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Meet Jordan Forge

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jordan Forge.

Jordan, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Hello! And many thanks to you for the opportunity. I’ve currently set out to create unique abstract paintings that incorporate heavy topographical elements bordering on sculpture, as well as some creative accents such as dynamic lighting, transparency, organic edges and negative space (visually or literally); but the path I took to reach the loose process for these current works was weird and winding, to say the least. I spent most of the time between 2015 (when I graduated) and 2019 (when I finished my first “original”) trying to emulate the aspects of abstract art that had inspired me for so long, to little success… some long nights down the YouTube rabbit hole learning more about new materials and methods, as well as some chance encounters with my younger creative self (more on that below), gently steered me toward something I think I can finally call my own distinct style. By pulling from a variety of unexpected (and inexhaustible) sources of inspiration from my adjacent areas of interest such as books, TV, film, digital art, sustainability, and of course our beautiful Colorado landscape, I hope to push the definition of what one might call an abstract painting, while also bypassing the imposter syndrome I am now quite sure I would struggle with if I stayed strictly in the boundaries of 2D/abstract painting.

When I readopted my painting practice post engineering school as an outlet to balance my left and right brain, I struggled to carve myself a niche in the purely paintbrush-and-canvas style present in the artists I idolized; it simply wasn’t the grand explosion I had envisioned that would get me as excited about my work or find me a unique corner in the abstract world. Remembering Picasso’s ubiquitous advice of painting like a child, I slowly found myself itching to connect my middle school era daydreams for woodshop and DIY projects I’d never had the resources to pull off with the raw energy of the abstract art I’ve been progressively falling more deeply in love with. One day while looking for art supplies in the numerous drawers of my parents’ kitchen, I stumbled upon a sketch for a “tattoo” I’d done somewhere around that same timeline in which the elements of fire, water, earth, and air twined together (more than likely spurred by my obsession with the TV show Avatar).

It struck me then that a whole host of subject matter with specific lore or color schemes tied to the elements and a strong basis in nature has always resonated with me, whether it be from our world or one of many extraordinary fantasy worlds built by other creatives. The epiphany finally came that I wouldn’t be satisfied until I found a way to somehow incorporate that into my work, and anything less than 3 dimensions would simply be a hollow approximation. Thus, I resolved to start chopping, gluing, pouring, wiring, and of course, painting until I arrived at something that still felt like an abstract painting at face value but leaned heavily on sculptural or topographical components and accents mentioned above to provide that surreal sense of wonder.

I committed to my job transition to Colorado a few weeks before quarantine hit, and while I am probably behind the curve for how much hiking and camping I should have done the past two years, that period allowed me to finally nail down my process and narrow my focus on what type of pieces I want to attempt in the near and distant future. I have never been more excited about the volume of great local artists and opportunities to further flesh out my studio practice and look forward to seeing more of what Denver has to offer here soon.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Certainly not obstacle free, but I’m more optimistic than ever now that I’ve got a few milestones behind me. If you had asked me anywhere between the 2015 and 2019 period I mentioned previously, you would certainly have received a grumpy answer… but with the clarity that hindsight grants, I can now see that a bumpy road was just part of leaving the proverbial “beaten path”. I certainly don’t claim to have done anything grandiose like create an entirely new genre for abstract, but I think that my long (or, what felt long to me) struggle with 2D abstract experiments is precisely what allowed me to quickly commit to the new process once I started pulling the first few threads. I thought I would battle impostor syndrome when I inevitably knocked out a bunch of kick-ass pieces, but in practice I barely made it past the color theory/composition stages before getting flustered and resetting the canvas… not even a mediocre piece to speak of after years of work, let alone anything with a kick. Maybe I didn’t have the determination to push through that dreaded 3/4 mark, but deep down, I think I knew the process itself wasn’t clicking regardless of how fast/slow I was learning.

