Now Featuring Jonathan Ryan Storm
We are excited to announce our first featured artist of July, Jonathan Ryan Storm. We have four prints of Jonathan Ryan’s available in the Little Paper Planes shop. They are all so amazing! They each measure 8.5 x 11″, printed with Epson Ultra Chrome archival inks on Hahnemuhle German etching paper. They each come in an edition of 50, all signed and numbered. You can view them all Here.
Below is a little chat I had with Jonathan Ryan about Vermont, plants, meditation, music and memory.
KLJ: Hi Jonathan Ryan Storm! I have been looking at all your work on your website, Flickr, blog and Tumblr, though before I start talking about the work you make, lets begin with location. I feel location is a crucial part of how someone sees and navigates their life in the world. You live in Vermont, were you born and raised? I went to the Vermont Studio Center in 2007 and fell completely in love with the beauty Vermont has. It was such a different landscape from my native Los Angeles that it felt like a foreign magical place. Can you talk a little bit about living in Vermont and how that has shaped your art practice as well as just daily life?
JRS:I have lived in Vermont for 4 years now, in a small town called Brattleboro along the Connecticut River. My studio looks out at Wantastiquet Mountain in New Hampshire, on the other side of the river. It’s that close. Yesterday I hiked to the top with my friend Chris Weisman, and we found blueberries everywhere. Even though it’s not technically a part of Vermont, the mountain is a big part of my life; it lords over everything.
Brattleboro itself is amazing, a small place where I feel very free. Many of my best friends have lived most of their lives here. Others just seem to find it, like me. It’s summer right now, which means lots of swimming and walking, clearing of the head. It used to be that I would get most of my work done in the winter time, when you just can’t be outside for too long here. But this summer has been the most productive time. Things feel good right now. I can talk about Vermont forever. It’s my big, small world.
KLJ: Can you talk a little bit about what your interests are and how they correlate with why you make art? I noticed plant life seems to be an interest. The photo of the Smith College botanical garden is really amazing, I don’t have a yard yet but one day I would love to have a garden. How does music play a role? I have been learning a bit about noise/synth music and loved that video you posted about Eliane Radigue. That kind of music in a way for me feels like another version of drawing.
JRS: You asked about my interests, and how they specifically relate to my art. Plants play a big part. For my birthday last year, my friends took me to meet a professor at the local college who has built himself an attractive greenhouse. From there I was hooked. I (very rapidly) accumulated some 40 species of plants, and learned to care for them. For a while it was all I wanted was to be around plants, to nurture them. This was like meditation (at least the type of meditation that William Burrough’s talked about when he described how washing the dishes was meditative for him (I totally agree)). And I think it taught me to care deeply about my art again, about art and life, my life and others. Not to mention I was just starting to teach myself to paint, which takes patience and practice.
Music has been very important to my art, both directly and indirectly. Most obviously I suppose would be the album artwork I’ve done in the past. These have been my favorite, and most challenging assignments. It’s a heavy responsibility; to give another artist’s work a visual identity! But I’ve been lucky to both have total freedom and be able to work closely with the musicians. It’s something I hope I get to do more of eventually.
Beyond assignements, I don’t feel like music plays a large part in what I do. I tend to separate my senses, like a child separating the food on his plate. I can only really deal with one sense at a time. So because I work visually, it’s pretty confined to that. I play music with some people, mostly with my Egyptian frame drum called a Tar. But of course, music is everything, “the healing force of the Universe” like Albery Ayler says. So it colors everything about me and what I do. Eliane Radigue is amazing. What she was doing was totally transformative for her time. Same can be said for Maryanne Amacher. Have you heard of her? She developed a third sound, what she called ‘third ear music’ which creates special tones and vibrations in the ear canal. She was clinical, very experimental. That’s when it’s the best, when someone really works at it. I’d love to talk more about music!
KLJ: I completely understand separating music and art, though recently I have started to see how they can be combined into two. I am hoping to start playing with sound and video one of these days. I don’t think I could make art if there was no music. There is something about music that creates a sense time, place and moments that feel so real that if I close my eyes I am somewhere else. I could see your work being some sort of non-linear sheets of music though instead of using actual notes, you use symbols. It could be really interesting, though I may of just went out into left field. Like I said earlier, I am just becoming more and more interested in sound and more experimental noise. I have found that this type of music for me is complicated and intense on so many levels and layers that it almost produces a quiet for me. It sounds sort of odd, but it actually creates a space in my head for me that is more internal than external. Often the other music I listen to, (with lyrics and singing) I tend to turn off a bit and just zone out. Can you describe your experiences when listening to various music and how it also differs when you play music?
