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John Simpkins-Camp: Subjective and Abstract

by Borderstan.com February 1, 2011 at 9:00 am 0

John Simpkins-Camp Luis Gomez Photos

John Simpkins-Camp in his U Street studio. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Cecile Oreste of danceDC

Local artist John Simpkins-Camp experiments with a variety of materials, including paint, stone and metal. Although he was encouraged by professors to choose one medium, he continues to challenge and entertain himself by creating an array of art. Simpkins-Camp admits the life of an artist can be difficult, but it’s a decision he certainly does not regret.

A native of Virginia, Simpkins-Camp knew early on that he would choose a life in the arts. He attended the Corcoran College of Art and Design, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts and also completed part of his Master’s degree at the Smithsonian. Currently, he is a British Council Artist, and his large landscape painting is part of the international organization’s permanent collection.

Despite having success with works that convey a specific message, Simpkins-Camp often struggles with the decision to create subjective versus abstract works.

For his senior thesis at the Corcoran, he created his popular Monopoly series of work that includes sculptures composed of multi-colored Monopoly money, hotels and houses. The Monopoly series was particularly relevant at the start of the recession as Simpkins-Camp’s work discusses financial and economic issues. His Hindenburg-inspired zeppelin sculpture titled “Financial Disaster” was selected to be part of the Washington Sculptors Group’s exhibition “Sculpture Now 2010” at Pepco’s Edison Place Gallery. The piece has also been featured in the Washington Post Express and the Washington City Paper.

John Simpkins-Camp Luis Gomez Photos

John Simpkins-Camp works in stone as well as other mediums and materials. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Despite having success with works that convey a specific message, Simpkins-Camp often struggles with the decision to create subjective versus abstract works.

“It seems logical that the two would not mix often. But since I cannot decide what type of work to do, I choose both. Still, I wonder what occurs in an artist’s brain to develop an abstract idea that has no real explanation to it. Most people want a meaning or an explanation, yet there might not be one. It’s like trying to describe what infinity is,” he said.

Simpkins-Camp enjoys incorporating his interests, such as astronomy, weather and natural sciences, into his work. “Being able to include my own interests is a very personal thing,” he said. “I can’t go to the moon, but I can paint the moon.” The ability to inspire others through his art is also appealing. “People are sometimes moved by my work. I get goosebumps thinking about those moments.”

“It takes a lot of patience to work with stone; but when you’re done with the sculpture, you know it will last for hundreds of years.

Simpkins-Camp talked in length about the gratification that comes from working with stone. Although stone carving can be time consuming, with a minimum of 40 hours of work going into each piece, he finds the process rather therapeutic. “It takes a lot of patience to work with stone; but when you’re done with the sculpture, you know it will last for hundreds of years. It’s kind of empowering to know that I’m leaving behind a legacy,” he said.

Simpkins-Camp has lived on U Street NW for more than 14 years. Although it can be noisy and hectic at times, he enjoys the diversity of the neighborhood. In addition to creating his art, Simpkins-Camp works at the Corcoran College of Art and Design’s sculpture lab, as well as Utrecht Art Supplies on 13th Street NW. He has previously participated in the Crafty Bastards Arts and Crafts Fair and the 17th Street Festival. You can find more information about Simpkins-Camp and his work on his website.

John Simpkins-Camp Luis Gomez Photos

John Simpkins-Camp and some of his work. He is a long-time resident of the U Street corridor. (Luis Gomez Photos)

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