Artist Interview with Jethro Gillespie


We are currently displaying five of Jethro’s pieces in the children’s wing of the library until the end of March.

1. Tell us about the pieces you’re showing at the library:

This series of paintings come from my experience as a high school art teacher. I have recently been involved with throwing TASK parties with my students, in which participants are encouraged to create, improvise, experiment, and play. TASK is an open-ended, participatory experience– the people involved help shape the environment in which they operate by writing tasks and then interpreting other people’s tasks however they choose. The focus is on process, experimentation, engaging with other people, and expanding comfort zones and possibilities.

In my personal creative endeavors as an artist and an educator, I am interested in helping to create conditions where social and creative interactions between my students can happen. For me, these socially engaged practices resonate with what I think learning actually looks like in some of its most raw forms– these paintings serve as larger-than-life snapshots, rendered to document and pay homage to some of the more memorable moments from the TASK parties I’ve thrown with my students.

To learn more about TASK, check out this short video of artist Oliver Herring, who initially came up with the idea.


2. What are you working on right now?

I’ve been bouncing around with several different projects simultaneously. Lately, I’ve enjoyed making paintings like the ones in this show, in terms of realism and in terms of immediacy of paint application and not over-working or over-blending the colors.

For the past 3 years, I’ve made several paintings with imagery of elk as the “Utah state animal” which for me has felt quite personal and self referential. While I enjoy the craft of painting, I’ve lately been moving away from this project and towards doing some more abstract paintings too.

And I have to say that I actually consider my job as a high school art teacher a form of art as well. Conceptually, I find moving away from myself and toward others a more exciting focus. I think anyone who has functioned within the capacity of a teacher can appreciate thinking about teaching as an art form.

3. Which artists are you inspired by?

Peter Krashes in Brooklyn. Not only do I admire the formal aspects of his work, but his conceptual approach is very exciting to me. Essentially, he creates the conditions for the imagery of his paintings before he paints them. Through his involvement in local politics and social engagements with grassroots organizations, he works hard to create real change in his community. And then makes paintings from reference photos of these experiences.
Also, speaking of abstract painting, I really enjoy the works of Elliot Hundley (Los Angeles), who makes beautiful, layered, large, abstract works that make me drool. And Keltie Ferris (New York) as well. And I can never get enough Cy Twombly. He made a series of small works on paper that he calls “poems to the sea,” which just seems perfect to me.

4. What advice do you have for young artists?

“Talent” is a tricky word, I rarely use it. I think “work ethic” is a more useful term if you want to be a successful creative person.

Jethro will be at the library on March 5th at 7pm in the Storytelling Wing to talk about his work and answer audience questions.

Click here to view more of Jethro’s work.


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