Getting All He Gives: Nathan Beard

View Gallery 1 Photos

“Exit Music 39” by Nathan Beard/ Photo courtesy of the artist

By Julie Garisto, AliveTampaBay Correspondent

Nathan Beard’s painting, illustrations, and mixed-media works are multifaceted in mood with recurring motifs that include the interconnection between color, line, gesture and translucency. Both sensual and cerebral, Beard’s works explore life’s transitory nature — beginnings, endings, time and space. They also contain narrative elements that go beyond what’s readily explainable.

There’s a layer of Beard’s works that’s personal and a little mysterious — they’re “betrayed by their titles,” Beard admits.

Gallery 221 at HCC-Dale Mabry recently featured Beard in a solo show and his works can be seen in the permanent collection of ARTicles Gallery & Custom Framing in St. Petersburg.

Those who’ve met Nathan Beard have observed that he’s both warm and congenial and a positive force in the local arts scene, devoting much of his time to supporting the shows of his colleagues and contributing his efforts to fundraisers and workshops while working long arduous hours on his own collections.

This week, Beard is lending his support to a new space in Seminole Heights, Tampa. Red Door No. 5, housed in a familiar neighborhood landmark — a historic firehouse.

“Red Door No. 5 has been great to work with,” says Beard, “Gallery Director Alyson Maier “has been nothing but professional and energetic.”

Recently relocated from Boca Grande, Maier has exhibited internationally and has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from University of Florida (2009). She is currently a master’s candidate in UF’s Center for Arts in Medicine.

“She brings a lot to the table and it has been very easy to trust her abilities and instincts,” Beard says of Maier.

What is also great about the new space, says Beard, is that it contributes to the hungry can-do energy of a young arts district like Seminole Heights. The space’s owner, Dominique Martinez, is an accomplished metal and welding artist. “He has established roots in the area and has a vested interest in the success of not only the space but of the entire Seminole Heights community,” Beard says.

AliveTampaBay caught up with Beard to get some background on his new collaboration with artist Jaff Seijas and find out what fuels his muse.

AliveTampaBay: Please share what brought you and artist Jaff Seijas together for this show:

Nathan Beard: Jaff and I met six years ago, shortly after my wife, Cate, and I moved here from Denver. Not having a job lined up, I walked around the city and introduced myself to the art community, eventually meeting Lance Rodgers, a great painter and director of Salt Creek Artworks. He invited me to a dinner party where I met Jaff. Not long after, Cate and I decided to have a child and I became busy with a part-time job and pursuing entry into the Masters of Environmental Science program at USF. After our daughter Vera was born, I stayed at home with her, got back into making art and, as a lot of new parents do, became pretty socially isolated, save for excursions to Crescent Lake Park and to the corner Asian Market that sold handmade egg rolls that Vera devoured. That’s where I ran into Jaff again a couple of years later. We’ve always wanted to exhibit together, knowing that our work was oddly compatible and when Red Door No. 5 offered the chance to exhibit, Jaff and I got very excited.

ATB: How do yours and his works complement one another?

NB: We started hanging out more often and found that we had very common interest in concepts like multiple universes and states of being, the variability of human consciousness and the malleability of space-time. You can tell that we approach these ideas from different angles by the art that we make. While mine is heavily inspired by readings about chaos theory, quantum physics, and theoretical physics, Jaff draws a lot of his inspiration from literature and mythology. Both of our work, when it comes down to it, is a celebration of the awe we both have for the immensity and power of the universe and commonalities between the different ways humans have devised to find their place in it.

ATB: The transitory, cyclical nature of life has been a recurring theme in your work. Is there a personal motivation behind this exploration? Is it a coping mechanism with life’s relentless changes, a celebration, or both?

NB: I am just trying to sort through and understand how the universe works and how I fit into it. I suppose in this very busy and sometimes confusing world, there is solace in the observation that, for instance, spiral shapes are abundant in both the microcosmic to macroscopic worlds. It’s easy to try and tie visual similarities together with generalizations about there being some sort of unity to life and even, perhaps, some purpose to be derived from that unity. What my interest in cycles and patterns has led to is a greater appreciation for the forces that construct the visual appearance of things and, most importantly, what those forces do, which is to transfer energy. By studying and creating patterns, I have come to my own personal understanding of the very simple and common-sense notion that we get what we give.

ATB: Are you trying to marry the concrete with the abstract, or will it all be up for interpretation from the viewer? Please elaborate.

NB: When I started the Exit Music series, I was using my materials to construct interplay between ground and foreground, and metaphorically between “this” and “that”, “I” and “You.” I quickly decided that I was not interested in, nor did I personally believe in, strict dichotomies, as apparent as they seem in our universe. I feel more at home contemplating the movement of form through space and the fact that because of movement through time, an object can never have a concrete relation to its environment, but rather an elastic and malleable one. So, now, my use of materials is looser, more heavily layered and the forms are far less solid in a personal attempt to couple ancient ideas of transience with our modern understanding of quantum particles.

ATB: You have a deliberate process in choosing your materials. For instance, you combined charcoal pencil with pastels and graphite in your Pond’s Edge series … how much forethought goes into these choices? Have you experienced a happy accident by trying something on impulse?

NB: Making art is most often a combination of listening to intuition and relying on what I’ve been taught and have learned on my own. My first impulse is normally to use paint because that is what I love. But circumstance plays a huge part in what happens in the studio. The Pond’s Edge pieces you mentioned – they started as paintings and then my aunt gave me a bunch of really nice drawing paper. I hadn’t drawn in probably a decade so I pulled out the charcoal and pastel and made some of the most beautiful drawings I’ve ever done. The Exit Music series began when I wiped away a mistake from experiments I was doing with rubbing alcohol. I just liked the way that gesture looked, so I painted it in. It still wasn’t finished though, so I remembered a lesson from art school where we used tape as a resist to build layers and the way that the lines created by the tape interacted with the gesture really intrigued me. I thought the series was finished after about 10 paintings, but thanks to the intervention and support of early supporters, like Nicole Shannon, Michele Tuegel and Jaff Seijas, I’ve done 55 so far and keep finding new things to try.

ATB: How does visual art come into play in your family life? Your wife, Cate, is very creative as a fifth grade teacher with Pinellas County Schools. Has your daughter Vera been taking an interest in drawing and painting?

NB: I think what our family cherishes most about the arts is the creative approach needed to invent and adapt to life and the can-do attitude that is the result of one repeatedly practicing the act of creation. The process of envisioning something, then figuring out how to make it and the organization needed to get all the materials, facing one’s fears about it being a total failure, getting over that failure, and completing your vision – changing and adapting as needed – this process and trained state of mind is so important to maintaining a healthy relationship to each other and to life. I get overwhelmed, depressed, and lazy just like everyone does but the arts help pull me out quickly. Cate’s job is very difficult. She is also working her way towards entry into medical school, one class at a time. The arts teach us patience and diligence and I am amazed by her fortitude. Our daughter Vera is very imaginative with a child’s agile mind. She does enjoy painting and drawing very much, but her focus right now is on relationships and on her new puppy, Christopher.

ATB: If you could have your art featured in a movie or TV show, or by a music artist/band on an album cover, which would you choose?

I think it would be amazing to work with a band like Radiohead.

Interviews may be condensed and edited for brevity, clarity, and style.


Nathan Beard/Photo courtesy of the artist.

Masthead | Advertising | Contact Us
Greg C. Truax - Publisher
David R. Wheeler - Contributing Editor
Joe Registrato - Contributing Editor

Subscribe to AliveTampaBay
Get the latest content first.