ADAM ELI FEIBELMAN
INTERVIEW for JUXTAPOZ BY ALEX NICHOLSON
Portrait photo by Alex Nicholson
Walking into Adam Feibelman’s studio is walking into a mess, a good mess, in that satisfying, artist-at-work kind of way. Surrounded by projects in various states of completion, scattered and stacked on every available surface, I was careful to avoid toppling the very large vase precariously filled to the brim with used X-Acto blades. On one visit, a bicycle wheel sat on a ladder in front of an old projector as Adam demonstrated how the shadows moved through the different patterns he cuts out. A few weeks later, I strolled in to find him making a silicone replica of the leg of the Hungarian camerawoman caught on film, tripping and kicking fleeing Syrian refugees. “The idea for a piece will come up, and for the most part, I’m able to execute it then and there,” he tells me. “I think it’s why I naturally gravitated towards art, but it took some time to figure out which ideas were worth pursuing.” While the stencil work is what Adam is most known for, his practice continually evolves in order to realize each new idea. The last time I stopped by, he took me through all the work for his upcoming exhibition, explaining how each piece inspires or was inspired by another. Personal Provenance, Adam’s first “straight-up conceptual show,” will address various topics related to migration, asking viewers to consider their own family’s journeys as they make their way through the space.
Alex Nicholson: What was your house like growing up? Were your parents creative people?
Adam Feibelman: My dad is a scientist and my mom was a fundraiser for a nonprofit. I would say that it was creative in that my parents are both stimulated by art, had art around and made a point of making sure my sister and I went to museums a lot. I think I caught on pretty early that my imagination and hands were connected. And my dad being a scientist, that’s actually a pretty creative thing.
What kind of science?
Physicist, surface science, which is the study of how molecules move on surfaces of materials. It can be applied to all kinds of things from waterproofing to friction and adhesives. My parents met in an opera group. They're very well-rounded people, I would say. They've got their hands in everything.
Do you recall the first moment, beyond coloring and making things as a kid, where you thought, "Oh, I think want to spend my life doing this."
You know, I don't know if I had that realization until I was way older. Actually, when I was a kid, I said I wanted to be a cartoonist or an architect.
Well, that's pretty close.
Yeah, for sure. But as I progressed through the Albuquerque Public Schools, I didn't really see a future in either one of those, even though I had been kind of making artwork since I was a kid. My parents were really good at making sure I was in art classes. When I was really young, I wanted to draw Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes. There's stuff at my parents' house they still have that I made when I was eight years old that I would own now as contemporary artwork [laughs]. One of them was a foam core replica of breakfast. It was a placemat with a napkin, a fork, a knife and a plate with eggs and bacon and toast on it. The placemat had a pattern, and they still have it. When I see it, I think, “Wow, whatever little kid made this was pretty good!” It wasn't until nearly failing in high school that my mom suggested maybe I should think about going to art school. That ended up being the way to go.
Did you get into graffiti in high school or in art school?
In high school I was much more into graffiti.
That's when the stenciling came in?
I would say, in high school, I was more of the character guy. I could do faces much better than I could do letters. But then again, Albuquerque had kind of a gnarly gang-associated graffiti world and there was a lot of machismo bullshit going around. When I had the opportunity to leave, I decided I would leave all of that behind as well, because I had nothing to prove. I still have nothing to prove... I think. Maybe I do. Maybe I'm proving it right now.