Skyler simpson

instagram: @skysimpsonart

About the artist.
These figures exist on the edge of what is believable. They flit between familiarity and fantasy, their features and surroundings not quite rooted in the real world. Anomalous colors and awkward proportions nudge the scenes into an imagined space, suggesting the figures inhabit internal landscapes. I create these figures intuitively, often inventing body language, a color palette, and flora reflecting my emotional state while I paint. Influenced by Northern Renaissance painters and their ability to convey authentic expression through quirky exactness, many of my pieces investigate the psyche that exists behind subtle facial expressions. Delicate shifts in their features suggest feelings of curiosity, anxiety, contentment, or isolation. I glaze oil paint in a manner reminiscent of these artists, building layers to achieve convincing detail. I am interested in creating familiar yet uncomfortable and ambiguous scenes; by making intimate, small-scale pieces, I encourage the viewer to search for a narrative within the details. For me that narrative includes contemporary mythologies as they relate to women. Theses females are vulnerable, sexual, but not sexualized. In part, the work serves as a counterpoint to women marginalized and objectified throughout art’s history.

photo of Skyler Simpson's home studio.

photo of Skyler Simpson's home studio.

Who or what are your artistic influences and how have they impacted you or your work?
The consistency of interests and influences throughout my life amuses me quite a bit. When I was a child, I used to devour nature documentaries, especially shows about the ocean. I find aquatic patterns and forms cropping up in my work all the time; when I look through my old sketchbooks from elementary, middle, and high school, there are so many similarities in subject matter with what I’m making now. As a detail-oriented person, I easily lose myself in rendering minute elements, like the folds in an eyelid or veins in a leaf. Direct observation from nature has increasingly become an important part of my work and process. I reference photos I take on hikes and often walk and run outside to reflect and daydream. I’m drawn to work that suggests an allegory without revealing a specific narrative, like the work of Amy Cutler, Jim Nutt, or Marcel Dzama. Growing up, I loved children’s’ books and spent hours looking at illustrations by Maurice Sendak and David Shannon. Falling into immersive worlds created by these artists intoxicated and inspired me and I’ve striven to produce imaginative work with a similar effect. I’m also completely enamored with Northern Renaissance paintings; I could spend hours gazing at a painting by Hans Holbein or Lucas Cranach. The tightly rendered figures in their works are enchanting and I love to imagine the thoughts behind their expressions. Along with nature and visual art, my close friends and family appear in and directly influence my work. My mother primarily raised my two sisters and me and the formative relationships with these women profoundly impacted my understanding of the world. I think my interest in female communities stems from the strength of my friendships with these women, as well as a desire tounderstand myself.

What is a positive impact that art has made on the local community that you have witnessed? What would you like to see more of?
At times I feel like I’m in an insular world that only includes art students, but I’ve seen magical collisions of art and the local community. I think a gulf exists between many artists and the rest of the population, but I love how many people visit galleries and other spaces on First Friday. I know of murals, community art spaces like Constellation Studios, art fairs, and local shops that bring so much beauty to Lincoln. I think the arts community here has a really lovely acceptance of so many different types of work. The art scene is a lot more active and vibrant than I anticipated before moving here! I don’t know if many people realize what a gem the Sheldon museum is and I hope to see a continued evolution of art education in Lincoln. I believe people feel uplifted and ultimately behave differently when they’re in a visually inspiring setting, so the community will always benefit from investing more in artists.

Studio 2.jpg

Do you have any “rituals” that you have to do before, after, or during your art making to keep you creating or put you in the mood to create work?
It sounds counterproductive, but before I start making anything I usually need a while to do nothing. Down time is really important for my process. When I’m doing a mundane activity, like washing dishes or making breakfast, my brain wanders and generates ideas. I am also a meticulous organizer. I get distracted if I don’t have an orderly studio or clean palette.

When I am in the first stages of a new piece or making decisions about something, I prefer silence or music that I can tune out. After I solidify a composition, my work gets pretty tedious and monotonous, so I usually listen to podcasts or audiobooks. Here’s a list of my favorites!

a. My Favorite Murder - Murder + comedy is truly my favorite combination. I have a ton of ear time, so their occasionally rambling conversation is always welcome.
b. Radiolab – my favorite episodes include From Tree to Shining Tree, Cellmates, Blame, Colors, Falling, Space, The Living Room (rebroadcast of Love + Radio episode), and so many more. You really can’t go wrong.
c. S-Town – a must-listen.
d. More Perfect – this series is amazing. It’s about the Supreme Court and how their rulings affect us. 11/10 recommend.
e. We Eat Art – really great conversations with contemporary artists!
f. The Butterfly Effect – this one is about the unintended consequences of free Internet porn. So fascinating and surprising.
g. Dirty John – a true crime podcast, but highly entertaining and more lighthearted than others.
h. Up First on NPR – part of my morning routine! The news depresses me often in the Trump era, but this series is just enough news to keep me informed without causing me to spiral into a deep well of despair.
i. Casefile – one of my favorite true crime podcasts, very thoroughly researched
j. A Piece of Work with Abbi Jacobson – co-produced by WNYC studios and MoMA, it’s a pretty fun and easy listen
k. On the Media – they did a 5 part series called “Busted: America’s Poverty Myths.” I wish this was required listening for every human. Very enlightening (and upsetting).
l. Lore – short episodes about all sorts of myths. It’s unsettling in all the good ways.
m. On Being with Krista Tippett – very grounding, uplifting, and inspiring!
n. Serial – if you listen to podcasts, I feel like you’ve probably listened to Serial. Season 1 is my fav.
o. In the Dark – this series details the case of Jacob Wetterling. So sad, but really incredible reporting and thought-provoking conclusion.
p. By the Book – two women follow the rules of self-help books and talk about it. They’re refreshingly honest.
q. I always love hearing recommendations! My email is