Mountain Shadows Gallery Presents Lucas J. Knowles
By Lauren Wong
Every two months, Mountain Shadows presents a new exhibition in their gallery curated by Cece Cole. Lucas J. Knowles was the latest artist to have his work displayed in the Gallery, ABSENCE/PRESENCE, PRESENCE/ABSENCE. It’s been up since August 8 and will be there until September 30. Visit Mountain Shadows this week to check out his work!
Additionally, during each exhibition there’s an Art Reception open to the public. On the day of the reception, you’re welcome to come in, enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres and wine, and listen to the artist talk about their work. You have two hours to enjoy the art while asking any questions to the artist you may have.
You could tell Knowles was incredibly passionate about his work, everything you saw on display had a much deeper meaning that he dived into. It was fascinating to hear him talk about his creative process, and what this particular exhibition meant to him.
Born in Minnesota, Knowles moved to Florida at a young age, completed his BFA degree at FSU before coming to Phoenix to earn his MFA at ASU. He’s grown to love it here.
In terms of his art, I wanted to let him share with you the meaning behind it all.
Q&A with Lucas J. Knowles
Q: How did you get started with art? What makes you so passionate about what you do?
A: My interest in the arts started at a very young age; beginning before I could even form proper memories. I only know this through my parents. One of my first memories must have been from the very early 90s. I remember clumsily hitting my hands on an old Casio keyboard. I remember feeling amazing; like a rockstar! From then I bounced between music, visual art, and I even thought I wanted to be a writer at one point… though that fell off quickly. I think I’ve always felt like I had something to say. It sounds pretentious saying it – I know – but it’s legitimately always been a big part of who I am. I think that’s why I enjoy what I do. Making art feels like I’m able to reach out to people in ways I’ve always struggled to do directly and verbally. It’s exciting when you finally find your language!
Q: Where did the inspiration for this specific collection come from? What is the message or feeling that you hope people walk away with after seeing your work?
A: I think it’s really important for artists to allow what inspires them and what they hope viewers extract or latch onto in their work to be separate things. Don’t get me wrong – I’d be delighted if someone knew *precisely* what my work is about without me telling them… but I don’t expect that in the least. Especially with my more minimal/abstract stuff.
Before my current body of work, I was passionately inspired by cosmology – the broad study of the universe. I am fascinated by the stars: how we’re made of them and how they’re so unfathomably old. This was something my little brother Blaze and I would talk for hours and hours about. It was our *thing*; our shared interest. It bonded us together and kept us close.
In 2016 my little brother died. It was sudden, totally unexpected, and it tore me apart. For a couple years I struggled to make art. Everything I did felt insincere. I still thought about the cosmos but the only thing in the forefront of my mind was him. I couldn’t stop thinking about my memories of him. How those memories were now all I had. No new memories could ever be made. They were like relics to me. A year later I realized my memories began to change. Some details would grow fuzzy while others would outright change. Did he have a green shirt on or a blue one when we hiked that trail together? Was his hair short or long? I couldn’t remember – and to be honest that put me in a very, very dark place. I’ve heard it said that we die twice: once when we lose our bodies and another when someone says our name for the last time. I felt like he was dying all over again – but this time it was *my* fault.
It was this moment in my life that made me shift my interest in the cosmos to the concepts of memory and change. It wasn’t a huge leap. Like the expanding universe, our memories are subject to entropy. There are no perfect exchanges. Everything decays and changes. This thought comforted me in a way. It’s sad, but the inevitability and certainty of physics is somewhat comforting. I now make work about memory. More specifically: I make work about copying and decay. I used to fill my work with references and symbols – but now I simply make a shape, a form, a gesture, and then I respond to it somehow… as though I’m “remembering” it in a different form. I like to think I am becoming the point of failure. It’s like I get to *inhabit* entropy – the thing that is constantly dissolving every cherished memory I have of my little brother. It’s somewhat therapeutic. But most importantly, it’s honest. My artwork might often be simple, strange, or sometimes outright silly – but it’s honest through and through and I’m proud of that.
Q: In your opinion, why is art so important, not only to historically preserve, but to continue? Why should everyone create? What does it mean to you?
A: Art is a language. And like any language, art archives ideas, feelings, and important human culture. Some things are hard to put into words, but easier to make into experiences. Look at James Turrell for example. I had the honor of walking through his Roden Crater project in 2018. Like the bulk of his work, it was sublime. How can you thoroughly write or talk about the experience of laying down on your back at the summit of Roden Crater and viewing a completely panoramic sky? You can’t talk about how dizzying that is. What it *really* feels like. How it makes your body feel small but significant. It just doesn’t work. This limitation with verbal and written language is just one of many thousands of reasons why we need art.
Q: Are there any hardships or setbacks you’ve encountered in your career?
A: Besides the aforementioned tragedy within my family, I’ve actually been very fortunate in my career and while pursuing my education. However, like most people, when Covid-19 hit I was greatly affected. I lost access to my studio, which – when you make work like I do – essentially means a complete pause on making. This was extremely stressful because it was right as I began developing my thesis exhibition. I originally wanted to write/create something like an opera. Yes, really. It’s crazy, I know. I had big, weird plans for my show and I had to scrap all of it to start anew and make a more covid-friendly exhibition. I didn’t have to make this transition alone, however. I’ve been lucky to have great mentors like Susan Beiner, Sam Chung, Adriene Jenik, and Katie Parker. I’ve been lucky to be noticed and to have opportunities come my way. I experienced many triumphs in grad school. It’s hard to feel like there wasn’t some luck involved. However, my therapist may say that’s my imposter syndrome talking…
Q: What is the greatest memory or moment you’ve had in following your dreams?
A: I’ve had a few moments where I’ve been very proud of myself. The most vivid one that comes to mind was when I was selected to be featured in Sculpture Magazine. *The* Sculpture Magazine. I was elated. It was the most validating experience in my art practice I’ve ever had thus far.
Q: Who or what would you say is your biggest inspiration?
A: My late little brother, Blaze Knowles. In many ways, he is my muse. My grief and curiosity related to him is my “carrot on a stick”. I am constantly chasing the void and trying to understand it. It’s impossible to, but it keeps me inspired.
Q: What are your goals as you continue moving forward? Anything in the works that you’d like to share, or anything about this particular project?
A: My main goal as an artist is to stay honest and true in my work. Regardless of how much I’m making or exhibiting, so long as my work is still heartfelt, I’ll be content with my practice. As an educator, I hope I get to keep it up. Teaching in higher-ed feels like a career I could do long-term and legitimately enjoy. Not a lot of people have opportunities like that. I’m holding onto this gig as long as I can with hopes that one day it becomes something that isn’t semester-by-semester or year-by-year.
This show at Mountain Shadows Resort has been interesting in all the good ways. Normally I’d aim to show at stuffy galleries/museums, but to show in a place where people who don’t normally seek out art can be exposed to my work is exciting. I’ve had so many good conversations!
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A: If you’re reading this, thank you. I appreciate your interest in learning more about me. If you want to reach out because you have comments, questions, or just want to stay updated on what I’m doing – feel free to follow me on instagram: you’ll find me as @lucasjknowles. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you prefer traditional websites you can find more of my work and contact info at lucasjknowles.com. Thanks again for your time. <3