NEW FACULTY MEMBER IN ART: NATHAN HUFF
Can you tell us why you chose to dedicate yourself to art? (cont.)
As I’ve engaged with the contemporary art world, I’ve discovered the conversations that are fostered by art and culture are rich and complex. Visual communication in art is potent in that it engages the emotions, the intellect, and often the soul. The diversity of spheres that art inhabits in history and contemporary culture intrigues me and inspires me to discover more.
What has been challenging about learning a variety of techniques?
Like every discipline, the deeper you delve into a subject the more is required of you. I describe art techniques like tools in a toolbox. The more types of tools you have in your box the more effective you are at completing your task. In art, the more technical skills you develop, the more options you have for communicating a message. The challenge for me has been to spend long enough developing a technique to employ it to its full potential.
What artists have inspired you the most?
Many artists have been influential in my development. They include Bill Viola, with his slowed-down video representations of critical moments in human psychodrama. Robert Gober’s surreal installations show indefinable yet poetic objects that leave interpretation up for the viewer. I appreciate the singular visions of painters like Morandi and Andrew Wyeth for their pursuit of a highly developed personal visual language. The diversity of Peter Doig’s paintings styles and ambling subject matter reminds me that source material and stylistic handling can be malleable in a single artist’s practice. Current playlists on the music front include Sigur Ros, Ben Harper, Ella Fitzgerald and The Black Keys. I am drawn to fiction and poetry and continually return to books by Chaim Potok, Leif Enger, T.S. Eliot, Robert Bly, and Dostoyevsky.
Can you talk about one of your works?
I value art that engenders visual sensations without being merely illustrative. One attempt at developing an art experience that provides multiple types of viewing experiences is Shifting; spanning a full wall and pole in the gallery it depicts a panoramic scene with suspended chairs. I have created a series of 3-dimensional sculptural ramps, and physical frames that break up the space. Swimming through one of the drawings is a whale. The disconnect of the floating image of whale with dropping chairs adds a layer of discomfort to the image. Multiple installation approaches and image making techniques are used to mediate between the seen and the sensory experience.
I hope to build enough intrigue with the objects present and the manner in which they are represented that my audience discovers their own associations. Viewers may experience disequilibrium and narrative confusion as they reconcile their own interpretations and hopefully instigate deeper conversations.
Is there a particular technique you're most comfortable with? One that you find challenging but worth pursuing?
While trained as an oil painter, I enjoy working in a variety of media. In my studio practice I try to leave space for interpretive play and experimentation. I collect meaningful images, imagined experiences, or emotional conundrums. My artwork takes the form of gouache drawings, sculpture made from altered found furniture, or a performance piece. The subject matter stems from creative writing, an Internet search and collage, or colliding personal mythology with actual objects. It is in these chance combinations that objects take on potential beyond what I might have immediately recognized. Visual connections are forged and a new space is created in the installation of the art. The challenge of creating an environment that affects the viewers' understanding of themselves and the space that they are encountering is exciting to me.
You have been working in Wellington, New Zealand, Rome, Italy, and Prague, Czech Republic, among other places. What did working and curating abroad mean for your life as an American artist?
Broadening horizons and studying art from multiple cultures has been seminal in my development as an artist. It has provided points of divergence as well as connections to my own history. One of the biggest gifts of travel is that it has introduced me to likeminded individuals around the world and provided a foundation of relationship with artists who seek to create their art with integrity.
What are some things you're looking forward to by joining the Westmont community?
I have been commuting the LA freeways for several years teaching as an adjunct lecturer at four different universities. I look forward to grounding my investment in a single college and developing deeper relationships with students and colleagues. I am excited to join the conversation and vision of Westmont’s art department in this upcoming season.
I want my art practice and teaching pedagogy to be steeped in the Christian faith and display tangible action. I hope that the artwork that I create and the classroom culture I inhabit are intellectually rigorous and culturally engaged. I want them to speak to the complexity of living on this earth as a human, while acknowledging access points of worship and reflection towards the Divine.
What worship practices have you found enriching?
I’ve worshiped and invested in a variety of church communities but have found special connection in the liturgy and seasons of the Anglican tradition. Physical enacting of rhythms of faith in the church calendar and bodily movement in prayer grounds me in the midst of my hectic pace of life. I also enjoy communing in prayer through running, hiking, and gardening.