Q+A with Jeremy Ferris

Q+A with Jeremy Ferris


AS220 Galleries are pleased to announce a short Q+A with Artist Jeremy Ferris. In this Q+A, Jeremy describes the process of creating and more specifically creating the artworks he now currently has in the AS220 Flat Files.

Jeremy Ferris is a visual artist and illustrator living in Providence, Rhode Island. His work revisits what we can see and what we miss of ghosts and reverberations, especially those that live in the overgrown farmlands of New England and upstate New York, his first home. He is also a librarian.


1. What is your creative practice?  Where do you begin and how does the work evolve?

My creative practice is very circular, and honestly it can be tough to keep track of where I start with anything. I’m not at all rigorous with sketchbooks, but sketch and write on scraps of paper when I’m eating lunch or at work or on the train, which get lost or recycled or jammed in another notebook before I’ve sorted any ideas out. But as I keep working through them, parts of those scraps solidify and connect to one another, or connect to something else that I’ve been thinking about, and when that happens it’s the most exciting part. I’ve been warming up to taking as much preparation time as I need, and try to make finished versions of things in a single, quick gesture. The number of ideas that come up for me are often just way too many to put all together, and by working quickly I sort of have to deal with the fact that I won’t be able to get out everything I want. I hope that by accepting that, I can figure out the weird blind spots in pieces that make me uncomfortable, but I just have to deal with them later (like even right now – I’m physically shivering and sweating, knowing that there are parts to this answer that I’m going to miss!). It’s a task that I think myself and a lot of straight guys in particular need to acknowledge and get a grip on – letting things hang as they are, giving imperfect/vulnerable views of themselves, not attempting to control others’ reactions and perceptions and instead make room for all of that.

Recently I’ve been spending time making stuff that’s autobiographical in some way. Building off stuff that I started years ago, and maybe thought was done – whether old drawings or photographs I made, books I’ve combed through, or interactions I’ve had, places I’ve been that I thought of as resolved, but really aren’t. So it can be a mix of translating those into ink drawings, comics, or prints, and pairing them up with the scraps of paper I end up with – writing & re-writing, scribbling stuff out, I try to show as much of the in-between steps of thinking through where I’m at.

2. What was the creative process of creating “What Would Happen In Texas”? Why this image? Is this work a “typical” art work for you or is it a new direction?

Yeah, I definitely haven’t put anything together in quite the same way as this one. The image is from a letterpress proofing block of my grandma Florence, a headshot from the 1940s (?), but I’m not very clear about her past as a model. My dad has the original block, which I “borrowed” it to make new prints of the image. With my first try (using the intaglio process) though, I ended up with these really eerie, piercing inverted images. I do work with the radiating lines around her all the time, though. For me, they show something that’s still active, and the process of laying them down is very hypnotic, and it’s a technique I feel pretty devoted to. There’s also something about ornamentation that I really like, and especially when layered with something that feels very rough and sturdy. I always wanted to be really physically close to her, and she lived just down the road from my dad, but grew up on farms in Nebraska and Texas. The question in the title is a couple things – what would it feel like to be in those spots? Is there some latent connection that I’ll perceive all of a sudden? What would she think of the landscapes now, or even of me going to those places in her name? I’ve been moving toward this line of questions and sort of processing and untangling my history through place for awhile now, and love having the printing block as a tangible part of that to work from.

3. What influences you as an artist? Do you have an long standing influences that guide your studio work process?

A few other artists I admire – Travis Martin and I cover a lot of similar terrain but in really different ways. They share this total openness that’s constantly in motion, full of joy and always trying to make space for more people and collaborators. I’m always grateful to see their in-progress videos, and to see them put so much of themselves into it (while also getting the heck out of the way?). Everyone involved in the Providence Comics Consortium, again, getting in as many hands as possible, quick turnover, just pushing imaginations as far as possible and destroying the question of whether things came out good or bad or whatever, making totally ridiculous stuff into sublime communal acts. Agnes Martin is also super cool, in that she claimed to envision her paintings fully formed, and she just did her best to manifest them in the physical realm, they’re totally perfect. All of these things that I’m not necessarily good at right now, but admire and work toward.

4. What are you working on now in the studio? What direction do you think or hope this new work will take you?

I’m trying to bring in more immersive parts to what I’m making, that allow people to bring more of themselves into what I make. I’m following a thread for a while and have a longer term idea for a project about the act of turning something over – as in, both letting something out of your possession and control, and also looking at that thing from every angle – in the form of an overnight vigil of collecting… I’m also a librarian, so it’s downstream from that stuff, too. But right now, I’m just working on what comes out naturally, things like making gifs to populate a website, composing & recording ambient tracks, comics that kind of sprawl and don’t ever resolve, and working on more drawings and collages than prints, bigger one-of-a-kind stuff. So, like in that circular process, some parts will show up later and others won’t, but I need to have all this stuff to see what I can bring in.

5. If you could have dinner with any three people from anywhere or any time who would it be and where would you have dinner?

Whichever members or affiliates of Blue Oyster Cult are around that day. For some reason in high school I was convinced that they’d come into the gas station/convenience store I worked at and we’d eat hot dogs during my break and make up dumb sci-fi mythologies together.