Meet the Academy Fellows: Jonathan Beer (MFA 2012, Fellow 2013)


Beer's Studio, 2013

One day earlier this summer, we sat down with Jonathan Beer (MFA 2012, Fellows 2013) to talk a little about his work, the Academy Fellowship, and what he's looking forward to as the Fellowship year concludes. 

New York Academy of Art: Tell me about where you’re from.

Jon Beer: I am 25 years old. I am from New Orleans, although I was only there two years. I grew up upstate, right outside Albany. Grew up in suburbs but on the edge of development in the woods. We were tucked back behind the rest of the streets with ¼ acre of woods around us. We were outdoors a lot and I think that has a lot to do with my work, at least how my interest developed. I also spent a lot of time in the Adirondacks on a small lake

Academy: You spent summers there?

Beer: And spent winters taught skiing there.  We have little cabin there.  That was a profound visual experience.  A pristine overwhelming visually and spatially overwhelming environment. The lake was in a valley surrounded by mountains. It just took hold in my work. As a kid I was really into comics and up until high school I thought that was what I was going to do – draw comic books, then senior year rolled around and I had to decide if I wanted to do this, cartooning, or illustration, School of Visual Arts (SVA) and I decided illustration and the comic book thing just faded away. 

Academy: So your choice was illustration or cartooning?

Beer: Well, they are the same department. the two are bundled together. I think SVA is one of the few that has that.  They are really the magnet for that sort of thing.  I realized that really wasn’t what I wanted to do.  In high school I had started to really paint.  I realized I was much more vested in images than in stories.  I wasn’t a great storyteller.  I wasn’t a great writer either for a long time, I think.  So, I realized I had this like investment in images in undergrad.

Academy: As a kid you were interested in comic books and what other kinds of things were you interested in?

Beer: All sorts, I guess.  The thing that dominated my life was Legos and I would just build these huge worlds.  I guess it wasn’t about storytelling; it was about creating this whole worlds.  I would make them enormous and I would never take them apart.  I had two desks in my room. They were this long.  They were this interconnected big world.

Academy: Did you buy the sets and put them together according to the plan?

Beer: Yeah, and then I would take them apart and coddle everything together so it just got like crazy and they are still in my parents’ basement.  I was really attached to that process.

Academy: When you were little what did you want to be?

Beer: I think I knew I was going to be an artist.  I was drawing since I was three. There wasn’t really any clear choice for anything else.  At some point when I was little I think I wanted to be an archaeologist, but I didn’t really care about archaeology.  I just liked the idea of it.  The idea of digging shit up, but the idea of having to be precise and have to record stuff was totally awful.  I just wanted to dig stuff up.

Academy: In high school you took all the art classes?  Did your high school have a good art department?

Beer: There were a couple of good art teachers.  The program was kind of like DIY.  We didn’t have AP Art or anything like that.  I did the same studio art class for two years and they just kind of let me do what I wanted.  And that was when I made my first paintings.

Academy: And what kind of painting as a high schooler? Assigned projects?

Beer: When I started to work on my own they became, I got totally sucked into the West Coast Pop-Surrealism, Shepard Fairey thing.  So, they were really like political, or like socially aware, illustration-y paintings and this interest in nature and all that and throughout my life I’ve always read National Geographic.  It was satisfying my archaeology thing without having to go anywhere.  So that was a big part of, I started to get concerned about stuff in the world and the paintings became about that and they began to involve like a kind of graffiti language and at the same time I started to make T-shirts so there was a lot of silk screen and I started to get into design and I worked at a couple of design places.

Academy: How did you get into silkscreen?  Did you work at a silkscreen place?

Beer: No, I did it all in my bathroom.

Academy: Did you sell them?

Beer: Yes, I started a business doing it for four years.  As I started to paint, this design thing grew in parallel with it.  The graphic design on the computer for the T-shirts all of that got wrapped in with the painting in a weird way and they kind of fed off each other for a while.

