Jake Reller, a senior in Western’s Fine Arts program, has put every ounce of energy towards doing what he loves most: creating art. The AS Review had a chance to sit down with Reller and ask him a few personal questions.
When you came here did you know that you wanted to pursue art?
No, I actually remember not wanting to go into art because I like art and I didn’t want it be a job. But I wasn’t really interested in any of my classes, so I sat down one day and said, "well what am I the best at; what do I know I’m good at?" and I just realized it was art. I took a class with John Keppelman, who is a great professor here, and he had some really encouraging things to say. I realized that I needed to be in the Art Department, and then figured everything else out from there.
Where are you from? Did growing up in that area inspire your art?
[I grew up in] Walla Walla, Wash. I guess a lot of my imagery is focused around animals that I grew up with. My parents aren’t farmers, but we had a lot of animals, so I was always with goats and chickens and cows and horses. In a lot of ways I feel like my art is a reaction against that conservative rural upbringing. A lot of my images use those kinds of devices, like those animals, but in a really nihilistic, hopeless kind of reactionary way.
How would you define the genre of your art?
It’s definitely realism, and I guess I’m interested in narrative artwork too. I have an affinity for surrealism, but usually it’s too spectacular for me. What I appreciate about surrealism is when it’s subtle, so I only take from it small elements that I like.
In many of your pieces, there are repetition of different objects. What is the roll of those objects in your art?
I’m trying to use similar motifs. In their repetition, they’re instilled in meaning. They kind of become like characters, like protagonists. It’s kind of like this idea of a visual lexicon. It’s like this is my vocabulary and I use it to speak.
Bulls, snakes, the crescent moon. Why the repetition of these particular objects?
They’re mediated but they’re also formal. Sometimes I really like the way they look, and there’s also a personal connection with some of the animals. Some of them have associations already that I can kind of use. I think they’re sometimes kind of pulled from other art. I really like some of the uses of the bull in biblical imagery. I think it’s instilled with a lot of meaning, and what I appreciate about the bull is that it’s sacred and profane. It can be something that’s sacrificed for the Abrahamic God, but then it’s also just this mundane domestic animal. It just has so much meaning and so many associations to almost become mute. It’s almost a blank space because there’s so many voices instilled in it.
Who are some of the artists that have inspired you the most?
I really like the surrealist artist Renee Magritte, and I really love the Spanish painter Francisco Goya. And then as far as contemporary artists that I’ve been thinking about; there’s a really awesome painter Justin Mortimer who paints from surreal collages that he constructs, and there is a German painter Neo Rauch who makes these really obscure paintings of confident looking German men doing absurd things.
Reller will be completing his BFA this spring and plans to further pursue a master’s degree and artist residences afterward. From showings in Pacific Northwest venues like the Collective Visions Gallery in Bremerton, Wash., to print making shows in Corpus Christi, Texas, Reller’s art has already been shown throughout the country. He aspires to to publish in a number of other locations in the future.
Jake Reller will show I went Alone as a Tunnel in the Viking Union Gallery from April 8-26. This showing will be Reller’s BFA thesis and will highlight 12 to 16 of his favorite large format prints. There will be a closing reception of the show on April 26 from 6-8 p.m. in VU 507.