EK Interview: John Wind


John Wind is an installation artist.  He is one of the awesome artists headed down to Miami for Select Art Fair.  John describes his art as a snapshot of himself, a picture of himself at a moment in time.  Drawing from the world he constructs installations that address society and culture through the medium of his person.  Check out his interview:

Introduce yourself, what’s your full name, where are you from, what is your preferred breakfast?

Hi, my name’s John Y. Wind. I grew up and live in Philadelphia, though I was born in Israel (the Y is for Yaron, my original name). Breakfast is usually yoghurt with granola, and lots of coffee.

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How long in general does an installation piece take you to complete?  What was your most recent?  What was the first real installation piece you did?  In what ways do the two thematically differ?  How have you matured personally in that gap and do you think your personal maturations matches or somehow parallels the thematic shift?

Installations are relatively new to my work.  My ‘big story’ in a nutshell is that I have been making sculptures and collages privately for the last 25 years, while publicly designing and selling fashion jewelry.  A few years ago I finally took the plunge to show my fine art in public.  My first installation was in a vacant storefront window.  I installed a series of my shopping bag diptychs and loved the way they spoke to each other and occupied the space.

My most recent installation was a series of 5 tableaux collectively titled ‘The Making of a Modern Man’.  It was far more complex than the shopping bags, with an almost retrospective approach to my life and history.  There were hundreds of elements in the show, and 5 enormous wood frames creating diorama-like scenes. How long did it take to complete? A lifetime of experiences.. Work that spanned 8 years.. 6 months of preparation.. And 2 very intense weeks of installation!

I’d say that what has changed between my first installation and my most recent is my confidence to push the envelope, materially, in scale, and in content.


In your words, each of your pieces is an autobiography.  How does it feel to display yourself so publicly?  Do you, or did you, ever get nervous at a show?  Have you felt like you shared too much?  

Perfect segue from the last question!  I think the reason I waited 25 years to display my work in public is precisely the vulnerability of being so autobiographical and candid.  And not wanting to edit myself to play it safe.

So while I can get self-conscious if I think about it too much, I think what gives my art its meaning and authenticity is that risk-taking… And the feedback I’ve received has really reinforced that.  At my last show, people took it all in, the porn, the luxury goods, the innocence, experience, mortality… and what they said was how brave it was, and everyone found something to relate to, some way in.

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Art is expression, in this way, one could argue that to a degree all art is autobiographical, if not the exact subject matter, it is at the very least the artist’s opinion on a specific subject.  What themes, ideas or subjects do address through your art?  Why are they so meaningful to you?

A lot of my work is about dualities—between public and private;  masculine and feminine; insider and outsider; and between fine art and the commercial world. These themes resonate because in so many realms my life straddles two worlds, and I am constantly trying to make sense of it all.

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All American Boy looks like a mashup of Americana and pop culture, how would you compare these two genres as representations of American culture?  What will our current culture look back on with nostalgia?  What parts of American culture, past and present do you appreciate?

I’d say that a lot of Americana started out as the pop culture of its day, and later found its way to the ‘Americana Flea Market.’  Certainly Shepard Fairey’s Obama Hope poster will take that journey…

I am attracted to American culture on several levels—as an immigrant, there’s that ‘All American Boy’ wholesome, preppy, straight fantasy.  As a liberal, I was one of many who got swept up in the idealism of Obama’s presidency (much of the work in ‘All American Boy’ came about during the heady beginnings of his first term).  And as a designer, antiquer, and collector, I just love the iconography, objects, and imagined history of giant vintage flags, old red toy trucks, life-size cardboard cub scouts, bowling pins, etc…


How would you describe celebrity?  Do you consider the idea of celebrity beneficial to our society?  Our world?  Why have you chosen to focus on celebrity?  What about it fascinates you?

Celebrity is like porn. It’s a fantasy, an escape, but there’s things you can learn from it too. I also find it motivating—it triggers my competitive spirt and makes me work harder.

Is it good for society? Like porn—I think it’s fine in moderation.

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Tell us about the piece you’ll be doing for Select Art Fair, what are the colors you’ve chosen to dominate?  Why these colors?  What are some your favorite pieces you will be incorporating into it?

When I saw photos of my room at the Catalina Hotel, I loved the sheer white curtain covering the window wall.  Light glowed through and it reminded me of a gallery in a small-town European museum, with natural light and maybe even an open window.

I decided to turn the room into a portrait gallery, with a cluster of my classical busts in front of that curtain, and a salon-style hanging of 2-D works on the large side wall.  The color palette for both walls is loosely black, white, red and flesh tones.   It evokes a vintage mood, and is also all about the human body.

But then I shake things up a little—the opposite wall, while thematically connected to the Portrait Gallery conceit, is a composition in turquoise, green and blue, with a taxidermied peacock (Mssr. Peacock, 2013) as its centerpiece.  That is what you’ll see first from the doorway, and I hope what will tempt visitors into the room!

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What’s a standard of yours, a movie you can always re-watch, a book you can re-read, a cd you can always re-play?  What does it mean to you and why do you treasure it so much?

Every time I go to the studio, I play at least one Missy Elliot CD!  She reminds me to be fearless, and that to be sexual and uncensored is not just OK, it’s cool.  The more authentic, the better. And you can still have a fabulous career.

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