Academy: I think people think of you as well read and maybe in comparison to others.

Beer: Well, maybe not as much as I’d like to be.

Academy: Have you always been that way? I don’t think every art student in high school is aware of what is going on on the other coast.

Beer: I’ve always been a great reader, but I don’t think I was until my 3rd or 4th year at SVA did I start reading about Art. I only started to read about theory because I knew I was going to grad school and I hadn’t gotten any of that in the illustration department. Yeah, I’d always been interested in a couple of artists. But not until college did I start to dive in.

Academy: Did you have a favorite artist as a high schooler or early college? Who?

Beer: Shepard Fairey, Mark Ryden, Jeff Soto was really big. Now I just kind of avoid all that stuff.

Academy: Why?

Beer: Well, because it kind of it was just really hard to get over. I think every artist in their trajectory has a couple of big humps they have to get over. For me it was the West Coast art and it took a teacher at SVA to tell me that my work looked like taco stand art for me to be done with it.  And he said, “I know this is really going to suck but I am doing you a big favor. I think your stuff looks like taco stand art and I think you should get over it and make something that is yours.” And it was good advice and for six months I was really lost and my ideas about nature and understanding the world.  
I also found a lot of inspiration at that time from National Geographic.  It’s so full of schematics. These cross sections show how the world works.

Academy: What do you mean?

Beer: Well there will be an article about volcanoes and they will have cross sections of it and you see all the layers and I LOVE that. And that was where my ideas really started and what I returned to. It was that kind of aesthetic and it was that connection with my own experiences in nature and my awe with that.  Breaking down the world. Visually breaking it down.

Academy: Why did you go to SVA?

Beer: Because of the comic book illustration thing. I wanted to be in New York.  I had an opportunity to go to Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). My dad really wanted me to go there.  It had a better reputation.  I wanted to be in New York and knew it had a better reputation as an art center.  More than Providence.

Academy: Had you been here before?

Beer: On and off, just visiting.

Academy: So, you came to SVA and got that good advice from your professor?

Beer: And I took a lot of Humanities classes.  SVA is really big on that. It’s 30% of your curriculum, of your credits.  I ate it up.  I ended up with a bunch of extra humanities credits.  There was one teacher; I took every class that she offered.  She’s a curator and a writer. Her name is Lynn Gamwell and the first class I took with her was called Exploring the Invisible.  It was the history of science and the history of art in tandem, and that’s the name of the book.  I got that advice from the teacher, I took that class and everything just exploded all at once. And I knew where my direction was going.  Interest in the mind, interest in the landscape and interest in how we create this experience and how the mind creates memory and all of that was filtered through the landscape where I grew up.  It was my memory.  And so, her classes and that advice shot me straight where I needed to go.  And I couldn’t draw fast enough and I started to paint.  That was the second year as an undergrad.
I had also realized that illustration wasn’t for me.  I wasn’t clever enough to be a New York illustrator.  The sense of humor thing wasn’t me.  I’m not pun-y enough. I just couldn’t deliver.

Academy: Talk about how you use the idea of memory. Taking things, images, colors, or things that stick in your head.  Elaborate on what you mean by how your brain creates experiences or how you experience the work.

Beer: When you just look at the world. You look at the inside of this shop. Everything you see you understand that it is three dimensional, right?  But as you look at it and your brain understands it, it’s translated from three dimensions into two.  So there is this special understanding that happens even from a two-dimensional image.  I am interested in reversing that process and creating a spatial experience on something two-dimensional.  In the hope that two-dimensional image can create something experiential.  What’s amazing about how our minds work is that we can be totally conscious and in the present moment.  For example right now we’re having this conversation but at the same time I am remembering all the stuff you’re asking me about and I am visualizing a lot of it.  That is a really strange overlap, between interior visual experience and exterior visual experience.  If you can translate the three-dimensional outside world to a two-dimensional surface why can’t you translate both inner and outer world to a two-dimensional experience.

