The Necessity of Trying New Things - Quincy Owens

I don’t know any type of person or profession that people seem to so easily compartmentalize as the artist.  Ironically, unlike other ways we put people into dandy little boxes all organized in a row, artists somehow get put into a box somewhere on a desk, away from normal categories labeled something like “other.”  Why? In all of my years as an artist I think I've determined that one of the main reasons for this separation is an artist's need to try new things. I thrive on it, as do most other artists. I see trying new things differently than some would. I equate it with change, growth, experimentation and failure. I equate it with discovery, learning and connecting. I equate it with evolving, creating, destroying, and then doing it all over again.

I have intentionally pushed myself to try new things more than ever in the past couple of years.  If you have ever swung by my studio, sometimes I will be painting (but trying all sorts of new techniques), other times cutting up a cardboard box from the dumpster across the parking lot, planing down a piece of discarded timber from some redevelopment in the neighborhood, throwing stuff at the harp of a dismantled piano, or even scouring through piles of letters, magazines and assorted paper items to make a “coaster.” What’s the point of all of this? Most of the time I am glad to say I don’t really know. Trying new things is a process, not a product. It’s a journey, not a destination. It’s being open to the possibility of what might be, but doesn’t yet exist.

I know… this is getting way too ethereal, but trying new things opens up my artistic practice to the unknown and where it might lead.

la foto

Let me give you an example (and get ready!).  A few years ago, my wife Nikki’s grandmother, Gramma Pat, thought her granddaughter’s crazy artist husband (me) might be able to do something with some sleeved records she was going to throw out so I took them.  A year later I was literally watching paint dry in the studio.  I realized I could be a bit more productive if I were actually doing something and I instinctually grabbed one of those sleeves that had been patiently waiting and collecting dust. I didn’t have a plan but something was going to be created and I knew it was going to be a sculpture, something new. That was the beginning.

Next, I was combining the album sleeves with cardboard and the scale of the work began to increase. I then started asking artists to collaborate by painting on cardboard that I would turn into sculptures. I started adding resin and pigments and a variety of bases to round them out. This somehow led to me receiving a stipend and a piano to destroy. I deconstructed the piano and decided to add sound. It now sits on Monument Circle.

Am I done yet? No. Thinking about the evolution of these sculptures has led me to a collaboration with an old friend, and Herron High School teaching alum, Luke Crawley. We decided to start designing public outdoor sculptures inspired by my cardboard forms.  We even submitted some of our renderings to a competition… and won. Soon it will be fabricated and be an addition to our city’s already burgeoning beauty. I should stop here but I really want you to understand why first. Gramma Pat gave me some albums a few years back and now Luke Crawley and I will soon have a large scale interactive art piece installed in the city for the public to enjoy. Would this have happened if I didn’t try new things? Is this the end of the story? No, I have to go try some more new things.


Quincy Owens is a full time studio artist at the Harrison Center for the Arts.  He focuses on materials and concepts, making work that is autobiographical, exploratory and based deeply in process.