Friday, April 8, 2016

Local Art Scene: Spotlight on Jonathan Thunder

I first encountered one or two of Jonathan Thunder's striking works at at a group show at the AICHO last year, and then later at the Washington Gallery. The scale and drama in his paintings made one immediately aware that he was serious about his work. I am especially drawn to his painterliness and his use of color and line. This interview is a continuation of discussions we began at that joint show called Abstractscapes with Samantha Pranger.    

EN: How did you get started as a painter?

Jonathan Thunder: I started painting in the 7th grade. I had an introduction to painting with still life arrangements. Back then I wouldn’t wear my glasses most of the time, so the still life looked fuzzy and seemed to bloom with soft edges, sparkles and undulating shapes. My instructor told me that I have a "bit of Van Gogh in my style” due to the odd way of recording the elements. I looked into this “Van Gogh” character in the school library and soon discovered a variety of painters that completely blew my mind. I was soon spending most of my free time in the art classrooms working on my projects and creating extra credit assignments for myself with the help of both of the art teachers.

EN: Where were you trained?

JT: When I graduated from high school I had been given a flyer for a fine art school in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Institute of American Indian Arts offered a 2D Fine Arts program that I started in 1999. I studied painting under an Instructor named Norman Akers. I also spent some years studying digital arts. I received a Bachelors of Science in Visual Effects and Motion Graphics from the Art Institute International Minnesota in 2005.

EN: How did your experience in Santa Fe influence you?

JT: The art world in Santa Fe is a strange and vast world of colors, textures and culture existing in a whirling energy that makes a great breeding ground for the fantastic. I paid attention to the artists that were creating work with weight and movement.

EN: Where have you been showing your work?

JT: I have mainly shown my paintings in the Twin Cities, Duluth and Santa Fe. My work has also been seen in publications in France, Oregon and Canada.

EN: What are your primary themes?

JT: I work mainly based on my experience. I paint life occurrences and interpretations through a dream-lens. Faces change and rolls shift on a spiritual stage.

EN: Who are your favorite artists?

JT: I have taken a great amount of inspiration from the line work of Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni and the freedom and drama of Hieronymus Bosch. The imagination of Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali. I like the style of Patrick DesJarlait, Sr., a painter from Red Lake, Minnesota and the muralist Diego Rivera. My favorite artists, from a technique and color approach, are Chris Mars of Minneapolis, MN and Tony Abeyta of Santa Fe New Mexico. Any artist that takes risks and creates work with an intensity and depth can my attention. Such as Tamara de Lempicka, Jose Clemente Orozco, and Edgar Saner Flores to name a few more.

EN: Where does your inspiration come from?

JT: Most of my inspiration comes from how I view life, how I have experienced life, how the spirit world has affected me, and the beautiful and ironic way it all comes together so perfectly.

EN: Any up-coming shows?

JT: I have some new work that can be seen in the Washington Gallery in central Duluth on April 23rd or by appointment. I’ll also be showing at Trepanier Hall later this summer, also in Duluth. Further on the horizon is a showing in Santa Fe during August and again in January.

EN: Do you have a website or somewhere we can see your work online?

JT: My work can be viewed online at, or on Faceook at,

EN: What are you working on now that has you jazzed?

JT: It’s a secret.

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Recommended: Make sure that if you do the Art for Earth Day Gallery Hop, make Washington Gallery on of your stops.

(Detail from larger piece.) His images are full of symbols. The owl, he said, is a messenger.

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