New Mexico Artist to Know Now Justin Richel updates us on his current projects and the vital role of art-making.
This past March (the one that feels approximately 200 years ago) Southwest Contemporary held its second-annual exhibition 12 New Mexico Artists to Know Now. Selected from over 400 submissions, these are the artists we consider to be shaping the landscape of contemporary art in New Mexico.
Just one week after the opening, however, the gallery closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, these artists have continued to create, in terms of art as well as impact in their communities. We’re checking in with each of them to see how they are, and what they’re making now.
lives in Roswell, NM
born in New Brunswick, NJ
justinrichel.com | @justinrichel
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your process? Has it changed where, how or when you work? Has it changed the subject matter?
I am incredibly fortunate to have been granted a year-long residency at the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Foundation, which began in January. I am so grateful for the support, especially now during this very strange time.
What are your top concerns for the arts and your fellow artists?
The arts have already been impacted greatly and it’s uncertain what the eventual outcome will be. However, historically speaking, difficulty has always made for great art-making. I expect to see some important work emerge from this time. For artists, making art is not a choice, it is vital.
How has your relationship with art-making changed during this time?
I am embracing the fact that art-making has always been akin to a spiritual practice for me, and although I allow the content of my work to remain open, I do think that it carries a personal spiritual significance.
Tell us about your current projects or pieces:
Prior to the pandemic, I had been working on developing a new body of work that investigates what a painting could be, and what painting means to me personally. I began by asking a few simple questions:
“What is a painting?” Perhaps the simplest answer to that question is its materiality. Traditionally: Paint, canvas, and wood supports.
“What is the function of a painting?” A window or aperture to view the subject, a framework or ideology. An object of/for contemplation.
With these ideas in mind, I have been creating sculptures that are composed of only three ingredients: paint, canvas, and wood supports.
I have a particular interest in Jungian psychology. I began this series with the idea that archetypal imagery surrounds us in our daily lives. It doesn’t have to be anything all that exciting. In fact, my focus has been on liminal architecture and objects found in my home, such as windows, doors and ladders; as metaphors for transcendence of particular states of mind and body.
I could not have foreseen how this choice of using objects from our interior spaces as a metaphor for our interior lives, could have become so relevant. Being in self-isolation or quarantine, and making this work has been like a walking meditation; where the making of a thing, the reality of the thing, and the impetus for transformation are blurring together in unexpected ways.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I will have a solo exhibition, tentatively scheduled for the end of 2020 or early 2021, at the Roswell Museum and Art Center, where I will exhibit my new body of work.