Q & A with artist John W. Fesken

John Fesken constructs a tiny world using found figurines and objects that he paints, burns, manipulates and houses in wooden boxes. He meticulously builds their erie surroundings and even includes a few wishes and dreams. His characters also come to life in the form of paintings on window pane frames and forgotten photographs that he scratches, paints, and burns to give the subjects a second life. He has been traveling to art shows, bazaars, and rock concerts in the South this year meeting people and showing his work face to face. I caught up with him during the Art and Soul of South End street festival in Charlotte, NC about a week ago and picked his brain as he sketched away:

Where did you grow up?
Jersey City

How did you come to live in Georgia?
I was working as a p.a. doing film editing but was really unhappy with it. My wife Cecily got a job in Savannah, and after one visit we moved South to live a quieter life. I decided to take the leap and do art full time.

When did you start creating art?
This is something that I have always done, since I could hold a pencil, and something I will always do. I would do art even if I knew no one would ever see it, because it is who I am. I’ve done other things, like music, but art is the one thing that is all me.

What do you create/paint about?
Every one of these guys [points to his work] has a storyline going on. All of these guys have anxieties, fears, and hopes. Lately I’ve been painting about “the pink moon” and “waiting for the pink moon.” Waiting, watching, wondering, wishing- all of these W’s.

What is the one thing you wish people understood about your work?
That it’s not scary or just about dead people. I think there is actually a theme of hope in my work. It doesn’t bother me if people judge me and think I’m weird or strange, but I wish they wouldn’t be so quick to judge the work. I think a lot of people could identify with it if they took the time.

It bothers me when people ask “How do you do this?" [with the intent of copying it]. People mention that they have window panes at home and could "probably do that". I want to say: "Get that away from my ears!" I’m killing myself for this, literally- there’s no telling how many brain cells I’ve killed from paint and glue. If you paint a window pane, it won’t be exactly the same. It will be your own work.

Do you have any advice for others that might be trying to sell their own art work?
You’re never going to see me try to sell art to someone. If it speaks to them, I hope they will buy it. It’s something I struggle with- that I put it out there for people to purchase.

What is the purpose of art?
It’s selfish. It’s something I need to do. Because they have anxieties [points to figures], I’m calm. It’s how I keep my sanity.

Catch John W. Fesken this weekend at the Savannah Market Bazaar and on May 16 and 17, 2009 at Artsplosure in Raleigh, NC. If you can't make it, find him on the web:

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