Rusty Shackleford received his MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2004. He has been a resident at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Vermont Studio Center (full fellowship) and Harold Arts. His work has been reviewed in Modern Painters, Beautiful Decay, Flavorpill, NewCity and Art F City. In 2014, Shackleford received the Wynn Newhouse Award. Recent solo exhibitions include Dream Feeder at Root ands Culture in Chicago and Repeater at Cindy Rucker Gallery in NYC. Shackleford’s work was also exhibited at Untitled in Miami. He is represented by Cindy Rucker Gallery in NYC and currently lives and works in Evanston, IL.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I was born in Alabama and raised in North Georgia. I received an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2004. After that I traveled around a bit—Virginia, Baltimore, Vermont and New York City before landing in Chicago. I am a stay-at-home dad to a wonderful daughter and a husband to Julie Rudder who received an MFA from Northwestern, hence my current residence. I am a painter of sorts, although my work drifts into notions of printmaking and collage and at random times, I find myself making sculpture and drawings. I enjoy skateboarding, fishing and drinking beer with my friends when my other duties have been fulfilled.
How has living in Chicago affected your art practice? Chicago has turned me into a seasonal artist. I tend to slow down and take the summers off. During this time I usually just fish and hang out a lot. It seems to be a good time to reflect on what got done during the year. The winter is just so brutal that I end up staying indoors, so it becomes a really great time to rage in the studio. Also, the isolation of being snowed in somehow turns my art brain on. It is really romantic and way easier for me to concentrate. I like to work later into the night at this time. Nothing moves outside except for the wind and snow. It’s quieting.
What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? I’m listening to a lot of Angelo Badalamenti, Julee Cruise, Brian Eno and Aphex Twin. I’m taking time to watch the colors shift into autumn. I’m fishing at dusk and staring at the water—paying attention to the weather. Trying to quiet my spirit and find some sincerity of intent to proceed from. So all in all I guess what is influencing my work is trying to acclimate myself to life’s changes. Also I’m thinking a lot about what it means to be an image maker in the contemporary world and how that applies to my role as a husband and a father. Kinda like these larger issues of what it means to be an artist rather than specifics about projects.
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I have been working on a series of scanner paintings on and off for a few years now. I’m trying to get to a 1000 finalized images which comes from about 10,000 physical scans. In the end, I am interested in looking back and shuffling through them in order to find and analyze specific strengths and weaknesses. I hope to turn the 1000 images into an endless scrolling website, then subtract 100 from that group to make a book. Then take 10 from that group and have an exhibition. I’m kinda obsessed with this numerical construct of 1000 = 100 = 10.
If you were a drink what drink would you be? A good draught you can get on special during the weekdays.
What artists are you interested in right now? I’m really into my friends. I like watching their process develop as they deal with life issues. I get more from this than anything else. Selina Trepp, Justin Witte, Derek Chan, Kirsten Leenaars, Cole Pierce, Ryan Fenchel, Heather Mekkelson, Olivia Schreiner, Roxane Hopper, Daniel Rich, Tommy Burke, Keith Kostecki, Jenn Smith, Craig Yu, Thomas Hodge, Steve Nyktas, David Moré… The OG’s in my life!
Tell us about your work process and how it develops. I’m interested in exploring figure ground relationships and notions of image mediation in this kind of strange hyper-flat pictorial space that is created by a flatbed scanner. I glob paint on found images and onto the document table of a scanner—press, move, and re-scan the image until something happens. The image is then enlarged and presented as an inkjet print. I also sometimes make these arrangements with found objects and images where I try to tease out poetic relationships between the two. Lately though I have been mostly focused on the scans. When I get really bored in the studio or just need a refresher I get back to the basics and do a little drawing.
What do you want a viewer to walk away with after seeing your work? Inspiration! I want my work to be inspiring to others. I feel that art is this great continuum of inspiration. If I can participate in that, I’m stoked.
Describe your current studio or workspace. I’m a stay at home dad so I need to be close to my domestic duties. I migrate between this small room in the back of our apartment to the dining room which I have basically consumed at this point. I’m always shuffling my stuff around. One minute it’s a studio and the next it’s a spaghetti dinner night.
What were you like in high school? Skate rat all the way!
Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? My cousin decided to adopt a terribly huge encaustic painting that I had the serious misfortune of making in undergrad. It was probably 8 feet high by 5 feet wide and weighed at least 75 pounds. He drove 350 miles to pick it up. The painting sat in his house for a while before being installed in his band’s practice space where it was then pummeled by Alabama heavy metal for several years. Last Christmas after we shared a couple of Bud Lights, he told me that he couldn’t live with the piece any longer. Although he generally liked my work, this particular painting was a burden and he had to get rid of it. So one of his buddies had decided to turn it into a roof for a BBQ pit. So now it sits somewhere in southern Alabama melting in the heat. I can’t think of a better place for a bad painting.
What are you reading right now? My buddy and I are working through a syllabus put together by David Foster Wallace. I just finished Lonesome Dove which melted my heart. Next up are The Big Nowhere, Carrie, Silence of the Lambs, Where Are the Children, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. On the back burner is All the Pretty Horses.