Sometimes the best art comes from the people who teach the subject.
Jodi Whitlock is a mother, an artist and an art teacher at Morningside College, Western Iowa Tech Community College, the Sioux City Art Center (sometimes) and Northeast Community College in South Sioux.
Whitlock started with photography, took up painting and now works with a host of media.
She thinks art shouldn’t be exclusive for wealthy collectors, so she sells hers for a modest price.
Weekender: When did you start creating art?
Whitlock: “Kindergarten. That was the first time somebody said, ‘You’re going to be an artist!’ I was making a face and was cutting the hair and making it fringy. The teacher was impressed and I felt good about it, so I just kept going from there. Also, my uncle had a stroke and his family lived with us for a while. He would pay us if we made good drawings for him. He’d put the money in his palm and have us grab it out, but he would always smash our hands in his. So we got paid to make art.”
Weekender: How does teaching art help you learn more about art yourself?
Whitlock: “Art history for sure does. I hate history and art history. I think it’s biased and bull----. Teaching it, I’m learning a lot. I’m remembering and also connecting dots I haven’t thought of. It makes me less ignorant, I guess. I like that when I first started making art I hadn’t gone to school for it. I taught myself how to do everything. Now I’m going backwards and realizing there are techniques to use. Also, the students give me ideas all the time.”
Weekender: What are some of your artistic influences?
Whitlock: “Trees. I love trees and stare at them all the time. I see faces in trees, I see all kinds of figures in trees…I don’t quite understand it, but I stare at abstract images in things like trees, grass and patterns on carpet. I get ideas from that.”
Weekender: What are your current go-to media?
Whitlock: “Mixed media. I find weird objects that I glue together and paint on, things like that. I use acrylic paints, although I’d rather use oil, but there’s generally no ventilation where I work. I use old photographs and make assemblages out of them, too.”
Weekender: What are some of your favorite subjects to create?
Whitlock: “Humans. I work a lot with old photographs of people who are now dead, I guess. Family photographs, couples and mugshots…I just like the old photographs of people and I like imagining their lives.”
Weekender: How do your emotions affect what you create?
Whitlock: “I’m sure they 100 percent affect what I create. If I’m in a mellow mood, I can work on a certain type of painting, maybe in oil. If I’m upset and distraught I tend to dump things more, pour things more or glue really heavy things more. That’s when I do my assemblages, when I’m really upset. I’ve dumped so many gallons of paint on things and let them sit. I’ve buried things and unburied them, I’ve set things on fire…it just depends on what’s going on in my life. But yeah, I’m a pretty emotional artist.”
Weekender: What kind of headspace do you have to be in to create?
Whitlock: “I like to have music blaring or have people playing music around me. I don’t like to be interrupted. I like coffee flowing; cigarettes flowing. I don’t mind animals, but little kids can be a distraction while I’m working.”
Weekender: Tell us about your gallery show at Eppley Auditorium.
Whitlock: “Two of the pieces are assemblages I did over the summer here at Morningside. I find pieces and sometimes people give me pieces…my son gave me old broken records, which I used in one. These two pieces were made almost like automatic writing or painting, you know? I wasn’t really thinking about it. That happens a lot, things will be flowing and I understand the piece when it’s finished.
“The painting on display started off as what we call alla prima. It was a giant piece of canvas that we took outside and sprayed paint on with squirt guns and dumped paint on. We let it dry up and cut it into pieces. We looked at the pieces to see what we saw in them, like a Rorschach. We then started drawing on it. It started off as a wolf face, and then later in a drawing class I started drawing a human face into it.”
Weekender: Why do you create art? What does it do for you?
Whitlock: “It’s my way of coping with life, telling my story and sorting out my own mind. In a way it’s my way of thinking. Some people get together to talk over drinks. I don’t do that. I’m very introverted.”
Weekender: Do you sell your work, and if so, is it hard to let go?
Whitlock: “I sell it all the time, and no, it’s not hard to let go of because I don’t want it. I enjoy it while it’s around, but I don’t miss it. I’ll just make another…I know I’m going to make 50 more pieces; they’ll just keep coming. The only one I kind of regret getting rid of had my own baby teeth in it. There’s no point in holding on to everything.”
Weekender: What is your ultimate goal as an artist?
Whitlock: “I don’t think like that at all. I’m not doing it to be successful and popular. I don’t imagine it will hang in some great museum, but if it does, it does. I don’t wish success like that on anyone. It seems like a curse to me.”