We had the good fortune of connecting with Quinton Bemiller and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Quinton, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Balance is the most important thing for me at this point in my life. I think about balance in terms of obligations to others and obligations to myself. Over time, my list of obligations has increased. I have students, colleagues, children, family and friends who rely on me in some capacity. For myself, I have to make time to create my art and do the things that replenish me. It isn’t easy. Any time I do something for myself, I am essentially telling someone else to wait. Even now as I answer this question, one of my children is asking me for something! I had to say “not now”. If I waited until all my obligations were fulfilled, I would never make art. So there has to be a bit of selfishness in it. I find that I am successful in different areas of my life, but I have to be careful to not let one area take over my whole life. I would love to have all day, every day to make art but that has never happened in my life and I doubt it ever will. I do think that having different experiences is important. If I were in my studio all day every day, I might make more art but I would experiencing life less. The experiences are important too. All of this is about balance–in my schedule and as a whole person.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I started painting when I was four or five years old, and I just never stopped. Painting for me is part of my life and my identity. I never really had to choose to be an artist–it was more of a realization. My painting practice is idiosyncratic. I work within a realm generally described as abstraction, although, for me, it is all about the real experience of painting and reflecting on life. Each painting I make is emotionally charged and connected to my thoughts and experiences. The most exciting thing for me is making a new painting–the process of discovery. A good painting for me is one that takes me on a wild ride and completely surprises me. I’m also seeking some kind of truth in my work–always trying to get closer to the essence of life. Of course, my perception of the world changes over time, so my paintings continue to evolve. In addition to my art practice, I have been an educator for about 20 years and have directed galleries and curated many exhibits. I really enjoy connecting with other people around art. Making art is important, but so is the dialog with other artists and students. I have been leading gallery tours in Los Angeles for 15 years. It keeps me connected to the art scene and allows me to bring other people into the art world. I love sharing the experience of art with others. Someday, this world isn’t even going to exist, and all the art masterpieces are going to be gone. So, I try to just focus on what I am doing now–having rich experiences and creating rich experiences for others. That’s as good as it gets.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m a fifth generation Southern Californian and to me, a quintessential experience is to take a road trip from San Diego to San Francisco. My happy places all involve eating/drinking, art and nature–especially the coast. I’d take Pacific Coast Highway with a few detours. There would be multiple stops at taquerias and coffee houses. I’m a big cocktail drinker–especially martinis and margaritas. I would eat seafood daily, especially dungeness crab and oysters on the half shell. For art, I love the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla–it’s right on the beach, as is the Long Beach Art Museum. SFMOMA is one of my favorite art museums in the world, and San Francisco is easily my favorite food city. I could live the rest of my life inside the Ferry Market Building. I also love the Mission neighborhood. I’d spend a day in Los Angeles. I love the Arts District and I’m partial to Stumptown Coffee on Santa Fe Ave. The bar at Manuela in Hauser & Wirth Gallery is a great place to have a cocktail. Mulholland Drive, although a little cliche, is still great. Grand Central Market after a stop at MOCA and The Broad is always good. I’m a big fan of Sarita’s pupuseria there, although everything is good in that place. The Central Coast is great too–I especially like the serenity of the Santa Ynez Valley. Farther up the coast, Cayucos is a sleepy town that is great for slowing down and taking a long walk by all the tide pools. I might need a couple weeks for this trip but there’s a few ideas…
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My wife, Megann has been my partner for 20 years. She has an amazing ability to know when I need to be cut down to size and when I need encouragement. I tend to be over-analytical and very self-critical. Megann always helps shift my point of view away from comparing myself to others and towards gratitude. She has helped me learn to live in the moment, to make art for myself not others, and savor life in the present. You can find many people who are successful but not happy. Megann helps me focus on appreciation of life. Without her, I would not be grounded.