Adam Stennett.

“When I am working on a show I start to gather objects and images that speak to me or may have something to say. My studio becomes immersed in the aesthetic and energy I will be exploring in my paintings  and other works. The process is a bit like meditation. The space around you will influence the work you create.”

Adam Stennett was born in Kotzebue, Alaska in 1972, grew up in Oregon, and now lives in Brooklyn. His work is in numerous public and private collections and has been widely exhibited in the U.S. and internationally including group exhibitions at The Portland Art Museum, The Chelsea Art Museum, The Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, The National Arts Club and Centro de la Imagen. Stennett’s work is currently on view through April 2013 as part of “We Could Be Heroes: The Mythology of Monsters and Heroes in Contemporary Art” at Brigham Young University Museum of Art. In August 2013, Stennett will begin a month-long performance/installation living and working in a 6.5 x 9.5 foot, off the grid “artist survival shack” in an as of yet undisclosed location on the east end of Long Island. The performance will be followed by an exhibition featuring the shack itself and related paintings opening September 7, 2013 at Glenn Horowitz in East Hampton, NY.

FROM YOUR DESKS: How do you work?

ADAM STENNETT: I make things I would be excited to see.

FYD: What is your favorite sentimental object at your workspace and why?

AS: I like things that other hands have touched.

FYD: What is your favorite or most required work tool?

AS: Caffeine.

FYD:  It’s fair to say you keep your workspace organized.  Has this always been part of your method?

AS: Yes. I generally like my workspace to be quiet and in order.

FYD: Elaborate on how work is like mediation for you – is it the space itself or the actual practice?

AS: I prepare myself mentally until decisions feel innate. I have to be in the right headspace. Things become abstract and I’m painting out what is wrong as much as painting what is right.

With any of my work, I’m interested in creating an environment for interactions to happen.

FYD:  Reading Robert Sullivan’s book Rats, one gains a pretty clear understand of these species history.  They’re pretty much indestructible. What do you like about mice?

AS: They are everywhere we are and our histories are undeniably intertwined (whether we want to admit it or or not).

We owe a lot to mice.

FYD: What is your favorite literature including rats and mice?  They seem to be a metaphor for something larger.  

AS: Mice and rats have been used in all kinds of storytelling throughout time, from myth, to religion, to fairy tales, to Native American lore. I have always liked how much J.D. Salinger conveyed in a story called “De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period” that was not about a cat or a mouse with the line:

The mouse, I’ve been sure for years, limps home from the site of the burning ferris wheel with a brand-new, airtight plan for killing the cat.

FYD: How do mice play a role in Native American lore?

AS: The Story of Jumping Mouse by Hyemeyohsts Storm is an example of the complex and anthropomorphic role mice play in Native American storytelling. It is worth the read.

FYD: How does testing on mice effect your thoughts on the scientific world?

AS: I think it is important to be aware of the huge part mice have played in medical advances over the last century. We owe a lot to mice.

FYD: Your Girl Looking Left with Tussin. 2007 (above) shows a small child about to swig the cough syrup. Are we looking the numbing of pain or perhaps the over-reliability and accessibility to pharms?

AS: I like making paintings that open up as you look at them. Everyone brings their own experiences to a work of art. With any of my work, I’m interested in creating an environment for interactions to happen. If a work is successful it should be fertile ground for interpretation.

FYD:  What drugs are most detrimental to people and why do we numb our pain?

AS: Most things can be both beneficial and detrimental. It depends on how you use them. Our pain is often linked to our perception of reality.

FYD: With your Diviner’s Sage (Salvia divinorum) and Opium Tea Vintage (Papaver somniferum);  are you showing how easy it is to whip up a batch or perhaps the accessibility of these ingredients to the masses (some being right in our kitchen).

AS: The availability of these substances is interesting to me. I love absurd loopholes. This is a plant that originally only grew in one small area in the Sierra Mazateca of Oaxaca, Mexico. It was originally used by Mazatec shaman to facilitate visionary states of consciousness. The plant contains a powerful psychoactive which opens parts of our minds that are not normally accessible. I have heard the effects can be quite unsettling- to the point of casting doubt on the veracity of everyday reality. The series of paintings that included Salvia divinorum and Papaver somniferum (opium poppies) are intended to operate on multiple levels; as classic still lifes, as portraits, as mind altering recipes and as metaphors exploring some to the overarching themes and ideas that are present in all of my work.

Our pain is often linked to our perception of reality.

FYD:  Are we all our own little chemists and druggies?

AS: Our brains are mostly chemical. Our reality is affected by everything we do, experience and ingest.

FYD: Taking it a bit lighter, who is your ideal meal and dining companion?

AS: Stone soup shared with those who helped to make it.

FYD: What is the last great book you read?

AS: Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson and Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen, which are both excellent.

FYD:  When you aren’t creating, where can we find you?

AS: Prospect Park bike loop.

FYD: What are you working on currently?

AS: I’m working on an off the grid, self-sufficient artist survival shack that I will be living and working in during a month-long performance this August.  An exhibition of the shack itself and the work I create in the shack will open September 7, 2013 at Glenn Horowitz in East Hampton, NY.

Adam is on Tumblr and Twitter. Own a print via Exhibition A.

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