In-Sync with… Allen Vandever (interview)

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This post continues my series “In-Sync with…” aimed to get a closer look at contemporary artists and art professionals from Chicago and abroad. Read it, enjoy it, share it, and get in-sync with Chicago artist Allen Vandever. Do not miss his personal recommendations at the end of the interview.

After following Allen in Facebook for a while, I finally met him formally during Art Basel weekend in Miami. He was exhibiting in one of the fairs and I had a chance to see his work up-close and personal. I was so delighted by his energy, enthusiasm and what seems to be an insatiable creative mind. I was impressed by his technology interactive clothing line. Very cool. Enjoy the interview!


Sergio: Where did you go to school (college/university) and what degree you received?
Allen: I went to Northern State University Aberdeen SD on a scholarship for football Chemistry Major/Art Minor. After receiving a spinal injury that ended my days of football I switched my Major to Psychology, then switched to 3D Art w/Psychology Minor. Then I switched my major again painting. I ended with a double B.A. in Painting & 3D art w/a Minor in Psychology.

Sergio: Do you feel art school prepared you for the art career you have now?
Allen: School did not prepare me for an art career instead what it did was give a passion for learning and sports gave a hard work ethic and drive to be the best.

Sergio: What is one thing you wish you had learned at art school?
Allen: The importance of building a social network & marketing.

Sergio: What is your website?

Sergio: What are you working on and what inspires you right now?
I am working on paintings for the Winter Bike show. I am mainly working on my fashion and accessory line that are using interactive technology Near field communication. Stay tuned for more this is going to blow every one away.

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Sergio: Can you tell me more about your Rescue or Destroy concept?
Allen: To shine a light on the importance & value of art. I want people to look at art in different way. It is hard to know if other people actually respect & value art.

I want to know if there is a place in this world for my art & what value it holds. I also wish to weed out what I have produced. Letting the audience choose what will be rescued and which will be destroyed is a way of monitoring my progress & determining which artwork would be considered valuable. Also people tend to be fickle minded. I have been in situation where prospect buyers do keep you on a string for months and months. With Rescue or Destroy there is no next month, there is no tomorrow, there is only now. If you don’t buy it then I destroy it. My work will hang on walls and be viewed by all or it will be destroyed.

Rescue & Destroy is also a great way of getting people to pay closer attention to art. There are so many good artists. Sometimes you need a little something extra to stand out. I have been a creator for so long every once in a while its good to be a destroyer. In fact I believe that the fragments of the work hold value because they are remnants of the original work that can never be recreated.

Over all I’m trying to find the answers to the following questions: What is good art & who decides this? What standards does art deserve to be hanging on the walls of a museum & therefore be immortalized in history? Which artwork will end up in a landfills or be painted over?

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Sergio: How does a typical day in your studio look like?
Allen: I balance being with my four-yr-old Son while working in my home studio. My son wakes me up about up at 8 AM, announcing that it is “wake-up time”. I’ll down up to four shots of expresso while checking my emails & social network sites. After getting myself & my boy ready for the day I prepare my studio for my interns that show up around 10. I’ll get them started on projects that need to be worked on. Then I spend the day making art with my son surrounding him with colors and patterns. Even though he’s four he is already developing his own sense of creativity! Around 4 PM we clean up & make dinner before my wife gets home, then back to making art. Now that I will be sharing a studio with Zore at Zhou B Art Center I am really looking forward to working on some large works in the space and sharing ideas with an artist that I respect and feel I have something to learn from.

Sergio: You have participated in a good number of independent art fairs. What advise would you give to artists thinking about participating?
Allen: I have found that art fairs are really good for marketing, making connection to create an extensive network. Although, it is very expensive. It’s like taking your life saving and going to Vegas & hope that you will break even. NEXT at Art Chicago was by far the best fair I have been in sadly it no longer exists. Miami during Art Basel Is like the Mecca for the art world. It is my favorite time of year.

Sergio: What type of mental/practical activities do you do when facing a creative block?
Allen: I don’t feel like I get mental blocks just financial blocks. I put every thing into my art and sometimes I go all in and come home with empty pockets. That is the hardest thing to over come. I have so many big ideas but money seems to be the only obstacle. To create and to make money are to different states of mind. When I focus on making money my art suffers when I focus on making art my finances suffers. I hope some day I can just focus on the art.

Sergio: Do you find social media to be a distraction or an asset for you as an artist and how do you deal with it?
Allen: I love social media its free its easy and you can get your images to the masses.

Sergio: What is your biggest challenge as a contemporary artist?
Allen: Money. From the materials that you use, to the agents marketing you, to participating in shows & fairs-everything in the art world costs money & it gets more expensive the farther you are in your career. Also you do need to be careful of who you work with in your career to prevent from being exploited. Because there is a whole industry of profiting of off artists Then theirs every one that is selling a dream, you have to paying to play it is quite the racket and they all say they are there to help the artist.

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Sergio: How much does the art market influences your art production/output?
Allen: Not at all.  I am a doer. I make art. The art market has no influence. I am always working on creating. Some times I focus more on marketing and driving sales but I am always producing.

Sergio: What’s next for you?
Allen: I am doing an installation in the Podmajersky pods spaces for March and April. I am traveling to Denver for some meetings. Then to New York to do a fair during armory week. Winter bike show in March. And will be doing something special every third Friday at Zhou b art center in studio 404. I will manly be focusing on my inter active clothing line and accessories


Sergio: What excites you about your local art scene?
Allen: I love Chicago Art scene I think Zhou B art center is the best thing happening right now. I think there is way too much emphasis on people who graduated from the Art Institute, but I understand it is the biggest Art institution in Chicago. I do wish I was part of the click some times I guess I am just jealous.

Sergio: Do you believe gallery representation today is as important as it has been in the past?
Allen: I don’t Know. I really want gallery representation but I am holding out for the right fit. I want a gallery that believes in me and loves my art & wants to help nurture my career. In return I can help them grow I will always be on an up word trajectory

Bad at Sports is amazing if you don’t listen to it start I especially like the older podcast. it’s one of my goals to be interviewed on their show. In fact it is one of the things I have sent as marker for my success.
Art student switch majors unless you are fully ready to sacrifice and struggle. Yes its lots of fun along the way but to be a true artist you walk a path that is almost impossible but a few will make it. There is barely room for 1% of you to make a career as a professional artist.

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