Thursday, January 31, 2013

ARTIST of the MONTH of FEBRUARY: Nicolas Shake

Welcome to the first installment of the Artist of the Month.  The First Friday of every month, we will profile an Alumni in the midst of their careers.  Some have stayed true to their majors at RISD, some are doing something completely different.  Some have a "job" while pursuing their passions on the side, some are devoted parents or teachers helping others find their own passions.  We hope this serves as a snapshot in the lives of the folks with whom we have a connection, but shows the different paths we have taken since.

And now, without further adieu, LA Alumni Nicolas Shake

photo courtesy of Nicolas Shake
Q: What is your name, major and year at RISD? 

A: Nicolas Shake, Illustration 2008

Q: What was your favorite class or teacher at RISD?

A: Lenny Long’s Advanced Projects, he had an unwavering demand and sharp critiques.     

Q: Who or what inspires your work now?  

A: Who inspires me?  There have been people in my life that have made me want to strive for the best, and even people that I admire and want to impress.  It’s not a direct inspiration…more of a motivator. As for the what?  I look at a lot of Dutch still-life painting and what was occurring in their society during the time.  I like the idea of still life being the lowest genre of painting at the time.  The theatrics and labor of the genera intrigues me. I recently read a great article by TJ Clark on Jean-Francois Millet. The intimacy of the objects with which we surround ourselves has always intrigued me as well. But this is kind of a broad question and everyone expects it, I'm not sure what a better answer to this is…
photo courtesy of Nicolas Shake
Q: Well, I guess what I really want to know is, in your darkest hour, when you're full of the most self doubt and struggling to continue, when everyone around you is a lawyer, a doctor or an accountant with a 9 - 5 job, what keeps you striving to be an "artist"? 

A: It's tough. For me, having others around me who are dealing with the same issue or more experienced artists who have gone through this period in their careers and have made it out alive, those people keep me going, or give me inspiration to do so.

I've been lucky to have a few great people in my life that believe in what I do. But most of all, I've had to push forward. I'm a person who will get something wrong two, three, four times but I learn from every experience and I enjoy that process of failure and learn even more from that than any situation that came much easier  

"There have been a lot of times that I've thought about throwing in the towel. But every time I think that I also think what else would I do? Art has been a life long crush for me and, like most crushes, there has been heartbreak and pure joy." 

Q: So how would you describe what it is you "do"? 

A: I would say I'm an artist, not a fine artist or a painter just plainly and simply, an artist. The medium I choose to make my working should not hem me in to some type of descriptor. I spend the majority of my time in my studio, but I also teach at Chapman University. As for a hobby…a friend of mine just got me into indoor rock climbing.  I’ve only been a few times but I love it.     
photo courtesy of Nicolas Shake

Q: And what are you currently working on? 

A: I just finished a book about one of my projects called “The Rhythm is Odd”. I’m also working on my first solo exhibition, which will be at Western Project on May 11, 2013. Also a group exhibition, at VAST Space Project in March.  That show is curated by David Pagel. There are a few other projects in the works but as for now I’m not saying too much about them.

photo courtesy of Nicolas Shake
Q: What has changed the most for you, as an artist, in the last 10 years?  Could be anything, from your style to technology, etc. 

A: That’s a big list.  I went to graduate school at Claremont Graduate University.  If I look back at the work I was making during undergrad I can see some hints of what I’m doing now, more in the concepts than in the physical work. 

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 

A: Still showing but in internationally and nationally (LA and New York). Dream big. Who knows if I’ll still be in LA.  A year before moving to Providence I remember having a conversation with a friend and I said something like “Who would ever live in Rhode Island, I could never live there.” 

Q: What do you love/hate about the "Art Scene" in LA? 

A: Love... There is a great community in LA right now.  Galleries like Weekend, Jaus, and Elephant, more independent spaces that are about developing community and have a strong vision for what they would like the art world to be, anchor it.  

photo courtesy of Nicolas Shake
Hate…I’ve been thinking about Dave Hickey leaving the art world and the reasoning behind it… The art bubble, it always becomes a large topic after Miami Basel.  There seems to be a general disappointment in what is going on right now, not just with big money galleries/collectors but all aspects of the art world.  From MFA programs to government funding for the arts.  We’re looking for something but I don’t know what yet…the general public has no access point into the contemporary art world.  Brian Eno’s opening speech for the 1995 Turner Prize is still valid. Jude Law, at this year’s Turner Prize ceremony, criticized his government for cutting funding to the arts.  I’m curious to see what is going to happen in the next five years.  Will there be a general complacency?  Spaces like Weekend Gallery already have respect, but when they get more traction, what will they turn into and how will they influence the art scene? 

Q: What do you want to see out of the RISD LA Alumni organization in the future? 

A: More organization. Some sort of a directory for artists and designers. Community. 

Well we hear you Nicolas, and we're listening.  If you have thoughts on Nicolas' profile, feel free to share in the comments below.  We're looking for our next Artist of the Month as well, if you're interested please connect with us via the RISD/LA Alumni Facebook Group. 

Nicolas is represented by Western Project in Culver City, CA

Liz Lanphear (neé Hostetler) FAV 04 and Marisa Murrow PT 00

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