Interviews

Meet the US Southwest’s Art Community: Chase R. McCurdy Says Artists Live “With a Certain Spirit”

An interview series spotlighting some of the creative community members in the US Southwest. Hear from artists, curators, and art workers about their current projects and personal quirks.

Chase R. McCurdy (photo by Connie Ann)

This is the latest installment of the interview series Meet the Art Community of the US Southwest. Check out our past interviews here.

Chase R. McCurdy is an interdisciplinary artist in Las Vegas, Nevada. Chase’s art practice has evolved from a focus in photography and film to encompass painting and writing among other media. With a focus on art history and theory, education, and societal relationships, Chase’s studies have brought him back to his hometown of Las Vegas, NV after practicing and studying in Los Angeles and Paris.

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Where do you consider home?

Home is where my family is, and that is without question Las Vegas, NV.

What brought you to Las Vegas, and when?

I was born in Las Vegas, as were both of my parents. My first relative arrived to Historic West Las Vegas in 1939 at the age of 17.

What is the first strong memory you have of art?

My first strong memory of art was more of an early consideration or idea rather than an interaction with a particular work. For some reason I remember as a kid (who was not really “artsy”) thinking about art not as what someone does, but more about how they do what they do. Funnily enough, now that I have come full circle to embrace being an “artist” I often use a talking point that I first used as a young person, “anyone can be an artist, it’s not about what you do, it’s how you do it.”

What are you currently working on?

I’m very happy to share that I recently released a self-published book titled …and the lives of future generations. It is a collection of drawings and writings drawn from a single section in a personal notebook completed during the summer of 2018. In a broader sense I am working on opening up my practice a bit and sharing work that I have been working on along the last few years. With that said, I do keep a daily and very consistent practice. Most recently it is my everyday notebook sketching, some works on paper, and a few other things. If you couldn’t tell I’m rather…let’s just call it “low-key.”

What are you questioning through your practice right now?

My practice is consistently dealing with life — life as it is in our day and time, the shared nature of all life throughout the universe, what life may be, the perspectives of other life. Right now I am specifically focused on learning and growing through a wholly unique time. Attempting to establish my own “new normal” as both an artist and as a human being, as both the United States and the rest of the World stumble toward their respective normal(s).

Chase R. McCurdy, “Hanging…[on)” (2018), photograph (courtesy the artist)
What challenges do you face as an artist/art worker?

My biggest challenge as an artist is living with very conflicted feeling toward what art has come to mean and how it is situated in our societal institutions, from the cultural and educational to the financial. I find it very hard to situate my practice within the current landscape. Most important within the practice is utilizing what particular skills and knowledge I have, and continue to gain from the practice to benefit others in my family and community in a positive fashion. When it comes to the creating of work, I’ve never really had an issue with various roadblocks stopping me from creating or producing. I have always been able to figure out, and practice within, whatever circumstances have been.

What is the most impactful or memorable art experience you’ve had in the last year?

In the last year my most memorable and impactful art experience was the opportunity I had to develop and teach an eight-session Creative Aging Visual Arts workshop at The Neon Museum in Las Vegas, with an outstanding group of 15 women over the age of 65. The workshops were part of a larger series/initiative called Creative Aging.

When you are working a project do you have a specific audience in mind?

I do not work for an audience — and I say that with sincere respect. I have been very fortunate in that the act of expression has always come very naturally, and that I have mainly had to focus myself with understanding it, focusing it, and channeling it. My practice is one of both intense discipline and sincere freedom. Discipline in the sense that I am always working in some way that carries positive momentum for my practice and my life, and freedom in the sense that I allow whatever come out to come out, removing the barrier my own self and allowing the ego to get out of the way.

What questions do you feel aren’t being asked of or by creative people in your community?

In general, I feel artists spend too much time publicly engaged in questions about self, about art and self, art itself, art in galleries, art in institutions, etc. etc. This is not to say that there is not a time and place for every discussion. However, there is nowhere near enough time publicly spent engaged with real questions and concerns in society right now, today. Not just, “how can I make art to talk about X,” but more asking how we can use our skills cultivated as artists to be of practical use now to our communities. And maybe put the personal “art/artist” concerns on the back burner.

How do you experience art and culture?

I experience art and culture in the everyday act. For me, art is living within a certain spirit, a way of going about my every daily activity. Very much a personally-based experience. I experience culture in the group or social setting. When many of us come together to share space, share perspective, etc. For me, that is culture.

In Las Vegas I experience this in everything from small group gatherings in the warmth of someone’s home, to conversations and talks hosted by larger community arts institutions such as the Las Vegas Clark County Library District Art Gallery system, or the two major UNLV art institutions, Black Mountain Institute and the Marjorie Barrick Museum, among other various independent events around the valley.

Chase R. McCurdy, E X P L O R A T I O N, installation view (courtesy the artist)

Who in your community of artists, curators, archivists, organizers, directors, etc. is inspiring you right now?

The arts community in Las Vegas benefits from being small but accessible, and is able to form community quickly, share information and resources, and come together as an affiliate network. Las Vegas art spaces have done a good job in this current situation of finding ways to engage the broader community in the arts using technology as a mediator.

Right now the people inspiring me most are those who are serving the people in this time of need, or otherwise expending their energies toward the stabilization of our shared society. This comes in many forms from those on the frontlines, those bringing food to those who are in need of that service, to those working toward developing more humane and conscious business models for the world we are collectively working to build.

I’m inspired by my people in the Mass Liberation Project NV struggle, my cousin William McCurdy II who is currently running for local office in Clark County, the various artists I know creating and sustaining community, and everyone out there just trying to survive. Keep your head up, stay strong.

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