Artist Spotlight: Topher Crowder

Artist Spotlight: Topher Crowder

As mentioned here, Topher Crowder’s work stopped me in my tracks this past July at the DAM Unmentionables show He is an exceptional talent. When I look at his work I think about that cool kid in school that created wild, intricate, sexualized, and disturbing pictures during class. What if that cool kid continued to hone his talent, yet stayed true to his fascination with the intricate lines and wild imagery that grows from just creating? I think that’s Topher.

When judging artists I ask, (1) did it stop me in my tracks and (2) could I have (or have I) thought of creating the same thing? With his Plexiglass etchings, Topher stopped me in my tracks and had me asking myself, “why did I not think of doing that?” The imagery that Topher creates with his Plexiglass features beg you to get lost in the piece. These pieces have the intricacy of pen & ink drawings, yet there is an added life — a literal glow — that Topher adds to them through his choice of materials.   These pieces leave a faint, color shadow on the walls where they are displayed that give a soft finishing touch to a bold begining.

The only bad thing about these pieces, they are really difficult to capture in a photograph.  So you have to track Topher down and see them for yourself! As a first step, I tracked Topher down so you can get to know him better. When did you start painting?

Topher : I started and stopped painting. I started in 86 in college, quit untill around 2000 when I returned to get my BFA. Alot of people think I do drawings or Plexiglas engravings. I really enjoy painting. I like working on both Plexiglas engravings and a painting at the same time. I have also started painting plein air and really enjoy that too. What style do you consider your work?

Topher : Style…jeez. I figure a style is usually attached to a body of work once people start buying it. I’m not there yet and I’m really worried about style. I’ll let other people do the style stuff. Does beauty play a role in your work?

Topher : Beauty is a fickle beast. Sometimes the most beautiful people are the most empty. But that being said, I don’t try and make things ugly or crappy….ok, well sometimes I shoot for ‘craptacular’. But I try to create an impression with my work. Something that the viewer will take with them after looking at it, something that will stick with them in the dark forgotten corners of their brain. How have you developed as an artist over the last five years?

Topher : The last five years has been great for me as an artist. I finished my masters, started some exciting new projects and became an adjunct at Schoolcraft College. Art-wise, the five years has seen my work move in areas that I never thought it would (thanks to some great teachers at Wayne State University). I am not frightened to experiment with new concepts and the idea of failure never plays a part. I have some great ideas in the works and really cant wait for the next five years. What is your process?

Topher : Process…process is important to my work. My process is somewhat equal to a 96 ounce steak that you get for free if you eat it in a half hour. You cant see finishing but you don’t dare quit. I like the idea of mark making. Using every mark, regardless of quality. Making every mark worth the same and not editing. But, while that process fits well with my Plexiglas works, it doesn’t quite fit how i paint. I enjoy destroying what I have painted or painting over finished works. I like editing paintings with think layers of paint. I know it’s bi-polar. The Prozac makes it all very clear to me. What is the most difficult part about your process?

Topher : Time is the most difficult equation to my process, A large Plexiglas work can take upwards of eight months to create and can be destroyed by a single careless individual. I cant seem to make more any faster. I’m trying but it hurts. The last time I worked non-stop, i couldn’t feel my hand for five days. What inpires you?

Topher : I love learning and seeing new things. I sop up new experiences like a dry sponge. Who are your favorite Detroit area artists?

Topher : Detroit has a large stable of great artists. Chris Dean, Glenn Barr, Tom Thewes, Niagara, Kristen Beaver, and many more. I own a few works from a few of these artists. I wish Detroit had a larger stable of art collectors. Where is your studio?

Topher : I have a studio in Livonia. I love having a studio that is not in my basement. If anyone would like to visit my studio and see what I’m working on, I can be reached on Facebook. Every studio visit comes with a free signed print and a grope. What’s next?

Topher : What is next?! I would love to show more outside of Detroit. I’m trying but 8 x 4 foot dayglo plexiglas is very hard to push onto galleries. I’m gonna try though. I love sending portfolios out. They are like letters in bottles. You meet some really great people sometimes.