East City Art Q&A with Spencer Dormitzer

By Editorial Team on June 13, 2017
Spencer Dormitzer. Image courtesy of the artist.

What is your process?
I make intricate, obsessive, layered drawings usually taking a simple “informal” geometric shape. These drawings take weeks, sometimes months to complete.

What medium(s) do you employ?
Archival ink pens on hot press watercolor paper.

Who has influenced you work?
Raymond Pettibone, Luc Tuymans, Daniel Clowes, the Jam, The Specials, Endless Summer (the film) Myron Stout, Jonathon Lasker

To Have… To Need… (Detail), 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.


When did you first begin making art?
Ever since I was a child, but I have been a “professional” artist for over 30 years.

Have you shifted the direction of your work and if so, why?
I was originally a painter in my early years as an artist, oils mostly. After a long hiatus from making work to explore a creative life, I found myself with a pen and paper one night and started a drawing in 2013. Twelve hours later with very few breaks, I found my current way of mark-making. The reason for this change in direction is faceted. The process of my work allows me to access the full range of emotions through one session of drawing; catharsis, impatience, zen, anger, patience etc… Which has been important. Also, since I have a career in the arts (Director of Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery), in addition to being a dedicated husband and father leaves me with very little time to create. These drawings allow me to work from home and after all my other duties are complete. It leaves little time for sleep, but I am committed to this new normal.

Discuss your color palette—how does it inform your work?
I use a very rudimentary palette, mostly because the medium I work in has a limited color selection, but I also want to keep a familiarity with the intent. Everyone understands blue yellow green brown red and black, whereas personally I find other colors more difficult to process, like purple or chartreuse.


You Don’t Have To…  If You Need To… 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

What can viewers expect to see at your exhibition?
Metro Micro gallery is considered an “alternative space” so I decided to use this show to develop a large conversation where the viewer decides the subject. Four major framed drawings are the centerpiece of the exhibition—intricately drawn, layered in color, creating a difficult conversation around a simple idea, in this case, a circle. These main conversations will be surrounded by lo-fi drawings talking about these main conversations in the form of cartoon word bubbles (some empty, some not) connected by a drawn tube that runs through each piece. There are no figurative images (save one) and no text. The small conversations are overt and can be read easily, while the main conversations take different forms depending on what distance you encounter them.

When you are not in your studio, what serves as inspiration for your work?
Mostly, it is the interactions with my wife and two sons. the emotional conversations, the vivid imagination, the revenge, the impulse, the confusion… All that entails the survival mentality that goes into being a parent, husband and human in this world. Also, I have been engulfed by empty conversation and I have been frustrated in clearly speaking my thoughts and intentions. Many of the new works are inspired by the thought bubble Charlie Brown thinks when he is overwhelmed or humiliated.. a bubble with only a dark scribble inside. The opening sequence of Monty Python was also running through my head for this show.

What do you hope to impart upon viewers of your work?
I hope that after seeing my work that the viewer finds questions that don’t need answers, like being given a broken story only to continue it with another broken story.


Do You Need To… If You Have To.. 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

What do you hope a viewer will take away from your work?
A sense of experience or gravitas… Maybe a smile and a moment of pause as well. Also, to keep a sense of curiosity of the pieces and to hopefully have them linger, even as you are still in front of them.

Spencer Dormitzer’s  You Don’t Have To… If You Need To… opens Saturday June 17 from 4-6pm at Metro Micro Gallery located at 3409 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA.  More information about the exhibition and gallery space read www.eastcityart.com/openings-and-events/metro-micro-gallery-presents-spencer-dormitzer-dont-need/