I like to think I learned something substantial in those four years, but I think the “painting” aspect of the current works is admittedly one of their weaknesses (as in they don’t use ambitious color schemes and have kind of played it safe to allow me to focus more on the 3D process), so I still have a long LONG way to go on that. I was fortunate enough to have a structured art curriculum as a part of my education since as early as 1st grade and all the way through high school, but I had to put it aside during engineering school; doing so was certainly hard, and felt like the anxious empty space after losing a tooth. I think my eagerness to return to/revamp my creative practice made the extended lack of success that much more of a letdown, but looking back, it is safe to say that all those experiences contributed in one way or another. Sometimes our formative/character development moments feel awful at the time, but of course end up being a natural part of progress as many people far more established than myself will tell you about art (and life in general – Edison’s 1000 steps quote is one of my favorites, even if his own originality comes with a grain of salt).

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
My degree is in Mechanical Engineering, and for that same 2015 to 2019 period, I was a power plant designer with a construction firm in KC (where I grew up). I stayed with that company for my first Denver move but did more environmental stuff (which I am still passionate about) than mechanical. Earlier this year, I transferred to another design/consulting firm downtown and am back doing mechanical work, but now for Water jobs such as wastewater plants, filtration, and water treatment. This office location also allowed me to move my apartment/studio downtown last month, and the increased access to the local art scene will be a huge boon to my creative career. At work, I definitely take pride in organization/critical thinking; which is why a creative outlet is so important to try and shut that off and save it for work the next day.

Easier said than done… my “engineering brain” mindset often bleeds into how I approach art projects, and I end up spending days or weeks testing new materials and processes when I would be better off just jumping in and working on a piece! Nonetheless, I love my line of work, and it allows me to pursue my artistic practice with plenty of freedom. Efficiency is always good, but I am still working to separate my work habits from my creative ones. However, I think there ARE aspects of the type of design work that I love that apply quite readily to the weird pseudo-sculpture aspect of these paintings – for example, I hope to put a small pump in a painting here soon to create a tiny waterfall and add some literal visual movement, which I think would be a pretty cool step forward!

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
The density of galleries/museums, as well as the variety in the types of creative work artists, are able to put out! First Fridays in KC were great, but I could tell from my first time on Santa Fe (which was still in the transition stages out of quarantine) the sheer volume of galleries and foot traffic is encouraging and fun for any emerging artist to see. Similarly, there wasn’t a lot of repetition in the subject matter, and I was able to find plenty of works in the realm of my tried and true 2D abstract painting love, as well as things that totally surprised me that I didn’t expect to see/enjoy. I haven’t been gallery hopping in NY/LA recently to see what the state of “modern art” is (outside of the social media lens, of course), but so far, I’m truly impressed by the quality/uniqueness of both professional and student art I’ve seen around town, and certainly expect it to continue to be a hot spot for creatives. Other non-art things to like about the city are your typical outdoorsy things, but I need to a better job about getting out there outside of waiting on friends’ trips to piggyback on… I tend to find flimsy excuses to justify it, but it’s probably more because I’m all too happy to stay home and paint! I’m also only 3 weeks into my LoHi move, but the food and drink in this area is so much fun.

So far, there hasn’t been a lot to dislike – public transportation is both a blessing and a curse, but I feel like I am beginning to learn the ins and outs. Similarly, the suburban sprawl has been a headache with my finnicky car – sometimes the friends in Thornton/Castle Rock are a bit of a jog to get to, and I would love to see them more. The last thing I am more cautious of than actively disliking is having a “psychedelic” connotation attached to my work as I add elements like LED’s to it; absolutely no opposition to the culture itself and I love how forward-thinking our city is in such aspects, but I don’t want it to feel like a gimmicky part of my pieces that I can leverage to generate interest. Everyone’s interpretation is important and valid, and I love hearing personal takes/attachments to how a piece might fit into someone’s experience, but it’s not an aspect I am intentionally pursuing.

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