Academy: You’re paintings attempt to do that inner and outer experiences, incorporating elements of memory? Lots of people have said you appropriate lots of different references, both personal and otherwise.  When you’re making your paintings now, what are some of the references that you’re inspired by? What other things are you appropriating?  How conscious are you of that?

Beer: It’s definitely not unconscious.  If I have a tendency to be anything, it’s self-conscious.  You can ask Wade [Wade Schuman, Faculty].  That was his favorite thing to say.

Academy: Does that annoy you?

Beer: It probably still does but I feel less self-conscious now.

Academy: So he was encouraging you to be more…?

Beer: Intuitive.  I feel like I am getting to that place, of being more intuitive.  Especially as I start to use more materials.  It allows for an easier intuitive process.  For example, if I want to make the sensation of something plastic-y, why not just use plastic?  It took me seven years to figure that out.  But it happened and it’s helping.  As far as sources go, I think this whole journey has been a really broad act of clarifying.  As I started way back trying to understand the world, my world, and my place in it through my memories and my experiences and recreating them on the canvas I started to delve deeper into what my experience is and what my identity is.  I feel like my identity is tied to landscape a lot.  But it’s tied to an American landscape and so that opened up a whole avenue of “what is American-ness?” How do I fit in American-ness? How do I fit into Masculine American-ness? What are the symbols that direct that for this population?

Academy: What made you conscious of that?  Did you leave the country? How did you start to recognize your American-ness?

Beer: It was being in Leipzig.  I have travelled a lot.  But it really didn’t happen until then.  I am half Romanian.  I am first generation American.  My dad came to the states in the 1970s.  That has had a huge impact on my work and the kind of searching, that clarifying act.  The landscape of Romania is very similar to the landscape of the Adirondacks.  Those two conflations of memory, a memory that is not my own and a present experience that is mine that also have melded together.  So my act of recreating that landscape that I didn’t know.

Academy: Have you been back?

Beer: I was born here, but I have been twice.  Then I went to Leipzig and everything, all of a sudden, oh, I am actual very American.  I remember writing while I was there that I realized I was much more American in ways I had never anticipated. 

Academy: How so?

Beer: There is a lot of idealism in America.  The American Dream is still alive.  It’s alive in the personalities of the people here.  That’s a very interesting strange thing.  There’s this optimism, this hope that’s been around from when the pilgrims left England because they were looking for a better place. It’s in the DNA of what it is to be American. That idealism was there.  Again there is this whole other connection point to what the American landscape means and how it has been represented throughout history. Like the Hudson River School, which were big influences of mine.  I became aware of the subtle differences in design and color between Europe and America.  And I became really interested in that again. 

Academy: Can you describe that?

Beer: Eastern Germany is this left over socialist DDR republic.  It’s very East still.  You feel it in the air.  It’s only been 24 years.  When you go on the train in Berlin, the color of the seats and the fabric pattern is red, blue, white, and brown.  It’s slightly dated and it has it’s own charm but it’s subtle.  In America, especially being at school in Tribeca, walking through Chinatown it’s brazen, bright colors, fluorescence, neon.  Where as, you look at something like this where it’s trying to be European, very sensitive Yellow.  There’s tasteful-ness.  What I came to realize, is I love the cheesiness and the unabashed, ideal optimistic palette of America.

Academy: It’s also commercialism and advertising.  We’ve tested this red and know it makes you feel hungry.

Beer: Right.  So America is also about that.  That color says a lot.  I became very interested in that.  In using that color and those kind of formal properties to frame my work.  Abstract painting, non-objective abstract painting from the 1960s and 1970s was all about feelings and communicating a certain kind of energy or state of being.  So color became emotionally directed.  I would say mine is also, but I would also say that I am interested in color being a reference point for talking about a certain time, creating an association. 
For me, it’s important but not important enough for me to be like this is what this is and this is how you need to feel about it.  I hate the word signifier, but it is a signifier.

