Was The Art Worth All The Pain?


Nathaniel Mary Quinn, "Junebug," 2015. Black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel, oil pastel, oil paint, paint stick, acrylic silver leaf on Coventry Vellum paper. 41 x 44 inches. Collection of Dr. Daniel S. Berger, Chicago. Image courtesy of the artist and Rhona Hoffman Gallery. Photography by RCH.

Listen nowDownload file
Embed player

Nathaniel Mary Quinn is living proof of that old adage "what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger." When he was 15, his family simply disappeared, leaving him to fend for himself at his boarding school. It was traumatic — he knew he might always be one bad report card away from being homeless. So he worked hard. Really hard.

And today? Quinn’s work is included in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. His first solo exhibition is currently at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Quinn’s work is a complicated blend of painting and drawing that achieves the appearance of collage, a combination of human faces with comic book figures and other provocative images. Quinn describes his art as "luminism."

"The technique of light,” says Quinn. It's the torch that I'm carrying from the platform of cubism. Cubism was a technique designed to show multiple angles and viewpoints of a particular object, but to show it on the same plane. "Well, luminism is designed to show the multiplicity of viewpoints and dispositions of the internalized world of that object."

"Whereas in cubism one would paint the multiplicity of viewpoints of a cup, luminism will show the multiplicity of viewpoints of the internalized world of that cup,” he says. You can see a few of his collages that demonstrate the technique below, as he applies a perspective of luminism to figures from his life.