Baltimore, despite its multitudes, is more often associated with crime than the visual arts. It may surprise those who have only viewed our streets through the HBO filter that Baltimore is home to some of the country’s most remarkable art institutions. Not your typical football team-and-biology lecture undergraduate experience, the Maryland Institute of Creative Arts (MICA) is where hundreds of local young artists call home. REBECCA MCGIVNEY met with student Jake Adams, whose prolific work conjures up every inspiration from Frank Stella to Giorgio de Chirico and has been featured on the local and natural scale.
RM: So, when did you start seriously considering being an artist and decide that this is what you want to do?
Jake Adams: Well, I wanted to be a farmer, but that was when I was like, six years old. When I got really into [art] I was a sophomore or junior in high school.
RM: Which artists have really inspired your work?
JA: Wow, it’s all over the place. I was really interested in realistic crap, you know at first; I suppose Caravaggio was like my first influence and now I’m kind of going back to Caravaggio, but only for his play on spatial dualities, with the 2-D and 3-D. Just the way he wraps around his viewers is really compelling. I guess I’m kind of into Frank Stella as well, because he took Caravaggio’s work and brought it to the same level but in a different way, that’s what he was known for. Right now I want to see what I can do to dig into something that’s kind of in between [those approaches].
RM: Is painting your favorite medium to work in?
JA: Oh yeah, I love oil paint. I’m kind of getting into house paint, been using that a lot. And then I’ll do a couple of acrylics on top of that and then go on top of the oils, but I’m using a lot of beeswax too nowadays. I like the pigment of beeswax, which is like really volumetric. I love that.
RM: In one of your statements on your website, you said that you’re really interested in an aesthetic, a kind of formal aspect of painting. Do you still subscribe to that idea?
JA: Yeah, I like really paying attention to the craft, I feel like it’s important. I really like the [art] that has a really vibrating presence within it, like a presence that is almost humanistic. And a lot of people, when I say that, say it’s kind of vague, but to me, humanistic just means something, a characteristic from our whole race that is something that we can relate to.
RM: Something that’s universal?
JA: Yeah, yeah. But it’s deep. You feel it. It’s like an energy.
RM: How has being a student in Baltimore influenced your work?
JA: Pretty good. It’s interesting because you get into a lot of trouble you wouldn’t normally get into, you know? Which is a good thing. So it has given me a lot of perspective.
RM: Have you found the city particularly conducive to your work?
JA: Yes, I think so. It’s a wild city. I like it. It’s small, but it’s concentrated…there’s almost too much culture for its size.
RM: It’s really amazing. I’m from New York, and it always seems so cold and not open to creative people at this point because it’s so expensive.
JA: Yeah, the art world is so messed up right now. I don’t think I really agree with it. It’s like getting to the point where if we ever revolutionize art, it’s going to be revolutionizing the art world, but not the art itself. Pretty much everything has been done, so it’s time to give art a different context. That’s what needs to be done.
RM: Do you think art has become too consumerist and too focused on selling?
JA: Yeah, I would say so. I think it would be interesting though to see different ways of selling art. Like if art was cheap, if it was only $1, but if there were mass quantities of the same thing or different things like that. More [art could be] available to people who aren’t educated about art due to a price. I think it’d be interesting to play around with that.
RM: Do you think museums succeed in doing that at all?
JA: I think museums make it [possible] for people to see the artwork, but it’s so… different to own a piece of art, there’s that connection. It’s a big deal because it’s a perception that you can get daily, your reflection [to the piece of art].
RM: And a museum does something to a work that’s different than when you own it.
JA: Yeah, well, museums are so healthy. I love museums. Because you can go call the BMA and just skim through some prints and their inventory. It’s cool, it’s a good thing. Especially in Baltimore again, there are good factors going on.
RM: So, what are some of your favorite places in Baltimore?
JA: There’s this one place, the creepiest place. Have you ever been to the cemetery? I forget the street names, I’ve been there a couple times, but you’re driving down this road, it’s the ghetto, it’s the hood. Straight hood – boarded up houses, crack houses all over, you know? And at the end of this long road is this giant tower that’s just a huge archway into a cemetery and the cemetery goes on forever, and there’s a little road you can go down… That always stayed with me, that little thing, that road, that’s such a long road, and it’s the biggest entrance, an unnecessarily big entrance to a cemetery. It’s ridiculous.