Sunday, April 26, 2009

Art Space Talk: Nick Weber

Nick Weber is known for carving figures out of the darkness. His illuminating artwork creates a nocturnal narrative that is established by night lights or the glow of a lit cigarette. Painting in oil on canvas, Weber explores issues such as class, sexuality, and the fragility of male self-esteem. Viewers have described Weber as a modern day Rembrandt. He studied art at Stanford University. Nick Weber was recently selected for representation at the NYAXE Gallery in Palo Alto, CA.

Further Lane by Nick Weber

Brian Sherwin: Nick, you were selected for representation at the NYAXE Gallery in Palo Alto, CA. As you know, NYAXE Gallery is operated by the founders of and and serves as a way to bridge the online and physical art world. Why did you decide to submit your work for consideration?

Nick Weber: So many galleries in the country go with trends or marketability, so I felt that Catherine and Brian were making a brave choice by allowing the submissions to determine what kind of show they would architect. I was also drawn to the idea that the work would be exhibited in Palo Alto.

I graduated from Stanford in 1993, and worked as a chef at St. Michael's Alley, a cafe next to the gallery space. It was at St, Mike's that I had my very first art show, back in 1994, so it was amazing to me that 15 years later I would participate in a show not 200 feet from there (in a space where we used to store large vats of olive oil and whatnot -- I was actually offered that space as a studio in June of '94 but headed back east instead). In addition, many of my night landscapes are set in Palo Alto. These night scenes should be recognizable to people who live in the old part of town.

Seated Figure by Nick Weber

BS: What can you tell us about your academic background concerning art? Did you study art formally? Tell us about your art studies in general-- any influential instructors?

NW: At Stanford I studied with Nathan Oliveira, who was head of the art department there until 1996, and a close friend of Richard Diebenkorn. He is a wonderful painter, and an inspiring and patient teacher. He has always told us that the art is a lifetime pursuit, one that required persistence.

That was a hard thing to understand, but 20 years later I'm seeing how ideas that seemed disconnected when I was in college are finally starting to connect -- like night paintings and reduction.

BS: Tell us about yourself. At what point did you gain an interest in creating visual art?

NW: I could draw very well as a kid. In 1978 I won the Kelloggs stick up for breakfast contest by drawing snap, crackle, and pop -- I got a Schwinn bike in the deal, my first 10-speeder. In high school I was more into music and sports, but my freshman year at college I took a drawing class and I felt like I had re-found myself after wandering around lost for years. It was an amazing feeling, and my teacher was very encouraging

Byron St., Palo Alto by Nick Weber

BS: Can you tell us about your art? Give us some insight into the thoughts behind your art.

NW: My work comes from my own life. If I paint because I feel sad or lonely, or am overcome by a lovely woman or an enchanting glimpse of a night landscape then I know it comes from a true place. The series of porn paintings took me years to get the courage to do. I felt bad and dirty at first and worried what people would think of me. Now I feel proud that I overcame that and put the work out there into the world -- it took guts. My current series is more like straightforward portraiture, but I'm trying to simplify the paintings, and stay away from being illustrative.

BS: Can you discuss your process in general? Are there any specific techniques that you utilize?

NW: I have been painting from life as much as possible these days. I love working from photographs at times, especially with the night paintings, because it's pretty difficult to paint at night on location in the dark -- hard to see well. But the photos are tricky, they like to take over. It helps to remember that they are merely reference materials.

Working from life gives the work an urgency, forces you to figure out what it is you're trying to say. I've been using walnut alkyd oil as a medium, and using a rag to get the effect of light.

22nd St., Chelsea by Nick Weber

BS: What about other influences? For example, are you influenced by any specific artists?

NW: One of my favorite painters is Balthus. I admire his sense of humor, the eroticism of his pictures, and his sensual and direct application of paint. I went to the Met a few months ago and was mesmerized by a Derain still life, and Braque's cubism. Lucien Freud amazes me because I think he keeps getting better, and he's like 106 years old...

I love Munch's work because it is so very personal and tells stories without being narrative. Giacometti is so honest -- doesn't give much of a crap about color, and I've heard he sometimes painted for 48 straight hours. I listen to quite a bit of Dylan when I paint, because he creates a visual world in his songs, and reminds us that imagination and reality meet.

BS: So what is the specific message you strive to convey to viewers? Do you adhere to a specific philosophy as far as your work is concerned?

NW: Mostly I want people to look at the paintings and think 'this has to do with me'. I want people to see a night landscape and think about a romantic time they had, or a portrait and think -- I know that guy. I often hear people say 'I'd never want a painting of someone I don't know in my house." I think that's the lamest thing I've ever heard. If you have the painting in your house for a while you will know the person.

Besides, we walk down the street and immediately have opinions about the people we pass. And after enough years on the planet we should understand universal humanity. That's mostly what it's about, that and sexuality.

BS: What are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers some insight into your current work?

NW: As I mentioned above, I've been working from life lately, straightforward portraiture, but simplified. I'm trying to let go of the impulse to make things pretty. That doesn't mean I am interested in distortion, like John Currin. I believe that that get back to illustration. But I have always found myself 'correcting', or cleaning up my 'mistakes'. I'm trying to resist that urge, and put out something that is more raw, to trust my hand more than my brain.

BS: What are your thoughts concerning the internet and utilizing the World Wide Web in order to gain exposure for your art? In your opinion, why is it important for artists to embrace the internet?

NW: I have always adored looking at paintings in art books. Going to museums is special, but a good reproduction can really introduce people to an image in a very intimate and profound way. Now that we have the internet, this process can go way beyond printed reproduction. We all grew up listening to music that was proliferated through radio, etc. You didn't have to see a band in concert to know all their songs. In this same way, the internet helps us get our imagery out there to connect with a much larger audience.

Standing Figure by Nick Weber

BS: Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

NW: I currently have work at John McWhinnie's gallery on east 64th st in Manhattan, and will be showing at The Fireplace Project in East Hampton, NY this summer, as well as at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, also in East Hampton this summer.

BS: Do you have any concerns about the art world at this time?

NW: Sure. I worry that very personal work is passed over in favor of hip or happening work. Having lived in west Chelsea on 26th st and 11th ave for 10 years, I had a chance to walk into galleries every day. I'm always looking for that basic, human, emotional connection. Sometimes I found it, but often I saw work that seemed very cold, and afraid of being vulnerable.

BS: There has been several stories involving copyright infringement in the mainstream press as of late. What is your stance on copyright? Do you see strong copyright as a reflection of artist rights in general? Or do you feel that copyright restricts creativity? Do you have a stance on this issue?

NW: Copyright issues have not affected me very much, but I think we need to be protected to a certain extent. I'm also a musician, and was laying down a guitar track today. The producer said to play this ZZ Top riff that everyone knows, then change it enough so that it was my own...I guess that should be what we do, take our influences and create something new with them. Clearly, I don't think people should be able to steal imagery or music.

Parking Lot in the Rain by Nick Weber

BS: As you know, the economy has been hard. Have you had to change-- or should I say adapt-- your practice due to the economy?

NW: Well I make a living as a portrait painter, and people have been a tad more reluctant to drop several thousand dollars for a portrait when they have lost more than a third of their money. So I have had to become more of a salesman, and think really hard about why people should get their portraits done. I've got some good reasons, the most important of which is to celebrate existence -- especially in tough times.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?

NW: just that I hope I keep doing it and continue to figure out some of the mysteries of life and art in the process.

Nick Weber is currently a member of the community. You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--

Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
Myartspace Blog on Twitter

1 comment:

Eric Weber said...

great interview -- honest, mind opening, provocative.