James Westwater said he isn't sure what he'll find during his three-month stay in Dublin, Ireland. But when he sees it, he'll be sure to pick it up. He might even bring something back for you.
The College Station-based artist is leaving later this month to take part in a residency at the Fire Station Artists' Studios in Ireland's capital city. In September, Westwater, 51, will return to display some of the pieces he creates abroad in a special exhibition at Art979 Gallery in Downtown Bryan.
"I am grateful for the opportunity to show locally in a casual environment that I enjoy visiting and spending time in on a regular basis, and happy to support such a venerable art and music hub as the Village Café" and Art979, Westwater said.
The artist is using a Kickstarter campaign to help subsidize the cost of travel and shipping his art back to the U.S.
As of Saturday, his campaign raised about $2,300 of the $3,000 he's requesting. If the campaign reaches its goal by the March 17 deadline, Westwater will receive his funding and each of the supporters who gave more than $25 will receive a reward from the artist as a thank you for their patronage.
"The response from backers has been phenomenal. We reached half our goal in the first week," he said.
Some of his donor rewards include small postcards altered to fit the EdgePonies motif that will be mailed from Dublin. The $50 donors will have their names toasted over a glass of Guinness in an Irish Pub. The rewards get more grandiose the higher the donation level.
Westwater is going to Dublin this spring and to Iceland this summer to continue his work on a series called "Edges."
He describes his style as post-minimalism with an emphasis on hard-edge painting. He said his inspiration originally came from Kasimir Malevich's cubism and abstract paintings.
For about a decade, Westwater was fixated on Malevich's square -- as well as the occasional rectangle -- pursuing a post-modern "art about art" cycle, he said. Then, along came the parallel oval.
The oval is seen throughout Westwater's College Station home, where he lives with his wife, Naomi Sachs.
In his more recent pieces, Westwater has started to turn his focus back to rectangles and the idea of borders. He said his residencies in Dublin and Iceland are a manifestation of that concept because the countries are on the farthest edges of Europe.
Westwater was born in Brazil, where his Scottish-born father was a professor and architect at the University of Bahia and his American-born mother was attending classes as a Fulbright Scholar. Westwater said it was a creative household, with his father sculpting and his mother writing and taking photos. The family moved to England when he was about 4.
He has a bachelor's from Manchester Metropolitan University, where he studied film and television design, photography and graphic design. He worked in London, then Los Angeles for about 10 years before he decided to turn his focus away from the film industry. He threw himself into his art, which has since garnered international acclaim.
Westwater and his wife moved from New York to College Station two years ago so Sachs could enroll in the Ph.D. program at Texas A&M's Department of Architecture. They both said the move from New York to Texas wasn't their ideal situation.
"It's the best architecture program in the country though," Sachs said.
Westwater enrolled in VizEds program seeking a master's of fine arts. Westwater said the program focused too much on animation, and not enough on other artistic mediums.
He said his favorite galleries are on campus. But he also likes the feel of some of the local gallery spaces, such as the Queen Theatre. He said the old building reminds him of SoHo in the 1950s, or a gallery in Los Angeles or Berlin.
"It is a young art scene and a burgeoning one," Westwater said of Brazos County.
Westwater said he enjoyed showing in the pop-up Viz-A-Go-Go exhibitions. But he felt out of place in the program and started looking for a change last year.
"While I was in the MFA-Viz program, I became increasingly interested in philosophy, psychology, and art history. I found myself really enjoying the writing and research" Westwater said. "One of my professors showed me the way to the Ph.D. Architecture program where the emphasis is intellectual discourse rather than design."
Sachs said that she loves the program because the students are allowed to study conceptual interests rather than the technical aspects of architecture. For Sachs, that is landscape architecture used for designing healing gardens and health care spaces. Westwater is focused more on the fine-art concepts of design.
"So, neither of us will be architects when we graduate. At least not the kind that design buildings," she said.