Terry Rodgers

Artist Q&A with Terry Rodgers

Terry Rodgers is an internationally recognized artist who has worked and lived in Washington, DC, Massachusetts, and Ohio. Rodgers’ current work focuses on portraying contemporary body politics. His rendering of an imaginary leisure life stands as an iconic vision of the tensions and confusions endemic to today’s society. These images are not snapshots or slices of life, but rather a compression and dissection of our rampant imaginations and mediated influences. The seductive and marvelous glamour of the outer world jars against the vulnerability and delicacy of our inner and private selves.

“The Garden of Good and Evil”, oil on linen, 48 x 78 in | 122 x 198 cm, 2020

Who is your favorite artist of all time?

I have many artists that I admire for many different reasons. So, for me, it is impossible to choose one. Let me list a few in no particular order: Piero della Francesca, Max Beckmann, Joel Peter Witkin, John Singer Sargent, Toulouse-Lautrec, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Anders Zorn, Diego Velazquez, Agnolo Bronzino, Edgar Degas, Cy Twombly, Auguste Rodin Edouard Manet, Peter Paul Rubens, and Alice Neel.

How did you become a professional artist?

Interest and obsession have a lot to do with it, and looking and noticing carried me away.

What are the influences and inspirations in your work?

Perhaps more important is, what do I think about when I’m developing the Magwerks and the archival prints?

What are the effects of our super-photographic world, the miraculous, if not realistic, screen and magazine colors, the high impact graphic design of everything, the perfect plating requirements of the would-be food aficionados? What is it about the “best of, highest-rated, 5-star” that so commands our attention? Someone’s attention.  

And then what is it about the sloosh of a sloppy smear of a goopy paint, the chaos of mud-spatters and sliding cement on the wheels and sides of a huge cement truck, or the smush of ketchup oozing into the mustard or mayonnaise as they slip out of a burger?

They all seem to hold some kind of energy, and some very defined, but very different way of being or representing something.  What kind of interplay might occur if these very different modes were to “encounter” each other? And can that reveal anything about us?

Then what can be revealed by the faux-innocence of cartoonish figures in relation to the magnificent tapestries of the distant feudal world? Somehow there may be a connection to the undercurrents in our seemingly advanced world. And what of the super computer realizations and manipulations of so much of what we see? Is there something to be discovered by playing with various pieces of this virtual universe? 

“Untitled,” acrylic on magazine pages, 12 x 9 in | 30 x 23 cm, 2018

How is your work different than everything else out there?

I guess my paintings play with veracity, vectorial energy, and are contemporary illusions, avoiding the expressionistic stylization of many others. My MagWerks contrast the expressiveness of faux childlike drawings/painting with the perfection of our consumer cultural magazine world.

When is a piece finished for you?

When it works, and I have no way to describe that.

What’s different about your current body of work?

My work has been quite varied from the beginning, and remains that way.  From tiny etchings, to 12-foot oils, small bronzes to large photographs, and variously-constructed archival prints, loose abstract black and white paintings, to short films and large sculpture. 

Much of my painting, which I have been doing continuously, has been working the rhythms of pseudo-realistic figurative scenes to find some sense of the isolation that I might discover in our everyday illusions. 

In the last few years, some of my exploration (what I call the MagWerks series) has been playing with magazine images, mostly by painting some sorts of loose figures over the pristine printed pages. The ricocheting dance of the completely disparate images, the sloppy acrylic and the sharp, photographic iconography build a kind of interesting interaction that constantly surprises me. 

I’ve also been working on a series of archival prints that play with the possibilities of combining photos, computer drawings, and computer invention. 

Terry Rodgers, photo by Brad Van Tilburgh

Tell us about a few of your career highlights or moments that have greatly affected your career?

A number of years ago, visiting family in Palm Desert, Estelle and I were filling a break in a film festival in Palm Springs by wandering through a Border’s Bookstore and I had my arms filled with magazines when this stocky guy in short shorts and his arms filled with magazines comes up to me and asks if I’m a publisher. He says he’s the publisher of Flaunt Magazine and somehow he thought anyone carrying around that many magazines must be a publisher too. When I explained that I was a painter, he said, ”show me.” I showed him what I had, and he said he wanted to see more. I told him I’d send him something when I got back east. So, we sent some stuff and the next thing you know we get a call with this guy talking a mile-a-minute about organizing a wrap-around cover for the magazine. The result was a series of events that led to a shows and a great long-term relationship with Torch Gallery of Amsterdam.

What’s coming up for you?

Coming up immediately is a virtual show I will be participating in at Robert Berry Gallery, curated by Robert Curcio. And when things are freer to open, I look forward to shows in Brussels and Amsterdam, but don’t have dates confirmed just quite yet.

 What advice would you give to an artist just starting out today?

Everyone’s so different and has such different perceptions of the world, and their energy and responses are accordingly so varied that I find I’m better off not pretending I can give any advice unless I have a better idea of who they are.  And even then I’d rather respond to what they’re doing and ask questions.

Who are some of your favorite under appreciated artists that you don’t think get enough attention?

Anders Zorn handles paint like few others.

“Untitled”, archival ink on archival paper, 30 x 36 in | 76 x 91 cm, 2020

To learn more about Terry and his work, please visit www.TerryRodgers.com.