Jack Girard is a flourishing artist based in Lexington, Kentucky where he is able to combine his passion for art and teaching as a Professor of Art and the Fine Arts Division Chair at Transylvania University. He teaches various classes such as multi-level drawing, painting, printmaking, and upper-level studios.
His contextually driven work is inspired by personal experiences, reflections on his own life and interactions with others. Girard's work has been exhibited in many corporate, institutional, and private collections in the United States as well as overseas.
LAL (Lexington Art League): What is the name of the piece you selected for Here and Now?
JG (Jack Girard): The piece is titled “Balers,” a collage/mixed media work on Rives paper.
LAL: What inspired you to create this piece?
JG: When I was in graduate school I lived with a 4’ Chinese goose named Struedel. I frequently return to bird images when I am feeling nostalgic or confused by human behaviors.
LAL: What was the process for creating this piece? How did you know when it was “finished”?
JG: I started with a central image—an old photograph of field slaves baling cotton procured when passing briefly through South Carolina—and built the work in response to that initial choice. I knew it was finished when I stopped learning from it.
LAL: Not only do you have a love for art, but also you have a love for teaching art. What is your favorite thing about teaching?
JG: Stirring up enthusiasm for what I love and do.
LAL: What is the most important thing you want your students to take away from your classes?
JG: A deep and meaningful sense of accomplishment.
LAL: Have you ever been inspired by a student or multiple students? If so, how?
JG: Always. Students nurture my humility.
LAL: Are there any artists that inspire you? What about their work inspires you?
JG: My tastes and interests are extremely broad. I’m not sure I attribute my real inspirations to artists other than to say that some allowed me the courage to address some rather delicate issues in my work. Ed and Nancy Kienholz, Norman Keller, Naum June Paik, and Cy Twombly were probably the most influential visual artists I looked at. Robert Rauschenberg as well, although he more or less influenced everyone in the field to some degree.
LAL: What is one thing you want viewers to take away from your piece?
JG: It’s never one thing…but maybe something, or anything. Once the piece is finished, I’m fairly detached from it and the viewing process.
LAL: Do you have any memorable instances of people reacting positively to your work or people feeling like they can relate to a piece on a personal level?
JG: I remember most a viewer’s negative reaction to a collage work of mine that featured hydrocephalic babies. I was trying to share my sensitivity (and fear) to those moments when expectant parents worry about having a less-than-perfect child. The woman at this opening dressed me down quite publicly and without any filters. As she turned and left, I noticed that she was pregnant. All I could do was say thank you. It wasn’t the response I expected, but I later realized that it was the response I wanted.
LAL: What advice would you give to your students/new artists?
JG: Art is like religion—you can’t ‘kind of’ do it. You’re either in or you should stay out. Dabblers tire me. Some have teased me for being an art snob. I can live with that.