Artist Spotlight: Nathan Spoor

by Cecily Knobler

Rites of Passage 22 x 42 inches / acrylic on canvas / 2011

Rites of Passage 22 x 42 inches / acrylic on canvas / 2011

I had the honor of meeting Nathan Spoor 15 years ago at a house in the Hollywood Hills once owned by Houdini. My publicist at the time had dragged me to this overcrowded mansion, overrun with a mixture of wannabe actresses, models and the like. I was just about ready to leave after the rapper Coolio (accidentally?) poured a beer over my head from the balcony. Rushing to find some towels, I met Nathan and his friends and quickly realized that for every 100 Hollywood phonies, a true artist like Nathan exists. Years later and he’s still one of the most unique and thought-provoking modern visual artists around. Here’s a little about him.

Cecily Knobler: What’s your background? Did you go to art school?

Nathan Spoor: I think I’ve always been making art, whether in school or out. I did a double major in painting and graphic design in college (ACU) and painting and drawing in grad school (SCAD / UNTSOVA). I was really lucky to have that opportunity to take so many art classes, honestly. It was a critical time of growth. I really took off just painting for hours in the school studios.

The Great Divide / 20 x 22 inches / acrylic on canvas 2014

The Great Divide / 20 x 22 inches / acrylic on canvas / 2014

CK: Was there a specific moment you can remember when you realized you wanted to be a visual artist? Were there teachers who pushed you in that direction or did you always just “know?”

NS: If I really think about it, I’ve never not had a moment when I wasn’t going to be me, as an artist or someone really passionate about art. I did have a really great art teacher in high school, and another couple cool ones at different universities. To be completely fair, those were the ones that helped me understand the good times and how important it is to be enriched in the creative process – but the ones that pushed me the furthest and hardest were the ones that I didn’t agree with or like. Well, I didn’t understand the lessons at the time. Later in life, I absorbed all that knowledge and the things they had taught me, and prepared me for. Grad school especially helps an artist understand the pace of life as an artist; how you’ll be faced with what seem like impossible deadlines and workloads. But you never know what you’re capable of until faced with those super stressful and challenging times.

The Elegant Charade / 42 x 72 inches / acrylic on canvas / 2014

The Elegant Charade / 42 x 72 inches / acrylic on canvas / 2014

CK: Who were your early artistic influences? Which modern artists inspire you now?

NS: I really got turned on to painting the way I do when I found the early Surrealists. I modeled my approach and thinking on Breton, Dali, Magritte and Bellmer. In grad school I had to come up with a way of talking about my work, so I called it Suggestivism. When I got the chance to set up my first museum group exhibit on Suggestivism, I researched it further (the ‘90s didn’t have today’s internet or books online). I found that an art historian named Sadakichi Hartmann had written about Suggestivism and the artists that he felt were working in that manner in the late 1800s to early 1900s. So I was basically picking up the torch on something that predated Surrealism just a bit. It’s a way of working that I feel ties in a lot of today’s strong visual / narrative talents.

Oracle / 12 x 10 inches / acrylic on panel / 2015

Oracle / 12 x 10 inches / acrylic on panel / 2015

Nathan, who has an exhibit at the Spoke Art Gallery in San Francisco this fall and other international shows soon to follow, offers this link to learn more about this art form: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suggestivism. But most important, here’s a link to Nathan’s website, where you can check out his art and find information about his upcoming exhibitions. www.nathanspoor.com