20 Questions to Jay Zerbe (www.jayzerbe.com).
1: Who are you?
my name is jay zerbe, and I have been painting for 50 years now – since i was 15.
2: What is your background?
i majored in fine art and english throughout my undergraduate college years. two years were spent at a conservative college in southern indiana, and two years in beirut lebanon. after graduation i worked for a year doing commercial illustration, then went back to graduate school. my MFA is from indiana university, bloomington. i painted full time for a couple of years, but had to get a job to support my “art habit”, and do my art work on the side. i went back to painting full time 6 years ago.
3: Where were you born?
i was born in south bend, indiana. 30 miles from where i live now. after living in chicago for 36 years, i finally couldn’t afford it anymore, so we built a compact modern house with beautiful light and a good sized studio, in a meadow. indiana, at least this area, is much less conservative than it was when i fled at 16, vowing never to return.
4: Explain your work in up to 40 words.
my work has always been based on pure imagination, but informed by my external reality. i now do abstractions that are somewhat reminiscent of landscapes. the meadow i am surrounded by is my inspiration.
5: How has your practice changed over time?
back in the 1970’s, my work was quite figurative, although all the figures and their context was imagined. i was very much influenced by the work of the hairy who group in chicago. over time, the figures became more abstract, and finally disappeared altogether. i did non-objective work for about 15 years, then started introducing elements from my surroundings. at first they were reminiscent of the city spaces where i lived until 3 years ago. now that i live in the country, my work has become much more organic, and reflective of my current environment.
6: Do you have a favourite medium to work in?
i work in acrylic on canvas. and sometimes collage.
7: Do you pursue any themes? If so what?
color is very important to me. it sets the emotional tone of the painting. many people see interiors or landscapes in my work.
8: What other jobs have you done/do you do other than being an artist?
i worked for a major computer company for over 20 years. i designed systems, websites, and did some work in building virtual environments.
9: What research do you do for your art?
i look. i sketch from life (the garden, the landscape).
10: What makes you angry?
prejudice. selfishness. government and corporate indifference to human, animal, and planetary suffering.
11: What is your favourite colour?
probably purple and green. but it is really impossible to pick a favorite. each color, and it’s relationship to nearby colors, is unique.
12: What is your favourite piece that you have produced?
usually a recent piece (no surprise). my current favorite is included here.
13: What music/album are you currently listening to?
“shuffle” on my iPod. the mix tends toward 20/21st century classical, jazz, and world music.
14: What makes you happy?
sitting on the porch and watching the breezes blow through the meadow.
15: What are your favourite films?
blade runner, the matrix, groundhog day
16: Favourite place?
home. my studio.
17: One or more artists you like?
deKooning, gorky, terry winters, arturo herrera
18: What is your favourite word?
19: Professionally what is your goal?
to be known and appreciated by other artists whom i respect. and to earn enough from my work to afford my supplies. i used to say to appear on the cover of art in america before i die, but i no longer think that is realistic, or even necessary. and to be able to paint full time. i have pretty much met those goals, so i am grateful.
20: What would your dream commission be?
i really don’t enjoy doing commissions. too restrictive. just knowing someone else has provided at least some of the parameters feels stifling.
Image Details: “chasingEuphoria” 2015, acrylic, crayon and charcoal on canvas, 24×24”.