Tobias Waite was born in Berkeley, California, and currently lives/works in NYC. He attended UC Berkeley and NYU, and is a current resident at the Artha Project.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I grew up back and forth between rural Massachusetts/NYC and all over the west coast. I’ve had a relatively itinerant life, but have always had this notion that I’d be settled down working seriously as an artist by 35. I based that notion err precognition on having x amount of life experience, like all the sights, interactions, and whatever else, would lead to this UNDERSTANDING. I’ve yet to turn 35, and in one way yes, I’m super serious about my art practice, but also like all this experience has been completely irrelevant in terms of what I’m concerned with. I’d envisioned being an artist as basically being Nick Nolte in New York Stories. The reality for me, however, is very sedate, like all the chaos is outside, and artmaking is diametrically opposed to it.
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I’m currently sharing a space, as part of this residency, with two artists I really admire and have a great time working with, Amanda Nedham and Lala Abaddon. I’ve been trying to make the most of that, keeping day labor as minimal as possible, and maxing out in the studio. Despite spending a lot of time on various dead-end prototypes, I’ve found a few series I’m optimistic about. Mainly these corrugated paintings, which are done on printmaking paper, soaked in water, left to dry cinched between PVC pipes screwed to a plastic pallet, then buttoned to the wall. I’ve also been working on a few other projects, which are in more primitive stages, but I’m excited for their futures.
What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other artists are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing? The #1 struggle for me, in New York, is staying afloat while having studio time. It’s a trying existence, but definitely worth it. I think the stress of day to day survival makes for tougher work.
In terms of art-making in general, I was re-watching some Art21 episodes from the 2000’s recently, and some of the work seemed sodated already. I’ve been wondering since, whether contemporary art is becoming increasingly temporal and fleeting.
How did your interest in art begin? At Berkeley, I was studying architecture, but also taking a lot of art electives. They had a 24-hour studio, and I’d stay there late quite a bit and work or hang out. That was my first experience with a concentrated art zone, not just like drawing in my room. It made me way more aware of the scope of possibilities one has working as an artist.
What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? Working in construction has primarily informed my process. In terms of literal process of events, like making work as a series of specific actions. But also in opposition: building whatever, is already this process people have been ironing out for however long, towards a tangible end. Making a new, non tangible-end thing entirely, through a set process, is oblique, like working an assembly line at an aimless factory.
What artists are you interested in right now? In relation to my current work, Petr Kvíčala’s paintings have been really informative. HC Westermann is my favorite. I strive to stay on a similar course, true to my own vision, with labored craft.
What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? Currently, the Jean Prouve structures at Gagosian. One that’s been consistently on my mind though, and which has inspired and informed my current work a great deal, was the Walead Beshty-curated group show at Petzel last summer.
If you hadn’t become an artist what do you think you’d be doing? I’ve decided that if I go to grad school, it’ll be for anthropology. So maybe that, but more likely construction or house painting.
What are you listening to right now? The Tommyknockers audiobook. I think Stephen King books generally set a great pace for long-term projects.