Moth and rust doth corrupt, but in Jeremy Gann's able hands, at least rust is given the chance to be an agent of beauty. After putting in years in the IT industry, Gann decided to pursue art full time, but that didn't mean he put down the computer. Combining digital illustration, traditional painting techniques, weathered metal canvases, and a healthy street aesthetic, his work is a barrage of mixed media that almost borders on sculpture.
When first starting to paint, he would seek out old street signs and other found objects for raw materials. He recalls, "There was something about the rusting metal that made me think I could control it." He has refined a technique of distressing metal that has been screened with a stencil. When worked over with paint and other drawing media, the rust itself behaves just like another color in his palate. The end result achieves an abandoned quality, as if a classic advertisement had been unearthed from a landfill.
There's a notable emphasis on pop culture in many of his pieces, but it's always viewed through a kaleidoscopic lens crafted from the bottom of a beer bottle. Growing up, he was involved in many street art projects, and that sensibility has clearly carried over. As he explains, "All the art I would ever see were skateboard decks and graffiti, so I didn't know what else to do but that stuff." Street art happens in the street and it usually isn't in ideal circumstances. Decay and blight commonly juxtapose even the grandest of murals. Gann attempts to imbue that dynamic in his work.
Asked about the social function of street art, Gann responds, "A lot of people see it as just vandalism, I see it as Americans speaking out that can't otherwise. Illegal or not, it's something that has always existed and always will." He points out that if "2012 had been 2012" and our city were now covered in volcanic ash, the surviving archaeologists would want to find his street art more than his fine art. In truth, there are notable examples of graffiti dating back to the Civil War visible in downtown Fredericksburg (you can find some on the brick wall at the corner of Princess Anne and Amelia). These etchings come in some way from a place of desperation. Like their modern day analogues, they were created by those with a desire to express themselves publicly. Lacking a legitimate venue to do so, a venue of opportunity is seized instead. In a very real sense, then, society gets the graffiti it deserves.
Gann is preparing for several upcoming street art shows, notably Urban Decay at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton. He plans on incorporating more oil painting techniques in his new efforts. His current work can be seen at LibertyTown Arts Workshop, you can also follow his activity online at facebook.com/JeremyGannArt.
Photography by Seth Casana