Text: Tristan Ceddia Images: Jim Houser
Self-taught painter Jim Houser tells complex stories though his paintings and installations, mixing typography with his own unique brand of folk art. Known for his work with Space 1026 in Philadelphia, Jim’s art has graced the bottom of skateboards, tattooed arms and the walls of prestigious galleries world wide. Tristan Ceddia talks to Jim in the wake of his first Australian solo show, The Pregnant Pause.
Tristan Ceddia: Describe a day in the life of Jim Houser…
Jim Houser: Most days I wake up around 10. I take the dogs out, make coffee and paint. I usually work until two or three, then I run whatever errands I need to do. I take a nap everyday at five. I walk the dogs. My wife Jess comes home from work at seven, we eat dinner and watch TV, then I start working again and paint until one or two in the morning.
TC: At what age did you decide you wanted to be an artist?
JH: I don’t think I decided ever, really. It’s just the only thing that made me happy. I didn’t have much of a choice really.
TC: You have been involved with Space 1026 in Philadelphia since it began a decade ago. How did this space come about and how has it evolved since its conception?
JH: The space was just a group of guys that got out of art school and realised there wasn’t a place where they could do their thing, so they got together and started one. It was never really a ‘gallery’ meant to make money. It was (and still is) like a club house where people can make their art, hang out and feed off each other.
As far as how it has evolved, well, people get older and move on, and also every year there is a new group of people that get out of art school and are looking for something to do, so more people kind of join the fun. It’s been there 10 years now, which is mind boggling to me.
TC: I assume the gallery has had a considerable influence on the art scene in Philadelphia. How has it influenced your work personally?
JH: The space was the first place I ever had a show. I’d say the support I have gotten from the people there has been the biggest influence. You know, whatever influence your close friends would have.
TC: Have you always lived in Philadelphia? Did you grow up there?
JH: Yes , I grew up in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. I lived in Providence, Rhode Island for three years in my twenties. I’ve been living back in Philly for 10 years.
TC: Your work mixes characters and text with a vintage pastel palette. What has influenced you to paint like this?
JH: No idea really. It’s not a conscious thing. It’s just years and years of following what I am able to make, guided by what I enjoy making. I play around and things grow on their own, you know?
TC: What does your studio look like at the moment?
JH: It’s pretty clean. It has a big flat table I paint at. A few shelves of tools, some book shelves and a television.
TC: How long have you been involved with Toy Machine?
JH: I think my first boards for Toy were in 1997 or ’98 maybe.
TC: Working with them must be one of those dream jobs right?
JH: Sure. It was always a dream when I was younger to design my own skateboard. It always feels really cool to see some kid skate by and pick up his board, and it’s my graphic he’s riding. A few people have gotten tattoos of different graphics… It’s a big compliment. I haven’t done any boards in a while, but I email with Ed (Templeton) occasionally and if i think of something good I make it and he’ll use it. It’s not a regular thing anymore like it used to be though.
TC: You have a show currently at Monster Children Gallery. Where does the Pregnant Pause title come from?
JH: A pregnant pause is a pause in conversation that is rich in meaning . A silence that much can be inferred from, whether correctly or incorrectly.
TC: What’s next in your world?
JH: My wife and I have a baby on the way. She is due in May. I am currently painting rabbits on the walls of the nursery.
I’d also like to add that I really am bummed out about not being able to come to the show. My last trip to Sydney was so much fun. I really hope to return at some point . It’s an awesome place. I hope you like the show.
The Pregnant Pause is on show at Monster Children Gallery in Sydney until March 18.
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Text: Tristan Ceddia Images: Jim Houser