Studio Visit: Drew Nikonowicz

Drew Nikonowicz is an artist based out of Missouri. His work can be seen in PLEAT's January 2016 exhibition as well as 

What drives your choice of imagery?
One of the best pieces of advice I received in undergrad was that you can’t be a creator and curator at the same time. That being said, I try to execute every idea that comes into my mind. If I am making images about a particular thing, I mine every possible idea and reference that even slightly connects to the topic at hand. There is a lot of times where I think things like, “What if I did this?” or “what if I tried that?” - I do my best to stop myself right there and say “well let’s find out.” Otherwise I find myself talking myself out of images. I have a handful of very specific images in mind that I completely regret not taking. I’ve had the most success when I fight the urge to only shoot when I have ideas and instead force myself to make a certain number of images per day.

Do you feel as though viewers understand your work? To what degree is it important to you that they do or don't?
I would hope that in general viewers understand my work at least to some degree. If nothing else, I think that the themes and basic ideas are accessible when viewing the work. It’s important that these things are evident when viewing the work. With most bodies of work though, there is a level of complexity that is sometimes harder to access. There are also outside forces that might color your experience of a body of work, like the artist’s background or biography. Often times these things are not what the work is about, per se, but they do affect the way you might understand the work. These things are not integral to my work, but do possibly help to inform the ideas that surround my work. With that kind of framework, I think it becomes easier to understand where an artist is coming from and also what they are likely interested in conveying with a certain body of work. Ultimately though the work ought to be doing most of the legwork in conveying ideas.

Who are your artistic influences? What have you learned from them?
The artists that have had the most impact on me have always been the ones whose work had some element of ambiguity or required me to spend some time with their work in some way. I most often enjoy work that shows me something I can only see because of the artist’s position. There are a lot of photographers who occupy this space for me, but a few that come to mind as particularly influential are Taryn Simon - especially An American Index of The Hidden and Unfamiliar, Andreas Gursky, Caleb Charland, Joan Fontcuberta, and Timothy O’Sullivan. All of these photographers manage to show something I can only see through their photographs. Whether that be literally with Simon and her access to secret sites across America, or Gursky or Fontcuberta who are fabricating spaces that are not entirely real or tangible, I see them as operating similarly. One of the biggest lessons I hold onto from all artists in general really, is that there really isn’t any wrong answer and you won’t know what something looks like until you try.