Anthony White is an artist and curator who currently lives and works in Seattle, WA. White’s work consists of intricate portraits that glamourize the seductive and artificial personas that have been edited, curated and uploaded to social platforms. He also constructs still-lifes that include digital signifiers as evidence of making art during the rapid growth of technology. Unconventionally and meticulously spun from PLA plastic in an assembly-line-like routine, his work disrupts hierarchies of status and wealth and blurs the line between fact and faction by placing low-brow accoutrements in highly-saturated and luxurious environments. The devices used within his work create a mirage surrounding figures and objects that aim to cast a reputable portrayal of one’s lifestyle, habits, vices and desires.
White has exhibited work in numerous art fairs, groupshows and solo exhibitions both nationally and internationally. He most recently presented a solo exhibition at PUBLIC Gallery in London as well as a solo profile booth at EXPO Chicago. Both the Frye Art Museum and Crocker Art Museum acquired work by Anthony to add to their permanent collections in 2019. White was a recipient of Seattle Art Museum’s Betty Bowen Award in 2019 and a recipient of Amazon’s Artist in Residence Program in the Spring of 2020. White is currently preparing for a solo exhibition at Greg Kucera Gallery that will open this Fall, and a museum curatorial project for the Museum of Museums in Seattle, that will launch early 2021.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and upbringing?
I grew up with hard working parents. They were young with their first child, and still younger than average after three of them. We didn’t have much but we were content and happy with what we did have. My parents taught me and my siblings the importance of family, working hard for the things you want and deserve, and how manners, discipline and ethics should be forever worked hard on. Half of my biological makeup is of African descent, and while growing up I would often spend full weekends with my Grandmother. She would, and still does, tell me stories about what it was like growing up as a Black woman in the 50’s and 60’s, spending a lot of her childhood moving around the world as a military brat. Her stories of living in Oklahoma, Germany, Japan and many other places have surfaced recently, but with an entirely different impact than they did before. These stories and recounts have taught me to examine the world with a keener eye, and to take a more careful look about who I see in the mirror and what the world looks at you as. Over the past year, her and I have had some very powerful, enlightening and motivating conversations.
Where does your passion for your craft derive from?
My creative passion seems to have been with me for as long as I can remember, and my earliest, most vivid memories of expressing creativity with passion was in the 6th grade. My art teacher at the time was introducing us to Picasso and the likes of. A few of us were assigned to paint a ceiling tile inspired by him and she would reinstall it to live there for as long as that classroom was designated to art. It was wild revisiting that classroom many years later to see it still there. I grew up surrounded by different types of art and creative people as well. My mother’s parents were both crafty people who made crafty front lawn wood sculptures and benches, and my dad has always been covered in tattoos. I think these environments of nuture subconsciously engrained my consistent creative practices of different kinds. They were also great people who taught me discipline. Around age 15 I started looking at tattoos, the history of them and the rooted artistic style. I found interest in having them and also doing them of the things I had been doodling or drawing. And when I did, commission work opened the door for even more creative exploration when having to satisfy others. My parents gifted me a tattoo machine at 15 and I still practice them here and there when friends request them. I think tattooing was the most impactful creative practice I’ve had, especially considering the work I make now. Not only is the technicality similar but people who have tattoos often carry the stories attached or associated to each of them, whether they’re: important moments in time, significant symbols and icons, or simply just a fun object that builds their identity… These attachments are of the same theory that goes into my vanitas style works.
Where do you draw your main influences from?
It sounds simple and direct but daily interactions and time spent in very particular places are what influence the work. Even digital and virtual places. I haven’t done the math but I would think it’s obvious to point out that we spend a lot of time detached from the ‘real’ world. A collection of souvenirs, symbols, noises, colors, and everything else from those places are carefully regurgitated onto my panels- they often describe my headspace at the start time of each piece. It’s also important for me to reflect on art history in different ways when I can in each piece, so in addition to my outdoor or online research, I am also looking at a lot of art historical books- I like reflecting things i’ve learned about the past back into a painting; those things range from composition formats, a person’s character traits, or different symbols/devices/colors for specific feeling or direction. I often pull influence from every moment of my daily routine.
Have there been any stand out or pivotal moments in your life that have inspired you as a creative?
There have been a couple. I did a studio residency program in New York during my entire 3rd year in art school, and that 6 month experience solidified my desire to make art everyday and have dialogue about it as often as I could. Kerry James Marshall at MET Breuer was the first show that moved me emotionally. And when I was about 15 years old I received my first tattoo machine as a gift. Soon after, I was gratified in the fact that people would pay money for a drawing or painting… Both on and off skin. It was my side-hustle for a long time during school which helped me exercise a steady hand and get better at drawing.
Please explain your thoughts and process behind the designs submitted for the collaboration
The two works that were picked for this collaboration seemed very fitting for the time and the global climate right now, but they also felt like something that could worn later. I like clothing that has both that immediate and contemporary feel while also feeling ‘timeless’. The piece, ‘TOO LITTLE TOO LATE’ was made in the studio while I was in quarantine here in Seattle. It felt like I spent countless days over-watering my only plant, and trying to get comfortable and familiar with the ‘new normal’ zoom meetings. But I finally found it’s worth when I realized I could display a custom background. My favorites to use are either sections from the Sistine Chapel, or computer generated imagery of beaches on random islands. In the early days of quarantine my mind wandered and at one point I found myself curious about where ‘Tom’ was in the world.
I also thought it would look great to have a round work of mine on the front of a shirt. It’s a fun shape, and I chose ‘ANCHORED’ because right now, and forever, it’s important to celebrate Brown and Black bodies. That piece is a self examination and when I was making it there was this constant feeling of meditative ease, and the repetition in gesture and pattern for the thick black water allowed me to really reflect on my existence in this world… So again, all of that felt correct for a collaboration right now.
TOO LITTLE TOO LATE
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on multiple pieces for my upcoming exhibition at Greg Kucera Gallery this Fall. That’s where my head is at the moment.
Any exciting plans for the future you would like to share?
This future is a bit iffy right now. It’s becoming difficult to plan things with certainty, but hopefully all or some of the covid-halted projects will come to fruition (fingers crossed). I am looking forward to postponed group exhibitions and also a time when it’s safe and appropriate to hangout with loved one’s irl.
Find out more about Anthony White
TOMORROW X ANTHONY WHITE
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