Interview Series: Jeff Frost “I do art because I have to”

Jeff Frost is a Los Angeles-based visual artist. He agreed to talk to us about his life, his vision, his current projects and the reasons why he does what he does. Here’s a quick incursion into the mind of a fascinating artist.


LF: Would you kindly introduce yourself to our readers?

JF: Hello, I’m Jeff Frost! I scour the planet looking for abandoned buildings. When I find a room in one I like I setup camp there and paint a large optical illusion on the inside walls. That’s one of my processes at any rate. Sometimes I search out dead trees, and transform their afterlife by placing their rings on the outside of the tree. All of these processes are recorded with stop motion and time lapse photography. Tens of thousands of photos later I have enough “footage” to make short films for which I create original soundtracks and sound design.

I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere in Utah near a Navaho reservation and Canyonlands National Park with dreams of making it in the music industry. To that end I moved to the LA area about 15 years ago. Eventually, when I got tired of scum bag promoters and rock and roll in general, I changed course and focused on photography.  In 2012 I put out my second time lapse film, Flawed Symmetry of Prediction, followed by War Paint for Trees.

LF: What is Art to you?

JF: Art is one of the most important things we do as a species. Science and art constantly push the boundaries of our understanding and what is possible. They are both mile markers of human progress, and they’re of vital importance to our species. This is why it’s important for governments to fund them both. I do art because I have to. Well, technically I have a choice in the matter, but if I’m not constantly doing something creative I turn into a horrible crab person who hates everything.

LF: What do you hope to convey with your work?

JF: Most of my art doesn’t have a top down message. It’s more trying to wrap my head around concepts or questions that probably have no answer, but must be asked anyway. What I have hoped to convey in the past is sometimes a sense of awe, other times I really don’t give a fuck. On a bad day I would tell you that it would amuse me to give viewers nightmares, especially since any fear derived from my films would be something of their own creation.  I’m all over the place in my thoughts on my own art, and I’m tired of trying to pretend like I’ve got it all figured out. I am not perfect, and neither are my thoughts.

LF: Why have you chosen this specific medium?

JF: This sort of goes back to a previous question. I don’t really feel like I chose it; it feels like I was led to it through my creative muse or subconscious or whatever you’d like to call it. Plus, what is my medium? Film? Photography? Music? Painting? It’s another big fucking mess that I don’t have a good answer for.

LF: Who are your favorite artists, places, songs and inspiration sources?

JF: I have so many from so many different fields that it’s hard to narrow down, but to rattle off a few names Josh Homme, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Mark Rothko, Frank Stella, Carl Sagan, Brian Cox, Jim Al-khalili, Richard D. James, Herman Hesse, Trent Reznor, it goes on and on.

LF: Can you tell us a bit more about your Kickstarter project?

JF: I’ve been working on a new film, Modern Ruin, since February of 2012. At this point I’ve shot roughly 150,000 photos for it, and I’m looking for a little help covering the cost to complete rest of the film. The entire project is being done out of my own motivation to make a piece of art. There’s no commercial place for it, at least not one that’s currently apparent. Maybe that’s something for a gallery to figure out? I don’t know, and I don’t really think about these things when I start creating something. The concept for the film really solidified last summer when riots broke out in my neighborhood. I immediately began shooting them from my landlord’s roof. The film then revolves around a contemplation of the idea that creation and destruction is the same thing. There’s an extended three minute preview of the film on Vimeo that was released along with the Kickstarter, which focuses exclusively on destruction.

Modern Ruin: Black Hole from Jeff Frost on Vimeo.

LF: Could you walk us through the technical process?

JF: Damn… where the hell do I begin? Basically it’s a process of creating a whole bunch of things at once –paintings, time lapse shots, music, sound design- out of sequence without knowing if they’ll fit together. When I’m shooting a painting I often have the camera on a one minute interval timer (it shoots a picture once every minute). When I hear the camera beeping I know that I have to get the hell out of the shot and fast! If I’m on a ladder painting on the ceiling that means climbing down from the ladder (which has a can of paint on it), picking up the entire outfit and carrying it out of frame, then going right back in as soon as the picture snaps. I often do this when creating paintings approximately 1200 times in two days. For Modern Ruin I’ve done quite a bit more story boarding, and the score really drove the video editing. It was totally different for Flawed Symmetry, which was more free form with a handful of concepts, and totally different still for War Paint for Trees, which only took five weeks from start to finish (the shortest I’ve worked on a film by many months).

LF: What do you think the future has in store for you? Do you have any long term plans?

JF: The future is always uncertain, but the easiest way to see what I’m up to is my artist page on Facebook. I’ve been cooking up a bunch of new ideas and doing plenty of experiments, but it feels premature to get into them except to say that I love the idea of making art out of news. To that end I’m looking into getting hooked up with an actual news organization (with any luck). I’m also working with an artist in the desert on a collaborative next step in the War Paint for Trees series that I hope will happen early next year. We’re going to need volunteers. You’re invited.

LF: How fast do you live?

JF: I live at the speed of light, just like everything else in the Universe.

Jeff’s Kickstarter campaign ends on Friday, so you can still donate here!

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