Academy: I want to backtrack and ask why you went to the Academy and not SVA?

Beer: When I really started to do painting in undergrad at SVA, the paintings were literally big schematic paintings of landscapes coming apart, as if they were made of different layers.  They are the Architecture of the Mind series on my website.  In undergrad, all these things came together. Along the road I had discovered JP Roy [Jean-Pierre Roy MFA 2001, Fellow 2002] and he became a big influence.  He was actually the first studio visit I ever did in New York.  I brought was my then biggest and best painting, it was about 48 inches wide.   I carried it all the way to his studio, it was a panel.  I got it there and was so excited. I brought it in and he said “Ok, just put it over there.”  At the time he was working on a 20-something foot painting.  I put it down next to it and thought well that’s a tiny-ass painting. 

Academy: You did that studio visit before you were a student?  You just contacted him?

Beer: Yes.  My senior year at SVA was when I went to visit him. SVA is split all over the place on 23rd Street and all around.  It’s really hard to have a sense of community when a school is like that.  Part of the reason I came to the Academy was community.  I had gone to some of the lectures before I enrolled.  Sitting in the back, I already felt like I was a student.  Which was incredible.

Academy: How so?

Beer: The discussion was so rich and engaged.  The lecture was part of the Art & Culture Lecture Series, the free lectures the school hosts.  It was great.  It was incredible.  I had never felt that at SVA.  I believe the lecture was by the author of a book about Michelangelo.   I don’t remember who it was.  I had gone to the lecture, felt really connected.  My paintings were pretty tight at that point.  Very articulated.  They were traditional in the sense of building it up and blocking stuff in.  They were very done in a traditional painting process.  I was interested in knowing all about that.  I applied to all the big schools, including Yale and Columbia.  I was accepted to the Academy and the School of Visual Art in Boston.  After visiting, I didn’t like the program in Boston, too much Video art for me.  So I came to the Academy.  I knew New York.  I had gotten to know the community a bit.  I knew JP at that point.
Academy: Why did you want to go to grad school?  Not everyone does.

Beer: It’s actually rare to go straight to grad school.  A lot of people take a year or two off.

Academy: You didn’t want to drift around a bit?

Beer: No, I was excited about my ideas.  I was really working a lot and painting a lot. I wanted to keep this going.  I also knew I wanted to teach, too.  I have known for a long time that I wanted to teach.  I knew I needed my MFA to do that.  So I came here.

Academy: Could you tell me about an influential critique or class you had at the Academy?

Beer: I remember first year.  I was taking JJ’s [John Jacobsmeyer, Faculty] Comp & Design class.

Academy: That’s one of the early classes you take at the Academy, right?

Beer: Yes, you take Comp & Design I first semester of your first year.  I took JJ’s class.  He was great.  We had this big project, end of semester project.  We had to make a large painting based on some of the traditional design principals we had talked about.  The summer before the Academy and up through that semester, my work had become very sparse and very geometric.  Very architectural.  It was the same idea of memories coming apart.  But it had switched from an exterior natural world to an interior one.  Very specific memories of my own.  I started to work with shaped canvases.  Irregular shapes, specific to a drawing. I decided I was going to make this crazy complicated painting with 13 different sides.  It was big, 70 inches long, and a ridiculous shape.  It took me three days to build it.  I was really excited about it and really proud of it.  I brought it into the critique and I went first.

Academy: What style critique was it?  In front of the class? Individual?  You had had a few critiques before this one, correct?

Beer: It was just with our Comp & Design class.  Yes, I had participated in a few crits before.  We have less in illustration. So, I put it up there.  JJ looked at it and I talked about it a little bit.  He said, “I really like your ideas, but you just need to learn how to paint better.”  I was first and that was it, the crit was over.  He went onto the next person.  He’s very even keeled; he just says it how it is.  He was right.

Academy: Was what he said crushing?

