Visual Arts Viewpoint: An Interview with Baltimore Artist Jim Condron

Visual Arts Viewpoint takes a look inside the contemporary visual arts in the area. Talking to artists, curators, and gallerists, this is a forum not just to spotlight their creative work and energies, but also to discuss particular issues of importance to DMV artists, like expensive real estate for studio space, life/work balance, exhibition opportunities and fostering artistic communities. My first interview is with Baltimore Artist Jim Condron.

Jim Condron and a student while teaching at Stevenson University. Photo courtesy of Stevenson University.
Jim Condron and a student while teaching at Stevenson University’s School of Design.  Photo courtesy of Stevenson University.

Jim Condron’s paintings are small but they pack a punch. Fur, plastic, sundry objects, thick globs of paint extrude and protrude. Neon coexists with dull, surfaces are pocked, gaping, distend; textures abound. It’s as if the formal elements of painting…line, form, texture, color, composition…are rioting. Despite the apparent precariousness and spontaneity of these conjoined elements, Condon never completely abandons the rectangular canvas formats nor the rigors of painting.

Condron’s work is on exhibit along with Kristin Liu’s, at Adah Rose Gallery in Kensington, MD. The exhibit, Your Memories, Your Sentiments, Your Wishes, Your Secrets is up through February 28th.

I talked with Jim recently about his work, and about life as an artist in the DMV area.

Maggie: How did you come to make this body of work?

How Nice to Feel Nothing and Still Get Credit for Being Alive by Jim Condron.
‘How Nice to Feel Nothing and Still Get Credit for Being Alive’ by Jim Condron.

Jim Condron: The most recent change came after I was completely sick of painting in general; sick of all my tired ideas of what it meant to be a painter. I actually quit. Soon after I quit, I began scribbling in color in a sketchbook and then gluing found objects together and adding paint and other materials to them. These objects have now gotten more complex and some are more like sculptures than paintings. I am now having a lot more fun.

The titles are interesting. Where do they come from?

The titles are taken from literature by a range of great authors such as Don De Lillo, James Salter, Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Gogol, Oscar Wilde, Hunter Thompson, Kurt Vonnegut, Ernest Hemmingway, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, and others. Though the titles suggest a narrative, I want the viewer to respond on a deeper level than the story or the concept.

You graduated with an MFA from the Hoffberger Painting Program at MICA, but you seem to have a background in literature. Is that true? How does that affect how you make visual art?

I have a BA in English and Art with a minor in studio. The English major taught me how to think, analyze, organize and write. I like short stories and poetry and enjoy pairing borrowed fragments from great literature with things I’m making.

Describe your art-making process.

I really try not to impose rules on my art making at this point except to not think while I’m working. I work quickly, in short spurts.

How do you see yourself fitting into the art scene in DMV? How would you describe the arts community (or lack thereof) in DMV?

I really can’t assess the art scene in DMV. I can only speak from my experience with Adah Rose Gallery which has been wonderful. Adah Rose has been incredibly supportive and has tirelessly worked to increase the audience for my work. She’s brought my work to Pulse New York, Pulse Miami, and Art Silicon Valley and now there is the two-person show in the gallery.

Picasso and the Loaves by Jim Condron.
‘Picasso and the Loaves’ by Jim Condron.

You teach at MICA, Stevenson, and Towson Univeristy, and that doesn’t leave you much time for art. How many hours do you spend making art?

I make art at least 1/2 hour every day–some days a lot more but never less. When I am not teaching, I go for longer stretches.

What organizations do you feel are helpful to visual artists?

Artist residencies have been very helpful for me, providing time and and space for me to focus exclusively on my work. I have had great experiences at both the Edward F. Albee Foundation in New York and at the Heliker LaHotan Foundation in Maine. Not only was I able to produce a lot of work but I also made some lasting friendships.

How do you feel about the adequacy of exhibition spaces in the area?

Baltimore has a top art school and produces a number of good artists. There are not nearly enough commercial galleries to support area artists. And, more importantly, there are not nearly enough people willing to purchase contemporary art from Baltimore artists. I suspect this might be the case for DC as well.

How the ant is eaten by the rat, the rat eaten by the snake, the porcupine swallows the rat etc., 2013.
How the ant is eaten by the rat, the rat eaten by the snake, the porcupine swallows the rat etc., by Jim Condron.

Wishfully thinking, what change in local funding, opportunities, organizational entities, would be most beneficial to you as an artist?

I’m for anything that gets funding to artists so that they can make work and be paid for it.

Jim Condron’s website.

Jim Condron’s artwork at Adah Rose Gallery.


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