Brian Sherwin: Aaron, you obtained an MFA from the New York Academy of Art. What was that department like? Who did you study under?
Aaron Board: I was lucky. Eric Fischl and Steven Assael had just started teaching at the academy when I started. Vincent Desiderio was already there and he was tremendous influence. I also credit Randy Melick and Martha Erlebacher with having a great influence.
The school's building was a rickety-old jalopy at the time, but everyone recognized the value of the institution's mission and made it work. Now, the school gets financial support from rock-stars and princes - literally.
BS: I understand that you are an art instructor yourself. You are presently a member of the art faculty at Ringling School of Art and Design. Can you tell our readers about your teaching philosophy? What do you look for in a student?
AB: My educational philosophy is to just give students the technical tools to realize their vision. I don't meddle much in trying to alter their chosen path unless they're doing things that are terribly trite or cliche and don't realize it. I teach mostly foundations courses, so there isn’t a whole lot of room to meddle anyway.
The only thing that I look for in a student is engagement. I've had student's whose artistic pursuits annoyed me (like Anime, for example), but as long as they’re engaged then we can both learn something and I truly enjoy the exchange and the opportunity to give them whatever insight that I have to offer.
BS: You have been actively exhibiting your work since 1998. According to the documentation before me... your first show was at the Nexus Gallery in New York. You've also been involved with Sotheby's. Which exhibit has stuck out the most in your mind?
AB: Sotheby’s was just the brick and mortar venue for the New York Academy of Art’s annual fund raiser called Take Home a Nude. That looks a lot more impressive on paper than it really is.
The best was probably at Cazenovia College. I got to see all of my large work installed in one large room. I got to finally find out whether I could truly put together a coherent show. A very close second would be at Greene Contemporary in Sarasota, simply because it’s a very dynamic gallery that gave me a lot of free will on what could be hung.
BS: Aaron, I'd like to discuss your older compositions in gold and platinum (sample above). You executed this series of drawings in 24K gold and platinum on black sandpaper. Why did you decide to use gold and platinum as a medium at that time? How did it enhance your future work?
AB: Strictly by accident. I was sharpening a silverpoint for a traditional silverpoint drawing on a piece of dark sandpaper and voila!
I wouldn’t say it enhanced other work, but it really taught me how to work within the limitations of any given media.
BS: Now on to your works on canvas... your compositions often involve a male and female in some form of struggle. The images bring up a lot of thoughts. Many of your paintings of the story of Adam and Eve, due to their nudity and awkward relation to each other. Other images remind me of the 'Rape of the Sabine' theme from past Masters. At the same time, there is an element of bondage within the context of your images- an essence of counter-lifestyles. Direct me on the right path... what do you see in your work? What are you attempting to express?
AB: Hmm, most all of those images are comprised of idiosyncratic symbolism that seeks to express something personal, whether it be a personal struggle or personal joy – believe it or not! Ropes are strictly devices in the allegory – they’re not to be taken literally.
BS: You seem to be influenced by artists of the past in more ways than one. I notice that you create diptych and triptych pieces. Can you go into further detail about which past artists have influenced your work the most? Who are the Masters in your eyes?
AB: Caravaggio, Rembrandt, David, Mengs. Jan van Eyck – is probably the most important for many reasons. I think that is probably the most obvious old-master influence. Light, paint- application, altarpiece construction – it can all pretty much be found in van Eyck first.
BS: Tell us a little about your studio habit, ritual, or whatever you wish to call it. How do you start and finish your day when you are in the studio?
AB: Work whenever I can – that simple.
BS: Let us discuss your painting 'Strife' (image above). This painting is one of your most viewed pieces (as far as your website is concerned). What do you think is the allure of this piece? A viewer can pull several stories from this piece. Is the woman on the bed looking at who she once was before the birth of her child- her old life passing through the door in exchange for the new life before her? Is it a story of a jealous lover who is in the shadow of the wife and child that stands before her and the man that she desires? Perhaps it is a story of a lesbian couple haunted by the child that they may never be able to share? Aaron, you tell me... what is the story behind this painting?
AB: Similar ideas to all of those were going through my noggin when constructing the piece, but the latter is just about spot-on. This is actually one of the few paintings that I have executed that wasn’t diligently planned before paint hit the canvas. The canvas was stretched for another painting concept (that still hasn’t materialized) but had to be put off because the model, that was 8 months pregnant, kept going into false labor every time we were scheduled to worked together and eventually the baby popped out and I never got to use her for the piece. I was itching to do something quickly and "Strife" was the result.
BS: One of your more controversial paintings involves a Christ-like figure armed with an assault rifle. Is this painting a reflection of how you see the clash of politics and religion today?
AB: It’s actually more of a response to the rash of school massacres since Columbine. The broad idea is mocking the pathetic act of using a gun and/or violence to communicate something to somebody instead of using intellectual reasoning. However, your interpretation is welcome and sounds entirely viable!
BS: Recently you have indulged yourself with experimentation. Why have you decided to break away in this manner?
AB: I just want to challenge myself. I can’t stand artists whose work doesn’t show some sort of honest linear growth. Besides, some ideas feel like they’re going to explode in my head if I don’t get them out on canvas! So, I make them even if they’re consistent with most of the other stuff that I may be doing at the time.
BS: Of these works I find 'From SRQ, With Love' (image above) to be one of the most interesting. Can you tell us about this piece and what it represents?
AB: SRQ is code for Sarasota, Florida – a town that’s supposed to be artist-friendly but has gotten drenched with millionaires moving in and driving up the property values. The town’s history is largely shaped by the legacy of John Ringling and the circus.
The design in the background is the former logo for the Ringling College of Art and Design. The brown object is a Judas Cradle (a medieval torture device), which kinda sums up what living in Sarasota has become. It also speaks to the somewhat tenuous relationship that I have as an employee of the college.
BS: I understand that your daughters helped you with 'The III Astrayter'. Care to explain that to our readers?
AB: My girls helped with the faux-Pollack in the background.
My children inspire me to succeed as an artist. I want them to be proud of ol’ Dad.
BS: You were working on a series called 'Art is D.E.A.D' (sample above)in which each piece represented a letter of the word 'dead'. What happened with this project?
AB: It’s just on the backburner for now. The second "D" is actually an unexhibited finished piece that fell prey to a technical failure.
BS: Another interesting aspect of your work is that you also construct the frames for them. Some of the frames I observed are very unique. I understand that you see the frames as a part of the piece... a part of the aesthetic. I know from experience that it can be very difficult to construct a decent frame. Where did you learn this practice?
AB: Totally self-taught. I’ve also built many pieces of original furniture for my home.
BS: Finally, and I know this question might be kind of generic... where do you plan to be in the next 10 years with your work?