Beer: Yes.  But it was very motivating.  I had had a similar experience in undergrad.  But that experience with JJ was always very memorable (laughs).  I had some great crits with Catherine [Catherine Howe, Faculty].  I became very close with her.  I think she always pushed me.  She knew from the beginning how to push my buttons.  She just pushed me and pushed me and pushed me.  I finally got out of that geometric thing and started to paint again.  My second hurdle was Neo Rauch.  The first was west-coast stuff.  The second was Neo Rauch.  Who is Leipzig, Germany based.  He’s the best known out of the Leipzig school.  I was obsessed.

Academy: Was this after you had been to Leipzig?

Beer: No, this was before.  I felt like I had a lot of kinship with him.  With how he painted, with the ways he broke up the space, and broke up the world and allowed memory, history, imagination, reality and fantasy to exist all in one picture.  He just pulls it off like no one else.  It’s really seductive.  He’s incredibly talented and prolific.  Now I am gushing (laughs).  I started to see the world through this “Neo Rauch filter” and Catherine was on my ass about it.  This was a solid year, at least.  I remember one day she said to me in a critique, “You know you’re a responsive painter” and I said, “What do you mean?”  She said, “You respond to stuff. All this stuff, your work, is a response.  You’re responding to the ideas of your history and your past.”  It changed everything.

Academy: Did you feel like that was an insult?

Beer: No, not at all. That was the most eye-opening thing anyone has said to me during my entire time as a painter.  It was that one phrase.  It allowed me to really see how I relate to my own work and how I related to my ideas.  It changed everything.  It gave me permission.  It’s a really important thing.  It’s really hard to give yourself permission.  Permission to let go, to paint big, to paint small, to paint loose.

Academy: How did that give you permission?

Beer: It provided a context for me to see my own work.  To see how I wanted to be involved in my own ideas.  Instead of trying to depict landscape from Romania that I don’t know and simultaneously the interior of a room from my childhood that sounds very formulaic and boring.  But if I am responding to that idea, than I now have permission to change it.  It becomes my response.  I can change the palette.  How do you respond to that feeling or searching?  How is that expressed rather than depicted?  Response was this big word that just opened up.  It was the key to the city.

Academy: When was that?

Beer: That was the end of first year, I think.  Or the end of first semester during my second year.  It was at a pivotal moment.

Academy: How did your work change throughout your time at the Academy?

Beer: So my work started off really tight, as a described in a really traditional process.  And it became much more sparse.  I started to eliminate more and more elements.  I would eliminate the background.  There was a lot of white space and everything became very clean and sharp, which Catherine hated. Eventually as that series ended, I was left scrambling. I started to do these paintings that combine interiors and exteriors, within a traditional rectangular format.  No more crazy shaped canvases.  I tried to throw everything back together with the tools I now had, in more of an expressionistic shorthand that I was picking up.  I started to feel my natural rhythm for how I wanted to paint. It was not tight.  It was loose.  It was more a shorthand for what I was imagining I was perceiving rather than an articulated one.  I wouldn’t necessarily paint…I’m trying to think of an example.  This ceiling is kind of gold and there is some orange.  In the beginning, I would have painted every little piece going back but then I would have painted one big swath of gold and just dot the lights in.  My painting style became a lot looser. Then the Neo Rauch thing happened.  He was such a strong example of what I was trying to do and I just fell right in.

Academy: Tell me about the Fellowship and how that has been.

Beer: It’s been a great opportunity.  I have never been this excited about what I am making and have never felt this free to make it.  The reason the Fellowship has been so great is really because of Leipzig.  The fact that I got over this Neo Rauch thing second year, finally felt comfortable and had my own direction.  I had made the biggest painting I had ever made and I left New York that summer with the show booked in September.  I was going to Leipzig.  I was going to confront all these ghosts that I thought I was over.  I was going into the belly of the beast.  I left New York essentially without a history.  I didn’t take anything with me.  I got there and started fresh.  I had never felt that panicked before about having to actually recall what I was interested in making paintings about.

