John Umphlett, Flipping One Over a Bush

steel race tubing , seatbelts, my body, bush 35 feet x 18 feet x 22 feet,

Artist Statement:
As an artist, I would describe myself as an innovative and inquisitive thinker. Keeping open to the regiment of experimentation, I discover inspiring material relationships. The physical world creates conceptual boundaries ready for discovery and choreography. Through the practice of trial and error, I often express parallel relationships between material and color, idea and images, and concepts and objects. This process further challenges my creativity and novel approach in developing a body of work. I am finding that I have a heightened awareness of social communication. Small gestures and cues of another’s emotional paths lead to large rich personalities. Personalities exist, as a catalyst in extending the important revisited elements. My work can exist as a laborious fabrication that represents the action in which is super quick to view /existing only for a split second or by means of a snapshot of a moment that takes hours to fully view. Time exists as an inevitable and ever-changing constant that can be the most powerful detail of the piece. I have found that my artistic process uncovers a broad range of diverse paths all holding important directions to discover. Mostly what I have found are the most important aspects that my work attempts to touch on are the vulnerabilities and ephemeral aspects of living. To live with relationships, mirror, honor, criticize, show empathy, hate, listen, mock, and forgive.

“ Flipping one over a Bush” was conceived and made in the year 2000. Only a year out of receiving my MFA this work carried a very different meaning to me then as it does today. Most of the elements still exist as they did then physically as they did 22 years ago however the way I construct the thinking around the work today seems much slower in response. I feel when I was younger, I ran almost intuitively on instinct, while always there was a running critical thinking eye, then it seemed as if I would pause much further through the practice of making.

So today I take a look at it. I respect the work then and its life, however, today I like to methodically break the work down further into categories. It has been interesting revisiting this work and deconstructing its parts. While most of the parts seem the same everything has been reconsidered. The pathway, the manipulated living elements, the pause to this sandwich making second and questions left for open conversation.

Artist Bio:
John Umphlett was born in southern New Jersey in 1974. Trained in Richmond Virginia in drawing and sculpture where he graduated with a BFA in sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University. John continued his education at Bennington College at which he graduated with a MFA in 1999. His work has crossed between many mediums including installation, video, performance and drawing. He would be considered an innovative and an inquisitive thinker; open to experimentation through the love of material handling and repetitive practice. His drive for his work seems to spawn from a simple action… taking one step towards what may seem to be an uncomfortable connection with human nature. Our natural response to a particular action can set up a number of tangents that make sense for a beginning path to form for him to develop a body/ or vein of work. John presently works at Bennington College as a Technical instructor in the Visual Arts in which gives him the opportunity not only to develop his work professionally but also allows him to share his passion for making with the students at the college through a teaching practice. Alongside the work at Bennington College he has also worked with numerous artists, architects, and engineers in New York and around the world, as a fabricator and designer.

“Therein I believe lies the wonderful metaphor to Umphlett’s art: certainty of material, absolute quality of craft, a Spartan title, and then, pow, the slippery trajectory of meaning and intentionality. I think that is what impressed me when I saw those pieces on that night in question. One or two, or maybe three, art works punctuating space with a presence of thought.”—writer Bret Chenkin

It has been said that John asks the audience to consider alternative explanations of commonplace. John creates sculptures and performances that touch on the familiar however with slight shifts in context the viewers own wisdom becomes the thing in question. Umphlett is ever inventing new ways to communicate the significance of those seemingly banal moments whether they be a quiver of a lip, a breath, or the instant before a bug “ splats” on your windshield. By enhancing these moments, often absurdly, Umphlett presses the viewer into a reflection on issues of life, death, and human connection.