Sunday, November 6, 2011

Q & A with Artist Jack Simonetta

Untitled, 2006 Jack Simonetta

Jack Simonetta
Meet Atlanta-based artist Jack Simonetta. Jack works across multiple media, including collage, oil, watercolor, sculpture and most recently beaded boxes.

I met Jack many years ago through his husband Bob Burkhardt, a wonderful photographer and at the time, a professional colleague of mine. Bob and Jack had just recently embarked on their mutual dream of opening an art gallery. Such a bold and exciting move to make their aspirations real.

Jack's work drew me in immediately. The moment I entered their gallery, a vibrant collage caught my eye. I bought that piece (shown above) at their very first show. The PB&J Gallery in Atlanta is still open and thriving and has become a vibrant showcase for contemporary Southern artists.

Jack graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions so we can learn more about him and his art. 

Q. How would you describe your creative work? 
A. My creative work is how I physically express myself. I've always had to use my hands to make things to "get out" my vision. Making things can be anything from painting to stone sculpting to glueing beads on to boxes to create designs. The physical process of making is what I HAVE to do. When I haven't made anything for a while I can feel it. My good friend Sue gave me a quote by Pearl S. Buck that describes me completely. Here it is:
"The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create -- so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off... They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating." 
- Pearl S. Buck
It still makes me cry when I read it.

Reaching for the Moon, Jack Simonetta
Q. What is your background and training? 
A.  I've been drawing or painting since childhood. As far as formal training, I've been through four years of college with a BA in Art and minor in Education and Art History. I've been studying stone sculpture for the past 7 years with Jane Jaskevich, a sculptor here in Atlanta. I've shown in a few galleries here in Atlanta over the past 15 years, most recently of course at our PB&J Gallery.

Career-wise, I started out doing paste-up at a company in Boston where they had some of the first wysiwyg computers for doing layout. After five years of that I left and went to work for the company that made the computers, Camex, doing software training and sales support. Three layoffs later and burnt out on traveling I returned to design work, first freelancing and then working for a small magazine publishing company in Atlanta where I currently work.

Roman Pine 1, Jack Simonetta
Q. What are your biggest influences? 
A. Mostly I'm influenced by nature, trees especially. Bare branches can be so expressive. Emotions also influences my work—grief, spiritual things, quietness. I use my art to work them out.

Q. Who are your three favorite artists at the moment and why? 
A. First that comes to mind is Charles Burchfield. I saw a book on his watercolors and was drawn to them. They have this mystical/fantasy feel to them like he was able to see hidden dimensions in a scene. Everything vibrates visually!

And Georgia O'Keeffe, I've always loved her work and when I first saw her early abstract pieces and the pieces other than her large flowers like the city scenes I was blown away. The shapes she used in her work turn up in my work. How she represents clouds and folds have very much influenced me.

And finally, José De Creeft. My sculpting mentor, Jane Jaskevich, has a library of sculpture books in her studio. I picked up a book of José De Creeft work and said, "This is how I want to sculpt!" I'm drawn to hands and he sculpted hands so simply. Sometimes he would leave the texture of the stone and I love that. It's like a painter making sure you see the brush strokes in a painting. The stylization of his pieces reminds me of Mayan or Aztec sculpture. They're shapes and bodies at the same time.

Crescents, Jack Simonetta
Q. What are a few of your favorite things? 
A. Walking on the beach, reading books, growing things and cooking.

Q.  What are your favorite blogs or websites?
A. I recently discovered a design website that's great - designboom.

The Depths, Jack Simonetta
Q. What music is moving you at the moment?
A. My favorite singer right now is Lizz Wright. She has a way of singing that tugs at my heart. She sings everything from jazz to gospel to R & B. She could sing anything and I'd love it!

Q. What would you want as your last meal?
A. Polenta with tomato sauce on top. My grandfather would make a huge pot of it, slice it up and pour sauce over it.

Q. Name one thing on your "bucket list"
A. I don't have a list. But, I would like to take at least 2 months and just do my art and nothing else.

Crow Flies, Jack Simonetta
Q. Where can we find you on the web?
A.  You can read my blog at, and find (and purchase) my work on our gallery website

Q.  Finally, what is your philosophy of life in 12 words or less?

A.  Go for it. When you're dead you're dead.

Thanks Jack, I needed that!

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