An Interview with Featured Artist: Gregg Oxley
Gregg Oxley, a multi-faceted Mixed Media and Installation Artist, has been working in the Charleston, West Virginia art scene for over a decade. He has contributed to more than thirty Art Walk events, has had six solo exhibits, and worked on numerous commissioned pieces. More than 100 pieces of Gregg's artwork are held in private collections. Oxley’s current collection, Turnkey, highlights photographs, letters, news articles, and family treasures, sourced from friends, antique sales, collectors, and persons unknown to the artist to represent precursors from the past, and the possibilities of the future. Items used in the works represent their aged worthiness, in both appearance and content, while being interwoven by the artist into a form that is unmistakably part of the forward moving artistic landscape.
(Interviewer: Vincent Trimboli, Appalachian Arts Editor)
The term Appalachian has so many personal connections for those that identify as such; For you, what does it mean to be an Appalachian Artist?
I think it’s always important to tell others about Appalachia, especially West Virginia. Appalachian art doesn’t have to be quilts, and wreaths for your door and although, those can be breathtaking, I feel my work conveys a modern aesthetic while preserving the feel of our mountain culture.
Your most recent exhibit, at the Art Emporium in Charleston WV, is called Turnkey: Can you speak about what inspired the work and the title?
This collection is inspired by our homes. The houses we’ve left behind and the memories good or bad we’ve manifested within. You may notice a lot of "x"s in my work, I take inspiration from lots of things when i make this mark. They are inspired by the aftermath of flood disasters such as hurricane Katrina, and our own here in West Virginia. Marks left on doors and houses to let others know if anyone made it out alive. I take inspiration from the mark on a strong jug of moonshine, and the idea that this mark left on a tomb, could be used as a talisman to grant wished from the dead. The word "turnkey" could mean a house, ready to go without need of renovation, this word also could mean a jailer or a prison keeper. I like that idea that a place we imagine would be perfect might also be a place we may never leave.
Being a Mixed Media artist, what other artists and mediums inspire your work?
Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, James Concannon, Bret Brown, Joseph Cornell, Andy Warhol, Jonak Kim, Andrew Wyeth--
With a question like this, I ccould compile a list as long as this publication. I’m constantly inspired by the work of my fellow artist friends. having them so close, and being able to call them or send a photo in a text and have an instant critique is an amazing resource. Working on this exhibit, I invited about 15 of these friends into my home for a "soft opening" type thing. we stayed up late and over food and drink, they gave me helpful insights to my work, helped me troubleshoot some creative blocks, and get together a price list. Seeing each of them grow into their styles and perfect them and show their work is amazing. I’m lucky. You can see a lot of their work at the Charleston Artwalk, the third Thursdays of each month at Romano and Associates 230 Capitol Street, where I curate monthly art exhibits.
How do you think your work speaks to the Appalachian Region? Do you think your work would be different if you lived outside of Appalachia?
I feel like my work speaks to this region in a familiar way, I use paperwork from this area, familiar texts, and photos of people in rural settings. I think my work would speak louder to an audience in a more urban area. the medium wouldn’t be so recognizable to most people. I would probably find a whole new world of discarded memories to build things out of.
A lot of your work has an element of collage and layering found objects: If you could have any one object to work with, what would it be?
I’ve always wanted to work with braille. So, maybe if I could get my hands on a Perkins Brailler. That would be neat. I could add another layer of text to just about everything.