Interview with Nathan Spoor & Show Preview: “The Glass Menagerie”

by Annie OwensPosted on

Los Angeles artist Nathan Spoor is embarking on his newest solo show “The Glass Menagerie” opening June 6th at Copro Gallery as well as an invitational group show at Sloan Fine Art‘s Summer Group show, June 20th. A collection of work created over the last few years culminating in a grand, almost linear narrative. The story could be describing the artist’s personal history and growth or it may be taken as a visual description of the evolution of the human condition. Regardless of how you experience the work, there is something there that can speak to each one of us.

Although Texas born and raised, Southern California’s unique art culture drew Nathan in 2001 after his involvement in a show during the Venice Art Walk. Now SoCal is the home of this prolific fine artist. As we did our interview, Nathan prepared for a trip to Florida to attend the “Say When” show at Bold Hype Gallery this past April where he assembled another dazzling and well balanced array of talent. Yes, as active and fully realized an artist as he his, Nathan also is and has been curating art exhibits throughout the country for years. Curator as well as art journalist for publications such as Bl!ss, Juxatpoz and Hi-Fructose, are two forms of his contributions to supporting his fellow artists and a most generous act that is. To work as an artist is different than to live as an artist and HF sees Nathan as one of the best examples of the latter. “…I’ve already been confronted with the fact that I’d be painting and pursuing my work in this epic narrative even if I couldn’t show or support myself in galleries,” says Nathan in a recent interview with Chloe Gallagher* of Fenarino Gallery.

Words such as Fantasy or Visionary can often be found in sentences where attempts to describe his work are made but to categorize the work as such would be to limit the understanding as well as the enjoyment of his work.

I really didn’t want to start off with this one but I’ve really been dying to ask–where’s your rechargeable battery pack?

The one you MUST be wearing in order to paint those amazing paintings, AND then you have the energy to curate shows, publish books and have so much energy for all the other art that is out there. I’m not blowing smoke. Ten minutes after I pick up a pencil it’s nap time.

Haha. Well, I do enjoy being involved in several things, eggs in baskets and all that. I try to get a few hours of sleep a night, drink water and green tea, and sneak a powernap in once in a while. I guess as long as my compass is pointed in the right direction it works out well enough.

Your upcoming solo show “The Glass Menagerie” in June at Copro Gallery, what will you focus on here?

The upcoming exhibit is a really interesting one. My work is a continuing epic narrative that is expanding at its own organic pace. I began the current body of work seven years ago, and will continue to follow it wherever it goes whether in galleries or otherwise. The work concentrates on aspects of a great unfolding visual drama that follows the discoveries of a young male as he journeys to understand himself and his connection to the universe, and a female with the ability to create her surroundings as she sleeps or dreams.

The latest exhibit deals with a new chapter in this visual procession, as the trees have made the decision to take flight to far shores. They have found themselves crowded from the fantasy comforts that they became accustomed to when the girl was much younger. Now her reality is being infringed upon by far too many structures and modern elements for their comfort. The trees, long the protectors of this hidden realm, are picking up as many wonders as they can and taking off across the ocean for new shores.

In this exhibit we find the elements of progress in the world between our most deeply rooted sentiments. “The Glass Menagerie” deals with the moments of realization that transition us from one stage of life to the next.

“Age Of Reason”

“Event Horizon”

“The Familiar Fellowship”

“The Glass Menagerie”

“Layers of the Enlightened Man (On Parade)”
I can’t put my finger on the aesthetics of your work – which I mean as a compliment. I want to come up with some analogy or comparison but can’t find one. How would you say your style evolved?

Well, evolution is a funny thing. It’s composed of all the things that shape and transform us on a daily and continual basis. It’s almost completely an uncertain quantity, unless you just accept your path and make peace with your gifts. My style began to evolve because I accepted that where I was when I became so enamored with painting, was a point of departure and a rebirth. When I first began painting, I was in college.

In slight contrast to your earlier work, I’ve noticed more and deeper shadow areas in your work recently, lots of play with light and shadow. This color palate also seems to me to bring out even more dimension and texture in your paintings. Is this a newer development?

I take that as a big compliment, since the body of work is based with the study of personal and artistic evolution. I realized when I began, that the first paintings wouldn’t be as intricate in nature or the technique would change along the way. So being able to look at it as a whole, as an actual narrative, the difference of the early works helps solidify the stages of growth throughout the series.

I began with the same color palette that I use still, but the feelings have grown and the handling has gained some perspective and depth. I can see definite differences in the work, and I’m excited about where it is now. I figure I’ll be able to handle the actual finishing pieces when it’s time. It’s like I’ve had to have the years of perspective into the growth of the work to understand what the final paintings will be, since they are actually transitional to the next phase of the work as a whole.

The painting “Promise,” Is that a bomb under her dress?

