The Next Artspace Artist: Round 2

In Round 2 of the Next Artspace Artist contest, three semifinalists slowly emerged after a tight race to the finish. Though all works and styles are distinctly different, it was the use of color that grabbed the attention of the votes. From the bright lavender and pops of fuschia in Jack Hardwicke’s abstracted digital photograph to the streaks of paint dripping down the work of Jonni Cheatwood or the multicolored brushstrokes in Aaron Smith’s portrait of a bearded man, this week proved to be a rainbow of winners. (And if you’re interested in joining the contest yourself, be sure to submit.)

Jonni Cheatwood

Unsure of what he wanted to do for his career, Jonni took a chance on an Intro to Painting course in college. After completing an assignment to remake a Jackson Pollack painting, he was hooked as an artist. Constantly inspired by his surroundings and pop culture, he keeps a notebook on him at all times in order to record his ideas as they occur.

Where do you look for inspiration? How do you get your creative juices flowing?

I read a lot, watch films, and listen to music from people much more creative than me just to surround myself with creativity. The core of my thought process is dedicated to deconstruction, making mistakes, and finding truths in the abstract. I am deeply interested in the process of creating an aesthetic piece and how one gets there, so I try to get there by just trying. I carry a notebook with me everywhere, so if I have a thought or an idea, it is always on paper.

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During the Victorian era, it was almost impossible to see a beard-free male face. This uniquely Victorian trend has been a thing of fascination for Los Angeles based artist Aaron Smith, who makes these dapper bearded men the primary subjects of his oil paintings. Previously featured on our blog, Smith, who sports an impressive beard himself, borrows his subjects from vintage photographs which he invigorates with a trippy palette and impressionistic strokes. He relates them to “dandies”- men of the 18th and 19th centuries that paid particular attention to their appearance and manor. 

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Aaron Smith’s Series of Colorful and Dapper Bearded Men 

The Victorian/Edwardian eras have long fascinated artist Aaron Smith. For years he has collected vintage photographs of men of the period. To him, these men represent a masculine ideal, if largely a constructed one. Their bearded faces and distinguished attire are spectacular, while their stiff poses and serious expressions belie an existential vulnerability. In each of Smith’s impasto portraits, woozy colors and aggressive surfaces act as a foil to the sitter’s stoic pose, reflecting a giddy ambivalence to nostalgia. 

This work has found support from a convergence of interrelated subcultures including Neo-Dandyism, Bear Culture, as well as Beard and Mustache Enthusiasts. The artist shares a desire to revel in the exaggeration of masculinity’s archetypes, mining past forms of male identity in an attempt to free them of any heteronormative constraints.

Aaron Smith attended Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, where he is now an associate chair. His work has been featured in solo exhibitions in galleries in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York and in group shows at galleries and museums nationwide. He was the first artist in residence at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

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posted by Margaret