AARON TINDER tells His story


About this body of work:
All of my recent work is collage-based, though I also use paint and other materials. I’ve been utilizing certain shapes and motifs for a while now, including boxes, tangled ribbons, and patterns of stripes. I like how the box can appear as something both open and closed, and how it suggests a container or an enclosure – but sometimes with something spilling or escaping from it. I’ve also begun using imagery that’s taken from vintage automotive magazines and advertisements. There’s something perfect about the colors in those pages, and I enjoy nothing more than layering them over each other and finding shapes that interact just the right way. It’s intuitive, reactive, and it lets me geek out on stuff that I love anyway, but the re-contextualization of those images is where I truly find MY work right now.    

Most of these collages are made on wood panels that are built with 1-2” of depth. It creates a sort of semi-formal presentation without the need for a real frame, and it also echoes the box-like shapes that exist on the surface in many of the pieces too.

WHY do you do what you do?
The easy answer is that I’ve always been an image maker. I’ve always loved drawing, and it’s always been one of the things I can’t go very long without doing. The more complicated answer, which could be re-worded as “why do you STILL do what you do, when your life is busy and full of other distractions and obligations”, is that I’ve reached a point where I know that creative activity is what keeps me moving forward. Whether or not it’s something to show publicly, or a piece that makes sense in some real or imagined body of work, the act of forming images in my head and seeing if I can make them real is what I need to keep me excited. (I’m also fortunate enough to have a “day job” that keeps me constantly thinking and talking about art by default, so it’s pretty hard to disconnect that from the need to make stuff.)

What’s some worthy advice you’ve been given?
Make lots of work. Most of it will be bad. Throw out the bad, or paint over it. Make more. Repeat. And use whatever tools work for YOU – don’t get hung up on equipment or brand names.

What freaks you out?
About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer, completely out of the blue. As a quick method of defining and clarifying life priorities, it was pretty effective. But I wouldn’t recommend it. (And thankfully my treatment has also been effective.) 

What music are you currently listening to?
All of it. I’m active in my local music community, so I’m fortunate to hear lots of live bands, and almost anything played live is exciting. If we’re talking about recorded tunes, in the last few days I’ve played Mac McCaughan, Jason Isbell, Mike Pace & The Child Actors, Heartless Bastards, and Ryan Adams covering Taylor Swift. (Also anything on Iowa Public Radio.)

What are you currently reading?
Keith Richards “Life”, a book about the myth of John Henry by Scott Reynolds Nelson, and a variety of crime & mystery novels.

What’s on your bedside table?
Several bookmarks, a little spare change, and a bracelet that my son made for me.

What is always in your refrigerator?
Green apples, ingredients to make pizza, and good beer.

What’s your most beloved article of clothing?
I can’t live without my zip-up hoodies. I anticipate the arrival of fall just so I can wear them all the time.

What’s your favorite thing about your studio or workspace?
I love the fact that my studio is in my house. Even thought that makes it a smaller space than it might otherwise be, it gives me a better opportunity to be around my family and share things with them. I can help with homework or hear a kid practicing an instrument while I’m working.

Do you have a childhood memory you’d like to share?
As a kid, I spent a lot of time riding around on a couch in the back of a 1970 Ford Econoline van – it was my parents’ “family car”. I would say it definitely influenced my taste in such things as an adult. 

The soundtrack of your life would include the following albums…
The whole Son Volt discography, Justin Townes Earle “Harlem River Blues”, Uncle Tupelo “Still Feel Gone”, and Oxford Collapse “Bits”. 

If you weren’t making art, what would you be doing?
I would probably be devoting more time to making music, which is something that’s already a big part of my life.

More random crap about me:
My wife, Christy, is a school psychologist. We have two kids who have somehow gotten old enough to be in middle school and high school. 

I have too many hobbies and they definitely overlap. I play bass in a band. I’m into old cars and motorcycles, and although my instinctive nature is to be very practical about most aspects of my life, I firmly believe that life is too short to drive boring vehicles. Currently I have a VW Sportwagen, an old Ford Ranger, three motorcycles, and my dad and I are working on restoring a ’61 Ford Ranchero and a ’51 Ford that belonged to my great-grandfather. I teach at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa. Most of my teaching is in painting and drawing, but I also work with the Art Education students. I take a lot of photos, even though I don’t really think of myself as a photographer. It’s an integral part of my practice, and I tend to use it almost as a sketchbook. 

When it comes to art, I have always felt that the best work is that which engages viewers and invites them into a dialogue, but doesn’t tell them the whole story. Art should be mysterious, but should also give you enough to draw you in. It’s a delicate balance for sure. In a similar way, I’ve always been fascinated by work that exists in that same kind of ambiguous space visually – representation and abstraction forced to play together. Richard Diebenkorn was the master of this kind of painting at a certain point in the past, and I still go back to his work for inspiration.

About Aaron:
Aaron Tinder lives and works in the Des Moines area. He received a BA in Art Education from Simpson College and an MFA in Painting & Drawing from Northern Illinois University, and has taught in a variety of settings, including his current position at Grand View University. He makes visual art, plays music, and tries his best to set the right kind of example for his kids. Link to his personal site here.