In the Studio with Justin Prough
Please join us for “The Whitewashing of America” Opening Reception and Artist Talk Saturday October 10, 3-5pm on zoom with guest speaker Karen M Gutfreund, curator of “Not Normal: Art in the age of Trump”
When was the first time that you remember realizing that you are a creative person?
Deep down, I’ve always felt myself to be a creative person but never truly embraced it until college. As weird as it seems, that all changed during a college calculus class. I couldn’t tell you the problem we were solving or the engineering application but burned in my mind is the curved shape this crazy equation was generating.
Daydreaming in class, I pondered how to leverage this beautifully, spiraling arc in an elective graphic design class I was taking. I was pulled back to earth by a piece of chalk bouncing of the side of my head. A customary tactic of the professor. “Mr. Prough, what do you think?” Was the fast-following question. “Why, it’s, it’s beautiful!” is what came out, which was followed with a few snickers and genuinely blank stares from my engineering cohorts.
Later that week, with the encouragement of my future Studio Arts advisor, I changed majors.
What does a day in your art practice look like? Has it changed since Covid-19?
Honestly it varies depending on the visual story I’m trying to tell. I find joy working in both the digital and analog realm and vibrate between scavenging materials, digital research, planning and design, assemblage, woodworking and painting. So, any given day I’m engaged in one or a few of these activities.
Well, Covid has brought both focus and frustration, but definitely with more emphasis on the latter. The days I can lose myself in my work are wonderful, but more fleeting now. I have two children and the anxiety, isolation and restlessness Covid has created weighs heavily on them. It’s feels crucial to be there more for them now. Hence, by time balance has shifted towards more family time during the last few months. It’s the important, right priority but the internal guilt. The feeling of “you’re not being productive” can be deafening. Finding the right balance has been hard and is a work in progress.
What do you wish to accomplish with your art?
My work reflects the struggle between sunny days, good waves and the political and environmental challenges of our times.
I fancy myself a scavenger. A scavenger of materials, moments and ideas who looks to forge beauty and meaning from their juxtaposition. I hope these juxtapositions ignite conversation around social and ecological complacency and their ramifications.
How has your art evolved over the years?
I feel my work is evolving from simply capturing moments in time to creating timely, relevant visual stories.
Do you ever find yourself limited by the materials that you have available?
Actually, no. In fact, I find the limitation imposed by certain materials liberating. I see the limitations as a puzzle to be solved, forcing me to think more freely and creatively about how and what I intend to communicate. The imposed guardrails also help focus my creativity. When the possibilities are enormous, it can be hard or even intimidating to know where to start.
What is the most challenging part about being an artist?
Wondering if you are jumping the shark. The self-doubt. Slaying the internal demons.
Do you have a specific audience in mind for your work?
Through the lens of a lifelong, California beach bum, I like to mash-up politics, beauty and humor. I’m also a fanatic about details, fit and finish.
So, if you enjoy the beauty of well executed, thought provoking work that revolves around the beach, politics and environmental awareness. You’re my audience.
What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in your field?
Be true to yourself. Be confident in your options. Make meaningful work.
What’s next for you in the future?
The upcoming November 3rd election has my full attention as I work through the last few pieces of my Whitewashing of America series. Beyond that, it all depends on the outcome if I’ll be continuing that series or transitioning my full attention to my Seascapes Found series. Regardless, I hope to continue making work that invites the viewers to smile and think.