About three or four years ago I was really inspired by an exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art ....300 years of Art in Latin America.
Mexican Pentecost Icon
I designed a whole collection of jewelry filled to the gills with religious iconography.
I knew that the jewelry wasn't for a blushing flower...during my open house it was receiving mixed reviews, ..... translation: It wasn't an easy sell.
At some point I gave up telling people about my inspiration and began to just sell it on price and a cheery "these are my show specials".
This guy walks in, wearing a jacket that had a French Foreign Legion kind of feel to it and a really cool camera bag, so.... while I'm checking his gear out, he picked up one of the really religious pieces.... I went into my spiel, "These are Sterling silver, all of the proceeds from the Jasper collection will be donated to Manna ......."
And he cut me off and said something to the affect of ... 'this reminds me of Latin art, there was a recent exhibit at the Art Museum...........'.
God smacked! It was like overhearing someone say how much they like you. He hit my inspiration source square on the head. We had a short conversation about religion and art and exchanged cards. So.... the next week, I was sending thank you emails, calling vendors, trying to find new shows, ...business stuff, and I came across Jed's card. I don't remember exactly what I wrote in the email but something like -
Most of the conversations I had at the open house were about size, color and material, and talking to you made me remember my inspiration... thanks for coming out and supporting the artist at the mills...
yadda yadda yadda.... three years later or is it four?....., we are the kind of friends that bounce ideas off of each other, promote each other's gigs, share info about health insurance and money souces, artistic opportunities, spiritual ideaologies.. movies, music... and when I decided to change the blog from only fashion and my own personal experiences to include cameos of my favorite artist, Jed was first on the list.
The Jed Williams experience begins at a small art studio tucked into one of our classic South Philly neighborhoods, with row houses and a bodega on the corner. The 29 bus roars by, and through a metal security door and under a very unassuming awning ... is a studio filled, ..... bursting at the seams.... with paintings. A painting of a woman leaning into her hip caught my eye and then I got distracted by this huge container of brushes and when I looked back at the painting it looked completely different.....
"Wait is that a bird?".
Jed just gives me a sly smile and says,"Is it?".
I spent two hours going through stacks of paintings and getting a little history on each one, He's a very serious artist, and so willing to try new things, there are paintings on vinyl records and a huge car bumper with little designs painted on it right there on the floor of his studio.... it's amazing. It all made me want to run home to my own pile of pearls, quartz, and metals.
The Style Shepherd: Being a big fan of your work, I know that Pop Culture and Eastern Spirituality inspire you ...... And designers and artist get this question all the time, and sometimes its and easy answer and sometimes you want to pull your hair out and just say 'I don't know' but..... here goes..... What is your inspiration? Your raison d'etre? Or ...explain your creative process.
Jed Williams: My inspiration.. well that is a tough one indeed. But let’s see..I think in the end you could narrow it down to a kind of mixture of two main thrusts, or themes:
One main thrust is comprised by the images I see and the things that interest me in my life outside of an artist—like Pop Culture, especially with regards to philosophy and the postmodern, ‘80s aesthetic (I love artists like Martin Kippenberger and Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Donald Baechler etc.) and Eastern Religion as you said, which is a very interesting and potentially helpful, holistic philosophy/feeling--and don’t forget the often-challenging yet intriguing mixture of danger, excitement, grit, trashiness and soul that goes along with living in Philadelphia--
The other part of the mixture as it were is more elemental: the simple, yet simultaneously infinitely complicated joy of finding ways to work on my paintings visually, making marks, experimenting with placement of color and line. This interacts with what goes on beneath the surface of my works, pointing a kind of a celebratory strand of thought and feeling as well.
However, I would not call my work experimental. There is a purpose to the images, but often the very purpose is only found in its revealing of itself through the process.
Then again, which came first, the picture or the painter?
TSS: I know that both or your parents are creative people, when did you know that you would also spend your life as an artist?
