Travis Somerville was born in 1963 in Atlanta, GA. Growing up in towns throughout the southern United States and along the eastern sea board, he briefly studied at Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD, finally settling in San Francisco where he attended the San Francisco Art Institute, CA.
His large scale oil paintings on paper mounted to canvas incorporate collage and present images of political and cultural icons associated with the history of the south. His work explores the complexities of racism and serves as a point of departure for discussion about US oppression and colonial attitudes abroad.
It has been included in numerous museum exhibitions: The University of Georgia, Athens, GA; University of Houston at Clearlake, Houston, TX; de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara University, CA; Florida A&M University, Tallahasee, FL; Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA; Charles Wright Museum, Detroit, MI; The Bass Museum, Miami Beach, FL; Frederick Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, MN; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; The Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN; Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, AL; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA.
His new exhibition Homeland Insecurity opens on August 4 in Belfast.
Images courtesy of Maus Contemporary
How did you find yourself in the arts?
I started working when I was 3 and my parents never let me stop.
Who has been an influence in your career?
Artistically: Rauschenberg, Schnabel, and Beuys; my parents and my wife Nancy, who give me a plethora of ideas.
When you hit a creative block, how do you move forward?
I had one major creative block back in 1985 that scared me so much I haven’t stopped working since. Sometimes when I hit a road block I will completely start over on the same piece.
What do you hope your work communicates?
I just hope it creates a dialogue about the issues the work deals with and people continue to look at our political environment from a different point of view.
What has been an important lesson of your career?
As an artist you have to be front and foremost in control of your career. I think it’s very important for the artist to do their best at facilitating opportunities for themselves but most importantly the work is what matters.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Take more advantage of school. Ask as many questions as you can and try to experience as many artistic genres as you can. Never turn down a good opportunity and study the artists you consider successful and learn from them. And don’t grow that goatee in the 90’s.
How do you define success?
That moment of utter bliss when the work comes together perfectly.