A Change is a new exhibit at the Garage Art Center in Bayside, Queens, showcasing the work by well-known street artist John Fekner. Through his art, Fekner raises awareness of environmental, social, and political issues that need to be addressed but are often neglected in our daily lives. The exhibition is a mini-retrospective sampling of paintings, mixed media sculptures, and ephemera.
Since 1968, Fekner’s creative expression combines both street art and multimedia, concerning concepts of perception and transformation, focusing on environmental and sociological issues of urban decay, greed, chemical pollution, mass media advertising and consumption, and tributes to North America Indigenous Peoples.
At this critical moment in time, we are fighting a hard battle on two fronts: the coronavirus pandemic and individuals seeking equity in our society. We need to be more considerate, thoughtful, and caring, with an emphasis on trying to understand each other with an open mind, even though we might not share the same point of view. Fekner’s works speak to the audience with urgent relevance in the current state of affairs.
A true change comes from one’s self-reflection. As a starting point, we believe we can bring more people to meet in the middle ground and talk freely about each other’s views and ideas for a better future. With this exhibition, we hope to continue a dialogue with a public willing to reflect and reexamine issues in all our communities.
On the day of the Artist Talk, John will be at the gallery to do an in-person presentation to discuss the process and story of each work, especially the Memory book. (Due to the pandemic, both the exhibition and talk will be by appointment only. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule.)
John recently discussed his art via an exclusive interview.
Meagan J. Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in becoming an artist and how did you forge your style?
John Fekner (JF): Like most artists, I started very early as a kid in elementary school and continued as a teenager, collaborating with a friend on a black and white comic book. My high school art teacher Brother Michael Dundin encouraged me to pursue art and guided me to major in art in college, which I did, on both the undergraduate and graduate level.
MM: Why does multimedia appeal to you so much?
JF: I always felt that ‘new material is new thinking’. You can make a musical composition, improvise and create an experimental work, without knowing how to read music or without knowing how to play a piano.
MM: What drives you to use your art to comment on social, political, and environmental issues?
JF: Moral concern, compassion and respect for everyone and the environment. You have to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
MM: How is the art scene today different from that of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and beyond?
JF: Social media, allows anyone or a group effort project to create something, whether is mediocre or inspiring, to be seen instantaneously. You don’t have to run around to openings chasing after art dealers and curators.
MM: How did you find out about The Garage Art Center and secure a show with them?
JF: Through Frances Hynes, a painter and long-time friend. In 1976, Frances and I were among a group of artists who were awarded studio space at PS 1 in Long Island City when it first opened. Not-for-profit spaces were always intriguing to me, because it meant that everyone could get a chance to exhibit; or create and release a recording as an independent alternative musician or band. The Garage Art Center has its’ own unique ‘sense of place’. Lucy Lippard wrote about this in her book “The Lure of the Local’. The pandemic slowed everything to a standstill; so, when I met Stephanie with a proposal for ‘a curbside pickup’ of the Memory project, it grew into an exhibit. I’ve had garage studios since I was in college, so it was a perfect fit.
MM: How did you decide what pieces to put in the “Memory” exhibition?
JF: I wanted to present work that had a close connection to the street-stencils, found objects, paper pulp castings of both architecture elements and abandoned cars.
MM: How many pieces are in the show and do you have any favorites? If so, which ones and why?
JF: There’ll be nineteen pieces in a mini retrospective sampler. Favorites? They’re my nineteen kids; no favorites!
MM: What has been the highlight of your career as an artist this far?
JF: The “Detective Show” in 1978 had all the right elements: outdoor art, friends and fun for all ages. I prefer the smaller special moments that comprise the total picture; unique individuals, the old and new collaborators, both close & new friends, organizations and countries that made me who I am today.
MM: What exhibitions and projects are coming up next for you and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
JF: That’s a difficult question with all this uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. However, working on a collaborative exhibit with Don Leicht hopefully later this year at Wallworks New York in the South Bronx.
To learn more about John Fekner’s solo exhibition: http://garageartcenter.org/exhibition-single-john.html
To learn more about event related to this exhibition: http://garageartcenter.org/event-single-john.html