Guest artist talk: Buster Simpson at Weatherspoon Art Museum

Mary Windsor
  Staff Writer

“Art is an occupation that you develop on your own,” Simpson mused after revealing that he started his artistic journey over 40 years ago at Woodstock in 1969. “I thought that it was the best way to deal with a holistic interest.”

Buster Simpson is an artist that produces high infrastructure art sculptures in pubic spaces to bring awareness to environmental and social issues along with urban planning, installations and community projects. He has been creating and showcasing sculptures in public spaces since the late 1960s.

“I think that a lot of my education happened after school, when I started to develop my own way of going about what I wanted to do. I don’t make work for galleries; most of my work is publicly sited,” Buster reflected. His friendships, support from professors and an avant-garde mindset helped him to fine tune his artistic style and collaborate in future projects.

When Simpson chooses a space to exhibit his work he puts special consideration into the social quality of the space, physical and ecological qualities, infrastructure and his audience.

His most current project includes moving to Greensboro next week to become an Artist in Residence at the Elsewhere museum. While there he will work to transform the museum’s back alley. For example, he will divert water from the downspouts and create vertical landscape pieces.

He was recruited by Elsewhere last year and was immediately drawn to their raw and honest alleys. “Alleys are a favorite place to work for me. They’re kind of like a no-man’s land,” Simpson stated.

This piece is site specific to Elsewhere. There will be open-to-the-public workshops during this time so people may volunteer and help with the art piece.

Simpson went on to say that working in the public requires a different set of skills and attitude for him as an artist, rather than working with art in a museum and gallery.

“The bottom line is that your art always must have integrity,” Simpson explained.

Over the decades, the way his work has been viewed and recognized has changed. The environmental scene has gained more awareness and popularity.

“I’ve gotten more respect, but that comes with age,” Simpson reflected. “I think peoples’ acceptance has changed when it comes to an artist having a bigger palette, but it’s thanks to all the work that has come before. I stand on the soldier of giants when it comes to my craft.”

Public art is less about commodity but more about something you encounter. The public’s realm becomes the gallery.

“The original intent of art is always as a gift, that’s always been a fundamental truth of art. You’re always making it for yourself and to share that view with other people,” Simpson explained.

“I’ve found that people don’t frequent museums anymore,” he continued. “There’s a lot of beautiful art that’s not appreciated or seen at all.”

When working in a public space Simpson keeps an eye out for places that haven’t been gussied up with candy-coated clichés.

“There’s something very rich and dynamic about that, it’s the way cities are anyways. Honest,” Simpson said as he explained his love for the genuineness of raw urban design with decades of history left on its sidewalk before it has been beautified for a city aesthetic. “You should let that history read the way a geologist or anthropologist would.”

He describes himself as a conceptual artist and explained that his creative process always begins with a lot of thinking, research and a fresh mindset.

Simpson will be giving a Guest Artist Talk at The Weatherspoon Museum August 27th between 5pm-6pm. It is free and open to the public.

Categories: Artist Weekly, Arts & Entertainment, Mary Windsor

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