Faculty Interview with Kevin Sloan

1.What has been your greatest challenge as an artist?

I suppose the greatest challenge has been to try and maintain a balance between accepting the realities of the “marketplace” and remaining true to the ideas I wish to pursue. For example, I really like to work on very large paintings but the reality of selling only large pieces and actually making a living is unlikely for me right now.  So, I find a way to accommodate those “marketplace” concerns and still try to remain true to my greater ideas.

2. Do you have a studio ritual that helps you become/stay focused?

I try to start my studio each morning with a few moments of focused and guided meditation.  It’s very simple and short but helps me get into the state of mind I hope to cultivate in the studio – open mindedness, physical readiness, anticipation and joy.

3. How did you discover your own personal style?

This is an ongoing process of discovery and I honestly don’t feel I have found my personal style – it keeps evolving!  I try to sty open to my gut instincts – that little interior voice that’s says hey you, stop and look at this! Often these tugs at my attention are surprising to me and come from the most unexpected places but I have learned to honor that voice and pay attention.  It’s in this way that my personal voice/style as an artist has developed.

4. Discuss the themes in your work.

For the past few years I’ve worked on the premise of this general question:  what happens when the natural world and man-made worlds meet?  This question has allowed me to pursue my concern for the natural environment that I feel is under great threat right now.  It has also allowed me to incorporate elements into my work from the man-made world that I find carry symbolic meaning in our culture.  Putting these together in a painting is an opportunity for a narrative – storytelling.  As a storyteller, it’s important that my story be inviting at first and then, if the viewer is willing, the next layer is revealed which sometimes points to the harsher realities of what occurs when the natural world and man-made worlds meet.

4. Could you tell us more about the animals or characters in your paintings? What function do they play in your work?

For the past decade or so I’ve used animals as a primary vehicle to carry the narrative in my work.  I choose animals because they are more “neutral” than the human figure.  The issues of age, race, gender, clothed, unclothed, etc. all fall away and I can focus on the narrative.  Animals are sentient beings and thus can look, feel and gesture in a way that allows me to propel the story forward.  Also, sometimes the animals are in the work so I can give them a voice – after all, they are the silent inhabitants we share this world with.

5. Do you have an artist you most admire? Why?

My list of admired artists is constantly evolving.  I find that artists speak to us when we’re ready or able to hear what they have to say.  For example, many years ago my idol was Francis Bacon.  While I still greatly admire his work and always will, it doesn’t resonate the same way for me now.  Lately, I’ve been looking at Enrique Martinez Celaya and Julie Heffernan.  While very different from each other, they both very doggedly and I believe honestly, pursue their deeply personal view of what it’s like to be alive now.  I find their work to be somewhat autobiographical and yet not burdened by such a small narrative as autobiography.  They attempt to address big themes and go about it in courageous ways.  I’m learning a lot from them right now.