Meaning, Making and Moving Forward | A studio visit with Jonathan McAfee

Written by Corianne Wells |  


(Denver CO)

For Jonathan McAfee, the meaning doesn’t matter.

A midwest man at heart, McAfee made his pilgrimage from Indiana to Denver in 2015 and hit the ground running, You may know his work from, Infinite Monkey Theorem, Cuba Cuba, the former RedWolf gallery, Helikon and currently in at Artwork Network’s show “Chromatic” and that’s not even the full list.

Impressive for an artist that says he ‘is a little fish in a big pond.’ If he is a fish he must be a Koi because he is growing into his bigger pond, getting the work done and is finding the space to share it.

Jonathan McAfee's Studio in Denver, CO
Jonathan McAfee | Denver CO

How long does it take you to get a painting done?

"If I’m really feeling it, I can usually get a painting done in 6-10 hours. I try really hard to get 3/4ths of a painting done in one sitting, that could be an 8-hour sitting, or it could be a 2-hour sitting."

What are you mediums working in?

"Acrylic, spray paint, oil pastel, ink, and I’ll probably start working in oils again now that I have a proper space."

McAffee’s studio is full of finished works, lining walls with bright colors, vibrant brush strokes and faces of every kind. The first reaction is to wonder who these faces are and what stories they want to tell, but McAffee has no answer. It’s not about who they are, or why they deserve the dedication of a painter's hand, but rather that they are in fact painted....That's what it's all about, the making!

Jonathan 62.jpg
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If you don’t want to be known as a portrait artist, why paint faces?

“Because I do find them the most fascinating and I enjoy painting them.”

 If you could re-define your title, what would you rather be called?

 “I approach my paintings like an abstract expressionist, busy, vibrant colors, rapid brush strokes. I want it to physical, the paint to be visible and it’s about that process for me.”

He isn’t wrapped up in the words he can sell, McAfee is focused on the work he hopes the viewer connects with, it isn’t the story that explains its importance it is the existence itself that should dictate its value.

Jonathan McAfee Quote
Jonathan McAfee Detail | Green Frame

 Do you ever struggle with giving meaning to your work?

 "I struggle with the idea that the artist statement is what is expected and that it feels required. It drives me crazy that everyone thinks they need one. It’s a relatively new practice that has only been around for about 30 years."

"I think it’s important to have a story, the story is about being an artist but a pretentious artist statement doesn’t appeal to me." 

 "I really think it’s ok to make art for art’s sake, I don’t think meaning is a requirement. I think some very powerful pieces have really powerful meanings. I love that stuff! But I can only speak for me personally.” 

Jonathan McAfee in his studio

Jonathan McAfee is living and working in Denver, Colorado. You can find him painting in his studio below Artwork Network.

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