Student Feature: Jason Adams

April 18, 2013

by Joshua Kelly Published in The Tiger Newspaper

Upcoming Masters of Fine Arts showcase “Yours Mine Ours” will feature the work of three artists who will be receiving their graduate degree in studio arts from Clemson University this coming May. Dealing with themes of intrapersonal interaction as well as the affiliation that our actions towards each other share with our treatment of the world at large, a large scale sculptural instillation by Jason Adams will be on display after almost three months of round the clock construction. The piece, both interactive playground and work of art, will urge the viewer to meditate on what it means to love and care about someone, and think about how that is shown through our day-to-day interaction.

One of the primary focuses of Jason’s work is on making art more than just a passive experience. His instillations cannot simply be approached and consumed by a cursory glance over the work. In order to really grasp the concepts that he is exploring, Jason constructs his work in a way that causes the participants to also directly engage those themes. Much of his work not only deals with ideas involving relationships and human connection, but actually employs the viewers as part of the realization of the piece. His last large scale work that was on display in the Lee Gallery was a hot tea bar where attendees could work together in order to make hot tea or coco for others. His newest piece deals with human interaction in a more personal, though similar, way while simultaneously asking the viewer to meditate on their relationship with their natural surroundings.

But making nifty interactive instillations isn’t the only thing that Jason does with his time. Besides the long list of responsibilities and tasks he has to complete as a graduate TA, Jason finds the time to be a personal mentor to the department’s undergrads, has shown work across the nation, including exhibits in Texas and California, and is completing his M.F.A. in two years rather than the normal two and a half. For these reasons, I sat down with him this week for an interview to see how he handles it all.

Perspective: Why did you come to Clemson for Art?

Jason Adams: Clemson’s strongest asset is the community, and the art department is no different. The faculty and students that make up the program are truly amazing and the faculty operates under a team teaching model that requires them to work together. Having professors that work so well together provides the students with rich and well-informed sets of feedback on creative work.

P: What does your art focus on formally and conceptually?

JA: My work is centered around the provision of simple gestures that subvert dominant cultural values surrounding selfishness and materialism. It’s about generating an attitude of love through performances and interventions, as well as through installations that give others the opportunity to serve someone. I often reference bodily organs and utilize the function of that organ as a basis for the conceptual framework to a given project. For example, the digestive system can be translated into a system of exchange between the body and the world. In a sense, it is about intake, processing, energy, and waste. These elements can be turned into a participatory experience that broadens our understanding of how we interface with the world, simply by looking at how we receive, how we process, and what we do with the “nutrients.”

P: You have your thesis show coming up in later this month, can you describe a little what your featured work will be like?

JA: I have fabricated a large scale tent in the form of a human heart that operates as a visitors center for adventurers. The installation brings attention to the overlapping qualities of “leave no trace principles” within wilderness ethics, and the life-giving potential of interacting with each other. To avoid leaving a trace in the wilderness is to enact humility through care and respect. In the same way, refusal to negatively impact another person exemplifies the same care and respect. In order to act in life-giving ways towards those we encounter, it is necessary to embrace an adventure of love as a critical tool against destructive relationships, operating in humility and concern for the well-being of others.

P: What do you hope the viewer takes away from the show?

JA: I hope that people will start to consider their daily lives a sequence of opportunities for loving people. I also hope that by framing the idea of love as an adventure, people will recognize the challenges of this pursuit, and be prepared to make the changes necessary for taking such a path.

So, although you won’t be hearing from me again until after spring break, remember that Jason will be showing work in a group exhibition also featuring fellow graduate students of the Carly Drew and Ann Pegelow Kaplan entitled “Yours Mine Ours” opening in the Lee Gallery on March 25th. Jason’s instillation, Carly’s large scale drawings, and Ann’s photographs all deal with a theme of intrapersonal interaction and the relation our actions towards each other have in context with the world at large. “Yours Mine Ours will be on display until April 5th.