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Jordan Ewert How many years have you been an art instructor at University level?
Brad Craw This is my 10th year
Jordan Ewert I’m interested in hearing about how you started sculpture, how did you get into it and what inspired you?
Brad Craw Initially, when I got into art I was already in an environmental design emphasis within an art major, so in that way I was already thinking in three dimensions in terms of spaces and in reference to architecture. Shortly after I got into graphic design and sort of settled into fields like photography but I retained a three dimensional sensibility of things. Many of the artists I was looking at in that time were doing three dimensional work that was installation based. So I think that came into play. Even though I wasn’t in a photography major, the school I was in taught us to think in terms of crossing over media wise. So that’s pretty much the jest of it. In particular, I was looking at artists like Joseph Beuys work and I was interested in that. Because I was still young and impressionable I kinda started down that road.
Jordan Ewert That sounds good! I can tell from looking at your photography that you are definitely not interested in showing objects that are obvious or standard. Even your photography looks like sculpture to me and I can tell that your into sculpture and it’s a significant part of your work. I would like to talk about your Nonlinear Circumstance series. Without giving away too much can you explain it in one or two sentences?
Brad Craw Well, that might be difficult…
Jordan Ewert (laughing) well, then however you want to.
Brad Craw OK. In a sense it was to go back to something —For awhile I’ve been avoiding narrative and anything that has to do with a narrative structure and in a way it was a way to get back to some sort of performative or gestural work. It was actually similar to work I was doing early on when I was still in school. I wanted to be able to approach narrative but do it in a way that I didn’t feel I needed to tell a particular story so much as to just sort of create associations and gestures and how they can be laced to one another. (Laughing) This is a little more than a few sentences isn’t it?! A lot of it is allegorical and a sort of alchemy happens when your doing art and then in that sense its allegorical of making art but in some degree, because there is so little information provided, it relates to the notion of missing mart of a text and so in that way it does become highly interpretive. In fact that’s really how I do a lot of my art. It’s beginning a dialogue but I’m not writing an essay and I’m not interested in writing essays. This idea that the work is interpretive and that the viewer complete the work is really important to me.
Jordan Ewert Thats great. Do you think that the mass culture would ever understand your work? In general most people tend to not understand this kind of work.
Brad Craw I don’t think so. I’ve never really approached things wanting to win over 70-80% of an audience. So many of the things I’ve been interested in, let’s face it, they’re not going to appeal to everyone! It’s that same sort of idea. What I’ve been interested have generally only appealed to smaller venues. So I think it’s OK that thats how it is. Maybe your lucky to get 5% of the people who actually look at it to be interested in it. As long as the people who like it are genuinely interested in the work in that respect than those lower numbers win out in the long run.
Jordan Ewert I recently heard the quote: “if everyone likes you work, you are doing something wrong.” In fact I think that part of the reason people in general don’t understand work like yours, especially your sculpture pieces, its because they are way too used to getting the instant gratification or the quick fix for everything that them having to think about something after they are done viewing it is too much like a chore than something that is fascinating. To be honest, I don’t understand your sculpture but at the same time, that’s why I like them so much.
Brad Craw (Laughing) This is something I’ve been thinking about actually a lot, and probably to an excessive degree. I think that trying to have something that is very appealing to everyone can make you second guess what it is you are trying to do. If you’re way cautious of appealing to a potential audience or wondering how you will be potentially read you can really paralyze your process. You have to be a little bit more open than that. I remember taking my students to a show that I thought was really interesting and I was excited to show them. I remember the students coming out and saying “I don’t get it, what were suppose to get?” or “What does that mean?” And I’ve always had a problem with the word “meaning,” just because it really limits the experience you have and it reduces whatever the art piece was to an essay or a particular message and when you get that message that’s it, that’s the experience. To me, I like the idea of now knowing exactly what things mean. That’s a lot of what interested me about art. When I started doing art I just did the things I was interested in. I was always approaching art with the idea that this person is going to think it means something and this person is going to think it’s something else. Not one of them is correct, it’s just that whatever they believe is correct has to do with the context of their own experience.
Jordan Ewert So that’s how you would define art? Something that is not one idea but rather something that can be open to interpretation?
Brad Shaw That doesn’t apply for all art. That would be somewhat dogmatic. Different people within their own processes expect more clarity or more ambiguity than others in terms of interpretation. I have to be honest, a lot of the art I am very interested in has a sense of serving a more expansive in terms of potential rather than a narrowing potential. Part of that is embracing the theoretical concepts that come with some measured degree of acceptance of postmodern thinking or post structuralist theory, which is really about subjectivities and the idea that the modernist agenda of universalism or clarity or essence of something being abstracted is not so much perhaps feasible as an endless subjectivity that we get in culture.
Jordan Ewert One last question dealing with photography. Do you think that most photography is just really boring?
Brad Craw Again, that would be a difficult question to answer. It’s really dependent on context. You know, flickr, even though it’s a wonderful resource, particularly for students, increases one’s exposure to photography in general. The number of images people are seeing has gone up exponentially. Just even 10 years ago, the majority of images you would have seen would have been in magazines or something like that. A very small percentage would have been gallery shows where people engaged in a formal context. Today we are inundated with a high number of images, and a lot of them are very very good. The problem with flickr is that it’s an environment that doesn’t foster a sense of dialogue or a sense of sensorial reflection about the work. There is the idea of pictoralism overall or that a sense of aesthetics is the most important things and because of this we are going to see the same kind of cultural cliches in a wider situations like sunset on a sunny day vs sunset on a cloudy day. When a student comes up to me and shows me a picture I don’t say that they cannot do rabbits or sunsets but if you are going to do that than acknowledge to some degree that these are overused cliche ideas. Photography since the onset of post-modernism has picked up steam in the early 70’s has been seen as a medium to be seen as on par with other medium’s such as painting. In a structural sense there is a more ease of photography in terms of access because anyone can pick up a camera and press buttons to begin with. Photography is not as much about process as painting but can be seen as more democratic because of the ability to get instant results. Consequently you are going to get an overwhelming amount of photography. Not that one picture is better than another in terms of absolutes but it’s going to be harder to find something that is conceptually engaging. In a wider sense than flickr photography has always been a media that has to respond in a lot of different ways. It’s used as photojournalism, documentary, or simply to sell a house. People’s common understanding of what photography is is kind of a polymorphous thing. Thinking that most photographers want to do conceptual work is probably not a very good expectation. I think it’s largely why when people are conceptually minded in photography and bring in a crossing over from some other media or they are largely a fine art kinds of person that they generally don’t call themselves a photographer. They might say that they are an artist that does photography so as not to be confused with what most photography is. Not that that there is anything wrong with distancing themselves from the term “photographer,” it’s just that they process photography above and beyond things like pure aesthetics and the sort of the generation-of-expectation of photograph.