At the intersection of Roselle Street and King Street is CoRK Arts District, an 80,000 square foot warehouse that serves as art studios and gallery spaces. Some of Jacksonville's best known artists currently hold, or once held, studio space inside CoRK. One of those artists is Jeffrey Luque, an oil painter whose studio is located in the CoRK Labs.
Luque, a self taught artist, started painting at the age of 23 while living in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Luque has gravitated towards oil paints and oversized canvases since he first picked up a brush. While living in New Mexico, Luque experimented with large scale floral paintings, which eventually led to his current series "Girl with Flowers."
Luque's process is rooted in pointillism but explores the technique further by combining bursts of colors and geometric shapes such as triangles, squares, and circles. These macro details, which are only visible up close, give each piece its definition and character when viewed from afar. Luque has dedicated the last two years to his "Girl with Flowers" series, which includes 12 pieces in total, each piece measuring 72"x58."
In May of 2017 Luque completed the 12th painting in the series and on May 19th he will host an opening at CoRK to showcase the series. The event, which starts at 5:00 PM and concludes at 9:00 PM, is free and open to the public. Those who RSVP in advance will have their names entered into a raffle and one individual will win an original floral painting by Luque.
Luque works full-time as a bicycle mechanic and pursues art after clocking out from his 9-6. Full-time employment is necessary for Luque because he is not currently sustaining himself through his artistic endeavors. Because there is limited revenue derived from his art, if his finances are tight and he has to prioritize expenses his artistic projects and series are put on hold until finances improve. This is a travesty given the quality of Luques work and his level of talent.
Yet this is a common dilemma that many artists and gallery owners face in Jacksonville - how do those creating and representing art connect to those who purchase or invest in art?
In 1472 the City of Florence boasted 54 workshops for marble and stone and employed 44 master gold and silversmiths, and at least 30 master painters. It is said that the city had more woodcarvers than butchers. This suggest that fifteenth century Florence viewed art as a necessity of life, or at least one of the essential drivers for quality of life.
What allowed this system to work in Florence was an arrangement of patronage networks. Those with wealth served as benefactors to those pursuing the arts and academia. Artists were provided with the funds to cover living expenses and supplies, and in return patrons benefited by being able to boast their social standing, their investment in the arts and humanities indicated that they were someone with substantial wealth and an interest in the community.
The benefactor and beneficiary relationship isn't unique to fifteenth century Florence. It continued to be present in the art world but came fully into place with the bohemian movement in the twentieth century. The arts community can be broken down into two categories, the makers and the believers. The makers are those creating the work and the believers are those who assist in whatever capacity they can during the creative process. This can mean buying one's work, introducing others to the work, or financial support given to the makers for living expenses and supplies.
An individual doesn't need to be of great wealth to be a believer. For every one Peggy Guggenheim in the world there are multiple Aunt Maes. Vincent van Goh's brother continuously sent him small amounts of money to live off of and to buy art supplies with; and Harper Lee was able to write "To Kill a Mockingbird" partly due to friends donating enough money for her to write full-time for one year.
All of this is mentioned with one purpose in mind, imagine how Jacksonville artists could contribute to the quality of life in Jacksonville if they had the benefit of stepping away from their day jobs and instead focused on becoming masters in their discipline and creating works of art that improved Jacksonville's quality of life. What masterpieces are being put on hold because artists such as Luque are busy working jobs unrelated to their disciplines or have to prioritize living expenses over art supplies?
10 Questions with Jeffrey Luque
Do you have any patterns, routines, or habits when starting a new project?
One of the first things I do whenever I start something new is scrape my glass pallet clean. I have been dragging around that piece of glass for over 15 years. My pallet consistently turns into mounds of colorful, a chaotic mess. It grows from section to section in different colors and mediums. It is a random timeline of my color choices throughout the evolution of the painting that I am working on.
How do you define success in what you do?
This is a hard question to answer. The concept of “success" implies an end result. But for me, art has no end result. It is about growth.
I am successful as long as I am growing and going deeper with my work.
What have you learned about yourself through your artistic endeavors?
As we grow, it is natural for us to search for acceptance in what we do. For me though, my artistic journey has led me to a place where I am not concerned about validation from others. I have learned the value of myself and the importance of self exploration. Shouldn’t the one person that is the most proud and understanding of what you do be yourself?
Why did you feel it was important at this point in your career to take on a series that would be viewed as one cohesive installation?
This is the first installation I completed but not the first one that I started. I started a musician series about 15 years ago. The first in that series is a saxophone player that is a 9’x4’ tryptic. Over the years I added a local piano composer (7'×3.5') and the amazing story teller Ajamu Mutima (6'x4’).
I applied for a grant seven years ago to help fund the series but my application was rejected. I was working a full-time job and painting on a large scale. The rejection letter made me decide to be put my art on the back-burner because of the cost of oil supplies.
I then moved from Jacksonville to New Mexico with a former girlfriend. She dumped me while I was out there because she didn’t see any financial stability to raise a family. She was completely right.
