THE INFINITE STORY
By Greg Escalante
Occasionally we meet an artist that truly defies the boundaries of definition, and Nathan Spoor is just such an individual. Having been working on a serious body of work for nearly ten years, and showing it to great interest across the globe, the artist has made a career of being a major proponent in the Los Angeles art scene. Spoor has both curated and exhibited in career defining shows, cultivated new interest in art from the underground to the established noteworthy galleries, and is now tackling the mantle of museum curator and art writer. Even though his art does most of the talking, it’s fascinating to hear what is going on behind the curtain of what may strike you as one of the modern era’s more creative and interesting minds.
GE: So, Nathan, how did it all start? I mean to say, how did you get to the point where you’re seven years into a body of work and painting almost nonstop?
NS: Wow, well, I’ve always been into making things, mostly drawing from a young age. I remember all through my youth drawing on the back of all my Dad’s old sermon sheets and music tablature sheets.
Wait, so your Dad was a preacher?
Yeah, a Youth and Family Minister for Churches of Christ. So I got to hang around groups of older kids and go to lots of church activities. Mostly I would draw or explore the huge buildings and play on my own. This is pretty young, not really grade school or anything.
So was it the kind of church with the snake handling and all?
No, I think those are pretty much tent organizations and small town gathering things, like evangelical and beyond.
I hear they drink the snake’s poison and don’t die.
Well that’s no doubt a good gig if you can get it.
Did you continue the art interest through school?
Definitely, and I was the guy to draw things on your book cover in Jr. High and High School. In Jr. High I discovered skateboarding. That must have been around seventh or eighth grade. And when I saw the skate decks from Powell, the ones VCJ inked, I was blown away. Incidentally, Vincent Court Johnson got me turned on to MC Escher before I knew about proper art or drafting. And Jim Phillips too, can’t forget the whole impact of his work through making Santa Cruz look super cool.
Your parents were cool about skating and all? I mean, wasn’t that what the rebellious kids did?
Oh yeah, they’re pretty hip about the amount of space my brother and I needed to grow up in our own rights. They totally supported my love of skating and are fully behind me being a full time artist. Through skate graphics, like the Ripper and McGill and Hawk decks, and Phillips whole thing for Santa Cruz, I got a street level education on some top-notch talent in the pool at the time. At that point I lived in Houston and went to the local grocery store’s magazine section to catch up on things in Thrasher.
So what happened after High School then, did you go for more formal training?
I put together the best drawing portfolio I could for the time and submitted to a couple Christian universities and got accepted into ACU in Abilene, TX. If I had to go to a Christian school, I was going to have to get a fairly good sense of the basics, and they had a good start.
Is that where you started painting then?
Yes, my second year in. I think it was a 2D design class and we had to illustrate a phrase with a limited palette. It was pretty advanced for what I was used to. I went from pen and ink and paper to prepping illustration board and brainstorming an idea that was due in the next class (two days). But once I got started all my nervousness disappeared. It wasn’t as difficult as I had thought. I mean, it was, but it seemed to make sense and was a challenge worthy of my entire attention from then on.
Did you get a painting degree from there?
Well, I got a BFA in Graphic Design and Painting, with minors in Drawing and English. My Design teacher had come from SCAD in Savannah, GA, and so I applied to Grad School there and at UNT SOVA in Denton, TX. My senior show at school was a two-man exhibit at the local museum that I’d been working on for a bit. So with that body of paintings, I got accepted to both and did a stint at each university before deciding I needed to get out and make some real work for myself.
So you left Graduate School and started painting?
Well, I felt that I needed to explore my voice on my own terms. The school systems were really pushing abstraction and I was definitely not…
You mean they were still leaning on students to be abstract? Robert Williams and Rick Griffin had the same problem, and it’s hard to believe that that mentality has been hanging on this long.
Yeah, they were serious about the students creating more conceptually based and less figurative or narrative work. I totally appreciate that that’s what so many artists or students need, but I was pretty well set on going my own way with exploring painting. So when I realized that, a year into the grad program, I deferred my fellowship and put the thesis work on a lengthy hold. I went out and got a design job and support my painting habit.
Oh, so you entered the working world, how did that go?
