Q&A With Otis Jones
Can you tell me about your background?
Because of my father’s work, we moved three times a year. I attended twenty-seven schools in multiple states. We lived in small towns in the southern United States. I spent summers and other long periods at my grandparent’s farm in Missouri. As I entered high school we my mother and I moved to Oklahoma and I was able to stay in one place during the four years of high school.
photograph by Allison V. Smith
Do you remember the first artwork you made and can you tell me about it?
I think it’s pretty evident that given this background I was not exposed to museums or other cultural institutions. I didn’t have an idea of what art or artists were. I always liked to draw and make all kinds of things. I had a very active imagination and my grandfather encouraged me and we drew and made stuff together. I did know that artists knew how to draw and at around seven or so I began to identify myself with that. I would tell people that I wanted to be an artist, although I really had no idea what the possibilities of that were.
No, I don’t remember the first thing I made that I thought of as art. I made many things, but I didn’t identify them as art. Looking back, I would say my grandfather and I made art all the time.
What influences you?
Everything. Especially objects and things that are ambiguous and have a certain mystery about their presence and specific thingness.
Can you tell me more about the art scene in the 1960-1990 and how you see it compared to today?
In the mid to late 60’s I was very influenced by the work of some of the minimalists and post minimalists. It was an exciting time for me. I saw work that affected me in a very elemental way,
This influence has stayed with me through my career and has helped shape my own investigations.
The 70’s were the beginnings of a kind of pluralism, which seems to continue. I don’t spend much time concerned with what’s going on or current. I’m somewhat aware but more focused on what I’m trying to do.
Your works are both physical and minimalistic, has it always been like that?
Yes. My work has looked a little different through the years but I think it has always remained about the same things. I’ve never thought of myself as a minimalist but more of an essentialist.
Can you tell me more about the process in your work?
I never work from a complete preconceived idea. I see incomplete renditions of things in my head or imagination. It might be a color or weight or shape. It’s always just a vague notion of something. This is the beginning of a search carried out though a process of making decisions and erasing them through sanding and repainting and moving things around. It becomes a dialogue between the object and myself. I want the history of this activity to show or be evident in some way.
What is most important to you regarding your work?
Can you tell me more about your routines and rituals in your daily practice?
I’ve never been one of those artists that adhere to a specific routine. I work hard on several pieces at a time and then I might take a brake to nap or visit friends. When I am making work it is a very ritualistic process.
Can you let us in on some of the future projects, works?
This spring I’m having shows in Houston, TX, at Gray Contemporary, 57W57Arts,NYC, Art Brussels Independent with Simon Gallery with annex14 Gallery, Zürich.
b. 1946 Galveston, TX
lives and works in Dallas, TX
MFA, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK
Graduate Studies – Montana State University, Bozeman, MT
BFA, Kansas State University at Pittsburg, Pittsburg, KS
Otis Jones received his B.F.A from Kansas State University in 1969, continued graduate studies at Montana State University and earned his M.F.A. in 1972 from the University of Oklahoma. He was the 1982 recipient of a Visual Artists Fellowship Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and has taught at Texas Christian University, the University of Texas at Austin and has served as an Associate Professor and Visiting Professor at University of Texas at Arlington. Jones’ work can be found in many private and public collections such as the Dallas Museum of Art, A.H. Belo Corporation, American Airlines, Rosewood Corporation and Compaq Corporation.