First Friday Preview: Anthology Fine Art debuts with the beautifully surreal

It's probably the oldest form of printmaking, he notes, but multimedia artist Jacob Custer is using it in some unusual ways. Fresh off an MFA from Indiana University's Herron School of Art, Custer is back in town with Introspected, a complex installation of what looks something like hallucinogen-induced trees with giant leaves somehow made out of water and geometry. And if that sounds weird, that's because it is pretty weird -- but in the best possible way. In advance of the opening tomorrow evening, we caught up with Custer -- who was in the process of installing -- today to talk about the pieces, how they're made and what inspired them.

Custer originally got the idea from a more conventional painting he did (at left) entitled "Wishbones," in which branch-like shapes figure prominently into the composition. "So I kind of wanted to see if I could manifest that," he said.

At the same time, he'd been "getting in on" a furniture-making program his school offered, and in other areas, doing some engravings on plexiglass for printmaking -- the installation, he said, is sort of a conglomeration of those media and ideas. To make the branches, he cut thin strips of poplar wood from lumber, which allowed him to glue the strips together and bend them into twisting shapes that became rigid when the glue dried. Then, using the same ink he would use to make prints, he stained the engraving plates themselves and used a butane torch to bend the plexiglass into fluid forms he mounted on the branches. "So instead of using the plates to make duplicates," he explained, "I used the plates themselves."

Jacob Custer is just as confused about Introspected as you are.
Jacob Custer is just as confused about Introspected as you are.

The idea, he said, is that the forms work with the light in the installation space to create an extra dimension: the shadows they cast on whatever surface they're mounted on. "So there's a physical and a not-physical component to it," he said, "which represents this dichotomy of the internal and external."

Also, it just looks really cool.

The venue where Custer is installing his work, Anthology Fine Art, is also brand new, by the way. Owned by Custer's brother Zak and his wife Kendra, the gallery and frame shop opened up earlier this month. This will be the place's "first first Friday," so to speak.

And Custer couldn't help but give a shout-out to the family: "You know, this wouldn't be possible at all without Zak and Kendra. They're definitely a big part of it," he said. "All I did was show up with some art."

Introspected opens tomorrow at Anthology, 635 Santa Fe Drive, during the Art District on Santa Fe Artwalk and is free and open to the public. All the pieces are for sale, and the installation will stay in place until the end of the month.

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