What is your current thoughts on the growth Jax has gone through lately?
Since I left for school in 1991, Jacksonville has completely transformed. The most noticeable changes are downtown, and of course there’s less open land as a result of the ever present sprawl. Still, Jacksonville seems much more environmentally conscious than it was even ten years ago. Folks are setting land aside for recreation as they build. Art–of any kind–and environmental issues were barely on the radar ten years ago.
When did you began making art? Can you describe your evolution as an artist? When did you know you would pursue your art seriously?
My mother died when I was three, but I remained close to my mother’s family. Many of my relatives on that side of my family–aunts, cousins, uncles–are artists and/or writers. As a kid, I used to look at paintings by family members on my grandparents’ walls and think, “I want to be able to do that!” I would pick up a pencil and draw and it would look like garbage, so I put the pencil away and did other things. I actually studied business as an undergrad. Then, during my senior year in college, I took a creative writing class and that opened a new world for me. I’ve been writing ever since. A year after I graduated from college, I went California to work in the film industry. I made a short film out there, but hated working in the “biz.” It was very exploitive. Later, I found filmmakers and video artists like Nathaniel Dorsky, Stan Brakhage, and Leighton Pierce who inspired me to use the film/video camera in new and inventive ways.
Your web site is www.dylanklempner.com. I notice you have photographs mainly on their and some writing. When we spoke you said video is your current tool of choice for art making. Can you describe your approach to art making? How do the different media work off of each other for you or do they?
Well, ever since I started the MFA program at Goddard College, I’ve been allowing myself use whatever materials I need. For example, I’ve been working on a multimedia project called “mymothertree” based on the life and death of my mother. There are very few images of her as an adult. I recently inherited an image that I liked very much and wanted to have many more just like it. So, I took a relief print-making class and made fifteen or twenty prints based on that image. I had never made a print in my life, it just made sense to use that medium. I haven’t actually finished a video in a while. I’ve been writing a lot lately, mostly poems. So, I guess I sort of move with the muse.
You mentioned you work with themes in your work. What themes are you currently interested in?
Environmental issues are important to me. A few years ago I made a documentary about the American Chestnut tree, an important tree that has been devastated by blight. The American Chestnut Foundation (ACF) is trying to revive the tree. Folks can buy a DVD of my video on the ACF website: http://www.acf.org/e-commerce/products.asp?cat=26. I’ve also been working on issues of loss and familial relationships.
You’re currently getting your MFA in interdisciplinary art from Goddard College in Vermont. Can you describe that experience?
Goddard has been great. I can’t say enough good things about it. The faculty are talented, intelligent, passionate, accomplished, and kind people. The environment is so inspiring. Each semester I get a chance to see amazing work and to meet folks with concerns and interests similar and very different from mine. I always come away from a residency inspired and intellectually stimulated. The only drawback to Goddard is the loneliness that can develop. Because it’s a low-residency program, you’re forced to establish a local community, which is why I’m so excited about JaxCAL. On another level, it’s actually a good thing to force yourself into your local community. Traditional MFA programs create a unrealistic supportive community, but it’s gone as soon as you graduate. This kills a lot of artists. So at Goddard, I’m sort of lucky that I’ve formed both a virtual community and to meet artists where I live.
Can you describe the work of some of the faculty and students?
The work ranges widely. We have musicians, painters, actors, playwrights, poets, and people who do a little bit of everything. And every theme under the sun is addressed.
The program is a low residency program. How has that worked out for you and can you describe that process?
At Goddard you go to their Vermont campus at the beginning of the semester for a week. You meet your adviser and a group of fellow students with whom you’ll be keeping in touch via email, etc. During the residency you are free to attend workshops and presentations and to show your work. You also compose a study plan: a list of books and a description of your research plans. When the week is over, you go home and do your work. There is a lot of writing in the program, but the faculty is more concerned with the process than with finished products. It’s really wonderful, and closer to how real artists work today.
How would you describe your writing? What authors have influenced you?
I’ve been reading and writing a fair amount of Haiku these days. That started after reading Richard Wright’s book of Haiku, which I love. I also like Robert Hass’s collection of Haiku translations. I’m a big fan of William Carlos Williams, CK Williams, Dylan Thomas. And of course Whitman, Keats. Thoreau is my hero!
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading a collection of essays called, DRAWING US IN. It’s about how visual art gets seen and interpreted. All of the essays are by writers–novelists, critics, poets. I very much enjoy writing about art.
After receiving your MFA do you plan on teaching? What direction would you like to go with that?
I have some experience tutoring in Community Colleges and enjoy that work very much. I would also like to start a writing group here that uses the Amherst Writer’s and Artist’s method created by Pat Schneider. You can read about Pat and her method online, http://www.amherstwriters.com/, and in her book, WRITING ALONE AND WITH OTHERS). I’ve written with Pat for the past several years. Her method changed my life.
What recommendations would you give to young artists starting out?
Make art and meet artists.