Powder Blue Cosmos on Space Blue Field
acrylic, canvas (heavy stretcher)
30.5×30.5 cm (12×12″)
When I first saw the work of New York artist Jon Coffelt, I was blown away by his originality, his use of color and form, and especially his genuine character, which shines through in every piece he creates. The icing on the cake where Jon is concerned, however, is that he has chosen to utilize his exceptional talent not only to make quite a name for himself in the art world, but to create meaningful miniature works of art which capture the essence of individuals. These particular pieces bring joy to people who commission them as keepsakes for themselves, and also serve as a touching and unique memento for those who are left behind when a loved one passes on. I am so pleased to present this third in my Authentic Winner E-terview series. Readers, you are in for a real visual treat, as well as an opportunity to learn more about this very talented, yet wonderfully humble and gracious artist!
WBG: Jon, you grew up in small, rural areas of Tennessee, where there probably wasn’t as much access to art or formal art lessons as young aspiring artists in urban areas can take full advantage of. When did you first discover your love of art, as well as your own amazing innate talent? Did you have a special person in your life as a youngster, and/or a professional mentor who helped nurture your artistic development?
JC: My grandfather was my mentor. He was an artist in his own right. He helped me understand color. One of the things I remember him telling me was that “I would have to learn to draw things from nature before I could understand abstraction.” In his words, “I have to paint what was on the outside before I could paint what was on the inside.”
cotton, thread, buttons
“These are from the pajamas my grandfather was wearing when he died in 1993. They are among the first of the garments that I miniaturized. They were an ode to him. Some special way for me to thank him for teaching me to love art, to love myself. Oh!, and another thing, my grandfather and I spent many, many Saturdays in the floor making doll clothes for Barbie. He will surely never be forgotten.” – Jon Coffelt, 1993
WBG: Please tell my readers about your Miniature Clothing Project! What is your overarching purpose in transforming pieces of clothing into art, and how might someone go about commissioning a piece made from their own, or a loved one’s special item?
JC: My purpose in working on my Miniature Clothing Project is to transform the idea of loss and memory by using garments that hold emotional value for their owner.
cotton knit, knit
“The miniature helped us transform our experience of Janet’s death. We used her garment as a celebration of her life. Her turtleneck is 100% cotton. She wore it in her retirement, when she could relax and spend time with us. The simplicity of the garment reminds us of her dedication to service. She was a real example of a disciplined life. Her legacy is one of simple truth, and intense dedication. Thank you for your assistance with our journey of letting her go.” ~ The Loved Ones Left Behind By Janet L. Engstrand 1926-2007
WBG: I think that some readers may assume that a special item like this from a renowned artist might be out of reach for them, but the Memory Clothing is actually relatively affordable. Could you tell us what the approximate cost of, say, their Dad’s favorite flannel shirt, or Grandma’s cardigan sweater, if you were to make these into Memory Art Pieces for them?
JC: My pricing starts at $250 for a regular shirt to $500 for a jacket or coat so this work is very well priced for your readers.
cotton, thread, buttons
“This is a miniature shirt that Johnny made from my favorite shirt. He bought it for me from Dee and Dee on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for about $7, I love that shirt. Every time I wore it someone would say, “man that shirt is bright,” and I would reply, “no this is not my bright shirt.” (Just a little wry Shawn humor for those that don’t know me) I wore it so much that I put it on a couple of weeks ago and my hand went through the fabric in the sleeves. It’s the shirt that I am wearing in my first Facebook profile picture.” – Shawn Boley, 2009
WBG: On your website, you say that you are exploring duct tape as an art medium. Intriguing! What made you decide to work with it in your art? And what sorts of projects can we expect to see in the future from Jon Coffelt implementing duct tape? Do you often draw inspiration from everyday household items like this?
JC: In 1993 I designed a duct tape wallet and started playing with all the colors of duct tape that I could find. The wallets were featured in New York magazine and I did thousands. I had lots of scraps left over and these scraps became the material for the “Circuitry” series that I continue today. I still do special orders for wallets too. My future work always jumps ahead and then pulls back to meld with my older work so I am, at this point still not sure what I will be up to next but it will be exciting.
Cosmos Pink Spiral
91.5×91.5 cm (36×36″)
WBG: You’ve lived and worked in Manhattan for a number of years now, and began your career there in the fashion industry in the 80’s working with well known designer Willi Smith. How do you feel that working with fashion early on, as well as your surroundings and the cultural environment in the city have affected your current work and the pieces you produce now, and will produce in the future?
JC: My view of the art world has always been fluid. I mean everything is integrated. My art has always been about fashion, painting, sculpting and designing to me and living in New York affords me opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise have.
Mayan Circuitry Fetish
129.5×129.5 cm (51×51″)
WBG: And finally, Jon, you have been so successful in your chosen career field, and I bet there are many budding young artists out there who could benefit from your wisdom. What three pieces of advice do you have for someone who thinks they may have talent and might like to pursue art as a career path?
1. Believe in yourself no matter what happens around you.
2. Have integrity in your work and in the world around you.
3. Never let the word “No” hurt you because it always opens a door to something new.
Jon talking to students at GCSU Georgia College and State University, Milledgeville GA
WBG: Jon, that is wonderful advice for anyone who wants to live their dream, be it as an artist, or some other profession! Thank you so very much for taking the time to talk with us. It has been a pleasure!
To learn more about Jon Coffelt and his art, or if you would like to contact Jon to commission an original Miniature Clothing Piece, please visit his professional website at: http://joncoffelt.com/home.html