Yes. I accepted the need for my female character to have the power to level everything with her ability to love. The bomb indicates the atomic nature of that greater love and seems to be a potent symbol for something magnetic to both sexes in the bigger drama. The male character wants to create such a thing, but without the awareness of its true use. And the female has the natural ability to summon or create it, and has the insight to harbor so much power and pass on its use and gifts along the way. It has a strong reference to the female Jan Van Eyck’s “Giovanni Arnolfini and His Bride”. I was influenced early on in my college and beginning painting moments mostly by art history survey books, from that renaissance era of history. Interestingly enoughgh, Van Eyck is attributed with being the father of modern oil painting.

“Promise” 2004

“Promise” detail
As an artist, I find you to be pretty generous when it comes talking and writing about fellow artists. You’re an all around nice guy and seem to have no flaws. Tell me you have a really bad temper or that you throw things, or stick scotch tape to the bottom of cats’ feet… C’mon there’s got to be something fundamentally wrong with you!

Hah, I don’t know. I have my crazy anxieties and mental issues just like anyone that allows themselves to be afloat in this kind of world. Not that I’m too wacky, I just get too much noise in there and prefer to keep my mind busy with things that make sense in there. And if I paint for a few hours a day I feel pretty balanced.

May I ask if you are you a spiritual person or if meditation is part of your process? (I hugely dislike the word “process”)

Ah, it’s a process in some ways. At one point I could see new images or glimpses into some other weird place by sort of meditating, or not falling into too deep a sleep. There’s breathing and meditating involved but it’s not a science that I’m aware of. Usually I try to keep myself open to the right ideas, ones that fit into the epic nature of the narrative in play. But I do notice that early morning and later evening times are the most productive and free for ideas to come though. And without a doubt, the very best ideas arrive just as I’m about to fall asleep. I do keep paper and pencils around. I found that I prefer the feeling of the pencil rather than a pen. Pens I like for writing rather than drawing these days. Go figure.

I am spiritual. I’ve had some experiences that have me convinced there is something beyond our understanding. Call that what you will.

What’s your favorite podcast? Do you ever listen to Radio Lab? It’s great!

I love Bill Maher’s podcasts, and the Paracast, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Michael Feldman’s What’dya Know?, and am eagerly anticipating the return of Mysterious Universe. I love ghost, ufo and alien stories. There are also some good classic book and classical music podcasts that are great. The Indie 103.1 station is in my itunes right now, since their podcasts have ceased. Stephen Fry has a podcast that he hasn’t updated in forever and I like to listen to the breakdown of the latest MMA contests on the Beatdown show’s podcast, oh there’s so much. I have to go check out Radio Lab now!

Tell me about your commissioned work.

I really enjoy commissions – they’re so different from doing a grouping of paintings. And I’ve gotten some really great ideas from people wanting to do commissions. Every piece is so unique and turns out so much better than anything I do for my own means. There’s something to that, having work that shines a little brighter being for someone else, maybe just showing their light in a different theatre.

Another reason I really enjoy commissions, aside from working directly with patron and new collector alike, is that I’m more open to the power of a greater level of suggestion. When I get a new perspective, like working on a new idea that I hadn’t expected, the most amazing things can arrive or unfold. I enjoy the challenge and the journey of the new ideas and where one might take me, and the work at large. Some of the new ideas are recurring characters in the narrative and have important roles within the unfolding universe or in-between-land experience.

“The Futurists”(click for larger view…)

“Strange Interlude”


“A Wink for Safe Passages”

“Citizens of the War”
What advice would you give to artists just beginning a career; like the differences with collectors and galleries?

Well, first off, get acquainted with your work for a while before expecting anything from anyone. If the goal is to have work in collections and work with top galleries the work itself should be top notch and have that longevity factor, right? This is my life, as well as my career, and my hobby and favorite pastime. So I want to work with people as passionate and excited about the art as I am and want my collectors to be. If it’s just a job for someone, or if the work falls into a fad, don’t worry too much. Just keep your head on straight and keep your mind on the goal of painting / creating amazing work. Just amaze everyone and put everything you have into the work, and the right eyes will find you and vice versa.

Galleries and collectors? The difference in working with different personalities and mindsets varies in every situation. When I was new I did the research and visited the openings of the galleries that I wanted to see my work in or thought I might fit in with. It’s a lot of work and you get a lot of good advice if you ask for it. Every one of the folks has an opinion and it’s worth a lot, whether we agree with it or not. It’s what works in their situation. So listen to a gallerist when you get a chance, and see how it weighs in with your internal scale. If they’re on the level for what you need then you should each give it a trial run and see if you get along. Eventually if you keep at it long enough or get a good break, you’ll find the gallery that works for you, should you decide to go that route.

Collectors in my opinion are great. My work seems to gravitate toward being in good places, by people that connect with them and give them good homes. That’s what I want for my work. They’re special moments for me, things I spend all my time loving into life, and I’m so honored by the collectors that appreciate what I do.

“The Age of Innocence”

“The Angles of Transference”

“The Night Visit”

“The Answer”

“The Arrival”

“The Remembering Tree”

to see more of Nathan’s work, visit his website

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