Interview of Portland artist Jason Kappus

As her second interview, Kathleen chose artist Jason Kappus, who is well known around the Portland Open Studios community. 

by Kathleen Vidoloff

I caught up with Jason Kappus at his home studio, so I was able to see all of his current work.  Jason serves Portland Open Studios as its PDX-CSA Program Director and was formerly the Administrator for Portland Open Studios.  He has been participating in the tour since 2009. As a veteran participant, he sees the value in having art lovers and collectors visit his studio.  “One of the great things with Open Studios has been that I don’t have to have a full show ready, and I can test the water with things. Also, I get feedback immediately from people,” said Jason, referring to his current line of work, a series called, “Obscured Faces.” 

 When Jason began his work on Obscured Faces, the portraits focused on showing those parts of faces not hidden behind different kinds of facial coverings—from a surgeon’s mask to a hijab.  He was working exclusively on 2.5 by 2 feet panels. He showed the initial ten pieces during an Open Studios tour and, while people liked the work, the size was not ideal for everyone.  Jason incorporated the feedback and began offering pieces in multiple sizes. Likewise, conversations with visitors led Jason to change the way he titles the pieces to include the country of origin and a hint at the subject’s intent for covering their face.Jason likes the opportunity to share his process while creating his work. He explains that when people go to an art gallery, they view pieces that are completely finished, but in his studio during the Open Studios Tour, people can experience the art differently. As he explains, “I always will have things that are in different stages. I think that is very interesting for people to be able to come in and see this is how I work. ”  

Jason recently showed his latest series, ‘Laughter’ at the Walters Cultural Arts Center in Hillsboro. He used census data to develop a representative sample of the community. Individually the pieces are joyful portraits, but his intent was for the show, collectively, to express that people of all ages and ethnicities are deserving of happiness. The pieces captured individuals laughing with eyes closed giving the viewer an opportunity to witness their expressions unobserved; in contrast to Obscured Faces where the  subject is often looking directly at the viewer. Jason is slated to begin working on another series in 2018, called “Eyes Closed, Prayer” in oil.


Follow Jason on Twitter and Instagram

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