Born June 6th, 1983 in Little Rock, AR, Spencer began exploring the world through his handsand eyes as soon as he could grasp a pencil. His first inspiration was his Grandmother, MilliePrasifka, a fantastic painter in her own right. With her, Spencer began painting and drawing at avery young age. As he grew so did his passion for art, attending many classes at the ArkansasArt Museum, along with grade school and high school. Spencer's formal education in art beganat Lyon College, in Batesville, AR, where he earned a Bachelor's in Fine Arts.
Spencer’s work has been described as “contrasting existentialism while seeing an inner soul”.Spencer had a piece of his work selected and sold during the opening of the William JeffersonClinton Library to help support the THEA Foundation. He has created many awards for theArkansas Children’s Hospital along with donating his artwork for various events for ACH andthe Center’s for Youth and Families. His studies at Lyon took him to both New York and Greece,where he was educated from ancient to modern art. Spencer was the designer and builder for areception honoring Academy Award winner Lisa Blount. Also, he planned and assisted buildingthe façade of the Becknell Physical Education Building for Lyon’s annual Scottish Fest. While atLyon, Spencer studied studio art under Brody Burroughs and Chris Valle. Spencer was afounding member of the Zeta Alpha Omicron chapter of Kappa Pi international art fraternity atLyon College. Spencer was a member of a group show at Lyon’s Kresge Gallery in Spring of2005, his body of work was entitled, “Let’s Go For A Drive,” where he invited the viewer intohis life as a pizza delivery worker, showing various scenes of Batesville on canvases shaped likecar windows accompanied by songs that were interpreted through his brush. In August of 2007,Spencer had a solo show “Childhood” at the Main Street Art Store in Heber Springs, Arkansas.“Childhood” took the viewer into Spencer’s upbringing through large charcoal drawings alongwith abstract photography telling the relationship of Spencer with his brothers. Spencerparticipated in “The Art Show,” a collective exhibition in 2010. A year later, a collection of hiswork hung in the Department of Health and Human Services and he held a solo exhibitionentitled “The Process” at the South Arkansas Arts Center in El Dorado, AR.
John's, Photograph, 8" x 10"
Why art? There are lots of things you can do in life, why did making art grab you and not let go?
Art was always something that I was drawn to. At an early age it was a connection I had with my mom's mom. She was a skillful painter and taught me the basics of painting. My mom still has the first painting I did of a barn when I was very very young. Growing up I appreciated art and the connection it created with the viewer. Art was also such a wonderful connection to the past, and it sparked my interest. I believe I create art, not to be studied in the future, but to tell a story to the viewer. I want what I create to spark something in the viewer's mind. I want them to think about what is before them. Why did I present this to the viewer? What am I trying to say or represent? It is just as much as what I am trying to convey as to what the viewer interprets.
Yeah, it's a question that gets asked a lot, but I'm going to ask it again: What inspires you?
I gather inspiration from a lot of sources. I don't define myself as a particular style of artist. I am not a photographer, a painter, a drawer, etc. I am still pushing myself trying to find my personal definition as an artist. Because of this inspiration has come from may places. Sometimes it is because I had something in my mind I wanted to get out, or it was because I was hired to shoot a story. Inspiration is all around us. As an artist it is my job to find that inspiration and act on it to tell the best story possible.
Most artists have some idea of where they are going with their work while they are creating it. However, there is always the aspect that the viewer will project their own ideas and experiences onto the work when they see it. Do you feel that you, in a sense, lose some control of the work once it is released into the wild? Is this bothersome to you?
Yes there is some loss of control of the work when the public views it, but every artist should know and embrace that. A lot of the work I create is intended to be interpreted by the viewer, I want the piece to start a conversation. The work presented at the Burgundy does not fall into this category. What I have presented there is a slice of my experiences in the Delta. They are straightforward images, but the viewer is free to interpret them however they see fit. I don't think it is my job to tell you how to feel. Sometimes I think works are over analyzed just like the written word, and that is why it is important to know the artist's intent when forming your own opinion of a work.
What role do you see the artist playing in a community?
I feel that the artist serves as a voice for the community. The artist determines what this voice is. Are they speaking for justice, for awareness, for social change, or to represent the community as it is? Each artist will determine their voice.
I remember in a graphic design class being told that after the class, I would notice graphic design everywhere, and it would change the way I see the world. For me, that held true. Do you think art has that power for most people? Does it for you?
I remember taking a class in college about drawing the human figure. We studied the skeletal structure and the muscle to understand how the flesh we see is represented. My teacher taught me how to look through the skin and understand what creates what we see. I think artists do view the world differently if it was through an innate gift or education.
What is your biggest thrill at the opening reception for a show of your work?
I don't get a big thrill it much more a nervous feeling. You put yourself out there to be judged and viewed and you never know how the public is going to respond. There is some thrill in having your creation of a show come together, but then again you don't know how it will be received. The biggest thrill comes when the red dots come out!
If you had the ability to take a class or workshop with any artist, who would it be?
I could really use some help in my painting so I would want to learn that from Stephen Cefalo. I really like the colors and contrasts he creates through paint. Also Viramarie DePoyster is an amazing artist with pastel. I feel that my strongest suit is charcoal and learning color from her could elevate my talent. Lastly, I would want to learn anything and everything from Kevin Kresse and John Deering. They are two incredibly humble people with talents in every medium and are willing to teach what they know.
There is the common idea of the starving artist, and this idea keeps finding traction in society today. Do you think there is any truth to it, or do you think it is mostly a myth that keeps being perpetuated by people?
Of course! Not many artists are able to make a living solely on their art. When they do, that is when you know you have "made it". I have always had jobs outside of being an artist. I am not in a position to fund myself through my art. It would be a dream to do so, but I am not there yet. Even in history a lot of artists barely got by in the profession. The common and truthful thought is "this will be worth a lot more when I die".
How big of an impact is music on your creative process? Many of the artists I know have to listen to music while they create. If it’s a big part of your process, what do you listen to?
I almost always listen to music when I am creating something. For photography it is a little different. I usually don't listen to anything because I am either interacting with the subject or absorbing the surroundings. If I am painting or drawing there will be music on. The music can provide tempo to strokes or an attitude to the piece. Music can also provide a calming sense creating extreme focus between me and the work. What I listen to depends on my mood and what I am trying to accomplish. I have found that for some reason Modest Mouse's Moon and Antarctica along with Cat Steven's Greatest Hits Disc One make me the most productive.
Black and white, or full color? What floats your boat?
This all depends on what I am creating. Some photographs I shoot with black and white in mind and others are intended as full color. The beauty of digital is that it is easy to transition from one to the other. I think color or black and white depends on the subject matter and the message I am trying to convey along with how I might think the viewer will interpret the work.
Thank you Spencer for taking the time to answer a few questions for us!