The Paper Darts crew was ecstatic when Gregory Euclide agreed to an interview, for we believe he is one of the Twin Cities' most vibrant artists. As Gregory gives us a peek into the process of his art and daily practice, he proves to be an inspiration for the aspiring writer, artist, and musician. Don't miss the featured gallery of his work in our Art section.
Paper Darts: Can you describe your daily routine? What does your studio look like? What is your approach for making art in relation to a space? How much of your day do you devote to your art?
Gregory Euclide: My routine depends on the time of year. I teach, so the summers are very different than the school year. But, for the past several months my routine has involved waking up at 5:40, making breakfast and coffee and then driving to work. I teach high school for half the day and then college classes in the afternoon twice a week. I get home from teaching and work on my own things until my special lady friend comes home. When I am not making a huge body of work, and therefore needing every minute of the day, I love to cook. So, around evening I will start to get things together for dinner, which usually involves some vegetables and some form of curry over rice. We are members of the East Henderson CSA and get some great produce directly from an organic farm.
There are so many great benefits to living outside of the city, the food is one, but cheaper housing is another. The studio that I had in MPLS was about ¼ the size of my studio now. I was able to relocate to the Minnesota River Valley and found a great house with land. The lot is tucked into a hill of cedar trees with a creek and a pond.
PD:The end product of your art is part of an intense process. Can you describe the process of integrating elements of nature, found objects, and traditional artists’ media?
GE: I wanted the work to be a document that blurred some of the modes of representation. I think about nature and I grew up watching nature shows on television. I read about landscape, I walk through the woods in my back yard, I visit national parks, I utilize goods and materials pulled from the land - and all of these things are in my mind as I sit down and try to create a Landscape Painting. I have always been interested in making the invisible visible or blending the micro with the macro. Putting found objects in the work was a way to bring something into the work that was authentic. It was also a way to introduce something of a souvenir into the composition – a nod to the fact that the drawings and paintings are based on memory of experience and not of actual places.
PD:You have said that your art “explores the contradictions between the projection of idealized, picturesque views of landscape and [your] desire to have an authentic experience in nature.” How does the actual process of making the art shape this conclusion?
GE: The traditional art making process is a world filled with conventions, rules and demands made by the art market. That structure restricts ones ability to create whatever it is that you might want to create. Some artists live off of foundation grants and state money, some artists sell work, some do both and yet still some work in unrelated jobs to make money to live and then produce art that is not for sale. These are all very different worlds. An art object that is presented through a gallery is really there, for the most part, to be sold. There are some exceptions, but galleries make their money that way. So, the work must adhere to the conventions of being protected, being able to be hung, being archival, and so on. This process is interesting to me in relationship to landscape painting.
If I am trying to present a work of art in a gallery that is meant to convey the feeling or idea of wilderness or being in nature, I must make that work within the rules of the market (the work should be framed. The work should be in a rectangle. The work should only be so large). It is very odd to me how this transformation happens – from land into art. So, to answer your question, the works I make are aware of their object nature – just as when I am in nature I am aware of how I am framing nature.
PD: What is your personal relationship with the wild Midwestern landscape?
GE: I don’t see much of it. I see a lot of beige houses and farm fields. It requires a lot of effort just to find some wild Midwestern Land.
PD: Do you feel your audience will better understand/value your art if they know the details of your entire process?
GE: I think one could arrive at some sort of appreciation of the work without knowing anything about the process. I don’t really control understanding because people experience things differently. I enjoy knowing the process if the process has some significance to the concept of the work. Simon Starling, for example, uses process as a way to construct meaning. I don’t intend my work to be that process-heavy. Some of the materials that I use have a history that may create an interesting dialog within the work. When those things are present I try to make viewers aware of what they are looking at. I might mention in the materials listing that something is “found foam” because to me that is an important distinction to make.
PD: What emotion fills you after you have finished a piece of art? (Ex: pride, self-loathing, fear, and relief?)
GE: Like a food court in a mall – it is full of these random voices, squeaks, and bangs… and if I frame it in my mind correctly it sounds like musical harmony. I kind of feel like that when I am done – as if I have achieved some semblance of harmony.
PD:Do you believe your art projects a tone or element of emotion?
GE: I’m not exactly sure. All I can assess is how it makes me feel. But I am well aware of how I am able to get into the work in a way that someone else may not be able to get into. Everyone enters the work from a different place and takes something different away. I don’t try to project a tone necessarily.
PD: You were recently published in High Fructose and will soon be published in Paper Darts. What is lost in your work when it is photographed and reproduced for print?
GE: Pretty much everything that matters to me. I think the real interest and strength lies in being able to view the work in person – being able to move around the work with your body, to explore the space. These works have purposefully broken away from the flat surface plane. When I take a still photo for promotional purposes it always is a serious compromise to the work. I would like to think of the photographs as an invitation to see them in person. But the reality is that most people never see them in person, yet some people seem to like the still photos of the work. I don’t think it looks bad as a photo, but it is like hearing half of a symphony.
PD: Is Minneapolis kind to an artist such as yourself? Have you lived anywhere else? How much does the city in which you live affect the art that you make?
GE: If you mean “kind” in terms of sales I would say “No.” I sell 98% of my work elsewhere.
The city does affect the work a bit. If I travel to LA then I start to see palm trees popping up in the work. Since the drawings are kind of a conglomerate of whatever landscape I am thinking about, they are affected by what I am seeing on a daily basic. And to be honest, some cities just make me happier. And when I am happy, I make more work.
PD: What did you want to be when you grew up? Have you grown up? Are you doing what you want to do for the rest of your life?
GE: I never really thought of what I wanted to be. I rarely have a picture of myself in the future in my mind, and when I do, it is a long narrow room with no furniture, a glossy hardwood floor and a stereo at one end with me at the other end. I always liked the idea of transferring something to others. Teaching seemed natural. I could not imagine a living where I was making something for someone else to sell. The great thing about my current position is that I am able to talk to young people everyday about what makes creativity, design, and art so interesting. I create my works in my free time and they happen to sell. I imagine I will do something like that for the rest of my life. Give back and produce.
I am certainly doing what I would like to do for the rest of my life. I wake up and go to sleep in the most wonderful space. I share my life with the most wonderful partner and we are both in awe of the world. It feels pretty good.
PD: What contemporary artists are you watching and learning from? Do you have an art history giant that you keep in the back of your mind for inspiration?
GE: I see things I like to look at now and again and I read books that allow me to look at situations differently, but I am not the type of person who you will see at openings every weekend or anything like that. I am much more interested in the world at large than I am in art specifically. Music, architecture, materials, land… all these things interest me much more. While I make the objects that get displayed in galleries, I really don’t feel too connected to that world. I would like to stay away from that as much as possible.
PD: What was the worst art critique you have ever survived?
GE: You get out of a work what you are willing to put into a work. Sometimes people, for whatever reason, are not willing to put any effort into the work. Art is subjective, and critiques are always to be taken with a grain of salt… as well as praise. I have had many critiques where the comments that were made were harsh, but I always just think they are expressing their opinion.
PD: What advice would you give to an aspiring artist post-formal education? Do you believe an artist must adhere to a formal education?
GE:Advice would depend on what one was looking for. I give advice to my students all the time and I think they just apathetically let it roll through their ears. My advice--find something you love to do and do it often. Education is what you make out of it. You don’t need a formal education unless you want to move up on the salary schedule or teach. Everything you learn in college you could learn at a library or just by being resourceful. One has to understand that these institutions are great places to seek out resources but anyone with a bit of motivation could find these same things anywhere else.
Visit his website to view and learn more about Gregory Euclide's work.