Meandering through Jeff Faust’s Labyrinth

Jeff Faust is a contemporary American artist who resists categorizing his artwork in all respects.

 If you ask Jeff to describe his art, he’ll ask you the same. He creates still lifes of everyday things and animals in unreal settings– eucalyptus leaf boats suspended in the sky and moons in baskets anchored to grazing livestock. The collective works of Jeff Faust are moments of bated breath. While the viewer may interpret the paintings beyond their physicality, Faust insists his artwork is each viewer’s own experience. Whether they see chaos on the horizon or the steadfast sparrow on a line, each viewing yields a new discovery. “I don’t feel the need to explain the paintings because I never intend them to be open and shut.  I work hard to create a visual with many avenues of approach.”

Jeff Faust in his studio.

Faust thinks about the fragility of life but also its robustness. This cognitive dissonance is woven into most of his works. “My birds often face potential peril. But birds have been around a long time, and I feel they’ll make it through.  Everyday stuff, really.” Jeff wants the viewer to have room to roam in his work. If they’re chained to one visual thought there’s nowhere for them to go. “There’s no way I could do that to my work.”

Jeff is a self-taught artist. When asked about his decision he is resolute. “I’ve never regretted my decision to stay self-taught. I can’t recall giving art school much thought– even when many of my friends were heading off to college and or art school.  I had discussions with my parents about art school. My father didn’t want me to pursue a formal art education. He didn’t want my direction to be misguided by following someone else’s vision.”

While Jeff acknowledges his struggles from the beginning onward, he can’t think of a challenge that would have changed his mind. Growing up in a college town, Faust was immersed in an art scene that he found deeply inspiring. Today, he finds his contemporaries’ artworks truly encouraging but remains separate with his own oeuvre.

Jeff’s paintings are “worked, reworked, and worked again.” His ideas develop as the painting does. And, while he occasionally has a starting point in mind, he usually needs to put paint on the canvas to know where he’s going. Occasionally, Faust runs into a series of works that just hit but even those go through multiple renditions. Ultimately, all the reworking arrives at a final ‘aha moment.’ Many of Jeff’s paintings have been worked over many hours before changing in the blink of an eye. He’s fine with it though.

While he’s practiced other mediums and keeps sketchbooks, Faust works exclusively with acrylic on canvas. He finds the sketchbooks extremely helpful in moments requiring a concerted effort. With the repetitious strain of everyday life, these quick sketches offer a less demanding focus. During his reflections, Jeff often finds inspiration in the rediscovery of old ideas. He says some of these unearthings result in new work. Others do not, but, “they help tremendously with the stimulation of new visual thoughts.” 

In his pursuit of satisfaction, Jeff Faust has found himself at his first show in years. While he’s exhibited countless times over the decades, Faust says they require a single-minded focus that doesn’t always lend itself well to his working style. However, Jeff is excited about “Labyrinth” because he believes it is emblematic of his life as an artist. “Being self-taught, self-educated, and a self-seller for many years before the galleries, every day was a land of blind alleys, unknown paths, scary tunnels, and big dead ends. By doing these four paintings, especially for this show, I was simply doing what I’ve always done. But, in many ways, I’ve survived all of those pitfalls so perhaps I’m showing that I’ve managed to stumble out of the Labyrinth to some degree– at least enough to see a bit more light at the end of those tunnels.”

Join us at the gallery on Friday, July 22 at 5 PM to meet Jeff Faust and enjoy Gallery Night MKE.

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