Jon Vogt is a multimedia artist whose work manifests in the realm between digital and physical. He recently completed his MFA in printmaking at University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Vogt’s works are influenced by the effects of experimentation and digitization through color, pattern, and repetition. His use of varying media reveals the unique evolution that is made when blended together into one – experimenting with how each media influences another in a singular work. Though he has many practices, his primary method of creating is printmaking, which acts as the guide to processing and conceptualizing his work.
“My current artistic investigation mines an interest in perceptual phenomena and the limits of sensory experience. To what extent do static images appear to move? When does repetitive action become hypnotic or overbearing? What parallels exist between visual art and sound?”
Getting started, when did you first identify yourself as an artist?
I was told at a young age by my mother and grade school teachers that I was talented, but I never considered myself an artist, even after going to college for art. At some point after years of art practice I felt that I had found a voice and a rhythm of making and I felt it fit to call myself an artist. Even still, it’s hard to consider myself an artist all of the time— it’s an identity that I feel most when I’m making, and I’m happy when I have the time and energy to do it.
Looking at your work, you use a lot of different media. From what you’ve shown me, there’s the weaving, the digital, and the screenprinting. Which one of these media were you first attracted to?
My background is in printmaking, which I got into specifically because of a teacher I had, April Katz at Iowa State University. She was both challenging and supportive which is what I need from a teacher. What intrigued me about printmaking was a sense of surprise in the process and an uncertainty about what comes out the other end when you run something through the press for the first time. April emphasized the importance of experimentation and displayed a sense of exploration in her process that was exciting to me. In my work now, I’m looking for processes where I can explore and be surprised. I like to set up limitations to work within and do something really minimal over and over to achieve something complex. I work across disciplines because it transforms how I think about my work, and it enriches the conversation.
What intrigued me about printmaking was a sense of surprise in the process and an uncertainty about what comes out the other end
What first attracted you to the digital aesthetic that you use now in a lot of your works? I saw your early works that are on your website and they’re pretty different from what you do now.
I see the digital aspect of my work as a natural progression. I started graduate school drawing sensual curvilinear pattern abstractions which over time became more mechanical and rectilinear. I eventually stopped drawing in favor of cutting and measuring, which in some ways makes the work look digital even when it’s entirely analog. When I began making weavings, the designs I created were produced using digital software and this look started to change the way I was seeing. I also started experimenting with digital animation. I think the major turning point though was discovering photo editing apps for iPhone. I was blown away by all the possibilities these tools offered and how fast it could be, everything right at my fingertips. I could collage and manipulate an image in seconds in almost any location. This was a huge difference from working with programs like Photoshop where you’re limited by the use of a mouse or what you can now do with a trackpad. There’s a lot of searching through settings and filters in order to accomplish what you want. Meanwhile, these apps are very streamlined to produce a specific effect within a specific limitation that you are able to work from. For me, it’s a tool that I’ve found has a lot of potential and possibilities that I don’t feel restricted by the limitations. Most importantly, the apps allow me to see and experience new ways of composing an image, which has affected my work in total.
What are these apps that you were using? And are you currently still using them in your artistic processes?
The main apps I use are Fragment, Glitché, and Instagram. I still use them to produce the digital work that I post under my Instagram page @holyunknown. These digital images are also used as source material for animations that I create with my friend Michael Jone’s processing program Diatom, as well as for inkjet prints on paper that I use to collage with. The digital work is made physical in my light box series, which are handmade backlit displays that illuminate layered transparency prints of the images.
Which medium out of all those that you work with do you think you identify with most? It seems you have a strong relationship with screenprinting and printmaking for sure, just because of your past with it. Would you say that’s probably what you mostly identify with?
