By Christina Stock
Roswell Daily Record
Roswell Artist-in-Residence Jeff Krueger is going to talk about his work at the Roswell Museum and Art Center this Friday.
The art that Krueger will display at the RMAC has captured the colors of the Roswell desert and sky. His art is one that connects directly with the visitors on one level or another. Working with clay is the oldest art form. Its history goes back 25,000 years, when the first humans took clay from the riverbeds and made forms out of them.
“Clay is clay and then you take it to the kiln and it becomes ceramic,” said Krueger. “I like that, that it transforms the material. There is something about the ceramic arts that is democratic in the sense of the surface, the form, the decoration and the function — all have an equal purpose toward meaning. I like that.”
Krueger’s first encounter with ceramic work was when he was in high school in a town outside of Philadelphia in 1978. His family moved to Fargo, North Dakota, while he was still in high school. He was able to participate after school in a pottery class that was initially started by the National Endowment of the Arts. “They had a pottery program and I just continued doing that,” Krueger said.
Asked about the attraction to this art form, Krueger said, “It was hard to learn, but I could tell it was something you could learn. I liked that. I am very process-oriented in my methodology. With clay, you have lots and lots of processes. You have to follow certain rules of the material. The deeper you get into it, the more you learn regarding those techniques and processes. Then, it became just more and more interesting.
“People understand the physicality of ceramics with dishware and its functionality. I think people relate to it in an instinctual level prior to other things.
Krueger said he asks himself how he can get people to consider his art as it relates to functionality. “Even if it shrinks, it’s cold and hard.” he said. “As we know it, we know the feel to it. There’s an intellectual warmth to it. It comes through.”
Krueger spoke about his artistic influences. “My art teacher shipped me off to a school in California, in Oakland,” Krueger said. “They had a fairly famous pottery artist, Viola Frey. I studied under her.”
Frey (Aug. 15, 1933 – July 26, 2004) was a renowned artist, graduate and professor at the California College of the Arts. Her books about her art are in the thousands. Frey’s colorfully glazed clay sculptures of men and women expanded the traditional boundaries of ceramic sculptures. Frey received two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and the Award of Honor in Sculpture from the San Francisco Arts Commission.
Krueger earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1986 at the Independent Colleges of Arts’ New York Studio Program. He also studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1991.
In 1992, Krueger received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of New Mexico. He has since then exhibited his work nationally and received numerous awards including an Arts Midwest, National Endowment of the Arts award in sculpture. He has taught or lectured at art academies and universities in the past 20 years including the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of California at Santa Barbara, Royal Colleges of Art in London and in Copenhagen. Krueger has also been offered residencies at Bemis in Omaha, Nebraska, and the International Ceramic Center in Skaelskør, Denmark.
Krueger has called Albuquerque home since 1987. However, he had almost moved to Roswell to work with sculpture artist Luis Jiménez.
“I lived in Albuquerque longer than any single place in my life,” he said. “I left in the ‘90s and had jobs in Chicago, California and Pennsylvania. I returned in 2007.”
Krueger has reinvented himself throughout his career, never having signature pieces. He came to Roswell with several goals, including working on glazes. Boxes with hundreds of color glaze samples have been created during his stay as RAiR. One sculpture is a series of light captured in ceramic in orange tones. “I am looking at very simple things, shapes of the light that come through the house in the morning,” Krueger said. “I am trying to make a little monument to this phenomenon. I am also trying to play with the meaning of color. I’ve done all this work this year (at the RAiR compound) with pink and blue, sort of typical gender insignias, and I am playing with the meaning of those. I had a friend who went to the Women’s March in Washington. A woman from Chicago. And she is there at that march and she’s wearing a yellow hat. That had a lot of meaning for me. Because with the pink hats it was, ‘OK, I get it. It’s girls, we get it.’ I think it was interesting, her wearing the yellow hat. I just think to assign gender beyond the biology is pointless.
“Recently, I latched on to thinking about infinity as a way of dealing with spiritual conundrum. I think that human’s quest for infinity and wanting to connect is a big drive. I have done a lot of work thinking about infinity as a concept and what it means. Is it a concrete thing, a physical thing? Can we have something that represents it? Sky blue (the color of some of his sculptures) is part of that.”
Krueger’s mother and sister are coming to the opening of his exhibit.
“They are both aware of my art,” Krueger said. My sister a little bit more than my mom. I get to talk explaining it to my mom. I am looking at it from that perspective.”
Krueger comes from an artistic family. Krueger’s father, Dick Krueger, was a successful commercial photographer in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. “Everybody in Roswell who has been grocery shopping has seen his work,” Krueger said. “Being around my dad’s studio as a kid was very interesting. Seeing sets being built, models coming in. Being a model for him.
”My sister is a very successful clothing designer. When she got older, I got some great wardrobe out of her,” Krueger said and laughed. “My brother is a musician. My mother does some pretty impressive stitch work.
Most of Krueger’s work for the RAiR exhibit has titles. “I played with the idea of not having a title for some but most (works) tend to have a title,” he said. “Somehow, the title is a vehicle of claiming. I like it based on a purely formal quality that really doesn’t get meaning to me, emotional or intellectual meaning. With a title, that’s when it resonates and gets a deeper meaning for me.”
Krueger’s artwork is not easily found. He has not been visible in self-promotion on webpages or social media. With him changing his style often, he said that he finds it difficult to choose what represents his art.
“I really have not embraced, and intentionally rejected in my person any notion that I should be developing a signature style,” Krueger said. “I don’t have the inclination toward it. I realize that. You can trace some of the abstracts through 30 years, but that’s not all I do. That confuses the issue, what is signature style? Now at this point, there are some signature glazes I use, like a certain blue that I do for 10 years or more.”
Krueger plans to finish his pending projects before returning with his wife to Albuquerque.
Being an unpredictable artist causes some friction with his fans who like one style but not the other. Also critics do like to put artists in categories, if not, they get confused. Asking Krueger about this, he said with a laugh, “Let’s keep everybody confused, that’s more fun.”
Krueger will talk about his exhibit “Failure Is An Option — My Life With Abstractions” April 7, at the RMAC, 100 W. 11th St. For more information, visit roswell-nm.gov/308/Roswell-Museum-Art-Center or call 624-6744.
Christina Stock may be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 309, or at email@example.com.