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InLiquid Artist Profile: Jay Walker

Jay Walker

Work by Jay Walker

Work by Jay Walker

Editor's note: This interview with Jay Walker is presented as part of a content partnership with InLiquid.

Where do you live and work?

I live in Media -- "Everybody's Hometown" -- which is a silly slogan, but one that I find to be true. I grew up in a small Texas town. While I never want to be that remote again, I appreciate the similar feeling that Media affords me. Being twenty minutes outside of Philadelphia and two hours from New York City, but not living in either city, is a perfect balance.

My studio, on the other hand, is in an old paper mill in Clifton Heights, Penn. While not truly urban, it is set in a rugged, more working class town. I am surrounded by carpenters, wholesalers, and other artists and musicians who love big space, but don't necessarily want the overhead of a Philadelphia studio.

What is your discipline? 

My discipline is…to avoid being disciplined. I say that somewhat flippantly, but what I mean is that while there is an underlying order to the chaos, I avoid life becoming dictated by order. I dislike waking up in the morning and knowing everything I will do with my day -- it makes me feel stifled. Because of that, I don't usually work with one medium for too long. In the last few years, I have sculpted wood, created large installations out of tape, directed music videos and video art, created giant stencils out of plywood, and put up street art.

I love the challenge of a new idea and once I feel things are repeating, I know that I have stayed too long. My main concern is the content that haunts me: figures, bodiless clothing, and symbols that I can't and won't shake. I have never been comfortable dealing with narrative on a narrow scale, but symbols provide ways for me to explore the things I find mysterious.

What training or arts education have you had?

My art education started young because my mother was an art teacher. She had the wonderful disposition of not being condescending with her teaching methods, but pushing me to develop, regardless of my age. My dad is also a photographer, which added to my art education at a young age. Even though my parents both encouraged me, they were surprised that I decided to pursue art in college. I got my bachelors degree from Texas A&M - Corpus Christi. From there, I moved to Philly and got my MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

After college, I taught middle school art for a few years, which was an education of a different sort. Then I worked as a producer for the accomplished photographer David Sacks, who passed away two years ago. While I have no aspirations to be a photographer, I learned a great deal working closely with [Sacks] and seeing how he approached his career. All of these experiences in addition to those in academia have shaped and educated me as an artist.

What are you currently working on?

This answer might sound slightly absurd, but bear with me. I am creating plaid shirts out of tape to be adhered to city walls, like graffiti. I am also working on a different series of plaid shirts painted on wood paneling with colorful wood stains. 

A few other projects in the works include a large installation in my studio -- I'm taking a time lapse, so as to share how my installations develop -- and a series of wood stencils cut with a router. 

Lastly, I have a large tape installation exhibit opening at Christ Church Neighborhood House that will be part of the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours in early October, which requires extensive planning and sketching. 
Describe your methods for us. 

1. Figure out what I want to do.
2. Find any problems with the idea. 
3. Do something else for a few weeks while working through the problems. 
4. Test the solution to my problems. Repeat step three if necessary. 
5. Try to push the idea as far as I can. 
6. Live with it for while. 
7. Try to improve it. 
8. Share it. 
What have you been up to recently?

This past summer was intense and incredible. I spent two weeks in Texas Hill Country creating a large installation at a residency, which consisted of CNC router cut drawings in full sheets of plywood and translucent tape on windows to pair with the plywood sheets. After that, I spent three weeks in Uganda, Ethiopia and Zambia, shooting a documentary about an organization called Covenant Mercies that supports orphans by providing education and basic necessities. 
What's next for you?

Next up is the installation at Christ Church Neighborhood House, which opens on First Friday, October 2. The opening will have a special musical guest performance that will be filmed to create a music video. Due to certain restrictions in the music industry (that I don't quite understand), I currently can't announce who is performing. But I can say that I am excited about how all of it is going to come together. 

What inspires you?

Mystery. The big things that I choose to believe but seem to escape me on the actual mechanics. So I just explore them. Also, other artists who have done the same thing. I love viewing art and discovering the artists who had no idea how to describe what they were dealing with, but dove right into the subject matter anyway. They are my favorite artists to steal from. 
Why do you make art other than out of necessity?

I don't know. I guess I could say ego, but it probably has more to do with "necessity" than I would like to admit. I function under the idea that if art is not being made out of an inexplicable personal imperative, then I won't be making it for long. 
What do you hope people will get out of your work?

I try to stay away from the relationship the viewer has to meaning. What people get out of a piece of art is between the viewer and the work, and is not my business. In general, I hope they will just spend time and allow themselves to explore it like I have. I consider myself the first viewer of my work and not the authority on its meaning.
INLIQUID is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to providing opportunities for visual artists and designers, serving as a free public hub for arts information and resources and making the visual arts more accessible to a broader audience through a continuing series of community-based art exhibitions and programs. 
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