Getting To Know Joel Starkey & Nick Howard

Getting To Know… is a monthly article we will be publishing along with our monthly exhibitions at Rosalux to give you the chance to get to know our exhibiting artists a little bit better. In this first installment we sat down with Joel Starkey and Nick Howard to find out what is going on with them and their art and here is what they had to say:

Who are your biggest influences as an artist?

JS:  Cy Twombly, Rocio Rodriguez, Basquiat, Marcel Dzama, Tom Waits, Lucian Freud, Brian Chippendale, Philip Guston, Enrique Chagoya, all of my artist friends.

NH:  Hieronymus Bosch, Philip Guston, Do Ho Suh, Francis Bacon, Joesph O’connell, and Sarah Sze.

What are you doing when you are not making art?

JS:  Teaching, working on graphic design, listening to music, or reading. I am a big reader.

NH:  Working behind the counter at Surdyk’s cheese shop. Walking by the Mississipi River. Spending time with my girlfriend, friends, and family. Worrying and thinking about making art.

Can you tell us about the moment in your life when you realized you were no longer a student of art but an artist and how that transition occurred for you?

NH:  That transition has been going on for a long time. I think it first started when I was in high school actually. At that time I was really into drawing graffiti style lettering and surrealist art. I spent many hours and a lot of labor copying both styles. Then I made one drawing where both elements were combined and it felt very natural. I look back at that drawing and see that it was the first time I wasn’t copying – I was creating my own artistic voice, which I could use to express abstract ideas, experiences and emotions. My artistic life has been punctuated with many similar moments of development in which I feel more like an artist but there are also other moments where I still feel like a student or a beginner.

JS:  That’s a thing? I thought that was a myth. I guess I would say my MFA show. I was in too deep (emotionally and financially) to turn back at that point.

Where was your first show outside of university?

JS:  A small gallery in La Crosse, WI that took a chance on some of my paintings.

NH:  I lived in a house with a bunch of friends the year after we graduated and we put together a show called “Quit Your Day Job”

How do you get from the first spark of an idea to a finished work for exhibition?  Where do your ideas come from?

NH:  I just try to be patient and let the spark materialize into the final piece and not overwork it along the way. My ideas come from many sources, particularly watching my day-to-day experience and emotions as well as an interest in technology, economics, and science. I also draw inspiration from consuming media, such as listening to the news, seeing commercials on TV or the internet and advertisements in general.

JS:  It depends. A lot of my newer work was born from images I found in old history books or something I saw in a documentary. From there I warp it to my liking.

What has been the most rewarding moment in your career so far?

JS:   Nothing major, but every now and then I will feel like a work has really reached somebody in a way that I couldn’t reach them with words.

NH:   It’s hard to say. There have been some good and unexpected highs along the way so far but I really think having the chance to show what I love to do has been a big reward in itself.

What do you feel you have accomplished with this newest body of work currently on exhibit at Rosalux?

NH:  There seemed to be some stretching for me in the current show at Rosalux. I started using a lot more color in my work. I also had the chance collaborate on a large sculptural piece with Joel.

JS:  I wanted to explore a variety of image making and create a loose narrative around a theme. I think I did that for the most part.

What is the most embarrassing thing to have happened to you at an art opening?

JS:  Shit talking on an artist’s work without realizing the artist was standing right by me.

NH:  Spilling a glass of red wine all over Rosalux’s nice new white walls.

What is your favorite word?

JS:  Currently it’s dingus, although discombobulated is an old favorite.

NH:  Sinistral

What do you wish people would say about your art?

NH:  I don’t have any particular things I want people to say. Though I do always hope for the viewer to have a connection of some kind with the work, or that there might be something universal in the work that folks can relate to or feel whether or not they think they understand art history or art in general.

JS:  That it’s interesting and reveals information if you spend some time with it. Also: here is a whole bunch of money so you can just make art all day. It would be great if they said that.

OK, so if you had a $1,000,000 budget, what would you create?

JS:  A huge studio space to work in and a crew to frame all of my work for me.

NH:  A giant performance, with hundreds of people dressed up as masked figures and towering structures flooding a field or a large empty space.

What is coming up next for you?

NH:  I’ll be a part of a diorama show at the Air Sweet Air Gallery in St. Paul this September.

JS:  I have an upcoming show at SooVac in February that I am really excited about. I’m planning on loosening up my drawings a bit and exploring mark-making on a larger scale.