I was working my full-time job, and in an effort to prove my worth, I decided to take a drawing class as a way to ease my way into school. I couldn’t get any financial aid though so I picked up a second job working in a hotel from 10:00 PM to 8:00 AM on Sunday nights. I had to go to class Monday mornings following my shift.
Halfway through the semester I questioned why I was killing myself. I realized that I wasn’t doing it for me. I stopped going to class and started to paint for myself again. I found a floral art show in Los Alamos and decided I was going to submit to it. I enjoyed the freedom of painting a flower for that show so much that I continued by painting a series of them.
As a figurative artist, I experienced a wonderful sense of creative freedom to take accuracy out of my mind. Eventually, after completing the series of flowers, I decided I wanted to bring accuracy back into my work. I started the "Girl with Flowers" series in order to develop my skills and style, with each portrait being very structurally similar on a large scale. The series is me proving to myself that I am worthy to make art, without a formal art degree.
You started "Girls With Flowers" in 2015. How does "Girl With Flowers #1" contrast or compare to "Girl With Flowers #12" and as an artist how have you grown through this series?
Number one and number twelve are as different as you and me. I chose to frame each face similarly, with flowers, so that the uniqueness of each subject would be the focus. I definitely developed my technical skills through exploring different tools and techniques in my expression in pointillism and mark making.
What captivated you about each of the 12 females that you used as references in your series?
I was sharing a studio space with GwF #1. I asked her if she wanted to be apart of it. Her assistant helped with holding the flowers when I took the photos. I asked the assistant if she wanted to be GwF #2. GwF #3 sent me a message on Facebook volunteering to be a part of the series. Her daughter was with her when I took the photos and I asked them if she would want to be GwF #4. GwF #2 brought her best friend to my studio to see the progress in the painting. While there I asked her if she would want to be GwF #5.
One day I saw a beautiful woman walking in CoRK and asked if she would want to be a part of the series. That is how I met my beautiful love Suzi West and she became GwF #6. Suzi is so wonderfully supportive of my work and I am lucky to have her in my life.
GwF #7 was a suggestion from a local photographer. GwF #8 was a woman who previously interviewed me so I was excited to have her be a part of the series.
CoRK holds open studio tours every year and with open studios less than a week away I had a canvas sanded and stapled to the wall, but I did not have a subject. I was hoping to have a new painting started before open studios but at that point didn’t think it would happen. A local daily television show was filming for open studios and I had a fellow studio mate ask one of the interns to be a part of the series, and out of the blue I had GwF #9.
I thought that GwF #10 would be great in the series, so I asked her, and I am glad that she said yes. GwF #11 is the girlfriend of one of my cycling friends. He always showed support for my work and he brought her to one of my shows when she was in town. I thought it would be awesome if she was a part of the series. GwF #12 is the close friend of Suzi.
As I finish the last painting in the series I reflect on how I have a portrait series that came together through happenstance and situation. Each painting backlit from the brilliant light that reflects upon it, adorned with flowers to accentuate the beauty that we see. As you step closer, you look deeper in to what creates the portrait and reflects the importance of how we are internally, compared to the veneer that we show to the world.
What emotions are you experiencing at the completion of this series? Additionally, now that this project is complete, will your next project be another series and will your work continue to be at a similar scale?
I definitely feel a sense of accomplishment by finishing it. I almost abandoned the project twice during the process of creating the series. But I knew that I was driven to complete the series. I had to see that last piece.
I already have my next three projects planned. You will just have to stay tuned to see what they are!
At what distance or in what manner do you feel your work is best observed?
They are to be viewed at all distances. The grandeur and weight of the size is seen in scale from a distance, dwarfing anyone that is standing close to it. As the viewer nears the piece, the small intricate details pull the viewer closer and closer and they get lost in the details of the painting. As the viewer walks away, they now see the painting differently from a distance.
You've previously stated that "I'm just a bicycle mechanic that likes to paint." Do you think you will ever see yourself as a painter who likes to work on bicycles?
Being a bicycle mechanic is what pays my living expenses and funds my art. I don’t have a choice to stop that. My art doesn’t pay for anything. Art is the first thing that gets cut from a heavy work load. That is why I have gaps in my painting.
If one day I can fully support myself through my art then I won't need to have a day job. Then I will be a painter that just rides mountain bikes.
How has being a resident of CoRK, specifically the CoRK Labs, impacted you as an artist?
Three years ago I started sharing a space in CoRK North. I was quickly impressed and amazed by the super talented Tony Woods. It was wonderful being surrounded by all of these incredible artists. The large workspace gave me the opportunity to start my "Girl with Flowers" series, an idea that blossomed when I was living in New Mexico.
About 2 ½ years ago I was able to move into labs and become an official resident of CoRK. I had more space and was able to work on multiple paintings at the same time. It was common that I had three of the portraits going at the same time.
Having so much space was very important to my artistic growth. But more important than that is the friendships that were created with Overstreet Ducasse and all the other artists I am lucky to call friends.