Interview: Joe Hameister @ Tory Folliard Gallery

Jun. 25, 2009
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A small exhibition of Joe Hamesiter's oil on linen paintings recently opened at Tory Folliard Gallery last Friday. Tutored and mentored by painter and former UW-Milwaukee professor Tom Uttech, Hameister graduated with a BFA in painting from UWM in the mid-90's. Around the same time period, a Jan Vermeer exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. profoundly influenced the artist. Once an abstractionist, after walking through the Vermeer exhibition Haemeister desired to make small meaningful objects, tiny still lifes. The Vermeer exhibit changed his life⎯as an artist and a person⎯and this continues more than 20 years later, where he discusses this inspiration at the gallery opening standing among his collection of oil paintings, including his favorite that portrays Heinekin beer or mousetraps alongside his more traditional still lifes.

Q: Why did the Vermeer paintings influence you so completely?

A: I'd melt in front of the Vermeers. Just looking at them goes beyond a consciousness to feeling. They hook you with their physical beauty, but when I look at them, and nature, what I realized is they work on several levels.

Q: How is Vermeer's work reflected in yours?

A: In Vermeer you looked into these intimate spaces, which I hope people see in my paintings. I decided they [the paintings] be made with love and sincerity, that the people will look at that. They will appreciate the surfaces the way the light hits these precious little moments of time.

Q: What do you appreciate about Vermeer's paintings?

A: The light in Vermeer represents spiritual truth and shines on the good and bad⎯I think about this [when I paint] and how to record this. Every mark is meaningful in a smaller painting, is significant. Like Vermeer, each mark is like a meditation. Also, I like these smaller works because they're the same size as your face, and babies look at their mother's faces, and this size and intimacy is never forgotten.

Q: What's the process you use in your paintings?
A: I use linen because it gets very firm, and I get a response [from the fabric]. And it's a traditional medium, and also the linseed oil in the paints connects to the linen. I also stretch the linen myself, use two coats of rabbit skin glue, two coats of primer, and then sand them before I even start painting. For me, it's about the process, that's the way life is, too.

Q: What's the most important thing to remember as an artist?
A: Tom Uttech taught me how to be a painter and how to have a real life outside of painting. For me, because I have a full time job, and am married with children, paint becomes a meditation, a respite, affirming. When I'm exhausted I have a few precious moments. I paint everyday, or look at my present work, or read a poem for inspiration. When you're motivated, you just have that energy.

Q: Is there anything else you wish to say about your work?

A: I'm trying to be honest with the work on several levels: perception, technical, spiritual, and understanding. You become what you are around. It's a beautiful gift that we can create things. There's also a consciousness you can reach when you open yourself up and become who you really are. Then there's a truth that happens.
Hameister's exhibition: "Joe Hameister: New Still Lifes" continues until July 11.


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