A Dialogue with Artist Bruce Adams
Who are you, and what do you do?
I am mainly a painter. To be more specific I would have to describe myself as a conceptually-based (mainly) figurative painter who tends to adopt historical painting styles and themes.
What are the most essential elements of your work?
Paint. Without it you can’t make paintings.
If you had to choose only 5 materials or tools to work with, what would they be?
Canvas, paint, paint thinner, brush, and a naked body.
Would you describe your artistic education as a guided or self guided journey?
My formal education did little for me as an artist. I was actually trained as an art teacher, but my education also did little for me as a teacher. I learned about art by reading, and viewing it. The Albright-Knox played a big role in my education. But as a contemporary artist I owe a lot to the existence of Hallwalls. I wandered in as an artist, and became involved in various capacities over the years. When I entered that world it was sink or swim. I felt like an imposter who had slipped in under false pretenses. Hallwalls made me aware of how little I knew. Either I would have to learn what was going on in the world of art today, or I would be completely out of it. So I listened to others and read and learned. As far as painting itself, most of what I know comes from looking at other painters and studying what they did. There is still so much I don’t know. But at least now I have some idea what I don’t know.
Do you have a connection to Buffalo?
Well I was born here, and spent my whole life here, so I guess that would qualify as a connection. I have an emotional connection that I have never really analyzed.
Is there a Buffalo landmark or meal you plan to visit or have while here?
I’ve been here for my whole life. I’ve visited most landmarks, and ate way too much.
How do you define success as an artist?
Success depends on what you want to achieve. As a painter I hope to master my medium, so doing that would constitute one kind of success. But then too, it’s important to be recognized for what you do, so recognition is a kind of success. I think though, over the years, I have come to measure success in terms of the contribution you make to your community. Striving for international success is all well and good, but most artists are part of a community, and many of those communities lie outside the major art centers. In the end, when you look back, the question is what did you contribute to the place you live? Did the work you do add to the quality of the community? If I die being able to say I contributed something of value to Buffalo’s art community, I will have been successful.
Do you have a set schedule for studio time? How do you structure your creative life?
I am in a constant state of frenzy, juggling the various components of my life. It’s like treading water in a tsunami. All you want to do is keep your head up and not get sucked down, while the torrent of life takes you where it wants to go. I make attempts to organize, but they don’t last. My biggest problem is that I only have one lifetime, and I have so much I want to do. You can’t do it all, but I keep trying.
Can you tell us about where you find resources or inspiration for your work?
I love found images. Old National Geographic magazines have been a great source. Sometimes I just google a word and see what comes up. But as for inspiration, I’m with Thomas Edison on this. He said, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” In another version he said, “Bah! Genius is not inspired. Inspiration is perspiration.” Anyway, you get the idea. I spend a lot of time thinking and working through ideas. They don’t just pop into my head when I see an apple falling from a tree. The hardest part comes when I actually have to settle on one idea to follow through on. There is the constant nagging question as to whether I picked the right one.
What quote or mantra or words of wisdom do you have for other creative types?
I think the idea that there are creative types is a bit misleading. Creativity is more of an attitude. There are creative mathematicians, creative historians, creative linguists, and creative library assistants. Here’s the secret to creativity in whatever arena you happen to perform in: Learn your subject until you have tremendous depth of knowledge, then work very, very hard. I wish I could offer some words of wisdom to turn a non-creative person into a genius, but that’s not reality. Know your shit, and work your ass off; that’s my mantra.
Where can we find more of your work?
For full details on echo: ART Fair, visit the site at www.echoArtFair.com.