I have an expertise in printmaking, and I’m also teaching it. But more so than any one medium, I’d say that I identify with process. I like to work in stages, where a decision at any step can gradually build or dramatically affect the outcome. I’m interested in processes that allow room for making choices and exploring within limitations. I know at some point I’ll start painting in a very specific way, although I would never identify myself as a painter. The idea of printmaking works it’s way into the way I handle other media because I’m seeing and working with things a lot of times in layers and in steps, and I’m interested in how something might overlap or interlace with something else to form a composite. Each medium I use is a tool, and each tool inevitably leaves its mark on my work and my thinking. I do like really tedious work and very repetitious work; I enjoy the time spent just getting lost in the making.
I read in your artist statement how you are inspired by the relationship between art and sound, how you use different auditory elements and like to depict them visually. Can you expand on how you got to that point in your creative process?
I’ve always had a passion for music and for a long time have wanted to marry it with my visual art. I found when reflecting upon my recent visual work that there is a strong tie to sound. The way I’ve handled the sound pieces that I made for my thesis show is working with the same ideas of taking something simple, like a single tone, and using layering to create complexity. The most direct relationship is with the screenprints where you have a set of primary patterns that merge to create a superimposed secondary pattern. In vision it’s called moiré and in sound it’s called binaural beats. When you have two similar tones that are slightly off in frequency, they produce what is called a beat frequency that is perceived by the listener as a single solitary pattern. So I see a relationship between these media and my goal has been to sonify the artwork. Playing the sonic work into a space with my visual work invites the viewer to attend to each separately or at the same time. Creating video work has allowed me to sync audio and image, and then using multiple projections of video with sound has further enabled me to build an immersive environment for the viewer.
You have been exhibiting for a while, your first show was in 2007 correct?
Yes, maybe earlier. As time goes by, you start omitting the less important shows from your resumé. Most of my work that’s been exhibited at this point has been through juried or group shows. When you go to college, you’re pushed by your professors to start exhibiting because it’s important for people to see your work. It’s easy to get caught up in making the work and not think about where it will end up and what it’s for. As I’ve matured and felt more confident about what I’ve made, I’m more excited about sharing it with people, getting it out into the world, and letting it go.
That kind of leads me into next question, discussing the importance of still exhibiting work as we live in such a digital age where things can be shared so easily online and be made so accessible. What’s the importance of having your work exhibited to viewers and what kind of role do you want the viewers to play in viewing your work?
There are a lot of different avenues to show and experience art, and each affects the way in which the viewer will engage with and understand the work. Exhibiting work online is necessary for any artist to build exposure, even though most artworks today aren’t created with the intention of existing digitally— this is usually an inferior second life for the artwork. What excites me about my digital work that I feature online is that it’s one hundred percent digital, not just a photo or reproduction of a physical piece. On the internet it can exist in multiple places on different screens at different sizes and can be experienced by many people simultaneously or separately. What I find interesting about exhibiting digital artwork online is that it’s a relatively new territory for art. I sometimes get comments like “I want this!” but what many people don’t understand is that they already have it. It exists in the ether. I’m not interested in printing the digital work as an object reproduction of a digital file. The translation from light on a screen to pigment on paper changes the visual effect as well as the context of the work. The same can be said for a physical work that is reproduced digitally— its essence is transformed and its meaning changes. If a work is meant to be a physical thing, having a show where people can interact physically, moving through space and using one’s body and eyes to experience its physicality is very important. I’m trying to exhibit in both avenues: the real and virtual. I think there’s more to be done in both and I’m interested in where they seep into one another.
There are a lot of different avenues to show and experience art, and each affects the way in which the viewer will engage with and understand the work
What do you think is your role as a contemporary artist in the world?
This is a difficult question, because I think artists can be very selfish. I’m making this work firstly for myself, to manifest an experience of surprise and possibility and to feed my self-seeded passion and curiosity. The gift is to give that away and to share it with other people. A greater gift is to teach and to help others realize their creative powers. My role as an artist is to inspire thought, mystify, and entertain. There are so many artists today. We as humans are always imagining and creating the world around us, and each one of us is unique and important. Artmaking is both an exploration self and also a record of our current moment.
Last modified: May 31, 2015