Just ask painters Brad Overton and Daniel Ochoa. They have experienced shifts in their lives, which has altered their creative processes.
Salt Lake-based Overton and New York-based Ochoa talked with The Park Record about those changes in relationship to their exhibits that are at the Julie Nester Gallery on Friday, July 6.
Overton's road to emptiness
When Brad Overton was a child, he loved to draw.
"It was something that I liked to do all the time, and when I was in fifth grade, since I had practiced so much on my own, I decided I wanted to pursue a life as an artist," Overton said. "From that point, I started thinking about myself as an artist."
Although he avoided art classes in junior and senior high school, he majored in art at the University of Utah and started painting full time when he graduated in 1997.
"While in art school, I was mainly an abstract painter, because I became fascinated with Japanese calligraphy, martial arts and mediation," Overton said. "I started paying attention to paintings by Robert Motherwell and Antoni Tapeis."
Although those artists' gesture-like works inspired Overton, he said he learned to paint realistically thanks to the rigorous academic program at the U.
"Then I discovered Spanish painters like Juan Sanchez Cotan and Zurbaran and their minimalist aesthetic inspired me to find a way to create paintings that were spacious and minimalistic, and, yet, utilized the training that I had received at the U," he said. "I began to use objects and paintings to create spacious rhythms that would make me feel when I would look at a Motherwell work."
That philosophy is apparent in Overton's "Forms of Life," a seven-work, series of paintings of cardboard boxes that is on display at the Nester Gallery.
"In this series of paintings, which is all focused on cardboard boxes, the light on the form is emphasized and comes first," Overton said. "I finally feel like I've painted a series that is all about the connection of the spiritual and the artistic."
The idea to paint images of cardboard boxes actually sprouted a few years ago, he said.
" I did one cardboard box and it had beautiful calligraphy on it," Overton said. "I painted it on its own and it was the most peaceful and powerful painting that I have done."
The box was used to keep an inventory of time-worn objects that Overton had been carrying around for years.
"Some of these objects I used in other paintings," he said.
During the past couple of months, Overton went through some "major recalculations of his life."
"I've been reevaluating what's important to me and I moved into a new studio and house and changed things up," he said. "In that process, I saw empty cardboard boxes and realized they are the forms that speak best about where I am now.
"I feel that these vessels are somehow related to what we are and I wanted to get down the boxes' essential form and light," Overton said. "It's that ordinary aspect that really allows space for humility and love and all the good things we aspire to."
Overton has a method when looking at the box paintings.
"I like to look at them by putting the focus on the box and then allow the periphery view of the room to come to my attention," he said. "It's a special experience and I would invite people to go to the gallery and have that experience in a room full of these paintings."
Ochoa's struggle to find balance
Painter Daniel Ochoa, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., has constantly tried to find balance with his cultural identity.
His father is an immigrant from Mexico and his Caucasian mother was born in the United States.
Unfortunately, Ochoa didn't learn Spanish in his home and is studying the language on his own.
"I've been dealing with language and cultural translation," he said. "The work I'm doing now comes from a different place where there is a balance between the cultures. Essentially, it's me building a dialogue with me and the process with the work and the process of learning Spanish."
Ochoa's 12-work series is titled "Aguafiesta."
"In Spanish, the term 'Aguafiesta' is an idiom that means kill joy or party pooper," Ochoa said with a laugh. "I don't speak Spanish very well, and when I came across the word, I thought it meant "fun water' or something like that because it had the worlds 'agua' and 'fiesta,' but it had a totally different meaning when you put the two words together."
In his attempt to learn Spanish, Ochoa has been fascinated how loose the connections of words and meanings actually are and he made an artistic connection, which made his reassess his philosophy.
"I think that translates to imagery, in terms of how the visuals come across in relationship to an artist's intent," he said. "I've started to work with new imagery and I'm pretty happy with what's going on. I'm trying to suggest that a single image will have a plural interpretation.
"In the past, I wanted to present a work and have the people look at it the way I intended it," he said. "Now, I've changed that because people bring their own interpretation to art. So, I give them a departure point."
In doing so, Ochoa made some changes in his process as well.
"I used to write narratives about the ideas of the work into the lower layers of my paintings, but now, since I'm reading a lot of books in Spanish and translating them, I will write down words I don't know and put them on flash cards and collage them into the paintings," he said. "In each work you will see these cards."
Ochoa also became interested in pixilation.
"I use pixilation to deconstruct the image, so I'm putting more collage images onto the works as well," he said. "I am trying to make something new."
The drive to explore different avenues stemmed from his self assessment two years ago.
"My work felt like it was done by a student, and after reading about different artists' processes, I found the process is important to how the work looks at the end," he said. "A finished product should say something about me, and I want to do something different because I have a unique cultural identity."
Artists Brad Overton and Daniel Ochoa will be present for an opening reception at the Julie Nester Gallery, 1280 Iron Horse Dr., on Friday, July 6, The exhibition will combine abstracted figurative paintings by Ochoa and contemporary still life paintings by Brad Overton. For more information, visit www.julienestergallery.com .