a while, I started really almost laughing because it just struck me as so humorous to look at this most profound of mountains, as if it had turned into a high school yearbook photo and turned Our position is like, you know, here I am. I'm the grand tea time. Just the face of the Grand Teton in the PM's no context and it just looked like he was like from the Grand Teton from the shoulders up, you know, And something about that struck me as so funny for me, as you know, miniature little human who's gonna be here for a blip. Raindrop on yes, of this timeless mountain Thio look at it in such a cropped in way is to reduce down the totality in such a way. And I started being a really vibrant intellectual terrain for me, thinking about my role as an artist, but as a person. And you know, the advent of all social media in the last two decades and all these things that are going on that frame the world quite literally in our understanding of it in a really specific way. I mean, this whole multi panel, Siri's is the same idea of how you frame our world and and as an artist, I'm framing it all the time choosing. And what does that do to the thing I'm painting? And if the the idea of thinking Grand Teton is like kind of like cute pictures is that's pretty funny and, uh, get interesting, like contradictory thought. But, like also, if you come at it from a different side where you're looking at it, it's almost like one of the out panels of sure of your panel building composition, right? Without the rest of the the rest of it. Yeah, yeah, it makes sense. Yeah, well, so in the arc of my creative process, I think that's exactly right. You know, like, there's this. There's this gap in what I've been doing and all of a sudden there was 20 paintings of the Grand Teton in the solo show that didn't have as of yet when I went into it, a context that I understood. I didn't understand why all of a sudden I was doing a bunch of these, you know, because the competent palette, if you look at like new sneakers, is ridiculous. I mean, I love it. It's so fun, but it's ridiculous. It's like fusion and bright yellow and royal blue smashed together, scrape down as if it were some sort of wood, would cut smelly immigrant and then put back on and, like, really smashing together technique and color in a way that I wouldn't have done and it was because I saw a new pair of Nikes or something that I thought was really fun. And I like loud sneakers, you know, like, you know, like nice, mundane leather shoes or something. But I like loud sneakers when I'm when I'm buying running shoes for basketball shoes. And so you know, that made it into the painting. And then it became kind of like instagram or a Snapchat filter in the AL East. On top of this mystical peak, which I found out is like it's a site for vision quests for the tribes that have lived under that mountain range for a long, long time. And there's a really gravity, you know to emulate. Shirt can't be there without feeling that gravity. But then there's almost like physics definition. Teoh, right? Yeah, because it's got a lot of mess. That's right. Yep, you know, and so anyway, so it just became this out growth and the Roy G. Biff said What? I guess what was interesting was at first it seemed almost like blasphemy, you know, to my sort of serious artist self, you know, I'm serious and it's my job to be authentic. All the time and great those air essential things. But also it can get a little stuffy and too much. Too much, Yeah, and so to do this. At first it seemed like a humorous take, and I started. I immediately went back in 2015 and 2016 was starting to cook on this idea. I wanted to do like 8 48 36 panels and right after Warhol and literally just take the colors that work, all done in certain nuances of Marilyn Monroe or other pop icons, media icons and put him into the Grand Tetons. I didn't know why, and he didn't get to it until this year, and they weren't 48. 36 is and set, you know, it ended up being that I started these studies in these little ones based on the plane air work I did and then started varying the colors more and more. Two more extremes and I went after one of the first was Marilyn Monroe that Warhol did and took that pallet and applied it to the Grand Teton. And I did it with painting rather than printing, because I won't have the drawing to change over time, I didn't wanna have the stress and the notion that I had to shoehorn, you know, my draftsman quality into this group. I wanted to see what happens with sort of letting each painting be drawn roughly the same aiming, but but seeing human fallibility or standing changeable. Plus, that's kind of like your process in your signature at the moment. Yeah, you know, right? Sure, I have processed evidence work. I mean, that's you know what I'm interested in these days? I'm certainly not trying to remove the artist's presence from the work. In this case, though I don't want it to be about me. I want there to be the sense of the mark of a person who made it. You know, actually, really don't even like signing my work because I don't wanna have some notion of a personality to involve with what painting is about. But anyway, yes. So this grand Tetons set of pieces just appeared. I didn't know what they were about and like you were saying, they were kind of an outlier, a broken, discontinuous section of my creative process at the time. And then I started seeing that there was this question of icon and how we look at things. And I realized that I go on location in a sense, to pay homage and to bring something back that I can offer to the world that helps other people access something. I hope that is meaningful for them, whatever that might be on dumb. This Grand Teton Siri's then started to take on a totally different dimension, especially as I started to study up about the area in the mountain and understand some of the ancient history and the geologic timescale history, as well as the more recent history and then bring it right up into Instagram lately has been on my mind a lot because it's such these little snapshot world knows perfect stuff and people who make fun of like that insta light for the you know, the Pinterest Pinterest e kind of life and write, you know, whatever. It's all fine and what good? Maybe, I don't know, but but the impression that people leave versus the reality behind the scenes and I started again that that question of the difference between the single one color, you know, painted of the Grand Teton when it's this infinite color field. Actually, that's hitting it and taking just one. I mean one in quotation air quotations, I'll say, because I read in that painting is not just read. You write like a dominant, dominant feel feeling of a killer, and you wouldn't look at one of them and say, I don't know what color that is. It's red. It's, you know, it's orange anyway. So then you know, that started to be kind of, ah, cool idea. And then it went from just one. I thought I was gonna do one color and it started growing and the whole set. I think there's so many different things that came up for me in taking this material into the studio rather than keeping it plenty air, because in the studio is just another side of the coin of space and time. It's a different case so that that show up in Jackson has been really fun. That's cool. Yeah, the one in Santa Fe twos. But there's a bunch of experiments this year that I put up to see what happens, You know, ones that were messing with surface. They're playing with more contemporary art. Critical questions on my money about painting and why I'm painting in an area you know, an age of digital media and installation of American experiential artwork. And that's an important question. Yeah, let me know if you have an answer.
The exact same Thanks again, given for your time and for your hospitality in your studio. Thanks for chatting. Once again, check out the page on the Web site at Western Dot Gallery for the New Western Talent show opening on May 8th entirely online. And if you happen to catch this episode right when it comes out, you've got a week left to enter. So check out the call for entries. If you are an artist and you're interested. Thanks again So much for your time, everybody. Thanks for listening. Thank you for the reviews. Keep them coming. And until next time I'm George Irwin. That's my last name. See you later.