Timothy Gaewsky - Honorable Mention, ArtSlant Prize 2012
Trong Nguyen: How was your first taste of Art Basel Miami and what did you end up doing last night?
Timothy Gaewsky: Just being in Miami for the first time was an eye-opener for me. Arriving at The Aqua Hotel and seeing all the people was an amazing experience. The galleries' rooms were packed and the art was high quality. Afterwards I walked down Ocean Drive, got a bite to eat and few drinks and just soaked it all in.
TN: Are you from Toledo originally? Where did you grow up, go to school, and how is the current body of work related to that geography culturally?
TG: I grew up in Cleveland, earned a BFA from Cleveland Institute of Art and and MFA from Vermont College of Fine Art. I think geographically speaking the work touches on a certain mentality I've seen in the Midwest, that of the lure of instant gratification. The lottery is very popular here and there are new casinos opening in Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, and Detroit already has three. I think because this region of the Midwest has struggled ecomonically for years that there's a strong impulse for instant financial relief.
TN: A lot of your recent assemblages and installations deal thematically with circus sideshows, Coney Island fun 'n' games, and the allure of freak shows — albeit all cleaned up for a gallery — what is your attraction to those things?
TG: I'm attracted to the bright lights, colors and graphical design aesthetics of carnivals and the circus but I also feel something disturbing under the surface. I use those aesthetics to draw viewers into the work to possibly consider deeper meaning hidden below the surface.
TN: Have you gone to any of these casinos, and if so, what have you observed?
TG: I have been to the new casino that recently opened in Toledo and the ones in Detroit. I have to say that aside from the bright lights and loud bells and whistles from the slots, I found the experience to be very depressing. It was a bit unsettling to see the numbers of people playing penny and nickel slots, many of whom had clearly been playing for hours.
Timothy Gaewsky, Smile, and Smile, and Be a Villain, 2011 Sintra, Latex Paint, Wood, Unscratched Lottery Ticket, Scap Booking Paper; © Timothy Gaewsky.
TN: How is your work related to the declining economy?
TG: Unfortunately a large percentage of the population has been affected by the declining economy. I think the work speaks to the desire for financial relief and stability. It can be tempting to look for that type of relief through instantaneous means such as gambling. A good example could be the thousands and thousands of Powerball lottery tickets that were sold per minute a couple of weeks ago.
TN: How does the art world relate? Do you see contemporary art as paralleled, from an elusive and unobtainable aspect?
TG: I would say there is a parallel for a large majority of artists who have that level of ambition. But I would also say that for some artists I know, particularly in the Midwest, don't necessarily have that level of ambition. They are prolific in their art production and are content with achieving local and regional success.
TN: I meant more in terms of the art object and the extravagant prices contemporary art commands, and in relation to the everyday viewer of art who goes to museum shows. Is your lottery connection hooked to that?
TG: I suppose on some level one could make that parallel but that has not been a primary critique for me at this point.
TN: What are you working towards next and are you continuing with the lottery work in other directions?
TG: I'm currently working on a solo exhibition at Launch Pad Cooperative slated to open January 11, 2013. The show will feature new unscratched lottery ticket pieces and will also include interactive installations utilizing a slot machine and other casino inspired themes.
TN: Great! Looking forward to it!
Timothy Gaewsky is an interdisciplinary artist who works in assemblage, installation, and appropriation. His hard-edge, graphical, witty sculptures and installations explore the relationship between desire and materialism, or more directly the ways in which desire for commodities, fortune, and instant gratification are facilitated through visual stimulation and its disruption. He has exhibited both nationally and abroad in group exhibitions at galleries and museums including AC Institute (NYC, NY), The Space (LIC, NY), Punch Gallery (Seattle, WA), Saginaw Art Museum (Saginaw, MI), Toledo Museum of Art (Toledo, OH) and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art (Rotterdam, NL). Gaewsky earned an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a BFA from The Cleveland Institute of Art. Gaewsky currently lives and works in Toledo, Ohio.
—Trong Gia Nguyen
(Image on top: Timothy Gaewsky, Terms and Conditions, 2011 Sintra, Latex Paint, Unscratched Lottery Ticket, Appropriated Audio; © Timothy Gaewsky)