Cleveland is estimated to have 390,000 residents, many of which have been calling the Forest City home since birth. It is common to hear of people leaving Cleveland for bigger opportunities in bigger cities, not the other way around. However, now more than ever, those bigger-city dwellers are migrating here. They are putting down roots, starting up businesses, or improving on ones we already have, and making this Midwestern utopia thrive. One of those transplants is Gregory Scott, who has been living in Gordon Square for about a year and a half now, working in his studio/home creating pieces of multimedia art that show all over the world. An internationally – acclaimed artist living right around the corner from you, and you didn’t even know it. Luckily, Scott was kind enough to let Pressure Life into his home/studio and his world, offering up his thoughts on the city, the art, and everything in between.
What made you choose Cleveland as your home, as opposed to a bigger city? I wanted to buy a home/studio, and looked in Chicago, where I lived, for two years, and finally gave up on being able to afford enough square footage. You know, since I’m building these sets, I need a lot of space. Finally, I started looking around the country at places where property was undervalued. I looked in Phoenix, Atlanta, Detroit, Cincinnati, other places. I looked around a lot, and somebody suggested Cleveland. So, I started visiting a little bit, and I could see that the art scene was a lot more vibrant here then say, Cincinnati. While Cincinnati is a beautiful town, it wasn’t quite my culture, particularly on the art side. I started looking around here, and I had been out a couple times to look at properties. There was an architect friend that saw this building I’m currently in go up for sale. He knew what my needs were and he said this would be perfect, and he was right. So, I chose Cleveland partly because it had a good building, it’s on the truck routes for shipping art, and this neighborhood in particular (Detroit-Shoreway)—I recognized, from seeing neighborhoods in Chicago go from slums to being revitalized and rebuilt—I could see this neighborhood was on that path. Being in between Ohio City and Gordon Square, I could see this all start to fill in, and it’s doing that already. In just 18 months, huge things have happened.
What is your opinion of the creative landscape of Cleveland? One thing I’ve noticed about Cleveland is, while everyone appreciates the arts and they’re tryiang to bring artists in to revitalize the neighborhoods, like Collinwood—Collinwood was making very strong pitches to get artists to move there when I was looking around—anyway, it’s a very insular community from what I’ve been able to see. All the exhibitions, galleries, and what not are all Northeast Ohio. All the grants are Northeast Ohio; it’s all Northeast Ohio everything. I started to get this feeling there’s this bubble: nobody comes in, nobody goes out. The galleries don’t travel to the international art fairs. There are some collectors here in town, but I have a feeling their collecting goes on in other places. I solely wouldn’t commit myself to collecting from just one region, unless that was the whole point of my collection. See, Chicago had the opposite issue. It tended to look past the artists who were there, and to try to bring in people from other places, stuff that seemed a little more high end. Chicago was trying to compete with New York in a way. Cleveland seems to be the opposite issue. I think there needs to be more outreach to people outside the area, more interaction with people outside of Northeast Ohio. Also, finding ways to expose Northeast Ohio artists to places outside this area. Now the Bruno Casiano Gallery (5304 Detroit Ave.) shows Latin American, Hispanic artists, and he’s bringing people from outside the country even.
How long do you see yourself staying in Cleveland? I mean I just bought this place. I’m here the rest of my life, unless I move to Florida and do the senior thing. I hear they souped up their golf carts.
Any advice for other artists in the area? I have lots of things to tell artists in general, but I think the really short, simple, deep thing is make your art remarkable. By remarkable, I mean the literal sense of the word: [art] people need to talk about, people can talk about, it’s easy to talk about. It’s not enough to be a good painter. It’s not enough to be a good photographer. The work needs to stand out. There’s 7 billion people in the world and small percentage are artists, and we just have such a media cluttered world. Like how do you cut through that? How do you get noticed at all? Even people in the visual arts aren’t really all that famous. You know, nobody knows who I am. Except maybe at the art fairs.