JRS: When you say that “this type of music for me is complicated and intense on so many levels and layers that it almost produces a quiet for me”, this makes alot of sense. Talking about music is just not something I’m very good at, though I hugely appreciate when others can. I can spend hours reading the reviews that Keith Fullerton Whitman writes tirelessly for his online store, MMS. My friend Chris Weisman is very eloquent, and my friend Devin too, who rarely listens to music at all anymore. That said, I have a very strong relationship to sound. Most of the time when I’m working in my studio, I wear earplugs to drown out all noise. this is mostly because I have too strong of a sensitivity to sound (I have to wear them when I sleep, too). Sometimes at night when things are quieter, or early in the morning, I’ll have music playing. I work at the record store directly below my studio, in the same building. But the two rarely cross paths, the music ‘upstairs’ and the music ‘downstairs’. What’s playing with me in my studio is very personal, very private.
I’d really like to hear what someone comes up with if they were to play a painting of mine like sheet music. Maybe it could be an orchestra.
KLJ: I love how you wanted to “nurture” the plants and began to create this bond between you and them. I think plants are magical and amazing that contain healing powers for both mind and body. This makes me think about you mentioning the meditative properties you began to feel from taking care of them. When I am working on art, I have two approaches, 1. being the “idea based” approach and 2. being more initiatively based which often revolves around some sort of process that has a meditative element. So would you say your art practice stems mainly from a meditative/ intuitive approach? Can you elaborate on this? Maybe speak on other ways you approach work?
JRS: I think all art is intuitive and meditative to some degree. My process differs with mediums. With paintings I tend to map things out a bit. But not much thought goes into it actually. Little ideas pop up all the time, for ‘objects’ that will go into a piece. Like last night, I was in the check out line at the supermarket and I decided that a buffalo-print wallpaper would look nice in the painting I’m working on. I was wearing my buffalo tshirt last night too.
Lately I’ve been really excited about working with collage. It can be so freeing. Just cutting and gluing. And sometimes it feels like I’m arranging pieces that have been cut by someone else, so there’s an odd mystery to it. It’s like you’re creating a big puzzle, working backwards. That’s been the most meditative way of working lately, for me. I’m pretty uptight when I paint, very focused. But with collage, I can just cut and glue.
KLJ: How much does memory and the past influence your making?
JRS: My sense of the past (my past) is almost non existent. I have an awful memory. I’m pretty sure this is a good thing (for me anyway) because I feel free to make my work without obstacles. Sister Corita Kent said ‘the only rule is work’. There is no win and there is no fail. I think if my sense of the past was acute, or strong, I’d feel limited, or at least hesitant. Maybe not, maybe I’d have a better understanding of where I’m coming from and where I’m going. But I don’t want to. I want to be surprised. It’s like lucid dreaming. I hope I never ‘wake up’ in my dream. It would take all the mystery out of it.
In my art, I like to set things in motion and see where they go. Then at the end, it’s always a surprise. And I like being able to surprise myself.
KLJ: Wow, I wondered if you had a good memory! For me, your work is a catalog of things both real and imagined. I read them a s artifacts from your experiences to just objects in your house. They are cryptic and understandable all at once, creating these wonderful collections of things most of us can relate to in some way, which I feel is a huge strength in them. There is also a nostalgia looming since they almost feel as though they are things that need to be recorded so they will not be forgotten. Do you agree or disagree with my read on your work? How do you see your pieces? Do you sit with each piece after you finish it, and reflect on what you have done? Do you ask questions of it and dissect it or do you accept what is on the paper as part of the surprise within your subconscious?
JRS: When I made this ‘apothecary’ piece for my friend Zach’s book of poetry, I learned how fun and obvious it was for me to just sort of lay out these objects that I constantly daydream about. You’re right, some are imagined and some are trinkets that are dusty and on my bookshelf at home, like a plastic army man or a pineapple paperweight. The sketchbook which I try to keep is filled with these. Maybe my work is a catalog of these things, real and imagined. That’s a nice way of thinking about it.
I sometimes treat a painting, in particular, as though there’s a rough draft and a final draft. So when it feels done the first time, it’ll sit for a while, until I remember that a tiny apple was meant to go in the corner. And then it’s done.
I almost never ask questions of it. I’d be embarrassed to learn the answer. I try to see them for what they really are, to see what i can learn from it, what to take with me when i move on.
KLJ: Describe one of your dreams. Include colors, objects and sounds.
JRS:I keep a book next to my bed where I write down all the dreams I can remember, as soon as I wake up.
Here’s one from 4/6/10
“I show up late to the bowling alley, and the man who I’m supposed to be taking lessons from tells me to grab a ball. I look for a size 8, but the finger holes are too small, so I opt for a tied up piece of leather string. Jokingly, I bowl down lane 8, but it hops the gutter and winds up in lane 10. The instructor reaches into the ball dispenser which is filled with rushing water, and plucks out the string, unraveled. just then, Burt Jansch shows up and hands out lyric sheets he’s just written. The aim here, is to write songs with these lyrics. He’s an imposing man, there in the corner. I start to hum.”
KLJ: Lastly what do you see out of your window.
JRS: Outside my window are my cats, Esmerelda and Cleo, asleep in the sun, in Vermont.
Thanks so much for being our featured artist, your work is fantastic!
To see more of his work, www.jonathanryanstorm.com