Interview – Art Morrill – Belgrade Art Studio Online Residency



Do you choose your art form, or does the form choose you?

– Mixed in with my motivations for any project is always a desire to make the type of art that I want to see and that gets me excited. In that sense, my work pays homage to a lot of visual references that I admire like Olivia Bax and Matthew Ronay. On the other hand, I tend to stick to mediums that I have a certain amount of familiarity with and in which I can lose myself in the process. I enjoy the different types of working states that the processes of stitching, cutting, painting, even sanding put me in. I find them meditative. There are other processes that I admire but I struggle with and so can’t get into a good work flow.  So I avoid them. I guess I choose the form but it also chooses me in a way. It’s sort of a give and take relationship. 

Where does the inspiration come from?

– I try to stick with subject matter that is authentic to my experience. I live a fairly quiet, even boring life. A huge part of my experience is being a husband and father. I’ve always wanted a certain kind of family life since I was a little child and now I’m blessed to live it. My art since committing myself to “being an artist” has always dealt with my family dynamic to some extent. My kids have grown up around my art making too so they are always wandering in and giving me feedback. 

For the past eight years my work has focused to some extent on my son having a healthy life after having treatment and surgery for two heart defects. My work has become a sort of gratitude project celebrating my awe of the human body’s capacity to be manipulated and heal. 

I also dream about new work and then it starts to occupy my mind. As I work on some pieces, the problems that arise create new problems to explore. At any given moment I have as many pieces on the go as I can handle and at least as many that I want to be working on. I’m trying hard to finish what I’m involved in in order to make space for the next one. I’m always chasing the next piece. 

Being an artist, an art educator, a family man…how do you manage it all?

– My role as a dad in a family comes first and I prioritize its needs first. My role as an artist and educator fit in around that primary role. I’m really lucky to have a very supportive spouse who always supports me in whatever we’re doing. We work together at everything. When we became parents I kept thinking I would find something really practical to do but my wife wanted me to commit to art making and only do other things as long as they didn’t mess with that aspect of who I am. As I said before, my kids have grown up with art as a normal part of their lives. There’s no mystery about what I do so they’ve never gotten into my materials without permission or messed with my projects. I leave projects in various states all over the house and they just live their lives around it. I hear about some of the crazy things that other parents have had to deal with in terms of kids getting into things they shouldn’t and I recognize that I’ve really lucked out. 

I only take contracts to teach that fit around my wife’s work schedule. That way when I’m working she’s at home with the kids and vice versa. Again we’re really lucky that this has always worked for us. My kids have never needed to go to daycare and have always had one of their parents at home with them. My wife and I deal with her and my ambitions and responsibilities as a team and it works for us. 

What are some of your favorite projects you are proud to have been a part of in your career? 

– A recent project that I’ve been really proud of is being a part of the PARC collective with the goal of creating more opportunities for artists in Utah. We formed a few months before COVID-19 hit the United States and adapted quickly, creating several shows that didn’t depend on brick and mortar building to exhibit. 

My latest body of work which I have worked on for the last couple of years seems like the best marriage of my love of abstraction and my interest in the body’s ability to adapt and heal, especially as it concerns my son’s experience. 

What do you hope the viewer gets from your work?

– I hope that work creates some dialogue within the viewer. I’m not really interested in forcing the viewer’s understanding in any one direction but I do hope it pokes at their curiosity. 

To what extent does the pandemic influence your depiction of art? Does it generate new inspiration? 

– I’ve been really inspired by what other artists have done during the pandemic and the solutions that they found to continue to share art during mass closures. There’s also been so much social strife and I’ve been really moved by what others have done to use art as a way to advocate and support others. I think it has forced me to reconsider what my abilities are. Certainly, the increase of art being shared virtually has had an impact on my own work. 

How do you feel about being involved in an online residency program? How important is it to stay connected with the international art community?

– This is my first residency and I’m really excited to participate in it. I’ve wanted to do a residency for quite some time now but most residencies can’t accommodate me and my family. This online residency is a great way for me to meet more artists from around the world and get fresh feedback on my work. I value the diverse experiences each artist brings with them.

What are your thoughts about the theme ‘artist on standby’? Tell us a bit more about your project…

– I’m excited about the theme “artist on standby” . We have all had very different experiences as we have collectively dealt with a global pandemic. I know some artists have had a hard time making work while others have been very productive but with few opportunities to show.  I think that in any case every artist is entering a new chapter which will undoubtedly bring new work. 

I’m using this opportunity to add a new dimension to my current body of work. My work has been developing a certain vocabulary and I’m making a video piece that will act as a lexicon for the work pulling out individual elements from my sculptural pieces and highlighting some of the parallels I draw between my art and the body. 

What do you want to achieve in the near future? Any  plans/projects?

– Thus far my work has only been shown in the United States with the exception of a few international publications. I would like to find opportunities to show elsewhere. 

I have a solo show coming up in September at the Bountiful Davis Art Center. I’m working to gather a large body of work for that.