Studio Visit: Andrew Schoultz Draws on Historical Themes with Mixed Media Works

As part of our ongoing partnership with In The Make, Beautiful/Decay is sharing a studio visit with artist Andrew Schoultz. See the full studio visit and interview with Andrew and other West Coast artists at www.inthemake.com.

We were warned by Andrew’s wife and fellow artist Hilary Pecis, that his Mission District studio was in a state of disorder and it definitely lived up to the hype, but as Klea always says, “mess is photogenic.” An incidental side effect of making work, messes are often as telling and interesting as the end product itself. In many ways, there’s more story in the mess left behind; beginnings are laid bare, shifting and unfolding ideas can be tracked, and the push towards completion takes on a very real and tangible form. I think Andrew’s messes speak not only to the textured nature of his current work, which often features layer upon layer of varied materials, but also to the way in which he absorbs information, appropriates it, and then reconstructs and presents it. The course of political history and the themes that play out over and over again are of particular interest to Andrew. He keenly reads about, listens to, and observes a great deal about our historical and present-day developments, particularly around social, environmental, and economic issues, yet in his work he doesn’t depict or reference anything too closely to the facts. Instead he takes possession of information and personalizes it with his own visual language to get at the heart of a feeling, rather than clear-cut particulars or opinions. The imagery in Andrew’s work, the recurrent motifs and references, express a state where past and present continually converge, and where the future is not a new and distinct period up ahead, but rather just a reiteration of what came before.

When people ask you what you “do”, how do you answer?
I usually try to avoid the answer but most of the time, I just say I’m an artist. Which is usually followed by the question, “what type of art do you make?” Which is then followed by, “what does it look like?” I have a hard time answering these questions and usually feel uncomfortable trying to do so.

Do you have a day job? What is it? What does it mean to you?
No day job. I’ve been a full time artist for over ten years now, which sounds crazy to me. There have been crazy ups and crazy downs, and lots of middle ground. The trick was getting used to this fact. I really cannot imagine doing anything else. I have a running joke with my wife, Hilary Pecis, that when my art career fails I can always go work at an art supply store or deliver pizza. But seriously, after you work for yourself for so many years, doing what you love all day, every day, your art practice starts to depend on this dedication and thrive off of it. For me, it seems like it would be really hard to maintain my practice if I was not doing it full time. In actuality, I’d say I work a lot more than full time. Sometimes I work up to 80 hours a week. On my recent trip to Miami, I did a giant public wall project in the Wynwood Arts District, which was set up by Marx & Zavattero and The Fountainhead Residency. It measured 35 feet by 300 feet. I worked around 11-15 hours a day for 20 days straight and completed a super intricate piece in that time.

What are your biggest challenges to creating art and how do you deal with them? How do you navigate the art world?
The biggest challenge is to keep challenging myself. I try my best to keep moving forward and progressing in my work, both conceptually and aesthetically. I’m always trying to think of new directions to go in and attempting to create new experiences for viewers. Navigation of the art world is tricky. To put it simply, I guess I’d say if I get to do exactly what I want 50% of the time I feel like I am doing pretty good. I know that’s a pretty objective and vague answer but it’s really the truth for me. I just try and make mature and appropriate decisions around opportunities offered to me. There are real-world things to consider regarding the market and selling work, and at the end of the day that’s okay. There are things to be learned within limitations. As a whole I think the art world is a pretty brutal place to exist. It’s very trying on the soul and definitely takes some really thick skin to deal with a lot of it. Staying humble, being persistent, consistent, and working hard, are very valuable attributes.

Has there been a shift or change in your life or work that has led to what you’re making now? Do you see your work as autobiographical at all?
I wouldn’t say there’s been a shift or change in my life that’s led to what I’m making now and I wouldn’t really say my work is autobiographical. I’d describe my work as art that’s attempting to create experiences and visuals that in some way record contemporary history. Listening to my father, who was never terribly political, passionately talk a few years ago about the new age of Chinese dominance in global economics as well as politics affected me profoundly in many ways. It lead me to research it deeply and also lead to my habit of reading economic and business magazines. It’s also had a lot to do with some of the subject matter and commentary that’s been prevalent in my work for the past year.

What do you want your work to do?
I want my work to have impact and perhaps inspire someone to think differently about something they already feel pretty certain about. I’m trying to reach out to people about ideas and realities that are relevant to all of us, and I like my work to be subtle and subversive so that a broader scope of people can interact with it on many levels. On a simpler level, if my work inspired someone who doesn’t make things to start making things, that would be an incredible success in my mind.

To read the full interview and see more of Andrew Schoultz’s work go to www.inthemake.com.