Our June featured artist is Jason Kofke. Jason is a relatively new C4 Atlanta member. I had the pleasure of meeting Jason at one of our programs several weeks ago. He is a humble guy with great enthusiasm for learning. I don’t pretend to know Jason well, but he seems like a really cool guy and an artists with clear vision.
A little about Jason Kofke and his work in his own words:
JH: Describe your art and what you are currently working on, please.
JK: The entry point for my work begins at the media we use to communicate with each other and the devices we use to record, remember, or recall events. I am a pseudo-expert of moribund media and use this interest in old machines to consider the recent past. One of the defining occurrences of these particular decades is the rapid changes in technology and understanding of the physical world we have developed through the sciences. But this enlightenment occurs just as humans gain a sense of ‘self’ though the consciousness of globalization and the decay of the idea of ‘nation’. With my work, I revisit the inimical and inefficient events of the recent past such as the Cold War arms race or the gamble of human life during the space race, Knowing full well that it is a futile ambition, I question the recent past in teleological terms with the hope that unnecessary risk, failure, and disaster can be avoided in the present. Consciousness – words of ideas or images of feelings – is at times the best defense from uncertainty.Currently, I am preparing for an exhibition with Christopher Chambers at Kibbee gallery. We will exhibit our ideas on change and processing. I’m also getting ready for a solo show at the Brest Museum in Jacksonville in October as well as a residency in the Arctic Circle. As I type this, I’m on my way to Spain for a printmaking residency in Barcelona.
JH: Are you originally from the Atlanta area?
JK: I was born (appropriately) in Media, PA. But I grew up in Vero Beach, Florida. I moved to Atlanta in 2007 as a result of following a few of my favorite professors who transferred to SCAD Atlanta.
JH: How long have you been practicing your art?
JK: I was one of those kids who was always drawing. All through primary school, my classmates knew me as the kid who could ‘draw the best’. I fell into the stereotype of the artist early in life, and never strayed. I had my first illustration job when I was 15, and have been ‘working’ as an artist since then. Now that I have the MFA in Painting, there is no escape…
JH: Who inspired you to create?
JK: It would be unfair to many influences to say that one person inspires me to create things. Being creative is very much an act of seeking out creative people to inspire creative thinking. If I had to deduce my decision to live my life as a person who relies on their creativity as a means of living, I would have to chose my father: He was an amazingly gifted and self-disciplined amateur photographer. I took his passion for his work as common, believing that most ‘dad’s’ likely had passions in a comparable vein. Only in art college did I realize that my father was in fact an artist. However, he was in many ways trapped – aside from the photography he was passionate about, he was a family man. And further, a small family-business owner who had many people relying on him. He was never free to explore his world and his craft to a degree that was appropriate for his abilities. In the final year of my Master of Arts degree, he died of a sudden heart attack while under a lot of financial and family stress. His life and death demanded me to commit to a lifestyle that he would have wanted of me – freedom to explore the world, and the means to react to living life via the creation of images. I have since this decision fully embraced living as a contemporary artist. My travels are always project-based, my work always involves a creative process. I carry my father’s ashes everywhere in the world that my work takes me. So far he is part of the Grand Canyon and the Gobi Desert; He is at Mt. Fuji and on Mt. Everest; in Red Square in Moscow and the Great Wall in BeiJing. This month he’ll be at the Colosseum in Rome and soon after on the North Pole. Unfortunately, he’s seen much more of our world in death than in life. If events did not occur as they had for my father and me, I would not have arrived at the decisions I made to pursue life as an artist.
JH: Who or what inspires you today?
JK: Today, what inspires me is human events and human relationships. All you really are is the memory of you in the minds of others who knew you before you died. What we are known for – and thus remembered of – and thus recorded as, is all we really are. So I am interested and inspired by how we record and remember people and events. What memories are lost when a medium is outdated due to ‘progress’ or ‘advancement’ is something to be considered in the present. I believe if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to see it fall, then the tree never fell.
JH: What is the greatest challenge facing Atlanta artists today?
JK: The greatest challenge artists in Atlanta are facing today is mediocrity. Noteworthy novelty and craft are difficult to manifest. We must deny ourselves the luxury of accepting mediocre accomplishment whenever we are conscious of it. (I say this knowing full well I am guilty of mediocrity as well.)
JH: What does Atlanta have to offer artists like you?
JK: Atlanta has a very supportive – though small- arts community. This network of generous and inclusive individuals are the reason I can even claim to be an artist while living in Atlanta. Aspiring artists and students of art can feel confident that, though they may not gain international notoriety, untold riches, or historical relevance simply by being an artist in Atlanta, they will be supported. And this support is a prerequisite to all other artistic aspirations.
JH: Do you have a local favorite (artist)?
JK: Cousin Dan, Craig Drennen, Chris Chambers…it seems a lot of my favorites end up moving to New York…
JH: What advice do you have for a young person thinking about being a artist?
JK: Don’t be too romantic. Thought it can be used when available to you, don’t use angst exclusively to fuel the drive to make work. Read often.
JH: Do you have a favorite quote? What is it?
JK: This would be a perfect opportunity to interject ‘everything will be ok’ But this phrase is becoming outdated. How about a classic and a favorite: memoria praeteritorum bonorum. (forever)
Thank you, Jason, for your honest and thoughtful perspective. Best of luck on your travels and artistic adventures. To take a look of some of Jason’s projects, visit http://www.jasonkofke.com/projects (I actually enjoyed seeking the web for more info about Jason Kofke. Cool videos and thought provoking work).