Hi Culture 365 Members and Spacetaker visitors,
I’m back with another entry in our Culture365 Q & A series. This week we are featuring artist J E Theriot who is not only a Culture 365 artist but also will be exhibiting his work in “The Poo-tail Collection” at Spacetaker’s ARC Gallery from this Saturday, February 26th through March 19th. The opening reception will be this Saturday, February 26th from 5 – 7 p.m. J E Theriot is not only an artist, but he is also a neurologist, writer, and a lecturer on topics in brain hygiene and mind science.
As a writer, he is interested in the brain, language, art and religion and in the intersection of these overlapping realms; in short, the philosophy of the human experience.
As an artist, he is not bound to any particular medium; rather, he develops thoughts and ideas until they surface in the most appropriate and illuminating manner.
As a physician, he does his best to be genuinely helpful to his patients. He says, “I am also observing them and learning how brains work. Sometimes when I am typing up my patient notes, I forget they are chores. The subject matter is so stimulating.” On Thursdays, he teaches a group called Peaceful Habits to patients and staff, injured and uninjured alike. Using the structure of a Taoist tea ceremony, he serves tea, dialogues and instructs.
Ultimately, he says, there is little separation between the physician, artist, and writer. For him, ennobling the soul, exploring the imagination and communicating the experience of that journey are cut from the same cloth. All of this information and much more can be found in J E Theriot’s Spacetaker profile.
J E Theriot shares with us some of his experiences and knowledge in this week’s Culture365 Q & A.
(Photo to the right: J E Theriot in full cowboy getup, photo by Tim Frederick)
How has your knowledge of neurology influenced your artwork?
I treat people with severe brain injury, people who are only able to count to five, people who can’t remember from one minute to the next, people whose words sound like nonsense when they speak, people who cannot swallow. I guess I would say that being exposed to such profound disability makes me extremely mindful of how fragile and wonderful life is. My artwork is a way of celebrating and honoring life.
I understand that this the first time you have ever shown the work that will be exhibited in The Poo-tail Collection exhibition. What are you most excited about?
Last year, I collected some of my photographs together for a portfolio review. I designed this little wooden box to hold some of my smaller prints and when I presented it to the reviewers, they were much more interested in the box than the prints that were in the box. So I took a break from photography and started to explore other media. What I came to discover was that I had been trying to be a photographer when what I really wanted to be was an artist. It was a very freeing experience for me. It felt like a door opening. I began to experiment with sewing and sculpture and street art and video and performance art. I started riding my bike around town with an audio recorder instead of a camera, letting my ears instead of my eyes lead the way. I started painting again. So what I’m most excited about with this collection is the range of materials I work with – wood, yarn, watercolor, limestone, acrylic, and velvet, paper. I even designed a cowboy costume based on an old Butterick pattern I found in my mom’s sewing room.
The Poo-tail Collection exhibition inspiration came from a drawing you did as a child; what is your fondest childhood memory?
I remember sitting on the foldout seats in the back of our big yellow station wagon as we drove on the levee. There were two big humps in the road we would always wait for. We would scream as we drove over them. During the spring, when the buttercups were in bloom, we would stop the car, get out and run through the buttercups. They go by different names – pink evening primrose and showy primrose, we called them buttercups. They’re basically weeds, but I look forward to them returning each spring. In fact, they should be blooming in two or three weeks. For me they represent the innocence of childhood.
What inspires you as an artist?
Everything is a source of inspiration. I truly believe that the world is a magical place. I particularly love reclaiming discarded things. In January, I found a headless rocking horse at the bottom of a heap of trash, dusted it off and hung it from the ceiling with some origami butterflies. Taking something that has been thrown away and breathing new life into it – for me, that is the highest beauty.
What do your future plans as an artist look like?
I recently did two large stencil paintings of a pointing finger, one on my dad’s tractor shed in Louisiana, another one on a friend’s garage at the corner of Montrose and Gray in Houston…I have plans to do another one in England this summer. I’m interested in doing some documentary work on brain injury. I’d also like to turn some of the lectures I do into short films. I’m working on a few writing projects. I want to stretch myself in as many directions as possible.
To learn more about J E Theriot, make sure to check out his Spacetaker profile and his blog. I want thank J E Theriot for taking time out of his busy schedule and answering my questions. And thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. See you next week for another informative Culture365 Q & A. Best of luck in your life endeavors.