Jay Schmidt – Red Lodge Clay Center

Jay SchmidtBozeman, Montana

Red Lodge Clay Center – Short-Term Resident (AIA) 2019, 2023

I entered the Kansas City Art Institute in 1970 graduating with a BFA in 1974 and immediately headed to the University of California at Davis for graduate school. I was fortunate to study with Robert Arneson, William Wiley, Roy Deforest, Manuel Neri and others at the height of the California Funk movement. Many of the themes of that movement such as, irreverence, humor and political commentary have continued to influence my own work.

Following graduate school I immediately started my career in academia at the University of Iowa were I taught for 3 years. In 1983 I was offered a position at Montana State University where I remained until 2007. For those 25 years I built a house and a studio, raised a family, taught art, and made art in my spare time. When it became clear that the university was more focused on football than educating students, I decided to leave to become a full-time studio artist. This decision has radically changed my life and art.

Upon leaving the university I began working with David Dunlap, a long time friend and former colleague from the University of Iowa. We formed a two person collaborative art group called The Living Breathing Thing, and began creating large-scale paintings, sculptures and installations that were exhibited at  the University of Texas at Tyler, Saint Cloud State University and Aunt Dofe’s Hall of Recent Memories in Willow Creek, Montana.

In 2008 David was invited to participate in an event with a group of artists called Paintallica. The event was part of the Time Based Art Festival at the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art. He invited me to go along and we have since become active members of this larger more rambunctious collaborative art-making group.

At times I have likened working in Paintallica to art world mud wrestling or to sticking your hand into a live electrical box. The following description is from the Paintallica website is fairly accurate description of the group:

Paintallica is a collaborative group of artist friends who have a mutual interest in building things and getting rowdy. Our installations emerge from a few days and nights of intense work, field research, discussion and play. Work usually involves chainsaws, wood in many forms, drawing, beer, paint, fire and a wide range of motor vehicles, occasionally guns and neon. Our imagery and tools are remnants of the working-class, rural American roots of most of the members

  But Paintallica is also a serious reaction to the conservative aspects of the current art scene our use of humor, hand-hewn processes, irreverence and camaraderie in many ways  reflect the spirit of the Funk artists and the Dadaists. It is part Merry Prankster and part Cabaret Voltair. Paintallica has created drawings, paintings sculptures, installations and performances at a number of galleries and universities nationwide including a window at Barney’s of New York, the P3 Studio, a space at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas curated by the Art Production Fund and most recently at the Iowa State Fair. I feel extremely fortunate be part the raucous energy that defines this group.  It has become major force for my own studio practice.

During the last several yeas my new found freedom to spend endless days in the studio and my involvement with these collaborative groups has had a significant and profound influence on my work. The paintings and sculptures are much more ambitious in scope and physical scale and reflect a new raw energy.  The colors are more intense, the brush stokes more aggressive and the political themes more forthright. Basically I have become a much better painter and sculptor and I am creating the best art of my career. This new energy and enthusiasm has led to a string of solo exhibitions at the CB Studios in Berkeley, the Missoula Art Museum and the Holter Museum of art in Helena, Montana. I also have two future solo exhibitions scheduled at the Paris Gibson Square Museum in Great Falls and at the Churchill Art Center in Fallon, Nevada. Hopefully the support of this fellowship will help me to continue this momentum.

I view the world as a runaway train, traveling full speed ahead, consuming the planet at a breath-taking rate. There is no guiding wisdom or creative vision that determines our path. We are just moving forward and fast, seemingly incapable of changing our destructive course. As an artist who has always used imagery to define myself and my context within the larger world, I find an unlimited array of topics at hand. These days I make art that addresses the contemporary issues of endless wars, consumer culture, environmental destruction and political dysfunction. But my ultimate goal is to make good paintings and sculptures through a process that involves not just subject matter, but formal concerns, technical skill and intellectual rigor, as well as a fair amount of intuition, outrage and humor.