Jeremy Mann is an artist whose paintings call on audiences to notice the magic in everyday life. Deeply emotive, raw and alive with movement, his portraits and cityscapes have a quality reminiscent of a distantly recalled memory or dream. We caught up with Jeremy for some insight into his creative journey.
When did you first begin creating art? Could you walk us through your creative journey to where you are now?
I received a BFA in studio painting from a school in southern Ohio where we basically were free to experiment and create, which developed my sense of self, exploration of materials and processes, but failed to give me the rigorous study I needed. I continued with my Masters program in San Francisco, to study how to paint realistically, knowing well that these rules and languages are to be broken later with knowledge, but a necessary root. The left and right together.
What were the positive and negative effects of study for you?
Art school “study” is simply a program designed to put art students in a confined space with other artists and make money from them being there. What it does is present us with a rigorous work ethic which is often lacking, or hard to personally initialize for some, and sets us around other creative artists and hopefully glean the importance of diversity, exploration, and creative solutions.
The unfortunate side effect is that most students end up painting exactly the same and everyone is too nice. But those who are taught, or teach themselves, to discover their personal style and voice will benefit from that education. I know of about six artists in my graduating class of over sixty students who are viable artists still.
Art “study” never ends… it becomes life, and is continually pushed throughout an artist’s life.
Where did you grow up? How is creativity celebrated in your culture compared to other places where you have lived or worked?
From a normal loving family in Ohio where my parents allowed me, begrudgingly, to bring home roadkill in my backpack to study their skulls. They never really questioned my creativity, which harbored it for me, while the recluse in me watched, learned, soaked up and evolved to be aware of all things. Awareness is an important spice in an artist, and rarely present these days.
As I’ve visited Italy, Russia, Europe and farther, in an ever increasing desire for experience and knowledge, I’ve discovered completely different influences and artistry, with very similar structures to the way I think.
It has made me realize that those attune to the wonder of the world, all have their toe tips deep within the water table of art, residing below all the mundane and usual.
Is there an overarching message you hope to give to your audience with your paintings?
I’ve never tried to make grand statements about the obvious things in people’s lives, like love, politics, nature, culture… none of that. What I can only do is create imagery in whatever medium necessary using balances and harmonies of shapes, contrast, color, composition, and movements with marks that inspire me all to evoke emotions. What I hope the result would be is that it brings attention to an underlying beauty, in all experiences glorious or depressing, to those blind to it.
It’s the artist’s responsibility, chosen or not, to provide these things for humanity, I do not wish to impose upon people such things the way I perceive them, I am only creating from the energy I feel, just to get it out, I would be doing the same whether or not anyone saw the end result anyway.
Who or what inspires you?
The soul of that which inspires me could be considered as simple as light, and the lack thereof, which when thought about enough, is simply “everything” visual. To explore and experience these effects through any process, homemade polaroid cameras from antique lenses and cigar boxes, has become a tool to dissect and peer into this unseen world which touches skin, silk, concrete, mountains and everything in-between. Mark making is the alphabet of the artist, and I see it in all objects, all paintings across the globe, all surfaces.
Moments of the day when others are looking at nothing useful, the world is begging to be known, to be witnessed and experience her deepness. When others who do not know her aren’t listening, the artist hears her voice alone.
What has been your most significant moment as an artist?
There have been multitudes. The day I decided to prove to myself that it matters not what is in my hands, it matters what is in the mind of the artist depicting the image. The first, and every other following day, I’ve ever been in Europe and abroad.
Every time I discover an artist creating without reservation. When my cat squeezes her eyes. When I accidently painted backwards once, and every time since when I’ve painted backwards on purpose.
If you could go back in time to when you first began creating art, and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be?
Be true to yourself, you little weird-o. Keep bringing home roadkill in your backpack. Keep drawing, experimenting, playing. If you look at it, and you like it, keep it, and do more of it. If you look at it, and you don’t like it, fix it, or forget about it if it’s not worth it, but be smart, son, gain enough knowledge to be able to make that decision (this works with most things in life, not just painting.)
See more of Jeremy’s work at redrabbit7.com