Do you inspire yourself? No, I amuse myself.
Do you think you inspire others? I think I do, actually. I get emails from high school and college students, whose teachers have showed them my work, and that’s nice. I haven’t had a lot of “famous guy” moments, but once in a while something will happen and I’m like, “Wow, that’s cool!”
How do you deal with your own laziness or creative blocks? Being self-employed in any field, you have to deal with motivation, dedication, and unfortunately, the internet has made our lives utterly wasted if we choose. It’s very easy to blow four hours on YouTube without blinking an eye. Did you ever read Brave New World? It’s about this dystopian future and the government sort of keeps everyone complacent with a drug called Soma. As long as everybody gets their Soma, everything is fine. I think the internet is our Soma. As long as we all have our internet, we’re not going to get too worked up.
You definitely have a defined style. Do you believe it would be disastrous at this point to create different work or go in a different direction? This is a good question. One of the negatives about “making it” as an artist, is you’re known for something, so you can’t just do anything you want. You no longer have that freedom. I suppose I could, but it wouldn’t be shown, it wouldn’t be taken anywhere. It is partly a fame game. Name recognition helps build price and even getting into the museums. You need to keep doing kind of the same thing to a large degree, unless you hit a point like Jeff Koons. He can kind of do anything he fucking wants. You really do want to build your name and the recognition of your work by being repetitive in a way. Being true to what people have already seen, like brand building. You build yourself that way. I’ve had ideas for bodies of work that I think are viable and thought, “What if I just made up a name?” Put the work out through a different gallery altogether; pursued a dual career as two artists. That’d be awesome.
Who is your audience? What kind of people buy your work? I’ve been very concerned about my work reaching anybody, not just people with an art degree or an art history background. You get more out of it perhaps if you have that background, but you don’t have to have that to enjoy the work. As far as what kind of people buy my work…rich people. Pieces go for $30,000 and up.
What do you think is the single most important work of art by any artist ever? Chicago’s” bean.” It’s actually called Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor. It’s a stunningly perfect piece of art. I mean it is just the exact right shape, the exact right thing for that space. It’s the meeting point for people downtown. That is a very important, iconic piece of art that interacts with it’s large community in a way that visual art manages not to do. Like it or not, most of the world doesn’t give a flying fuck.
What’s next? One of the hardest things as an artist for me is the next concept. I mean this is very process-oriented work. It takes two to three months to make each piece. Building sets, making props, getting models and costumes. There’s tons of research, just trying to line things up. Then video editing time. But the concept is the hard thing. If concepts were easy, I could get a way bigger studio space and I could hire people, and we would build three sets at once. I can’t work on two or three pieces at once because I don’t even know what the next two are going to be. So that’s difficult. I’ve done a few variants on the work that could be new bodies of work, or just their own thing. I just want to be able to keep making more pieces.[divider type=”thick”]
A Timeline of Gregory Scott’s Journey
2003 – Scott owned his own design firm, but his restless, creative mind still yearned for more, so he took up painting and photography in his free time. At a photography workshop in Maine, Scott began incorporating photography into his paintings by filling in missing parts of the painted figure with photos of himself.
2005 – Since Scott would be out of town the opening weekend of a group show at Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago, he built a life-size cutout painting of himself with a video screen implanted where the hands rested on the stomach. The video showed Scott holding text with gallery chat, filing his nails, and holding a glass of wine. The piece sold that night, and Edelman Gallery began to represent him full time.
2006 – Scott moved to Bloomington, Indiana to get his Master’s in photography at Indiana University. While there, the idea of making his paintings move intrigued him, so he began incorporating videos into his photos and paintings.
2008 – Scott graduated from IU, returned to Chicago, and that December, Catherine Edelman took a few of his pieces to Art Miami for Basel Week. The work was a hit, doing better than either Edelman or Scott could have imagined, and it was clear he had a new career as an artist.
2014 – Scott purchased a studio/home and began working in his new home, Cleveland.