In the Artist's Studio

An insider's look at where the magic happens for artist Nathan Green


Dallas artist Nathan Green
Photo by Kendall Morgan
Nathan Green at Goss-Michael Foundation
Photo by Kevin Rubén Jacobs
Nathan Green studio
Photo by Kendall Morgan
Nathan Green studio
Photo by Kendall Morgan
Nathan Green studio
Photo by Kendall Morgan
Nathan Green studio
Photo by Kendall Morgan
Nathan Green studio
Photo by Kendall Morgan
Nathan Green studio
Photo by Kendall Morgan
Dallas artist Nathan Green
Photo by Kendall Morgan

Dallas-based artist Nathan Green should be on every serious collector’s radar. He was the first local talent to launch Goss-Michael Foundation’s “Feature” series, closely followed by his international debut in the “Space Age” group exhibit at London’s Hus Gallery (on view through October 14). There, Green explores the interaction of color, form and material in a series of works that recall the natural world in a delightfully unnatural way.

But like most success stories, it hasn’t happened overnight. Green honed his artistic chops at the University of Texas, co-curating Austin’s now-defunct Camp Fig Gallery and co-founding the city’s Okay Mountain collective post graduation.

Following his girlfriend to Dallas, he scored a 2012 residency at CentralTrak, where he gave himself the challenge of making “60 paintings in seven months,” ultimately surpassing his own goal by producing a grand total of 67 canvases.

Encouraged by Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth curator of education Terri Thornton, Green scored his dream job shortly afterward: assistant curator of education. Teaching teens and ‘tweens at the museum about art is, according to Green, “the only thing I could do that would make me happy.”

One might suppose shaping young minds would be fulfillment enough, but this artist has ambitions on a larger scale. His Hus Gallery show is just the beginning of a brilliant career, and a glimpse at the inner workings of his studio reveal a multilayered practice that becomes more intriguing the more you view each piece.

Describing his output as “schizophrenic,” you may know a Green when you see one, yet each seems completely different than the one that came before. Says the artist, “I feel totally activated when I try to do 30 things at once rather than one style.”

Green founded Deadbolt studios in the fall of 2012 in Trinity Groves along with artist Arthur Peña. The duo ultimately opened up the space to fellow creatives Brian Ryden and Matt Clark the following January. Having a collective of talent under one roof allows them to support and critique each other.

“You’re able to bounce off of other people’s energies, and it makes it more fun because you’re not as isolated,” Green explains. “When you see other artists working as hard if not harder, it makes it more fun.”

The day we visited, Green’s space is nearly empty save for a treasure trove of supplies, pinned-up displays of inspiration and a few stray paintings. The reason? Kenny Goss just stopped by and purchased four of Green’s “Bacterio Resist” series, pictured here in their new habitat at the Goss-Michael Foundation.

Scraps of wood, coat hangers, papier-mâché, paint — even insulation foam — are all grist for Green’s creative mill. Says the artist, “I wanted to make these amorphous things physical. Some people see scatological stuff, some see biological stuff, some see ideas of physicality.”

An inspiration wall features images of graphics, furniture, African buildings and the works of Josef Albers — each equally influential on Green’s process.

Green says he has most of the tools he needs hanging on this wall. His studio’s MVP? His iPhone, which allows him to snap pieces in progress as he rearranges them to perfection. “It’s a major tool for me, since a lot of what I do in the studio is play,” he says.

Green evolved from traditional painting when he found himself covering over canvases multiple times until they reached his standard of perfection. “By the time one was successful there were 20 [other works] under it, so I wanted to make something with materials that are not covered over or destroyed.”

Instead, he embraces what he calls “unsung materials. But these materials from the construction and crafting worlds speak the language of painting for me.

“I like the idea of moving all this shit around as a way to encourage these accidental moments,” he says.

Pieces like The Heavens, the Earth, the Sea, which was inspired by Georgia O’Keefe’s Sky Above the Clouds, utilize the artist’s technique of layering expanding foam and sawdust, then covering the shapes in papier-mâché and paint. Green suspends these rock-like elements in frames of wood to “make sense of the physical world and the idea of grids in painting.”

A piece of broken drywall is covered up with boards, yet a bit of nature sneaks through in the form of some tenacious vines from the alley behind the studio. “I need to brick that up, but I thought it was a found piece of art,” he says.

With a presence in the hot London art market, influential local supporters and a creative focus that expands with his every brushstroke, the future is indeed bright for Green. Spending 35 hours a week at as the Modern’s assistant curator of education and another 25 to 30 in his studio space means there’s not a lot of free time for this 33-year-old emerging talent.

But, Green says, “I’ve always worked super hard. You should when you’re young, so you don’t kick yourself when you’re 45.”