Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Monday, January 18

Gapers Block

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« SketchFest 2013: Big Event with Even Bigger Laughs Art Around Town »

Interview Wed Jan 09 2013

High Brow, Low Brow, Here Brow, No Brow: A Studio Visit with Paul Perkins


People are strange. They can be such idiots, and so violent. American culture is so ass-backward, yet so sickeningly appealing. Paul Perkins knows this all, and thinks about it, maybe a little too hard, as he cuts up tiny pieces of cellophane and construction paper in his carnivalesque basement studio on the South Side.

As part of an ongoing "Studio Visit" series for Gapers Block, I visited him in his studio back in July and asked him a few questions about his work. Perkins has a solo exhibition up at Peanut Gallery (1000 N. California Ave.) through this Saturday, January 12.


Tell me about your background -- how and when you became interested in making art and what brought you to Chicago.

I was born and raised in Oklahoma City. When I was 19, I came to Chicago to go to the SAIC on a merit scholarship. I earned a BFA in studio arts in 2002. I have been making art objects since I was a child and knew I wanted to be an artist since I was 4 years old. My mother was like an art teacher for me and has remained one of my strongest influences to this day. My mother is half Muskogee Creek Native American and worked for a Title IV program where she taught and supported Native American heritage and students in Oklahoma City public schools. It was because of my mother and her profession that I made arts and crafts and found the process of creating important.

photo24.jpegWhat issues (formal/social/personal/etc) do you try to address with your work?

The materials lead first and foremost. The issues change in my work from one body to another, yet I have been very annoyed and sad as of late. For maybe two years now I have been motivated to create work that I believe reflects what is unfair in our capitalist society.

photo16.jpegWhat are your medium(s) of choice and why?

I think of myself as a sculptor. I use lots of stuff from craft stores, dollar stores, party material stores, and school supply stores. These are also places where I generate ideas. I can spend as much time looking at stuff, taking notes, and generating ideas for projects as I do buying for projects. My work usually starts with drawing, then I make sculptures/reliefs that reference traditional painting. In fact, most of the time, I think of my artworks as sculptural objects or three-dimensional paintings. When it comes to materials, I use a lot of things that I find, like cardboard, or things that I buy, such as colored paper, felt, craft sticks, tape, glitter, glue, and different kinds of clear plastics. I often think of classical religious paintings from the 16th century because of the multi-layered illuminated images. I try to create the illusion of some of these same techniques. My work is based on painting, yet, because of the craft-store materials, relates to bulletin boards or grade-school arts and crafts. I think this gives my work its own identity or its own kind of language.

photo44.jpegHow do you spend your time in the studio? What are your methods? What to you do to come up with ideas?

I try to work in my studio almost every day for at least four to eight hours at a time. As a practicing artist, I make my studio practice a part of my life. It's like I have a lot of problems and or pain and I have to give it to something. I have come to feel it is necessary to get in my studio and do some work. My process of creating artworks starts with many pieces at once. After spending time on notes and to-do lists, I then start to hone in on five to six pieces at a time, moving from one to another. Even when I'm not in my studio I am working, reading, writing ideas, and looking at images from Goya to Lisa Frank.

photo356.jpegWhat are your influences? What are you reading/watching?

As far as influential artists, I could use a lot of space to include them all. A short list, or maybe my top five in no order are: 1) Thomas Hirschhorn 2) Lucian Freud 3) Kerry James Marshall 4) Mike Kelly 5) Richard Tuttle. When it comes to the TV, I love NBA basketball and I watch 1980s pro wrestling on DVD. When it comes to music, right now I am listening to a lot of '80s hardcore American punk rock. In the past, I have read and really appreciate Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and Richard Dawkins. Right now, I am reading two books: Sam Harris' The End Of Faith and Paul Johnson's Darwin: Portrait Of A Genius.

How has your work evolved over the past few years?

My work has evolved mainly based on the use of materials. I try to find a new way of manipulating them on each and every one, stirring them in different directions based on the attitude or personality of the piece.

photo351.jpegHow would you like to see your work evolve over the next year?

Like so many other artists, I want to make art full time. This means it would be way cool to be represented by some hotshot gallery that sells my work. I just always want to make more and more work. I also like to collaborate with other artists, maybe work on some installations. My mother has been sick and not getting any better, so I'd like to make some artworks with her in mind, for her. She got me started in all of this.

Do you plan to stay in Chicago indefinitely? Why or why not? What do you like or not like about being an artist here?

If one of these days I can go somewhere else and live somewhere else I guess I would. I'm not sure if it matters that I'm an artist in Chicago vs. anywhere else. Not a lot of people know who I am here. I spend most of my time working in my studio and not dealing with anyone. Is this a good strategy -- not sure? Wherever I am I will keep making stuff. It would be nice to show it as well. I think that some of my work might like to get out of town. I guess I would go along for the ride.

In the interest of full disclosure, Peanut Gallery is run by me and a small group of comrades. Because I tend to conduct studio visits with artists whose work I am personally interested in, many (but not all) of the artists featured in the studio visit series here on Gapers Block have had or will have exhibitions at Peanut Gallery.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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