A version of this interview was published in Dan’s Papers, June 20, 2014 (print).
This week’s cover artist, Scott Bluedorn, was born and raised on the East End of Long Island. After studying art at both Savannah College of Art and Design and of School of Visual Arts, he started an artist collective that later became a gallery, Neoteric Fine Art, in Amagansett. He has been in solo and group shows on the East End and in New York City. Whether crafted from driftwood or found objects on the beach, or drawn with an expertly-skilled hand, his work reflects a deep connection to the sea, with a touch of mysticism and other-worldliness. True to his local roots, he continues to live and work in East Hampton.
Your work, and particularly “House of the Whale,” 2013 (ink on paper) seems very surreal, does some, or any, of your imagery come from dreams?
Surrealism as a genre has greatly influenced me. The work of Salvador Dali and Magritte, in the way their images are immediate and impactful through realism and yet rooted in the upwelling of the subconscious, is something I strive for in my work. I wouldn’t say my images come from actual dreams but they come from dream-feelings. The act of levitation in particular, which is very dream-like, plays a large part in the atmosphere of these drawings.
There’s something nostalgic about “House of the Whale,” as if we’ve been here or seen this. I’m somehow reminded of old postcards from the Whaling Museum in Sag Harbor and the shingled house looks like one of the backyard sheds you might see at Home Sweet Home in East Hampton. To what do you attribute the historical vibe?
“House of the Whale” was initially inspired by old weathered fishing shacks I saw on a trip to Nova Scotia. Old shingled houses, which we have plenty of in East Hampton, are very beautiful to me and have actually spawned a new direction in my work. I’m very interested in our colonial history here and the austere puritan architecture that accompanied the period that has become a symbol of our local heritage.
A lot of people miss your gallery, Neoteric Fine Art, but has this given you perhaps more time to focus on your own artwork?
I see Neoteric as ongoing collaborative project that will pop up from time to time. Indeed it started in 2006 at East Hampton Studios in a gigantic soundstage space for one night, later I had the opportunity to realize it in a more permanent location at the Balasses House on Main Street in Amagansett. It remains to be seen in which form it will pop up again, but the driving force and underlying concept behind it is to show contemporary work by young, local and emerging artists, of which I count myself a part of. Having closed the gallery in its former location, yes I’m getting back to focusing on my own work.
For your recent show at Outeast Gallery in Montauk you went by the name Theo Blue. Is this to differentiate between the various hats you wear, as an artist, writer, illustrator, etc.? How did you come up with it?
“Theo Blue” is an alter ego that I came up with to A) Differentiate the assemblage based abstract sculptural work I started doing out of a pure exploratory need from my more traditional and illustrative based work, and B) To create a “character” that is in a way enigmatic. Theo Blue is a hermit that lives in a little rogue shack built into the cliffs of Montauk, he is a wild man, primitive, noble savage, and outsider artist who collects the flotsam found in the coves and makes idols and effigies from it, much in the way the “cargo cults” of the South Pacific did with the material they found or were given in World War II. It is an updated cross-cultural reference, and a lot of fun.
Based on your Instagram shots, it seems like travel is an important part of your life and that you embrace the local culture of wherever it is you are. What was the most inspiring place you visited this year and why?
Yes, travel is one of my great loves. I started relatively late, but I definitely have the bug. Travel has opened my mind to anthropology, culture, history and geography that goes directly into my work. I find the world infinitely fascinating; especially in the way things can be both banally universal and strikingly different from place to place. Last winter I travelled through Ecuador, a beautiful small country with amazingly diverse landscape and peoples. I surfed some world-class waves, trekked through the Andes, visited the heart of the Amazon, explored Incan ruins and stayed with a local family. I would say Ecuador has it all.
What upcoming projects are you working on? Where can we see your work next?
I’ll be in a big group show put on by the Bonac Tonic collective called “Grand Royale” that is happening at the Amagansett Historical Association on Saturday, June 21st. Then I’ll be in Sag Harbor at Dodds and Eder’s “A Different Kind of Home Show,” curated by Kathy Zeiger, which opens on June 28th with a reception on July 12th, and then I’ll be showing at Art Market in Bridgehampton from July 10th – 13th. Busy summer!
For more on the artist, visit scottbluedorn.com.