Today we’d like to introduce you to Gregory Deddo.
Gregory, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
The act of making and creatively engaging with the physical world was an important part of my childhood and adolescence. My father made a constant effort to involve me in various projects and repairs: setting up a tent, working on the car, rigging the sailboat or fixing things around the house. I remember how deliberate and patient he was when preparing for and working on projects. He’d walk me through the how and why of every step of the process before it began. There was a sense of ritual to it, a sense of care and gravity to the work of repairing and building. Sometimes, as a child, it seemed tedious and even boring, but there was an attitude of reverence that, in time, I came to respect. He showed me the integrity and ingenuity of each tool and component. There was a moral sense of making right and making good, a proper responsibility. Not because it was ours, but because it was right to care for those things given to us. There was a sense that we didn’t own something so much as care for it for a time. He taught me precision, patience, and respect for the material world.
From that, grew an abiding interest in making things, initially building models and miniature scenes from scratch, and later painting and drawing. At the encouragement of family and friends who saw my aptitude for drawing and painting, I got my bachelors in studio art. Yet, I’d always felt somewhat reluctant to pursue art because I’d thought it was self-serving and a bit narcissistic. Not only did it seem self-absorbed, but there was also a nagging continual self-doubt, a feeling of being a fraud, well-known by many artists as the imposter syndrome. I struggled with what it would mean for me and my life to be an artist.
For four years after school, I worked as a lead carpenter for a small contracting company in Chicago. During this time, I did very little personal artwork. This was largely because woodworking mostly satisfied my desire to make, and I loved the very direct process and outcome, that sense of accomplishment that came from completing a job and building a physical, useful object. But I found that woodworking lacked the creative and free-association side of making that I had done in school. I began working as a gallery manager at a university and returned to a regular practice of drawing and painting. While many of those doubts still linger, I am more at ease with them and see the importance of making work and sharing it with others. My studio practice was deepened and encouraged by my involvement with a collective of like-minded artists in Chicago.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
Drawing from my experiences growing up, I am interested, as many artists are, in the act and material qualities of painting. Painting involves a certain kind of relationship. A painting is built by acting and reacting, making a mark and then responding to what has been set down. The finished painting is a record of that relationship in time. I have found that I do not have much interest in painting if I already know exactly what the end result will be. For that reason, I am not interested in strict similitude in my work, but rather in creating a work that has a sense of integrity and presence, in creating work that conveys something true. Therefore, I have come to realize that that sense of failing, the struggle of feeling like I don’t know what I am doing all the time, is simply part of the process. I have become more content living in this uncomfortable space of tension and embrace it as a necessary part of the painting.
Recently, I have been struck by how the simultaneity of self-doubt and resolve in painting rings true to our relationships and memories of others. Often, memories are painful and joyful all at once; this is especially noticeable when truthfully remembering someone who has passed away. We remember all of the good times we had with them and mourn their passing all at once. It can be very hard to face into this, but if we choose instead to forget the painful memories, we must also forget the good and cease thinking of them at all. It is when we lean into relationships and choose daily to love and care for the other that we are most capable of experiencing true joy. Yet, it also requires us to be exposed and vulnerable, to open ourselves to the possibility of deep grief.
In my work, I explore the complexity of relationships, memories, identity, and family history. My paintings are drawn from both family photographs and from my own reference photos. These works are an exercise in remembrance and storytelling, a simultaneous celebration and mourning in which there is not a clear sense of a singular emotion, but a sense of presence and the complexity of human relationships. Painting and visual art have the unique capability of capturing this complexity, as they allow the viewer to perceive the whole of the piece in a single instant, as compared to other art forms that are bound to a particular time structure. My paintings are not simply nostalgic or sentimental. They are a celebration of the lives that have gone before me, of the grandparents and uncles who strove to live well and fell short as often as they succeeded. They are also a way of mourning that which is lost as time passes, of mourning not just the physical deaths of those we love, but also mourning how relationships change and people grow apart. I am interested in work that exists in the tension and irresolution of life, work that is simultaneously joyful and mournful, resolved and incomplete, compelling and unnerving.
The work of remembering well is the work of understanding ourselves and looking to the future. If we choose to forget or ignore the past and never look back, how can we have any sense of who we are or where we are going? Without our memories, individual and collective, we have nothing but impulse and reaction.
Any advice for aspiring or new artists?
Keep making work. I have found that it is more often the case that the passion follows discipline. The more you invest in a skill and really gain an understanding and appreciation of a process the more excited and passionate about it you become. Make art, and make it consistently even when you don’t feel like it. If a musician misses a day of practice they notice it, and their performance suffers. It really isn’t that different for a visual artist. I try to create something almost every day, even if it isn’t painting.
While making artwork is very rewarding, it can also be incredibly isolating and draining. In my experience, it’s hard to be fueled only by your internal drive, and sometimes the hardest hurdle can be showing up in the studio and just getting started. This can be partly because of the imposter syndrome, the fear of failure, and our own lies that we tell ourselves. So, find others who are doing things you’re interested in, build community, and keep each other accountable to make work. At its best, this is what networking is. It isn’t being a salesman for yourself, it’s finding others with similar passions and interests, reaching out to them, and making positive connections. Talk to people who are more experienced than you, message them on Instagram, go to their shows, and find ways to reciprocate. I’ve found other artists and creatives to be very open and willing to share their knowledge and experience with younger artists.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
To see current works in progress and information on upcoming shows find me on Instagram. To see more finished work, drawings, and some older pieces check out my website. It always great to meet and connect with new people so please also feel free to e-mail me as well with any feedback, ideas or questions.
- Website: www.gregorydeddo.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @gregorydeddo