Q&A with Resident Artist Beau Stanton
The bread and butter of Beau Stanton’s work resides in his oil paintings, but as a multidisciplinary artist, he wouldn’t dream of stopping there. Stanton’s multi-screen animation project conquered Times Square as part of the Midnight Moment project, where advertisements disappear and myriad artists take over. His work in stained glass was exhibited in a 12th-century crypt in the United Kingdom. And, in the last few years, his massive and equally complex murals have popped up around the globe from Los Angeles to Dubai and Detroit (for last year’s Murals in the Market).
At the Red Bull House of Art, he’s excited to get to work with his recently purchased sledge hammer and axe purchased at the local Home Depot.
“Not only am I getting ready for the zombie apocalypse,” jokes Stanton, “but these tools will also help me construct these mosaics.”
The 30-year-old artist is using his three-month residency at the House of Art to make his first foray into mosaic work. Partially influenced by some of the city’s greatest architectural treasures like the Fisher Building and the Guardian Building, Stanton has been collecting discarded building materials like bricks, ceramic and glass foraged from empty buildings around the city to bring his mosaics to life. He’s not limiting his scope, either. If the largest mosaic has to be destroyed to be removed after the exhibition, so be it. That’s part of the work itself.
“[This residency] is the most risk-free environment,” says Stanton. “I feel like I would be squandering the opportunity if I didn’t try something new. I want to make work that I can have in my portfolio that continues the progression of my work, but at the same time, it’s a chance for a departure.”
We sat down with Stanton during his residency stay at the House of Art to talk about Detroit’s influence as an artist; how history has influenced his style; and what sort of message he hopes the audience takes away from his work at the exhibition on November 11.
You’ve been making trips to Detroit over the past few years. Have your experiences here surfaced in your work?
I’ve had a lot of experiences here in Detroit fairly frequently over the past seven years. I’ve always really responded well and enjoyed it here. I want to do something that’s very Detroit-specific especially relating to my early observations and feelings I got from just being here.
A lot of that was just awe of the amazing architecture and a lot of the beauty — and the tragic beauty — that exists here. I almost felt like there were some parts of the city that felt like you were discovering a lost advanced civilization. There’s a crumbling beauty going on here. I don’t mean to fetishize that — I know people get sensitive about that here — but I can’t ignore it. I wanted to do something that felt archeological, felt related to the ancient world and these beautiful advanced things that were made here but bring it into the present in a way.
With a lot of your work rooted in an appreciation for history, what are you trying to visually accomplish with your artwork?
I’m definitely trying to create a timelessness, so you’re really not sure when it was made. There’s a contemporary feeling because of the materials and the perspective, but then there’s also an antiquated feeling in a lot of the imagery and the general symbolic nature of the images I’m constructing. I’m really obsessed with archetypes that everyone responds to on a base level and building off of those. No matter what, when you approach one of my images, there’s going to be something that rings familiar whether it’s obvious or in the back of your mind. I like to walk the line between accessible and esoteric. Something in your subconscious is recognizing the symbolism even though you may not be able to place it in time and history.
Are you hoping that the viewer walks away with a certain impression or message?
That’s something I like in other work, but the main goal is to make something compelling.
That’s where my priorities are. It’s enough to draw you in on the superficial level so something can be appreciated for its technique and aesthetic beauty, but also has a substance underneath it that you can grab onto it if you want to. There’s been environmental themes and ideas about sea level rise, destroyed past civilizations in the work… and I like it to be vague but not too vague. It’s just that they lose a lot of their power when it’s too preachy or obvious. I’m all about just making as powerful of an image as possible — just a sucker punch to the subconscious.
By Ryan Patrick Hooper