On the tail end of the Contemporary Portraiture exhibition here at madelife, we sat down with artist George P Perez to talk about his process, what makes him tick, and what inspired the choice to be a full time artist in a moment when the struggle to balance a creative life with a working life is all too real.
Describe yourself and your work.
I’m an artist that creates photographic works through impractical techniques such as long exposure, digital screen shot appropriation, and/or scanography. My work is based on banal, mundane or quotidian environments that I interact with on a day-to-day basis and/or an interpretation of present day society, either in real life or the digital realm, exploring the history of portraiture along side. My images are documented and manipulated to alter the meaning into another perception of a particular common narrative.
How did you get started in your career as an artist?
During the last semester of undergrad at CU Boulder, I was getting some momentum with a few group shows in Chicago, New York, and here in Fort Collins. After finishing, I applied to artist’s residencies everywhere to check out different locations in the states before considering grad school. A lot of “Thank you for you interest but unfortunately we cannot offer you a residency at this time”. There was one situation where I got an acceptance email to a program in Illinois and found out an hour late that I wasn’t accepted due to an email error. My two year residency at Redline was what really opened some doors and opportunities for my career. Their immersive programs with under resourced schools/kids and social engagements as a foundation to promote a better community sparked new ways of creating in my practice It was a new avenue of being committed in a space of like minded individuals that really helped my career get started.
What piece of work best represents you and why?
It’s not a piece I’ve actually created myself, but it’s a piece my grandfather made. He has taken a sudden urge to create paintings out of rice grains in the last five years and I have come to own two of them. One is still in its bag that it came in when I brought it back from Mexico. I would unwrap it but it makes me smile when I see it all wrapped up. I know what it looks like, but I feel like imagination renders it even better looking. It’s a very easily destroyed mystery.
How do your materials influence your work?
I’m attracted to materials that have some sort of history. I visited Castle Marne
for a Doors Open Denver
event not too long ago and got some historical insight into the place. In part of the bed and breakfast house there is a beautiful stained glass window that at one point had been shattered by a thrown rock. Its since has been repaired and the rock that was thrown is sitting on the sill of the repaired stained glass. I fucking love that rock, window, and the motive to preserve that event.
I’ve been trying to push my work into a more sculptural realm within my photo background. There is a sculptural aspect inherent to photography but left out of the conversation and narrative. I’ve been working with low brow materials that have a history to figure out how they relate to a common everyday narrative by tearing/stacking photo prints to push the 2D visuals to a stronger 3D conversation.
Where do you go to get inspired?
Everywhere really. I typically just need a clear head and an open mind to let it happen. It’s when I am experiencing new locations and interacting with different people that inspiration comes most often.
What have you learned through creating that has surprised you?
I’m starting to find that the exploration part of making is more interesting than the final product. During the process, I tend to find multiple connections to make a piece of work. I like to think of Joseph Beuy’s Bath Tube piece when thinking about the connectives in materials. Someone made this pierce where water, soap, skin, metal, and heat all connect and then leave.
Describe your work routine for your artistic practice.
I like to be more of a morning person where I get up have a quick breakfast, ride my bike with my doggie, then do at least a stretch of 4 hours in the studio, and finally finish with writing out emails(I find myself doing that more and more). I don’t like being organized and it shows in my studio but I have to in order to work with the rest of the world. My partner, Stephanie Kantor
, is super organized and rubs off on me.
What is it like when you collaborate with other artists?
Like cutting up a mango and eating it, no one knows how to cut it but we are satisfied after finishing it.
How do you balance being an artist and making a living?
I don’t think there should be a balance between the two. It’s almost some sort of competition where, if the scale is tipped towards being an artist, then you’re not making a living. If the scale tips towards making a living, then you’re not being an artist. You should be able to elevate both or they should be one of the same. It’s interesting that you ask that right now since I actually just quit my 9-5 job that I had been with for 6 years.
I just has a conversation with a friend, Roman Bonilla
, about quitting and why. He said something along the lines of, “That’s great! I mean, chances are you were struggling making a living and being an artist at the same time. You were going to struggle either way and now you’ll just be struggling to make a living being an artist. I kind wish I had figured that our sooner in my career.”
What is your process for coming up with new work?
It has come from an array of places: reading, hanging out with individuals, silently hanging in my studio, hearing stories or just executing some urge of process to make or do. Currently, I’m just picking up wood stumps from free Craigslist ads to split into firewood. I’ll probably continue this until I have an absurd amount. That’s when an idea usually manifests itself. But inspiration comes from very simple ideas that relate to the every day and mundane that then turn into pages of questions rather than answers.
Why do you believe art has value?
Art has the potential to record culture and the reflections of ideas. Art pieces and art events are important artifacts of the human collective that we clearly see in history museums and contemporary spaces. Art is to push the ordinary experience and see things in a new light.
What is playing on your stereo?
I keep going back to musicians like:
What are you reading right now?
Which artist is currently inspiring you the most?
What’s the best thing about your studio/workspace/workshop?
I can go whenever I want, my studio mate Taylor Balkissoon is as messy as I am and I get a look into what she’s working on. Check her out. Really, it’s just having a studio space, thanks to Adam Gordon and when he does to make it happen at the Temple.
What do you do to stay motivated to create?
I try to keep myself busy and work off spontaneous and creative urges. I find myself watching videos of DIY makers such a show to make soap out of bacon fat. It’s random but that kind of stuff piques my interest and makes me continue making my work.
What’s the best part about being an artist?
Meeting other people who are also creatives who are pushing for a higher agenda in their work.
To find out more about George’s work, visit his website.