JW: Yes, my parents are both artists. My father is a poet/writer and my mother is a jeweler.
Obviously they and the artistic and intellectual people who hung out with them, have been very encouraging indeed, which I am grateful for.
There wasn’t really a specific moment in time that I decided I would spend my life as an artist however, although I do remember the day
I decided to go to art school, University of the Arts to be more precise.
The whole art thing was really more of a very gradual process, which intensified in my mid twenties.. It manifested itself most fully in the year after I graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, that is the second and so far last art school I went to. It has a lot to do also with reacting to, and sometimes against, what some (especially art students and teachers) call “the real world”. Problems get set up and different energies come into play—these energies and challenges end up being compensated in a sense, or balanced out, by one’s studio practice—which is the central thing, or should be anyway.
TSS:I get one or two emails a week (which I love, inspires me to stay on the grind) about your new shows and where we can see your work. How difficult is it to get your work seen... or is it becoming easier and easier as you get more exposure?
JW: In a sense it is always somewhat difficult to get my work seen, but then again really it depends on the type of venue you’re talking about. It’s a little easier obviously to get into group shows than solo shows, and you know a lot of the places I show in right now are what you would call “alternative venues”.. Not always though. I have a two person show, in a gallery, coming up this summer, so stay tuned..
Anyway, little by little as a striving professional artist you get into a kind of circuit where you start to meet people who can introduce you to opportunities, but exposure.. that takes years and years of looking for opportunities, meeting people, and so on. But in a sense it does become easier to navigate that art world game of trying (I said “trying”!) to get into galleries, making connections,etc. because you get practice at it the more you do it.
TSS: (Fashion Question) - What would you say your style is?
JW:Well, it’s hard to generalize, because the way I dress is a bit “hybrid”-ish--but I would probably say casual, maybe slightly Euro-influenced elegance (I did grow up in Paris) mixed with a laid-back groove. Again, it depends on the day.
TSS: (Design Question) and who is your favorite designer (doesn't have to be Men's clothing, can be accessories, jewelry design, architecture, ..... whatever
JW: I don’t really know if I have any favorite designer per se, but two definite names that come to mind are those of Shepard Fairey, and Banksy. Perhaps you could call them “street-designers”.. I love their sense of humor, and anti-authoritarian streak--and Fairey’s cross-over influence especially I find very impressive (the Obey campaign, the Obama image and other things—I like how they sort of subvert the concepts of marketing and “image branding” as it were.)
* Shepard Fairey - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxhgIoXzMrQ
* Banksy - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXSg8BApBwA
TSS: Last book you read or favorite author
JW: “Factory Made-Warhol and the Sixties’
TSS: Music you're feeling right now –
JW: The Clash, Stereophonics, Bowie, the Weakerthans, Beck, some other stuff too
TSS: One thing you can't live without –
TSS: What do you have going on right now?
JW: I have work up in several different places right now: first I have some abstract paintings up at a really cool place called Square Peg Artery and Salvage (located at 108 S. 20th St.-- between Sansom St. and Chestnut St. in Philadelphia), and also you can purchase prints of my work at Mew Gallery at 906 Christian St. near the Italian Market.
Also I have a line of more traditional still lifes up in two places: at a great gallery called Absolute Abstract, (located at 141 S. 13th St-- near the corner of 13th and Walnut St. in Philadelphia) until April 1st.
And at Home Source Daily Expo, a home improvement showroom located at 660 Allendale Road in King of Prussia, right outside of Philadelphia.
I'm also going to have artwork up for display and sale until April 17 at Blick Art Materials, a great art supply store located at 1330 Chestnut St. in Center City Philadelphia.
As I was leaving Jed's studio and trying to find words to express how I felt about his work, I said
"This is ..... This is ....."
And Jed finished my sentence "Where it's at! I got two turn tables and a microphone!"
Jed Williams, talent and swaggah.