You were born in Kansas, raised in Missouri and now live in Portland, Maine. What brought you to Maine and what was your path in getting there?
Adam: I moved around a lot as a kid but spent my high school and college years in Missouri. My fiance and I were running a tiny used book store for a few years and one day someone walked in and offered to buy it. The following summer we drove to Maine intending to stay for a summer, but we ended up really liking it here. Portland is a great city, it’s really good fit for us.
In your artist statement you say, “Since moving to Maine three years ago, I have taken hundreds of rubbings from head stones, some of them weathering on from the 18th century. My current paintings draw directly upon the poems, symbols, patterns, and geometries that I find at these grave sites.” What drew you to graves as a place of inspiration?
Adam: In college I discovered Jenny Holzer, Ed Ruscha, and Barbra Kruger and I started making work about language. The paintings I was making were just bad imitations of those artists. I was painting words and phrases that I took from public places (Billboards, neon signs, bumper stickers, etc.) and obscuring them, painting on top of them. Eventually I used some pieces of a prayer that was on a headstone in the cemetery behind my house. Soon I was driving all over the state, seeking out new headstones. After a while the symbols and design elements of the stones became much more interesting to me than the words. It opened up a more possibilities.
Do you have any interest in exploring symbols from other cultures and times, say, from the Middle Ages or Roman times? It strikes me that in the context of all of human existence colonial times are still pretty recent.
Adam: Of course! When you start looking into the symbols used and ceremonies practiced by colonial people you realize those same symbols and ceremonies were practiced by previous cultures. They were just repackaged, given new definitions and histories by the puritans that reinforced their beliefs and ways of life and death. I am going to keep working my way backwards and outwards. It seems pretty endless.
You reference philosopher Martin Heidegger having said that the human invention of language is motivated by the drive towards immortality. Do you believe artists in this day and age are as affected by existential questions around immortality?
Adam: Maybe not to the same degree or in as direct of a way as has been done in the past, but artist are certainly asking these questions.
How are these mixed-media works made? To my eye they look like prints.
Adam: I collage pieces of rubbings on top of gouache paintings. I use wax on Japanese paper for the rubbings (I love that Japan creates paper specifically for rubbings) Sometimes I repeat this a few times, building up the painting.