It went really well actually. I worked my way up from a beginning graphic designer to Sr. Designer in a year’s time and then to Art Director about a year after that. So I spent my time, at that time in Dallas, TX, going to work and dreaming up new sketches to paint. Then I would get home and paint for two or three hours to wind down. And on weekends all weekends generally.
Did you start showing your work in Texas, or were you still building up to a body of work?
Well, I was building my first real body of work and doing little shows for friends in nice gallery spaces that their offices had available (read: free unused space). I started showing my work out here from TX, though. Then when I moved out here around the end of 2001 things picked up a lot more. Being in the area you want to show in really makes a huge difference when you’re getting started up.
After you moved here, did you notice your work changing in any noticeable way?
Absolutely! I started my actual work at that point, I feel. I wanted to work on a large body of work, something that was grand and encompasses a large variety of life and emotion, as a narrative. I had stretched a few canvases and kind of waited for inspiration to hit, and it eventually did. Pretty soon after becoming open to the ideas, rather than trying to force things, I had the vision of my current body of work: The Intimate Parade. I saw it as having three parts, and am currently still exploring and following the first part of that, Discovery. I thought the whole thing could be done in five years, but I’ve been painting the first section going on ten years now. So I bet this could take up the formative part of my painting career, if we’re looking at it from a bird’s eye view.
So how does this work develop, where is it going… what the process on this vision narrative?
That’s such a great question, and I wish I had a definitive answer to that. What I can tell you right now is that it’s about relaxation and acceptance. I think it’s important to not rush something of this nature, let it develop and unfold. I see it as an organic epic that is taking on shape as each piece reveals itself, sometimes in parts or pieces.
Where it’s going is a little more up to me I think. What it is is a world in which a small boy and girl are traveling, not with each other but on their own journeys. That’s the Discovery part of it. In essence, she is creating the surrounding scenery from her thoughts and wishes, and he is adventuring through it, both seeking different things. I used to believe that it was a love story, and that they’d end up together, but now I think I see it a little differently. Eventually I believe that they will fuse together, not because of love, but because they are essentially one and the same and will realize it. That will be the conclusion of the first chapter and the beginning of the next. The work is set up as a wavelength, so you begin on the top, roll through a valley and climb back to another crest and into a great new world of possibility.
You’ve been involved in so many other things though, besides major gallery shows. You’ve put together shows, started galleries, written several articles on major artists and worked with some big clients. What do you have in the mix right now?
At the moment the most exciting thing is the museum exhibit I’m curating for next year. It will be at Grand Central Art Center, and the artist list is amazing. We’re concentrating the show on artists that possess a masterful usage of suggestive power; work that you take something away from once the viewing process has ended. And there’s also things coming up with Hurley, the new Planet Illogica network and having work in New York at Sloan Fine Art as well.
I’m also excited to have been in the latest edition of Australia based bienArt’s Metamorphosis – 50 Contemporary Surreal, Fantastic and Visionary Artists. It has such greats as Tiffany Bozic, Lori Early, Travis Louie and Michael Hussar. That and the latest couple custom art shows, one at Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei that was an amazing exhibit to be a part of with the XFUNS folks in Taiwan. I also just won the Grand Prize from the latest Artsprojekt contest, Andy Howell’s latest. And the quality Gelaskins folks products, that kind of thing is so amazing to be a part of!
And what are you doing right now, at this very moment. Not typing, but what is going on with you for today or this week?
Well, I have twelve paintings in different stages of beginning or middle of the work cycle, mocking up some designs for clients, working on the details for the GCAC exhibit, lots of sketching, a couple interviews on other artists, keeping up with family in TX, get a Thai iced tea (which I’m now partially addicted to), respond to emails, and get fitted for clothes for some shoot with Details next weekend.
Well, I have to say that I can’t wait to get into more of this and see the new work. It’s fascinating to be able to understand a bit and want to follow it more and see where it all goes.
Thanks and much love to the magazine here too, great quality and always relevant content and artists. I’ll keep you guys up to date on the latest on my site and blog: nathanspoor.com.
The Infinite Story
Cover feature by Greg Escalante
Vol.3.8, August 2009
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