We were first introduced to artist Adam Caldwell’s work last year at a solo show entitled “These Fragments” at Gallery Heist. His art delves into social and cultural phenomena, while also exhibiting an almost dreamlike quality in it’s execution. Images in his paintings merge together to create visual poetry, while inviting the viewer to take a journey within the worlds he’s created.
Caldwell’s upcoming show at White Walls Gallery is entitled “Intersection” and is a dual exhibition of works by both himself and artist Jonathan Darby.
We were able to stop by Caldwell’s studio to take pictures and talk to him about this latest body of work…
Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming show Intersection at White Walls Gallery and the work you’ve produced for it?I am painting a series based on the Novels of my Grandfather Erskine Caldwell. He was the bestselling author of over 50 books including “Tobacco Road” and “God’s Little Acre”. I am using as sources the lurid pulp cover depictions of seductive southern women on his paperback editions, and the photography of his second wife Margaret Bourke-White. I am interested in his critically acclaimed, socially conscious portrayals of the economic and social conditions of southern share-croppers and how his publishers marketed his paperback books as soft core semi-pornography. Margaret Bourke-White’s photos also display an intense interest in race, class, and social problems. I am juxtaposing her positive images of women with contemporary and modern depictions of the stereotypical, southern, white trash seductress. I am layering these over images of ancient ruins, social protest, war, and architecture. I want to explore the tension between Margaret Bourke-White, an amazing 20th century self-made photographer who made it in a man’s world, and the depiction of sexy, southern, white-trash women who are descendants of the characters created by my Grandfather. Ellie-Mae Clampett and the other Beverly Hillbillies are all based on the characters from his novels.
When did you first decide to become an artist?
About ten years after high school. I had been living day to day, working, drawing, playing music, partying. I was leading an interesting life, but I could recognize this potential in me that was starting to feel unrealized. I had been thinking of art school for several years and I just decided to dive in. I had no real choice, once I decided to start my career I knew being an artist was the only thing I could do.
What methods do you use when building out the compositions for your paintings? How do you decide which images juxtapose best with one another?First I have a basic idea of what kinds of ideas I want to incorporate, then I go hunting for reference. I spend endless hours surfing the internet. I buy lots of old magazines. I haunt used book stores. When I have a critical mass of images, I start making rough collages, sometimes using physical images, sometimes in Photoshop. I spend lots of time randomly sticking stuff together. Later I have to decide what’s working and what’s not. I start looking for strong design and a clear focal point. So I use strategies from still-life and landscape painting to create eye movement, depth, balance, and focus. Often it’s really just a gut feeling. If I keep trying different combinations eventually some good ones pop up. I try to be really open and ready when they do. Then I have to just trust my instincts.
In this series you focus on some of the female icons of today, including Megan Fox and Jessica Simpson.
Is there anything specific you are trying to say by including these women in your paintings?
I want them to play the same roles in my painting as the women on the pulp covers of my Grandfather’s novels. They represent a certain cultural construction of beauty, used by commercial interests to promote and sell products. My work has similar themes to my Grandfathers, and I thought it would be interesting to ”sell” the underlying social content with some overt sexuality. His novels in hardcover editions were critically acclaimed and considered literature, but were marketed as sleazy, sexy, trash by the pulp companies.
Which artists have inspired you along the way?Degas. David Choong Lee. Kathe kollewitz. Antonio Garcia Lopez. Jenny Saville. Rauschenberg. Lucian Freud. Francis Bacon.
What’s next for Adam Caldwell?I’ve been painting constantly for about a year and a half. When this show is over I am going to spend some time reflecting and relaxing. After that I want to experiment and practice and study for several months. Then I am going to spend 6 months working on my next big show. I want to keep improving and produce some really good work in the coming year!