Career Spotlight: Kyle ‘Jules’ Gibson ’13

March 7, 2017

Please listen to the Career Service’s new podcast below: Career Spotlight.  This new initiative highlights Montserrat alums from different creative industries and their path from student to professional.  Targeting the student audience, Career Spotlight provides interviews that demonstrate how student’s BFA skills translate to a wide variety of professions and industries when they leave Montserrat.

Jax​: So let’s start this—who are you and what do you do?

Jules​: I’m Jules Gibson. I am a painter and a curator. I direct and run a gallery and studio space down in Providence called Occam Projects. Professionally, I’m currently a prep  cook.

Jax​: What did you study at Montserrat College of art and when did you graduate?

Jules​: I graduated from Montserrat in 2013 with a BFA in Interdisciplinary Arts. When I first came to the school, I went with the sole purpose of studying graphic design but throughout my tenure there I fell in love with painting, due to some great teachers that I had, and ended up studying painting but balanced it out with classes in design and print—which has really come in handy, having a big tool kit to pull from.

Jax​: It all kind of blended together?

Jules​: Yeah.

Jax​: How did Montserrat prepare you for your career?

Jules​: The biggest thing Montserrat helped me out with — especially going into Ocam Projects and running a gallery was the work study program I did with Montserrat Galleries. I worked there my whole time at Montserrat and it was essential for me. To not only learn the skills that I apply in running a gallery now but it also really helped me out as an artist. Being aware of how work is hung, and what galleries are looking for when you’re submitting to a show, how to prepare your images and your artist statement. I think as a whole, that work study program—combined with the classes I took—was really essential to, to kind of making me the artist and professional that I am now.

Jax​: Which resources at Montserrat do you wish you had explored more of that you feel could’ve currently helped you with your career?

Jules​: Honestly, the—One of the best parts about Montserrat is the sense of community there. And I wish, especially when I was an undergrad (freshman, sophomore year)—you know, I was kind of a recluse in my apartment, like, doing homework and being grumpy about it. But I wish I had spent more time connecting, forming stronger relationships with the teachers I really valued there. You know, I had one or two when I was a freshman or sophomore that I talked with a lot, but I didn’t realise ’til the end of my time at Montserrat, how valuable getting a lot of input from teachers who are also artists, teachers who generally care more about your work than you realize. Like, Stacey Thomas-Vickory is a great example. Ethan Barry is a great example. John McVey—if you’re a designer—you should definitely be talking too…that kind of dialogue is going to do possibly even more for you work than classwork and studying can do. Because you’re interacting with people who are involved with the field right now.

The other thing is along the same vein, is forming, you know, deeper connections with the other students there. You know, being able to collaborate on bigger projects, socialising, being involved with the community. It’s such a small school——you can get to know people really well and—

Jax​: —May as well take advantage of those connections that are possible?

Jules​: Yeah.

Jax​: To spin off of that— what was your biggest struggle entering the creative professional field?

Jules​: huh…I mean, my biggest struggle is, is the same as I feel like anyone’s is in this field. Which is mostly money and time dynamics—Where does your money come from? What are you doing for work to make money? And how do you balance time around it to dedicate towards things you care about more? Your practice or what have you. It’s a very difficult balance to find. You know, finding a job where I’m making enough money during the week but I’m not entirely exhausted or you know, depleted, when it comes time to work on my stuff.

It’s really hard. The creative professional field. Either making a name for yourself and your work, and constantly promoting it, making new works, submitting to shows, submitting to fellowships, etc., etc. Or working internships which are often unpaid—it can be very difficult to find a way to balance the money and time.

Jax​: Could you describe a real life situation that inspired you? Artistically, of course.

Jules​: Yeah. Yeah, I’m going to cheat a little bit here.

Jax​: Okay.

Jules​: I’m going to give you two. The first was my freshman year and in 2D design class, which was at the time taught by Scott Hadfield—great teacher, great painter—and so, you know, we were doing the work in 2D design. And at the time, I didn’t really care much for fine art. I went to school to be a designer and kinda had this persnickety idea that like, painting and drawing and 2D design weren’t relevant to what I cared about. But there was one day that Scott came in and he showed a bunch of slides of paintings he had been working on, and kinda gave us a quick tour through his career in painting. And I thought it was really interesting because he was asking the class for feedback, on his work, especially work that was currently in progress…and uhm..there was something about that. it was kind of humbling to have a teacher I respected a bunch, you know, ask students—freshman, no less—

Jax​: —for their input

Jules​: —for their input. But something about seeing his work just really moved me. I saw a sense in logic and beauty in his paintings that I didn’t really attribute to fine arts before then. And in a weird way, seeing his work and having that conversation was what propelled me to end up painting instead of doing design—is you know, finally being really moved by painting.

The second one was in 2012. I was a junior and there was a show by Summer Weat, who was a painter I was familiar with. I had seen her work online but I went and saw the work in person. It was in Samson Projects, which is in Boston—if you’re not going to First Fridays, you should probably go to First Fridays—and uhm, and just seeing her work in person, how the paint was on the surface, and how far the paint came off the surface—it was sculptural. And it was really colorful. And that …it really changed the way I looked at painting and really affected the work i would later make.

Jax​: So what do you like or dislike about the art world?


Jax​: Tricky question.

Jules​: Yes. This is..this is kind of a loaded question. my favorite thing about the art world, and I think most artists would agree, is—the best part about the art world is the artist. I mean, maybe that’s a little egotistical but I, I like—

Jax​: A little bit of ego is fine.

