Artist Jimmie Durham on being an ‘artist that pays it forward’

In his career, artist Jimmie Durham worked not only on installations that engaged the audience in surrealist ways, but also in photography and sculpture to focus on images of himself. He spoke to The…

Artist Jimmie Durham on being an ‘artist that pays it forward’

In his career, artist Jimmie Durham worked not only on installations that engaged the audience in surrealist ways, but also in photography and sculpture to focus on images of himself. He spoke to The New York Times about the “double awareness” that many artists encounter. He explained that when he looks at an image, he has his immediate, subjective perceptions of that image — and the next layer is the lived reality of the person behind that image. “All I’m trying to do is inform the viewer about what that person has lived through, what they experience,” he said.

Speaking with Vice, artist Dale Chihuly said, “Jimmie is one of the first people that I ever met who talked about the duty he felt to pay it forward and share the work he creates and the awareness that he’s giving to others. He’s so young, and he’s already thinking about his legacy, and that was a tough thing for me as a young artist to really understand.”

Durham’s installation “Untitled (Local Myth)” opened in March at the Carnegie Mellon University’s Zellerbach Hall in Pittsburgh, PA. Over the years, students from the department of art and design at Carnegie Mellon would stop by his studio, and once they knew him and his work, they would tell him their own stories about their own lives, according to Vice.

The artist Jimmie Durham. (Courtesy Jimmie Durham, via Facebook)

“An installation of my work is an entry point to personal stories from mine and others, and it’s very freeing to see the art,” he told The Times. “Because it’s my own experience — even more so than one of my contemporaries I might be designing for, of course — but the art, and the context, and the language we’re using, it makes the work personal. That’s what this art is trying to do, to engage with personal lives — whether that’s the stories of my family, or students, or faculty, or students from other institutions. It’s trying to get personal in the process, and I’m really excited about it.”

Durham lived to the age of 81, and will be buried in Alabama later this month. “Durham was much more than an art-school teacher: As a figure for Native America in contemporary art and an artist he advocated for a wider understanding of Native communities and philosophies,” according to a statement released by the Smithsonian.

Read the full story at Vice.

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