To Abdul Abdi (who everyday in Mogadishu, Somalia makes signs that read 'Beautiful Mogadishu' to remind citizens what has been lost) © Jason Lazarus
Jason Lazarus is currently living in Chicago and teaching at Columbia College and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago part-time. He produces work as a fine artist continually, and at the moment is celebrating openings in Chicago at the Andrew Rafacz Gallery, the Spertus Museum, Northeastern University, the Art Institute of Chicago as well as the White Flag Projects in St. Louis, MO.
Jason Lazarus' website
Jason Lazarus' blog
Rose Tarman: Tell me a little bit about your personal background and how it has influenced the way you work artistically.
Jason Lazarus: My undergrad was in marketing, at DePaul University. In ‘98 I graduated with a business degree. I think for me starting outside of art was great. Great artists usually have lived through a number of experiences that they bring to art...if I had kids I'd try to have them get an undergrad in philosophy, and then they could go into the arts, or whatever. It's all about critical thinking, critical observation, micro/macro thinking.
Kashmir and Lindsey (Easter) © Jason Lazarus
Rose Tarman: How do you go about starting a project? Do you go through a specific process usually or is it a spontaneous creativity?
Jason Lazarus: Making making making, later--sorting, editing, and 'whoa! I think I have the beginnings of a project here...'
Rose Tarman: A good amount of your work consists of found photography, altered photographs and performance. In projects like those do you still consider yourself a photographer or do you play a different role with the work?
Jason Lazarus: I consider myself a conceptual artist who uses photography.
Rose Tarman: I’ve always struggled with the pairing of text and image, a title can effect a piece so greatly that it can take away from the visual or lead the viewer in directions you don’t want. How do you get around that? You title pretty much all of your work and pair text with image to create connections and make your viewers think. Is it ever difficult for you to figure out what text to include or present and what not to?
Jason Lazarus: Yes it is. I make titles, change them, change them again. I get advice from peers I trust. No one ever taught me much about text/titles, I developed my own sensibility through artists I admired, art history, and artist-friends...
Otis Redding Motivational Poster Installation © Jason Lazarus
Rose Tarman: How did you start gaining recognition for your work and start marketing yourself as an artist? What would you say contributed the most to helping you get where you are today as far as marketing tools or personal connections?
Jason Lazarus: There is no trick--it's all about your enthusiasm! I got a gallery because I started my own gallery for a year in '02, met another gallerist. We became great friends. A few years later he started to ask me to participate in group shows. It all grew from there. If you're enthusiastic, you're already going to shows, meeting people, going out for drinks, participating in the community. My best connections have been made organically. Young people today are maybe too into marketing themselves without the patience to let relationships grow over time. People out there are paying attention...
Rose Tarman: How important do you find having the most advanced equipment? Cameras, computers, printers, calibration devices, scanners, etc: how high up are they on your list of priorities in terms of updating them?
Jason Lazarus: Ehhhhh.....I don't think that's so important. Do what you need to do to make your pictures look a certain way for aesthetic/conceptual reasons. That's it..
Rose Tarman: Personally I’m trying to figure out how I want to start my career after I graduate in 2011. Why is it you chose the path of teaching? Were there any other career paths you considered or tried out originally? How do you balance teaching and art?
Jason Lazarus: Teaching is awesome. Exhausting, but very reciprocal. The best, most honest, most satisfying/challenging path I’ve found...you just figure out how to make time for both teaching and making. the balance is hard…but starting teaching is the hardest part. You create an amalgam of lectures, books, videos, and other materials as you teach that grow with you...
Recordings (installation) © Jason Lazarus
Recordings (detail) © Jason Lazarus
Rose Tarman: If you have any advice for someone like myself trying to find a direction and foothold within the fine art world, what would it be?
Jason Lazarus: Keep it real, reach for the stars.