Jared Weiss has forgotten much of his subject matter. Or rather, the scenes that he paints are often buried somewhere deep in his unconscious. Reviving suppressed memories can be a dangerous game, but the Santa Fe artist has some heavy hitters on his side: Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Žižek. Weiss draws inspiration from the famous line of psychoanalysts in his new solo exhibition at form & concept, He’s Either Dead or It Was His Birthday. Opening Friday, June 30, the show conjures a strange sense of déjà vu. Weiss’s figurative images—which resemble warped photographs from a massive theater production—are sure to lodge in the back of your mind.
“Jared’s painted worlds will send you tumbling down the rabbit hole,” says Frank Rose, Gallery Director at form & concept. “His images are familiar enough to give you flashes of recognition, but remote enough to throw you off-balance. The moment you step into the exhibition, the game is afoot.” Weiss was an MFA student at the San Francisco Art Institute when he read an early essay by Sigmund Freud on the concept of screen memories. A screen memory is a childhood recollection that is falsely recalled, masking another memory of profound emotional significance.
“That’s the thread that runs through all of it,” he says. “When you experience a trauma that’s too overwhelming to process, you can repress it as a defense mechanism.” Just as memories layer on top of each other and obscure reality, Weiss applies layers of paint to his canvas to distort figures and landscapes.
“I’m using the canvas as a stage where I can cast people I know as characters, and use familiar places as sets,” the artist says. Weiss grew up in Ohio, and he draws some of his imagery from his Midwestern childhood. Visions of his grandfather’s lumberyard, plastic lawn chairs and long-lost friends collide with depictions of people and places from his adult life.
Weiss got his BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio in 2009, and lived in Santa Fe for a number of years before enrolling in the MFA program at the San Francisco Art Institute. “Grad school was a pressure cooker,” he says. “Before that, I was painting from found photographs of people that I never knew. I didn’t think my life would be compelling to paint, but I came to the realization I could make it interesting.”
Since returning to Santa Fe in 2015, Weiss has continued to weave images from different points in his life into his paintings. He intentionally balances details and abstraction, making faces and landscapes look vaguely familiar. Shockingly bright colors and repeated imagery etch his compositions into the memories of viewers, producing the effect of a screen memory as they look from one canvas to the next. Drawing from theories set forth by Lacan and Žižek, who furthered Freud’s explorations, Weiss gives his works nonsensical titles that are meant to spark unexpected associations.
“It’s about pointing to this place that I’m from, but ensuring that it’s never in the past,” says Weiss. “It’s about creating this ‘now’ moment, like it just showed up. Good painting is always alive.” He’s Either Dead or It Was His Birthday runs from June 30 through August 12, 2017. Weiss will speak about the show at a gallery talk on Saturday, July 22 from 2-3 pm.