A Conversation With Adam Vinson

Artist Adam Vinson blends styles of trompe l’oeil, contemporary realism and irony into the fine arts paradigm. Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania a city nestled in between four of Pennsylvania’s state parks; there and near by, Vinson completed Commercial Art/ Painting Illustration (Luzerne Co. Community College), attended The Anthony Waichulis Studio and later polished his studies at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.


What emotions would you like your viewers to possess whilst perceiving your works?

I’m not sure I’ve ever really had an expectation as to how my work should be received by others. I believe a work of art can potentially illicit a completely different reaction by everyone who experiences it. Interaction with art is not just about the intention of its creator but, more importantly, the diversity of the perception by the viewer based on his or her own experiences and influences. For example, a person who has had a horribly stressful day may have a completely different reaction to a painting than if they had had a pleasant and relaxing day. The art that impresses me is that which can be flexible in content. Perhaps it can be construed as humorous by one person and solemn by another. I know that if I can convey versatility like this in a painting and still keep it subtle, I have achieved my goal while also leaving it up to the interpretation of the viewer.

Which memory best induces that very thought (possibly cycle) ‘I would like to form myself into a visual artist’?

I don’t have that memory. To me, it has just always been. Like breathing. That may sound ostentatious but I truly mean it when I state that I think I have always just wanted to create things. Whether it was a picture or a sound or a string of words that had a pleasing rhythm. At some point, mostly because of circumstances and the natural progression of life, I settled in on painting as my main outlet for creativity.

Is there a style or inspiration which you would like to mould/blend into your (already so brilliant) works?

Nothing in particular comes to mind. I like many “styles” of painting and I’m inspired by so many things. The work that I do takes time and I’ve learned over the years that evolution with creativity can take a long time. It’s as if time slows down and ideas are lightyears ahead of ability and the technical proficiency to achieve them. Right now, I am slightly obsessed with old photographs. Real photographs that were shot by amateurs who, either by chance or some latent talent, capture some quirky composition.

How has studying commercial illustration (at Luzerne County Community College) intertwined with your current works?

I enrolled in that program right after graduating high school. It was in my home town and it was an inexpensive and convenient way to get my feet wet to see if visual art was really something I might be good at enough to make a lifetime of it. I’m not sure if there is anything from that time that I consciously retrieve when I’m working now but I think anything we do is a product of our lifetime experiences as a whole. It’s like a huge pot of soup. Everything gets tossed in there and as you sip it, you might get a taste of something that you didn’t expect. I look back on that time with fondness. I equate the first few warm days of spring with the smell of linseed oil because of it. It was like a coming-of-age youth learning how the mechanisms of a bra strap work. Fundamentals, you know?

There are evident subtle messages (humour and irony) within your works; the badge attached to the cultural/ traditional vest which reads ‘My karma ran over my dogma’ from your We Love Your Custom, (34x26, oil) piece. Would you say that, that originates from your commercial studies?

It may originate from those studies. I can’t say for sure. It does seem to have a graphic quality, I suppose. I think it’s more just a matter of observation. That whole painting has underlying messages. The vest is tribal from Afganistan but it’s hanging on an American dry cleaning hanger. The kind of wire hanger every American knows. It’s as ubiquitous as the McDonald’s Golden Arches. It has a paper sleeve that reads “We (heart sign) Our Customers”. But the way the vest drapes on the hanger, we lose the “o” in “our” and the “ers” in “customers” so it reads “We Love Ur Custom”. There is a button on the vest of Uncle Sam and what you mentioned in your question. It’s a message of faith and politics; the national pride of being a diverse and tolerant nation, while also having Uncle Sam point in your face with the generic slogan of loving our customers.

What an experience it must have been to be a student of the ever so grand, grandfather of contemporary trompe-l'œil painting; Anthony Waichulis. Please share your defining moments as an artist?

Having the opportunity to study under Anthony Waichulis was definitely a pivotal moment in my life. He was not only a mentor and teacher but a good friend and confidant. We grew up in the same area. His cousin and I went to school together. The knowledge and confidence he imparted to me is something I cannot repay and I only hope that the continued work that I do is a testament to my appreciation for him.

The detail in Oeuvre Easy (24x20, oil) is sublime. The shades of rust couldn’t better imitate a real neglected, rusty pan. Even the crust of the fried egg seems true to the eye; taste buds prepare themselves for the crispy delight. How long did that take you to complete? What was your favourite touch, aspect, detail from that piece?

Thank you. I enjoy that piece very much. It took me about a month to complete. There are a lot of layers built up in that painting. The pan is definitely neglected. It’s not used for cooking but for a decoration in my sister’s kitchen. Every time I visited and looked at that thing, I knew I had to paint it some day. As far as my favorite detail in that painting, it has to be the piece of blue painter’s tape. It was an afterthought. I had finished the painting and it just seemed off to me. It needed something. There was some blue in the paint rings on the board and then it hit me. It works to help move the eye around the painting and it also helps measure depth between the frying pan and the board on which it’s “hanging”. It breaks up the cast shadow. The irony is that it probably only took me a few minutes to paint that piece of tape.

Could you please share your experience of the atmosphere during the THE (UN)FAIR art show? How was the ‘connected and divided’ theme portrayed and maybe even addressed?

I was asked by Mikel Glass to contribute the THE (UN)FAIR in 2014. It was the second time they were having this exhibit. I worked my butt off for this show. We Love Your Custom was painted specifically for the theme of “connected and divided”. The exhibit is a sort of off-the-beaten-path rebellion to the NYC Armory Show. I think it was the best thing going in New York that week. There was such a diversity of work from classically-inspired painting, to kinetic sculpture, to performance art. Somehow, it all worked in concert beautifully. It was fresh and fun and it was sponsored by Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream so there was plenty of that to go around. So much of realist painting can be stuffy and serious. This was a much-needed respite from that.

Would you be ever so kind to share a fun fact about yourself (talent, skill, story, view)?

I like to run. My wife reminds me there is more to life than painting and running. I’m not sure that’s true.

What does/ or what would you like 2015 entail for you, as an artist, of course?

The realist and survivalist in me would say I’d love to sell a bunch of work and make money so I can keep this ball rolling. The romanticist in me would say I’d like to keep progressing, clear the next creative hurdle and paint some pictures that trump whatever I’ve done thus far.

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All images © Adam Vinson

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On the edge of contemporary.