Academy: Why did you feel that way?

Beer: Because I was in a new setting.  I had to set up a studio somewhere else.  This was my first time with a big studio. The first time having a show.  The first time I was really feeling like I was starting my real art life and able to make what I wanted.  It was a really great editing process.  All the baggage and self-consciousness that I had here, felt like it was gone.  That which happens in grad school with so many voices giving feedback and around you.  I was able to really meditate on what I was interested in and what my ideas were.  The erroneous stuff just disappeared.   That was great.  It was amazing.  I never expected that. I actually had no idea what to expect with a residency, but it was unbelievable and magical.

Academy: When you came back and started the Fellowship did you continue the trajectory you had started on your residency?

Beer: I think so.  All the paintings I did for the show in September were large.  I finally felt comfortable working on a large scale and I knew that was part of what I wanted to do this year.  I had really found a way to take apart the world that was the world that I experienced in the present and the world I remember as my own memories and a past that I had learned that was not my own.  The American Identity thing came in at the moment.  My focus on identity shifted to my American Identity and to understanding how American Identity for the nation was formed through exploration, through painting and how it was represented and things like the World’s Fair became really involved in my work.  Symbols for America came into my work.  I began to take apart the American flag, the colors, American Iconography and American advertising.  Everything I have been really involved in throughout my whole life but never had the perspective to see.  That gift is really been amazing.  I don’t know if that would have really happened had I not been able to step away through the experiences I was given.  The Charlie Brown thing happened in Leipzig.

Academy: What’s the Charlie Brown thing?

Beer: Ah, I guess the Charlie Brown thing was probably pretty pivotal.  I was doing all these paintings at the end of second year that had chevrons in them.  One day I was drawing them and instead of making them all go the same direction, I made one go the other way and then connected it again.  I realized it was the design on Charlie Brown’s shirt.  So I put it into a painting.  That symbol opened up this design iconography into a painting language.  Why can’t it be a serious formal element in a non-abstract painting?  But it’s just Charlie Brown.  With that I found a way to co-opt a design language that I have been trained to do well but I also appreciate.  I also experience those design elements in the world every day.  Doing that allowed me to find a bit of a sense of humor in my work.  Which was really an important thing for me, which I hadn’t recognized yet.  What I couldn’t do in writing I finally found a way to do it in painting.  It was really satisfying to get a taste of that in my work.  It was humor through paradox.  I began to see all these paradoxes in American culture.    

Academy: As an artist, do you find yourself naturally observing?

Beer: Yes.  I am always looking.  A real nugget like is more rare.  But I definitely look for those.  I also keep a running list of titles.

Academy: You get your titles from what you see? Are titles important to you?

Beer: Yes, I do.  Titles are really important.  One of the paintings in the Fellows show called “Castle Bravo.”  It’s named after a nuclear test during one of the American operations during the Cold War.  I was watching this documentary about World War II and post WWII because I think that time period is a really interesting time in America.  A lot of crystallization of America happened then.  Our generation has inherited America in that way.  I find that really interesting and the historical footage is tremendously interesting.  I was watching it and they showed footage of cleaning up this bombsite.  There were these huge strapping GIs riding around on tanks without shirts on in the tropics.  The tanks are all covered in this yellow and red chevron tarp, as if that’s going to protect them from the biggest nuclear bomb to ever be detonated.  There’s so much ridiculousness layered in this history.  I wanted to capture that moment, that innocence and earnestness that is so important to America.  Suspension of belief is really important

Academy: What do you mean "suspension of belief"?

Beer: The American Dream.  People came and just died by they troves believing they were going to find a city of gold, the Northwest Passage.

Academy: You mean believing despite evidence to the contrary?

Beer: Yes. Which is paradoxical. It’s kind of crazy and kind of amazing.  I am really drawn to the way America exudes that from its pores.  It’s just there.  I like finding those moments.  So “Castle Bravo” was that.  Titles are really important to me.  A lot of time I have them written down and don’t know where they’re going.  I don’t know which works they’ll attach themselves to.

