Tell us about yourself, how did you become an artist?
My journey started at a very young age in Southwest, Ohio. At eight years old, I started taking advanced art classes in Hamilton, Ohio, with art instructor Linda Fisher. Linda's lessons and my parents' support put me on the trajectory I am still following today. I never considered another path for my life other than being an artist and art educator and took advantage of great art programs in high school and college.
French Broad, 2019
What is your background? and how did it inform the focus of your creative exploration or the medium you're currently working with?
I went to college to become a K-12 art teacher and worked as a high school art teacher in Savannah, Georgia, for a few years. I did not discover alternative process photography until I had a group of seniors that wanted to explore darkroom photography. I had no experience with darkroom other than pin hole cameras when I was in high school. My seniors in 2008 did their own research and prototyped a DIY darkroom, and experimented with cameraless photograms in my storage closet that year. Those students taught me their newly discovered photographic processes, and I became hooked. I use the same basic methods today.
Aimless Endeavor, 2019
What ideas interested you in the beginning of your practice, which ideas have you continued to explore, and where have they led you?
Nature-inspired processes and ecologies are the driving factors of my work today and even in my first drawings as a child. In my work, foraged artifacts interface with light, water, and chemistry to create unique photographic monotypes that illustrate my ever-changing lived experience. I find affinity with organic forms and materials, observe vital ecologies in nature, and participate in nature's symbiotic relationships, leading to an intimate connection with place, materials, and self. These relationships in nature inspire me to investigate my relationships with self and others.
Who were and are the biggest sources of your inspiration?
My wife Bevin is a primary inspiration, but I also reference people and moments from my past, like estranged or deceased family members, former co-workers, and past partners. I have not spoken to most of these people in years, but I feature them in my work to help me process their loss. I like to weave my life today with experiences from years ago, reminiscing, reframing, and retelling personal stories in single images.
Where do you find inspiration?
My primary inspirations come from nature, my wife, and my lived experiences. I utilize foraged materials found in nature as symbols to tell my own story. My emerging body of work chronicles moments of beauty when I met my wife, but also reflects on seasons of personal struggle with bipolar disorder. I use my art to mourn the death of loved ones and investigate faded relationships. Today, I make most of my work outdoors in a black canvas tent that I have converted into a mobile darkroom. I use natural water sources like creeks and rivers as bases for my eco-friendly chemicals and embrace natural variables like varying temperatures and microorganisms in the water, light leaks in the tent, humidity, weather, and more. These variables add to the excitement of creating and require constant problem solving to produce high-quality photograms.
Is there are a single work, project, or series that is pivotal in your current trajectory?
My Love for You is Stronger than My Fear of Lizards, Photogram, 2015.
How did it begin? and how did it evolve?
"My Love for You is Stronger than My Fear of Lizards" was the genesis of me depicting, illustrating, and reflecting on relationships through my artwork. I created this piece five years after one of my first dates with my wife, Bevin, in 2010. We visited a local pet store in Denton, Texas, and she discovered that I have an irrational fear of lizards. In the piece, I attempted to represent the good fear I was experiencing falling in love with her by using the lizard as the central symbol. I created it in my classroom darkroom at the STEM Academy in Savannah, Georgia, using a veterinary x-ray of a lizard and found materials.
What were important lessons in the process that you’ve carried forward with you?
Experiment with new mediums and make lots of art. My students introduced alternative process photography to me, something I would have never sought out on my own, most likely. I have made a minimum of one thousand individual works in various DIY darkrooms in the last decade, from closets, classrooms, bathrooms, furnace rooms, and outdoor tents. Experimenting with endless types of chemistries, light sources, water sources, exposure techniques, and more has instilled confidence and humility at the same time. I had to create hundreds of works to discover how this medium can uniquely share my voice and perspective.
Called in Sick Today, 2020
What are you working on now?
Today, I am primarily working with collage techniques. In the summer of 2020, I created around 200 new photograms, with the hope to collage and combine them. As a professor, I have many required online meetings every week. I use that time to listen and contribute to the university and cut and glue photograms, merging symbols, and storylines. My collaged photogram "Losing Interest" shows this new direction.
If you could go back in time to the very beginning of your art practice and give your younger self a single piece of advice what would it be?
Don't rush. Your practice depends on and thrives on life experience. Young artists have an important voice, but it takes time to discover how to use it and what tools best pair with it. Also, surround yourself with people, materials, and environments that not only inspire you but push you and challenge you. Learn others' truths, travel frequently, listen to new music, and measure your practice by your personal growth, not sales, exhibitions, or followers. Your best art is yet to come, so don't recreate or repeat yourself. Find a new voice as often as you can.
Sunrise, Sunset, 2019
About the Artist
Based in Cookeville, Tennessee
Jeremy Blair has been practicing alternative process photography for the last ten years and specializes in cameraless photograms inspired by the work of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray. Jeremy received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Miami University and earned his doctorate in Art Education from the University of North Texas. Jeremy has taught cameraless photography processes since 2009 while working as a K-12 art teacher and a university professor. He currently lives in Cookeville, Tennessee, where he is an Assistant Professor of Art Education at Tennessee Tech University.
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