Q&A with Tim Portlock

"just steps away," 2020. Archival pigment print, 58 x 43.25".

What is your favorite tool, material, and/or process?
Making lists.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received about your work?
If you want people to engage with your ideas, your work has to first be engaging.

Where do you make work?
Living room couch/living room coffee table.

What do you listen to/watch while you work?
NPR, Netflix, and the like, podcasts on politics.

What’s your top studio jam?
All Things Considered on NPR.

Best studio hack OR the skill you’d be most lost without?
Learning how to solve technical problems on my own.

What food can be used to bribe you?
Deep-dish pizza, tiramisu, or tres leches cake.

Do you have a studio uniform? Please describe.
A three-piece suit.

It’s the 11th hour before your opening. What are you doing?
Feeling relieved.

Who or what has had the biggest influence on your work?
I don’t have one big influence but rather many things that were each very influential at different key points in my life. From my undergraduate days, one of many influences was canonical African-American fiction of the 20th century, in which the protagonist's exploration of a landscape becomes an exploration of the self, such as Invisible Man, Native Son, The Free-Lance Pallbearers, Cain, etc. Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote a great book in the '80s, The Signifying Monkey, that described how these authors were in a critical dialogue with each other’s ideas through the difference in conventions they used to describe similar themes.

A book you’ve read more than twice is...?
Flight to Canada by Ishmael Reed, but not in a very long time.

How do you stay motivated?
One of the great things about being an artist is my subject matter can reflect whatever I am interested in at a given moment. Things I read or listen to, a conversation that I’ve had, something that I have seen, etc. It can also work the other way; my art can nurture an interest in things that I would not have otherwise considered. I have visited places, read books, and met people that I would not have ever encountered otherwise to do research for my creative work.

How do you procrastinate?
Reading blogs, watching YouTube videos about politics, and watching television.

Early Bird or Night Owl?
Night owl.

Do you have pets? If so, what are there species and names?
I have a cat, and his name is Ripley. My wife named him after Lieutenant Commander Ellen Ripley of the cargo vessel Nostromo.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?
Tower Grove park.

Epoxy, mineral spirits, or Command-Z?
Command –Z.

Tell us something we forgot to ask.
My two favorite cities are Amsterdam and Tokyo.