Q & A with artist TJ Moberg
Q - Why do these paintings look like sculptures?
A - These works are hard for me to categorize because I start with liquid paint just like any painter would but I pour out the paint to dry instead of appying it to canvas with a brush. Next, I take the dry paint and build or assemble each composition to create a new kind of painting or a new type of sculpture. Ultimately I feel that they are sculptures because collage or assemblage is part of the sculpture discipline.
Tell us how you came to do the first one. How did the process develop?
A - I mixed a lot of my own paint colors when working on commissioned projects and I found it easier to set a bowl of paint off to the side and pop out the dried paint later instead of trying to wash out the paint. I spent a day popping paint out of old bowls 10 years ago and ended up with a floor full of paint skins. I gathered up all the skins and collaged my first piece. Now I manufacture my skins and intentionally pour paint onto objects from my childhood and my daughter’s childhood.
I like to use old candy dishes and bowls from my grandparent’s house to pour paint into. I feel like the negative space is where the memories are left and by pouring paint into the negative space I’m able to capture the memories in a paint skin. The next time you look at one of my skins you might see yourself moving grandmas buttons aside to find an old butterscotch at the bottom. And all of my daughter’s toys come with the elaborate packing system of clear plastic to hold the toys in the packing just right. The new packaging systems negative space represents where the memories will be made. These plastic parts make for perfect molds for paint skins and make very interesting new objects once a skin is created in the mold.
Q - Where do you get your paint?
A - My paint comes from either the paint recycling center or from clients or friends. Some mornings I show up to my studio to find 10 gallons of house paint at the door. Each gallon has it’s own story, it’s own history. Someone went to the hardware store and picked out this red to be their new statement for the dinning room and when I’m pouring out the paint I get a sense of how excited this person was to have guests over to see their new bright red dinning room. So If you have paint in your basement feel free to drop it off at my studio door. I’m so green.
Q - Why the Miami Vice colors?
A - I love Miami. Their art deco buildings stick with me after I leave.
Q - How long do these paintings take to complete?
A - It's hard to put into hours. It takes hundreds of dried paint pieces to make up each piece and some of the parts are seven years old. Once I have all of the pieces ready I could put one together in a few days and the resin process would take another few. This show took me over one year to complete.
What’s the deal with the Trans Am?
A - "I Cry Out For Magic" or the firebird is my nod to the East Side where I grew up and the title is inspired by the great, Ronnie James Dio. The firebird says: mullets, fast living and cut off tank tops. It’s a giant bird logo on the hood of a 6.6 litter V8. Can it get any more over the top than that? And yes…when I was in high school I had a 1980 Trans Am and I haven’t got it out of my mind since.
This piece is about me making fun of myself. I think art can have a bit of humor in it and still be successful as a significant work of art. After all Jeff Koons and Damien Hurst are laughing all the way to the bank.
Q - Other artists have suggested that your style and process remind them of what Jackson Pollack was doing after World War II and how he was inventing a new way to use paint. Have you ever considered this an extension of that?
A - Ha…Jackson Pollack and TJ Moberg mentioned in the same sentence and it’s not about drinking. Yeah, a couple of artist friends of mine tell me that they are really excited to see someone doing something different with paint. I’m just excited to be creating works of art that are like nothing else I have created. I want to keep pushing my own comfort levels and not get complacent with successful work but keep trying to create something new every time.
Q - Many would think that after ten years of running a gallery some reflection is in order. Have you found time to do that?
Is there a new direction on your horizon?
A - I have had the privilege of working with some very talented artists: Larassa Kabel, Chris Vance, John Philip Davis, Frankie (Hansen), Wendell Mohr, both Kelleys (Gary and Richard), Jesse Small, Bill (Luchsinger) and Karen (Strohbeen), Madai (Taylor), Lynn Basa, Dennis Reynolds, Judy Gorsuch Collins, Travis Rice, Thomas Jackson. I could go on and on with this list.
I've helped my father's artistic career gain national exposure and sales. I've been involved in many public art projects personally and as a consultant. I've been able to help many corporations build important art collections. I've had my own art added to many significant collections and have supported myself directly from my art sales or by selling art for 19 years now.
As far as the new direction goes…I think I80 East to Chicago is it. We’ll be opening a new Moberg Gallery / Moberg Consultation there in the fall of 2012. I’ll put you down in my calendar for an interview in 2022.