Emerging artist Jonathan Weisblatt has the best of both worlds: The airy, open space of the loft that is his studio/living space is an area worthy of a SoHo painter but without the New York rent.
While Weisblatt has studied around the world including at the Sorbonne, he’s settled here, at least for the time being. This is where he finds himself contemplating self, the nature of existence and other heady ideas through an art show titled Self Portrait at that same space. He’s not just selling his paintings but everything he owns.
Everything? “Everything I have will be for sale,” he concurs, “except for personal photos no one would be interested in.” Besides the usual apartment accoutrements of kitchenware, soft furniture and a study in the three stages of laundry, there are knickknacks and postcards from a life of travel.
It would be easy to view this show as a conceptual art-rent party for someone who has never had a formal exhibition, but the 34 year old says he’s also making a statement about the modern conception of self in a materialistic world. “I am trying to find a place in the world, find my own balance,” he reveals. “I spent most of last year in Thailand, and my eyes were opened to how much American money can buy in those places and how little their cultures can purchase in our world. Yet they are more open to interaction and simple things in life. I wanted to maintain that level of being.”
Call it an unburdening. The Michigan native came to Salt Lake City six months ago to move into the space with a girlfriend, but then she broke up with him. The show is in part about healing. “Self Portrait opens up my whole life, 24-seven, for three and a half weeks,” he explains. “I didn’t make this pillow, but it’s a part of my life; we have a certain relationship.”
Throughout history, the making of art has been spiritually based, he notes, but much modern art has focused on alienation and the loss of community. “We are all a part of the same world, but we could live with more harmony,” he maintains. “We create so much waste, but I have come to feel that the earth’s body is my body. What we do to it, we do to ourselves.”
Besides paintings, his space is filled with found objects: an altar made of “clean” garbage like candy wrappers and orange juice cartons; in the window, metal sheets from which shapes have been cut to make tools, the remaining stencil casting patterns that dance across the room.
There will also be a video installation. He wants visitors to contemplate themselves and has full-length mirrors, a large wooden cross and a coffin for people to pose for photos they can have e-mailed to them. “We should celebrate both life and death,” he believes. “It’s all part of the cycle.”
Weisblatt doesn’t really foresee living his life differently during the show, though he admits that it may provide him some focus to finish some art projects. He rented a piano recently to take up the classical music that he studied while younger. There will be a price list for those who want to collect a Weisblatt painting rather than, say, a pair of dirty socks.
But he’s not sure about selling paintings still in progress. One telling work contains the word “changing” written in a cursive script and only partially filled in with paint. He shrugs his shoulders. “I’m not sure if it’s done yet or not. Like everything else, like myself, it’s a work in progress. It’s still changing.”