Artist of the Week

Ethan Gill

February 27, 2012

Ethan Gill is an artist from Madison, Wisconsin.  He received his BFA from Northern Illinois University and currently lives and works in Chicago.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.  I am a stay at home guardian of two cats.  I make artwork and I enjoy drinking American style lagers in the shower.
What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like?  When I am working with collage I feel like I can skip right to the finishing moves because there is a built-in history in my source material.  When I make work with paint or colored paper I find I need to build a history of marks and work and then let go of most of it.  Editing is very important.  Art making is similar to sport in that they both require momentary improvisation.  I feel my hand, and my tools as an extension of my hand, work with a kind of muscle memory that is similar to practiced footwork I preformed as an offensive lineman.  My analytical awareness is left open to pick up the blitz.  One reason that art is so rewarding to me is that it is one of the few activities where I really trust my intuition.  I never have a problem knowing when something is finished.
What are some recent upcoming or current projects you are working on?  I like to shake things up in the new year.  After working with collage for so long I’ve had an urge to mix some paint.  I am working on a series of portraits of other male artists in Chicago.  It has always been natural for me to make portraits and I feel this series is a full circle revisiting of my very first paintings.  The images have a dark humor.  I am thinking about my past experience with football culture and recent news stories about hazing, scandals, and cover-ups.  The images deal with the under-appreciation of artists, male camaraderie, coping with trauma and vulnerability, and reference a scene in A Clockwork Orange.
How did your interest in art begin?  There was never a question that I was going to be an artist.  When I was six, while my friends had lemonade stands, I had an art stand and took commissions for drawings of pets and neighbors houses.  I had a lot of encouragement from my family, friends, and teachers.
What kinds of things are influencing your work right now?  Sensual apparel, veins, fish nets, the cosmos, art, movies, Facebook, current events, the history of portraiture, cake decorating, insides, accidental exposures, shapes, and soft serve.
What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you?  There have been a couple of killer collaborative shows recently.  Painted Curated by Tyson Reeder at The Green Gallery in Milwaukee was stacked with great artists including some of my favorite people, Ben StoneGeoffrey Todd SmithMike Rea, Samantha BittmanRachel Niffenegger, and Tim Bergstrom.  Some of whom were also a part of Ryan Travis Christian‘s latest show at Western Exhibitions which had some really great collaborative drawings.
What are your thoughts about the art scene in Chicago?  I find Chicago to be an encouraging place to work, at least as far as interacting with other artists.  I feel uplifted when I see Chicago artists doing good things and I think that is typical for this city.
What are you really excited about right now?  I just finished applying to MFA programs.  I feel like I’m in the right place to really benefit and contribute to an intensive exchange.  I am also looking forward to new space to accommodate my practice.
What do you want a viewer to walk away with after seeing your work?  A painting.
If you hadn’t become an artist what do you think you’d be doing?  I would be the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.