The Homeless Kerry Brock discusses "The Homeless" series with Nomi Silverman
[KB] Why did you choose homelessness as your subject matter?
[NS] I grew up in 1970’s New York City when the town was going bankrupt. The homeless were everywhere and I found myself sketching them constantly. Also, I come from a socially progressive family so we were always thinking and talking about these things. For this series I started with used plates. Plates that people would throw away-trash.
[KB] Where do the specific images come from?
[NS] I’ve drawn so many homeless people over the years that by now they’re in my brain. Early on I experienced some difficulty trying to sketch them in person so I developed a visual memory instead. I would see a facial expression or gesture, walk a block away and pull out my sketchbook. Images in this show were based on my body of sketches, the culmination of work I’ve been doing for the past 5 years. It comes from process.
[KB]What else do you want to tackle?
[NS]I was doing torture and mass graves for a while. Now I’m working on a portfolio about a suicide bomber in Iraq. I’m almost paralyzed because I have a year to do this but once I get started I know another body of work will emerge. I just don’t know what it looks like yet. I did a portfolio on Matthew Shepard’s death that took ten years.
[KB]How did “The Smokers” happen?
[NS]In the case of “The Smokers”, a plate that was originally an early version from “The Shepard Cycle”. I turned it upside down and responded to existing lines. If you look at a lot of the prints that I have done of homeless there are a lot of smoking going on. There probably are few pleasures in that existence and smoking is one of them. The looming heads just appeared because somewhere in my subconscious it was there. I sometimes cannot answer where images come from, particularly this series because they come from a number of years of doing images of homeless.
[KB] What about “Washing Up?”
[NS] This came from an image of where you have to go to clean up. The "chopping off of the head" was a conscious concept to re-enforce the dehumanizing aspect of life on the streets.
[KB] “Under the Bridge” tickles our fear about this mysterious human ecosystem. Was that your intention?
[NS] Curious reaction to "Under the Bridge". I don't think I had such a complicated thought for that, at least not on the surface. I'd read a few books about a whole subculture of our population an that was in my mind. As well as the family you make and also trying to go against the stereotype that all homeless are single men. But I like your phrasing much better!
[KB] Could you share an important theme you teach students?
[NS] Create for yourself. Trying to predict and then make what will sell is not creating art. Make the work for yourself and be strong about it. That means you have a point of view. The best art comes from the gut.
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