Jules​: Yeah—I like the creatives who are making work more than I like the world they’re involved in. Regardless of how I feel about someone’s work—whether I thinks its good or valid or what have you—I’m always most proud of and amazed by people who are making work. Regardless. You know, there’s a million reasons to stop making work and as long as people are making that—that’s good to me.

That being said, I think there’s a certain insincerity involved with all the…with all the aspects of the art world—like art with a capital A. At a certain point, it seems like if you look at the gallery scene, especially in New York or LA, it seems more of a game of money. That ends up detrimenting artists more than anyone. Curators and collectors are kind of arbitrarily making a profit off of the work of artists who aren’t necessarily seeing their dividends. So I think… people who create work solely with the art market in mind—that might be pragmatic, you know, as a good way to make money. But I think ultimately it leads to kind of stunted growth in the art world. Like, there isn’t as much exploration, there isn’t as much sincerity as we’re used to seeing, you know, 100 years ago. And I believe that that sort of attitude that the art world has, can lead to a kind of apathy for the public, for arts—it’s because they feel like it’s kind of daunting to go look at art.

But I think,…, relying on jargon, and over intellectualism, and what I consider to be insincerity, is a…is a dislike of mine for the art world. It keeps people from being involved who would otherwise really appreciate going out to see art. It’s the people who make really authentic work that excites me as a curator, and as an artist.

Jax: Professionally and artistically, what are your goals?

Jules: So professionally, I mean..I’m doing what I can right now. I’d love to operate a studio and a gallery space with funding, you know, preferably, but…as a curator my ethos revolves around being artist centered. I kind of luck out, because I am an artist so I can respect a lot of the needs and wants of artists when they’re looking for a gallery showing. For me, its motivation A—it’s promoting their work, introducing them to a new audience, and trying to encourage them to continue to make.

I…The way I look at it, the most important part of what i do, is enabling or helping encourage artists to keep making. Artistically, I’m kind of lucky because though the way I’d like to make money is in supporting the arts. So painting is something I can just do for myself. Which is nice because i don’t have to worry about catering my work to a market, or I don’t spend a whole lot of time applying to grants or fellowships—because i paint because I like to.

I would like to do a residency in Iceland, though. Artistically, that is. That is definitely a goal.

Jax​: Why Iceland?

Jules​: Just—Iceland is really beautiful. I have a friend, who is also a Montserrat alumni, Kristine Roan, who has a done a few residencies up there. And there’s something about how quiet and colorful the architecture is in Iceland, and just the attitude there. it’d be nice to get away, somewhere I can’t speak the language and—

Jax​: —Paint something new.

Both​: Yeah.

Jax​: In retrospect of you own education, what do you wish you could communicate to art students now?

Jules​: So I have a lot of thoughts on this one.

The most important part, which is something that i touched on earlier is find the teachers who you think are actually valuable to you, who you really appreciate input , and who really appreciate your work. And make connections with them. Talk to them throughout school, email them when you get out of school, go see their shows, be involved with them because…that’s the biggest benefit you’re going to get out of art school, I think—the relationships you make with people who support your work.

My next point is to always collaborate with other students. Find the people who are in your classes, who get you jazzed up, who challenge you on your work, who want to make things happen with you. Like…try, make crazy things happen. Throw gallery shows, draw each other, throw dance parties, you know, there’s a long history at Montserrat. Of these DIY events—whether they be in a gallery setting or there was a Drum Corps—which was this crazy musical projection thing that happened, I want to say in the early 2000s at Montserrat. It was a bunch of great people making great work and that, that’s where the magic happens in being in such a small community. Finding the raddest people you can, and making stuff happen. The next is go to First Fridays. Go to all the Artist Talks in the school, Professional Practice Events—you are literally shooting yourself in the foot if you’re not utilizing the school’s and the region’s resources while you’re there. You should be visible—in the galleries, in Beverly—like Mingo and 222 Cabot, they’re your friends.​ You should see the artists they’re showing because they’re great and you should form a relationship with them, because they can help you as well. You really have to dig for the artists in the region that speak to you.

Once again, work for Montserrat Galleries, if you can. It is invaluable.

And the last bit I have is…kind of a mistake I made, as a student. I hated homework. I hated doing homework because I made it this thing that it wasn’t. I felt like I had to make work that would please my teachers so that I’d get a good grade but homework’s only homework if you make it homework. You gotta take classes that allow…the homework for the classes should be your work. Find a happy medium with your teachers and with yourself, always be making the things you’re interested in. And don’t feel pigeonholed to make work you don’t like.

Jax​: So I guess this is—this question kind of ties into that. What was the best piece of advice that you have ever been given?

Jules​: So this—I like this story—I tell it a lot. But when I was a senior, in Senior Fine Arts Seminar, Ethan Berry was running the program at the time. And this is a habit I still haven’t broken, but I remember musing with him about what if I did this? Or maybe I’ll start a project like this, or maybe i’ll try and make a sculpture. Or I have this idea for this, and uhm, after awhile, I feel like he kind of got sick of it. And uhm..he had this little card that the handed me. It was letterpressed, it was made somewhere in the school—that just said “You have permission”.

I just thought that was so funny. Because you know, he was kind of pointing out how silly it was, and I mean it’s still silly, you know, I still do it. To just stand there, and talk about work when there’s…no one stopping me. No one’s stopping anyone from trying anything. And I thought that was just such a nice—kind of snide—but I uh, I appreciated it. A lot.