In the Studio with Jim Sincock

In February, Curator of Exhibitions Lena Vigna interviewed RAM Artist Fellowship Recipient Jim Sincock.

Lena Vigna: Please share the basics of your art career thus far: education, years working, etc. How long have you been a part of the Racine/Kenosha community?

Jim Sincock: I trained in fine art photography in the mid-eighties at Milwaukee Center for Photography and Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. I exhibited a little bit during that time, but got distracted with commercial photography as a business. Around 2000, I began focusing on my art again and getting into the occasional group exhibit, but really didn’t try to make it a full-time pursuit until 2012.

I was involved in the Kenosha art community for a few years in the mid-eighties when I ran the former Gallery 124 (now Anderson Arts Center). I later lived in Milwaukee for several years, and then Boulder, Colorado. In the fall of 2013, I moved back to Wisconsin and started to look into the Racine and Kenosha art community once again.

Vigna: Would you please describe your work—what materials you use, what subject matters you explore?

Sincock: My work is an introspective and meditative look at landscapes, both natural and manmade. I also create dream-like still life scenes in-studio. The depiction of quiet places, both physical and imaginary, is a recurring theme in my work. It is also about seeing the unseen; since most of my pieces are of scenes most people would walk by without even noticing.

More recently, I’ve been getting away from the standard concept of photography as perfectly crafted edition prints and have begun creating large one-of-a-kind pieces. With my pieces where I tile prints together and use tar to divide the image, there is a sense of looking at the scene through a window. The viewer is inside looking out, separated from nature, an observer and not an active participant.

The majority of my work is created in black and white using large format cameras and traditional film and historic processes, such as handmade glass negatives and tintypes. My work is printed both traditionally in the darkroom as well as digitally with archival pigment inks. I hand mix many of my own light sensitive silver gelatin emulsions and use historic printing processes, such as salt printing and cyanotype. I also use beeswax, shellac, tar, and metallic pigments on some of my works.

Vigna: How often are you in your studio? Do you work outside of your studio much or at all?

Sincock: I’m generally in my studio 5 days a week and generally put in 8 hour days or longer depending on which project I’m working on. My landscape work takes me outside of the studio on a regular basis either for just a few hours, or for longer photo road trips.

Vigna: What inspires you most these days? Also, what do you go to bed thinking about most nights?

Sincock: Being in quiet places has always been an inspiration, whether in nature or the empty halls of the old factory building where my studio is. Seeing very creative and innovative art can also be very inspirational for me. While I do see what other photographers are doing, I find myself more drawn to artists outside of my medium. I’m also inspired by those who have faith in me as an artist—others in the field of art, clients, friends, and most of all, my wife.

I admit I go to bed thinking of my art and my process of creating a fair amount, but I also think about being in nature, and think about the life my wife and I want to create for ourselves.

Vigna: Why the RAM Artist Fellowship? Since we are midway through the process, can you assess how you are feeling at this point? Are you where you thought you would be? Have your plans changed since the fellowship year started?

Sincock: I learned of the RAM Artist Fellowship when I moved back to Kenosha and started researching the art community here. I felt it could help me move beyond the art festival market I had been trying and potentially allow me to reach an audience with a better understanding of art.

I’m feeling really inspired and grateful at this midway point. I feel like I’ve experienced a great deal of growth as an artist since this began for me. I’ve found myself refining my vision to levels I hadn’t expected previously.

At this midway point, I have all of my images created and am now focusing on the production work of printing the images. Perhaps I feel a little behind since I had to focus on my art festivals over the summer, and then had been testing various processes to see what feels right with my images. Some of the processes I’m using tend to take time to really understand how to produce the best image. With processes like salt prints, argyrotype prints, and hand-made silver gelatin emulsions there is a bit of experimentation with chemistry, papers, and exposure times which take time to refine. There has also been a bit of trial and error with the large scale photo encaustics I am working on, and I’ve had to start over on a couple of them.

I would say my plans have evolved since the fellowship year started. Some of my original ideas remain intact and will be displayed as I first thought, but others have grown beyond some of my original concepts.