The New York-based artist, teacher, and curator Joseph Ayers gains inspiration from an array of autobiographical touchpoints. He grew up rural Florida, was stationed in Alaska with the U.S. Air Force, received his B.A. in fine art at the University of New Orleans, and pursued his M.F.A. in fine art at Hunter College in New York. It wasn’t until he was a master’s program student that he began making connections with his past through art.
As he witnessed the art world landscape change with the rise of technology, he began teaching, developing classes that fused theory and creation with new technology and digital techniques. Today, he lives in Beacon, where he exhibits and curates art, and he travels into the city to teach at Parsons. “The name of the course I’m teaching currently is called TIME. Through video, animation, editing and compositing, students explore both personal and cultural perceptions related to the subject of time,” he said.
For almost two years, he’s been represented by Neumann Wolfson Art in Manhattan. There, a highlight of his has been “Survivors and True Lies”— a two-person show with his wife, Aya Uekawa, who’s also an artist represented by the gallery.
“I created a video and sound piece and projected it over two of Aya Uekawa’s paintings,” said Ayers. “What you see in this video is the gallery wall, two paintings on the wall, and the video piece projected over the whole thing. The sound piece is created by manipulating archival kamikaze war plane sounds.”
For our latest “Checking In” column, Whitewall caught up with Ayers to hear how he’s doing amid the COVID-19 outbreak, what he’s working on while at home, and which dishes his competitive family is cooking at the Ayers-Uekawa Café.
WHITEWALL: How are you doing?
JOSEPH AYERS: It’s pretty hard to answer that question these days. To be honest I love being isolated at home, but at the same time there is a lot of anxiety regarding friends and family and the threat of Coronavirus, the economy, income, etc. We are doing our best!
WW: What are you listening to, reading, or watch?
JA: I’ve been immersed in the daily news, watching the way nations are addressing the pandemic and other global crisis. It’s very revealing how those in power are manipulating information and looking for advantages amidst tragedy. In the studio I’ve been listing to Brian Eno, exploring his long list of collaborative projects. The last track I listened to was Moss Garden—a collaborative song by Eno and David Bowie.
WW: What are you cooking?
JA: We are really lucky that both my wife and I are artists, and we both love to cook. We have a very precocious and competitive daughter (who’s also an artist) and so we do our best to outdo each other and ourselves. We call or dining room Ayers-Uekawa Café! Two days ago I made vegan lasagna and last night I made Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes) for dinner.
WW: How are you staying connected?
JA: Text and email are steady as usual, but things are leaning more and more toward Zoom meetings and FaceTime. It’s not my preferred method to interface, but in these times of social distancing, we have to stay flexible and adapt.
WW: How are you staying creative?
JA: It’s been a good time to clean the studio, sort through documentation from projects and all. That has actually been a great inspiration. And the extra time at home is also really inspiring!
WW: Are you able to make work at this time?
JA: I just started working on a new sculptural video piece. It’s a piece of twisted wood that I’ve painted a creepy face on. It looks at a tv monitor that appears to be a reflection of the wood, except that the reflection is actually an animation that reveals subtle movement and expression in the animated face. At moments, the inanimate wood seems to come to life.
WW: Where are you finding inspiration?
JA: Family! We are usually at each other’s throat, but the pandemic has forced us to really appreciate what we have and educate ourselves on how to carry on into the future.