Interview with artist, Christopher Worth, from the "Portraits" exhibition

How did you come to be involved with the VSA MO “Portraits” show?

I am Board President of VSA and it was a good way to demonstrate that I am also an active artists. Also my work has focused on the figure/portraits for a long time now - so it also pushed me to produce in a fresh way.

What other organizations or creative groups are you involved with, if any?

I am the organizing team manager at Paraquad Inc.

What mediums do you work in? Do you consider yourself to be a painter, photographer, sculptor, etc? How do you define yourself artistically?

I am a painter. I was trained in oil and have used acrylic extensively. But this show allowed me to pull it back all the way before art school "influenced me." I started my love for art by opening a box of oil pastels and falling in love with the possibility held in all the color - this happened when I was 12 or so. I remember the actual moment. Before then I had used pens and crayons, you know... but vibrant color, it woke something up within me! So this show helped me unlock that again and start pulling it out of the vault in which our youngest memories are stored.

Do you feel like you worry more about being liked or about being honest?

My work is emotionally a reflection of my deepest honesty. On the other hand I do think about the art world and my works impact on it. I think about how disability plays into people's perception of what is possible, in the act of art making, and otherwise. Amazingly my work moves beyond my worries and my attempts at making it uniform with the art world. It speaks honesty even when I want to hide its imperfections, it's the imperfect nature in fact that makes it beautiful. I work speaks beyond me. And I am so glad it is not held back by I need to be accepted. In fact it forces me to say: “screw what I think others would like, I like that this piece of artwork speaks to me beyond me and deserves to be in the world.”

How do you understand the balance between your privacy and being open in/sharing your work? 

Because I hold that art is a language and that that vocabulary moves beyond me as the artists, I don't do work in private. I don't say, this is just for me. In fact, most of the time, the work screams at me until I release it from my studio. I have very little of my own work on my walls, for example. By the time I'm done with them they are very complicated creatures of their own, they have their own voice. They are not mine anymore, there is no private or public line drawn in my work.

If you had to be described by others in one word, which word would you hope they used and why?

"Provoking" because I want my work to engage you. Whether that be about beauty or repulse, it should drag you in, or invite you in to a deeper conversation about color, dimension, social change, or social psychology, etc.

What is a talent or skill most people would be surprised to learn you possess?

To play an instrument of any type where you have to use your hands.

What are some of your favorite words? (In English or in any language)

Corn, cuddle-muffin, love

Are you more shy or more bold? Explain a little.

I am bold in a very methodical way. When I was growing up for a long time I would be only one who could believe in myself or did. I think this is part of the boldness.

You are given a destination-less plane ticket and can go anywhere in the world (lucky you!), where would you go and why?

Germany! Especially because of its history. Even the bad stuff, I believe that modern art owes a lot to what the Nazis called: "degenerate art." I love people like Käthe Kollwitz. I would also like to visit the Basque country where my biological mother's family comes from.

What is are your relationships with the last two people you texted?

My adopted mother and a young artist who I am interested in getting involved on VSA’s board.

What are your fears?

That I will have to someday stop making art. And that I will somehow drop the ball on the many projects I always have going.

On a rough day, how do you practice self-care?

I drink coffee and complain. Sometimes the coffee has some liquor in it. But most of the time not.

What would you say is the most important lesson you have learned in life so far?

To keep going, when others say that can't be done. Also to try and stay positive, not sickeningly sweet, but “real-world” positive.

What has been your biggest challenge in life, so far?

Learning that my feeling of inadequacy is not real but put on me by other systems.

What has been your biggest blessing in life, so far?

Finding a significant other who believes in me.

People who have and/or do inspire you? And what about them is it?

I know I'm going to be laughed at for this, but I'm inspired by everyone! Truly, I never meet someone who I can’t say that person fuels me in one way or another.

What are some things or places that really inspire you?

West Virginia inspires me.

Do you ever find yourself in a creative dry-spell? If so, what do you do to find yourself again and create new work?

Oh yes, I do. But my mentor, Stanley Sporny, always said even if something isn't happening or isn't hitting you, make a mark on the page and at least one every day. I try to live by that!

Who do you consider your creative mentors? Which people or movements have most strongly influenced your work over the years?

Stanley Sporny (painter), Peter Massing (printmaker), Susan Jackson (feminist art historian)

What is art? (It’s a difficult word to define and I am always curious about artists’ ways of understanding it)

Art is a language which taps into our deepest cognitive processes for both the maker and the viewer.

What do you feel are the recurring themes in your work? What is the world you are trying to create/magnify for your audience? 

My work has always talked about forms of perception and the building of that perception through interaction with the world and filtering that world through one's psyche. My work talks about the act of making and remaking the world. That we are not disconnected from our surroundings in the least and art is an extension of our impact on the world while also being a reflection of that impact.

Talk a little bit about your creative process – from getting the idea to the finished “product” of the piece?

Let me use the piece I'm working on right now. I started a series of work on oppression. So when I get a series in my head that normally comes out of things that I'm dealing with in my job. The two are interconnected I often take an issue from my job as a community organizer and comment on it in my artwork. To others that first bit of commentary is not very noticeable – or noticeable at all, most of the time my early thinking about a series stays in my head. Then starts to creep out as I'm making my mandatory marks that I try to make daily. This series I'm working on now has to do with oppression. I take that concept and say how can I comment on this using elements of my style – signature figure drawing qualities and I literally begin to map the work out in my mind. By the time I'm ready to move beyond background marks I have a full picture of what something looks like in my head. And 90% of the time it comes out on the paper, the 10% is the area, the room, to let the materials do what they do.

Do you believe you are an old soul, a young one or neither?

It’s strange. It's strange. I am a split soul, both old and young. In certain areas of my life I am very young at heart and others sometimes I feel like I'm 90 years old.

Does art have a “purpose?” And if so, what do you believe the purpose of art is?

It definitely has a purpose. It is a language. It conveys, or has the capacity to convey deeper meanings then many written "romantic" languages. Art can bridge the gap between cultures, individuals, and of course disabilities, because it is a cognitive root language.