Academy: You don’t have figures in your work.  How was the figurative education from the Academy influential?

Beer:  There’s a great tradition of learning all of that.  For one, you can’t get it anywhere else. For someone, like me, who is after knowledge and interested in teaching those skills are really important.  I think it’s an important foundation to have, to be able to visualize and dissect your world in three-dimensions.  It’s a difficult skill to learn, but really being able to focus and hone that skill has been really important.  I start teaching at Montclair University this fall, teaching Painting I.  I’ll be able to communicate those skills better and help other artists, to show them what they can do.  Most people have the ability to deconstruct and construct, they just have to learn that they have it.  

Academy: Tell me about Art Rated.

Beer: When I left SVA, I realized one of the things I wanted from grad school was more critical dialogue.  I love crits.  I know some people hate them and hate talking about their work, but getting into it and taking it all apart.  There is nothing more satisfying to me.  I really enjoy it.  I’ve always really enjoyed having those conversations.  My first year I realized I always wrote down what I thought about shows I had seen. I started writing more formally about shows that spoke to me, like the Richard Serra Drawing Show.  Growing up I was not a good writer, my sister was the better writer.  I finally found what I wanted to write about, it wasn’t stories.  It was critical dialogue.  Lily Olive [] and I became friends here.  We started visiting people’s studios and doing photos and things for the blog here.  We realized we should start our own.  We came up with the title at our first studio visit.

Academy: Who else do write for?

Beer: The Brooklyn Rail.  I’ve done a few pieces for the Huffington Post.

Academy: How did you get those?

Beer: I was writing for ArtWrit.  And they knew the Huffington Post.  It was last summer, a piece I wrote about dOCUMENTA (13) for ArtWrit and then Huffington Post picked it up.  I’ve also written for Art Observed.  I am going to be writing for the Brooklyn Rail again and a blog called Dirty Laundry and some other big things coming up.  I love interviews.  I’ve done some essays and long form writing, but I really love doing interviews.  To get at where someone is coming from and what their work is about, there’s nothing like it.  It’s a conversation and makes their work much more accessible.  I’ve totally fallen in love with it.  I do a studio visit a week. 

Academy: Are artists willing do them?

Beer: Mostly.  It can be really hard to be an artist in New York.  Even if you have a network, it’s really spread out. Having the chance to meet new people regularly and feel connected to them is great.  It makes struggling in New York as an emerging artist all the more worth it and enjoyable.  It reaffirms why you do this.  I keep a running list on my phone of people I want to meet and visit with.  I aim really high.  I ask everyone, I don’t always get them, but it helps for the future asks.

Academy: Do you want to stick around New York?

Beer: For sure.

Academy: What do you have coming up next?

Beer: I have a few shows this fall.  After the Fellows show opens, I have a show at the Lawrence Gallery at Rosemont College.  It’s a solo show, but with three people at once.  It’s called Landscape Revisited.  It’s some of my early work from SVA.  It’s been shown a few times already, but it will travel around a bit more.  In October, I have a solo show in New Jersey at Fairleigh Dickinson University.  In January, there’s a show at a museum in Miami, at an art and design center there.

Academy: How do you get shows?

Beer: Through proposals.  You have to know how to write.  The trick is following up.  I’ve worked with someone who helps me with that.  I’ve been really lucky to have an agent who helps me make connections and follow-up with them.  It’s important to participate in the art world.  Go to openings, write, and be introduced.  That’s how I got my next show.
For more information about the 2013 Fellows Exhibition featuring Jonathan BeerAleah Chapin, and Nicolas Holiber or the Academy's Post-Graduate Fellowship Program visit the New York Academy of Art website -

This interview was conducted by Maggie Mead on behalf of the New York Academy of Art.  Editing and layout was done by Elizabeth B. Hobson, CMP.

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