51: John Randall Nelson

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When we last put the spotlight on 100 creative forces in Phoenix, it was no secret there were more than 100 individuals who were making waves in the local arts community. So as we count down to our annual Best of Phoenix issue, we're profiling 100 more. Welcome (back) to 100 Creatives.

John Randall Nelson is a Phoenix-based painter who describes his most recent work as largely anthropological.

"The imagery comes from a free-play of impression and association," he says. "I see it all as a sensible rendering of my insensible mind. It's a form of visual speech. Painting is a language that's more devious than words, more free to imply and allude, to strike out one way and then circle back another way."

Nelson finished his MFA at ASU in 1996, and in the last 15 years, he's produced commissions for the National Endowment for the Arts, The United States Postal Service, and the BIO5 / Institute for Bio-Research at the University of Arizona, to name a few. Currently his work is represented by Stremmel Gallery in Reno, Grover/Thurston Gallery in Seattle, and Gebert Gallery in LA, Scottsdale and Santa Fe.

I came to Phoenix with ... my girlfriend in a Gremlin. I had the intention of studying Art and Business at ASU. I originally picked a major that I thought would lead to a decent job, but Art kept pushing and pulling at me. After I finished my MFA in 1996, I decided to commit full time to art making. With forays into design and illustration, I eventually settled into a career as a painter.

I make art because ... I'm fascinated by the separate and coexisting outside and inside lives that I live. Seriously, the central motivation of my work revolves around a personal language of words, symbols and archetypes and how I understand (or don't understand) those symbols and archetypes. The subject of the work changes from piece to piece and from project to project but the core of it stems from my own created lexicon of figures and symbols.

I'm most productive when ... I've had a several of cups of espresso (or wine). Typically, I wake up at 8:00 a.m. My studio is attached to my house so the commute is easy. Primarily, I make art most of the day, Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m to around 4:00 p.m. I get lost in the art making process; the researching, the drawing, the fabricating, I never get bored with it.

My inspiration wall is full of ... Fay Jones, Margaret Kilgallen, Donald Baechler. Squeak Carnwath, Bill Traylor, Tony Fitzpatrick, H.C. Westermann, Michael Sarich, George Herriman, Martha Rich, Gary Komarin, Martin Mull, Barbara Rogers, Jonathan Rosen, Christina Mesiti, Phillip Guston, George Condo, and Alexander Pinto. I was initially influenced by the Italian Transavangard painters of the 80's and the Chicago Imagists of the 70's. But I've moved through several different concepts and influences. There are many painters that influence me, and just as many directions to go in. Somehow, though, it all gets distilled.

I've learned the most from ... Looking. My art epiphany happened when I took a serious look at American Folk Art and Outsider Art ... specifically Bill Traylor's drawings from the 30's. I suddenly realized just how powerful sincerity and honesty can be.

Good work should always... have small isolated figures, fragmented heads, shadow play, words, flowers and small animals.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more ... art as "Social Practice." ... kidding.

The Creatives, so far ... (And while you're here, check out 100 Tastemakers on Chow Bella.)

100:Lara Plecas 99. Isaac Caruso 98. Brandon Gore 97. Kelsey Dake 96. Hector Ruiz 95. Caroline Battle 94: Jennifer Campbell 93. Jeff Chabot 92. Tiffiney Yazzie 91. Daniel Germani 90. Irma Sanchez 89. Daniel m. Davis 88. Kirstin Van Cleef 87. Emmett Potter 86. Sarah Hurwitz 85. Christine Cassano 84. Fred Tieken 83. Lindsay Kinkade 82. Ruben Galicia 81. Robert Uribe 80. Heidi Abrahamson 79. Josephine Davis 78. Travis Ladue 77. Taz Loomans 76. Mikey Jackson 75. Alex Empty 74. Joe Ray 73. Carol Roque 72. Daniel Funkhouser 71. Carla Chavarria 70. Hugo Medina 69. Cavin Costello 68. Claire Carter 67. Lindsay Tingstrom 66. Catherine Ruane 65. Christopher Crosby 64. Aaron Johnson 63. Brenda Eden 62. Colton Brock 61. Ernesto Moncada 60. Benjamin Phillips 59. Brad Armstrong 58. Angela Hardison 57. Tyler Quinn 56. Andrew James Benson 55. Charles Anthony Darr 54: Tiffe Fermaint 53. Eric Cox 52. Victor Vasquez

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