Richard Limber, a multi-disciplinary artist living and working on Martha’s Vineyard, shares how an unconventional creative practice leads to his probing body of work.
Creativity has no categories
Have you ever “nudged” a stationary car with your moving house/studio? If you do, it’s best to hit a car from New Jersey. This gave me rural street cred when I moved one of various pieces of a small cottage across the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Later l put these pieces together to create an anti-modernist, no Feng Shui here art space.
If you walk down a long languorous outdoor staircase towards my basement studio, you will pass a sunken tub. Inside are large amphibians who grab the majority of the public’s attention when I open my studio doors for various events. This is the fate of an artist: work your ass off, and you will still be outshone by a stationary frog.
The vineyard concept of a “studio” is often influenced by the general local fetish for real-estate perfection. Studios tend to be immaculate spaces with perfect, shiny, hardwood floors – places that signify that you are wealthy and possibly artistic. My studio falls into this category in the sense that this is the space where I generally show off my wares. I tend to create (video/paint/draw/light/sing) anywhere but my studio, often using my dining room table.
The integration of life and art can have pleasant surprises. When painting in my dining room, I started pinning my work up on my lamp, above, creating dramatic and moody effects. From then on I have been corrupted by the “smoke and mirrors” effects of manipulating light on a two dimensional image (not digital effects). I now view the “professional” and clinical way most art work is reproduced as being about product branding, and not creativity (does anyone hear me, Mass Cultural Council?). When I set up my work in formal settings, some of my paintings have a button where the viewer can control the back lighting. People love to play with art, and I enjoy giving the public a fluid, physical experience – presenting painting as a visual experiment, not a finished product.
Now, some people might look at my lifestyle and creative output as a manifestation of the common high-end resort trope that I’m one of many artistic, eccentric natives living among a plethora of grade A and B celebrities. This would be wrong because the vineyard is becoming a suburban playground for the corporate rich, with a sinking/shrinking middle class – a sleeper cell for the Hamptons.
Politicians and big money come here in the summer to rub up against each other, creating the general (and correct) perception that the island is at times a sandbox for aloof, tone deaf elitists (does anyone remember the 2016 election?). When you dig into the wealth here you discover a who’s who of corporate magnates.
The tone deaf and sometimes nefarious wealth is fertile ground for a “subversive” artist like myself. The local arts economy and its cultural institutions inhibit the exploration of this situation because they do not want to slap the hand that feeds them. But, this does not stop me from jumping into this warped arena, using paint and video in conjunction with a traditional figurative skill set (which includes drawing cadavers for a year) in an effort to make prescient art (check out my video: Political Object, as an example).
It comes down to this: If we are unwilling as artists to look at the role of our own backyards in our national degradation, we will get what we deserve in the 2020 election (leaders with frog like, I mean reptilian, brains)….
Images: all images courtesy of the artist, Richard Limber.