House paint, scrap paper, found objects, reclaimed nail polish and more in the work of Ners Neonlumberjack

Ners is an impulsive, embodied practice. Ners aims for small pleasures; does not strive for great substantiality; values expendable details; prizes invention and imagination, delights in risk-taking for its own sake; values personal vision and peculiarity; is unselfconscious; shows the signs of eager, industrious activity; and often results in becoming precious. Ners has caste-off beauty; encourages innovation; and repurposes associations. Ners likes to start an argument by being focused or maybe even one-sided; is low-tech, modest in scale without being modest in thought, made with found objects and materials. Ners maintains involvement in a small area without point or aim; concentrates on pinning down one moment without glamorizing it, but using a whisper; forgets accomplishments and moves on as soon as it has passed; feeling that most is superfluous.

We were delighted to ask Ners a few questions about his studio practice, inspiration and daily life.

AMM: Hi Ners! Could you start of by introducing yourself and highlighting the relevant chapters from your artistic life? 

NN: Everyone is an artist when they’re a kid! I just never stopped, like so many do. I went to Herron School of Art and Design and graduated with degrees in painting, sculpture, and art history. Since college I have been continuously making new work, and moving from here to there to make ends meet until I found that dream job that allowed me to use my talents. (I actually found a job like that recently, but maybe the instability since art school is why so many people quit making art…)

My name change was the beginning of a new chapter in my artistic development. Ners is a shortening of a lengthened nickname that I’ve been called all of my life. A woman that I was dating started calling me as such, and at that time a transition was taking place with my artwork and I felt that I needed a change. I started signing my work as Ners and have been going by it ever since. When introducing myself people would sometimes follow up asking what my last name was, and I didn’t have an answer. I began work on a sculpture; chopping firewood in an early 90’s fluorescent multi-colored track jacket. It was mentioned that I looked like a neon lumberjack. I titled the piece that, and my last name was born.

AMM: How would you describe the subject matter of your art and what is your main medium?

NN: Perhaps if a tree had a bad acid trip, it’d see works like mine. I don’t partake, so what do I know? Death is a very large part of my work, but it’s typically an underlying concept rather than overt. My two-dimensional works are filled imagery of animals (both living and dead), trees (both living and dead), color, pattern, and sometimes, innuendos (wood and beaver, am I right?). My three-dimensional works are pretty much that same subject matter, in the round. I’m never sure what constitutes my work as a painting or a sculpture, but that’s for people who write about my work to figure out.

‪AMM: How has your work evolved over the years? What are you focusing on now as opposed to when you first started producing art? 

NN: I used to just scribble, then I learned to color within the lines, then I learned it was alright to go outside the lines. My first memory was scribbling and drawing a duck, which is relevant currently, as I send unsolicited duck pics to unsuspecting individuals. I stopped drawing and painting people and everyday objects, as they bore me to tears, and romanticize the idea of the great outdoors and natural surroundings. My works have maintained a small scale since college, feeling that nothing can compare to the beauty and scale of nature, so why even try? I will eventually work on a larger scale, but who knows, I might get attacked by a grizzly bear in a public school before then since I don’t own a gun.

‪AMM: Which events or experiences in life have made the strongest impact on your work? 

NN: After college I had a series of hardships that made me want to escape. I took off alone on a cross country road trip starting in Indiana, and ended up being away for months. That trip saved my life, literally, and filled me with a zest for life that is with me to this day. The summer after that experience I lived in the Hoosier National Forest for 5 weeks alone, and that taught me that I really enjoy being naked in the woods, even if swinging an axe is a safety hazard to certain appendages.

AMM: You chose to work with natural objects such as wood, rocks, bones, feathers and other materials with a really bright implementation of color; what is your vision behind this approach?

NN: I want the populace in general to cherish the natural world, and viewers of my work to see how something as seemingly insignificant or unsightly as a log or animal skull as beautiful. I add value to these objects in rather simple ways in an attempt to fill the viewer with a sense of joy and pleasure.

AMM: Where does your love of vivid colors come from? 

NN: If only I knew! My works are a reaction to what I do not see in everyday city life. Nature is subdued, and color as well. The fear of color in western civilization and my reaction against that fear makes me embrace color wholeheartedly.

AMM: In your work: does the medium inspire the idea or idea inspire the medium?

NN: My work comes about through play most times. I have a multitude of ideas in my sketchbook and in the back of my mind, but when a material is in front of me, it inspires me with its form and I may cast aside my original idea entirely. I have a sustainable and environmentally conscious method of art making, using discarded house paint, scrap paper, found objects, reclaimed nail polish, etc. I’ve put limitations on my work in a lot of ways, not allowing for wanton use of materials.

AMM: How would you say your perfect day in the studio looks? 

NN: I play so damned much that making work inspires more and more work to be made, but when I have a very time consuming project that actually necessitates a clear amount of dedication for completion, I really enjoy seeing a project come together over the course of an entire work day. Bowel movements and eating be damned.

AMM: Do you have a day-time job? If so, how do you balance your time? Do you have a strict schedule/plan for each day?

NN: I actually have health insurance and get to be in a wood shop all day! Not many artists I know can say the same. I work display at Urban Outfitters and have a pretty steady schedule with weekends to make art and travel. I draw, paint, sculpt, or work on the digital/marketing aspect of art everyday.

AMM: Did you ever have a breakthrough as an artist? What was the most exciting moment in your art career so far?

NN: When my college transition and name change came about, I was very excited and never looked back. I am steadily working on a breakthrough to get my artwork noticed by the art world at large in hopes that greater opportunities will make my work grow ever greater!

AMM: What do you hope the viewer takes away from your work?

NN: I want my works’ visuals to make people smile, and my concepts to inspire them. If the viewer plants a few trees, and uses the backside of that paper, that’d be sweet.

Find out more about the artist: www.neonlumberjack.com