Filed under: Q&A | Tags: Austin, Evan J. Garza, figure, Heyd Fontenot, Jonathan Walz, Michael O'Sullivan, nudes, portraiture, Texas, University of Maryland
Aleks with Seven Others, 2009
Featured in edition #66 and on the cover of edition #84 of New American Paintings, Heyd Fontenot isn’t afraid to bare it all, at least not when it comes to his work. The Austin, TX-based artist creates intimate renderings of nude friends and models that are as weirdly natural as they are delicately altered. Whether painting nude portraits on naked wood or drafting subtle works on paper, Fontenot’s work is undoubtably captivating. We caught up with the Texas artist this week to talk about his work (and getting naked). —Evan J. Garza
EJG: So, why the nude?
Well, Evan, I think I’ve always been sort of fascinated by the nude. Ever since I was a child, I was supremely interested in erotically-charged material. And having said that, I should clarify that I don’t necessarily classify the work that I’m doing as “erotic.” I realize that there is a “sexy” element in the work, but I think that has more to do with a degree of intimacy. And the playfulness in the work is also important, in that it perhaps signifies that the nudity isn’t a threat. I think I originally conceived this body of work as an attempt to present a loaded, and perhaps confrontational subject in a straight-forth, unflinching, kind and gentle manner.
Jessica, Alexandre, Bill, 2010
EJG: Much of your work is painted on wood. Tell me about what you enjoy about using wood. (Not a euphemism, I swear.)
See, I think it’s totally okay to use a dirty joke here and there. Because I feel that the “nude” is sometimes “neutered” in order to be acceptable. And in that case, we are denying our true responses to the visual stimuli. Yes, I’m looking at a nude and it did occur to me that this could be sexual. And no, that doesn’t have to be my only response (even though it was my first response). I can find other valuable and worthwhile content. I love a double entendre and I encourage naughtiness. Please feel free to make the off-handed comment, as long as it’s followed up by something thoughtful.
Regarding wood as painting surface, there may be something nostalgic about my use of raw wood as a surface for painting, but there’s also the metaphor for nudity. And I think there may be a secondary metaphor – letting the painting surface be what it actually is, rather than a platform to build illusion, which is traditionally the alchemy practiced by painters.