Springboard for the Arts newest artist in residence is Jaron Childs, a photorealistic painter and art conservator based in Wisconsin. His artistic journey began with his maternal grandmother, who was a porcelain painter, and then encouraged further when he was 16 years old, living in Waseca, and a teacher drove him to see an art gallery in the Twin Cities. Since then, Childs has worked to find his style and voice in art, today feeling more confident in his work even if he feels like he hasn’t achieved the kind of perfection he aspires to.
He attended Minneapolis College of Art and Design from 1993-94 for paintings and then 2003-04 for photography, torn between the kind of art he felt he should be making and the kind of art he wanted to make. In 2003 and 2004, he began painting photographs, and in doing that he feels he’s found his artistic calling. Although he started with a gallery of paintings made from photos taken by others, he grew from that to start creating his own, more personal, work. “I started making paintings from the photos that I was taking wherever I went, so the source material for these paintings, these photos weren’t intended as art originally, or I wasn’t making a distinction between photos of my children and the places we went and art,” he says. “I was just taking photos and then when I would select them, they would become something else.”
The idea of painting a photograph might strike others as strange, though. Childs points to a quote by essayist Elaine Scarry, who wrote in “On Beauty and Being Just,” “Beauty prompts a copy of itself.” Childs says, “When you work from photos, there’s a certain level at which you’re asked to justify the act, like, why? The question you get is, ‘Why would you do that? It already exists,’ but I think paintings are beautiful, and I think there are these photographic moments that won’t stand still long enough for you to paint them, and yet the painting has a different quality than the photo, and people spend more time with paintings, and they kind of engage with the surface in a different way.”
Since he started, he’s had several solo galleries showcasing his work, including at Soo Visual Arts Center in Minneapolis, the Waseca Arts Center, Ridgewater College in Willmar and Hutchinson, Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Nemeth Art Center in Park Rapids. He’s also won awards like Best Single Artists Show in 2007 from City Pages for his show “Ruptures” at Soo Visual Arts Center.
His work explores the relationships between humans and the environment, whether it’s people looking at landscapes, structures people have built or a person whistling with a blade of grass. “I think I went through some periods where I was having kind of an apocalyptic anxiety, with what we’re looking at with changing climate and a lot of what we are doing with our use of resources, it feels alarming to me,” Childs says. “So I think there was some of this in there, but then I was also thinking about positive aspects of our relationship.”
During his stay in Fergus Falls, Childs has a few new paintings he plans to work on, as well as developing a curriculum for a drawing and mindfulness class. “I’m trying to work on ways in which we can be using art as a way of cultivating more closeness with all the other somebodies around us,” he says. He’d also like to explore the Kirkbride and learn more about it and it’s history.