Luke Firle is a multi-disciplinary artist hailing from Hematite, Missouri. In his early career he was primarily a painter with interests in the history painting and mark making. As a painter he works in a variety of paint mediums and uses a multitude of application techniques. As as sculptor he is interested in systems that interact and compete with one another. As a craftsman Luke is interested in the reuse of materials that others are throwing out. He is constantly in the pursuit of learning new skills, old as well as new and using new techonolgies to further his knowledge of making.
After receiving his Associate of Arts at Jefferson College, he moved to Kansas City where he studied painting at the Kansas City Art Institute and successfully graduated with a Bachelors in Fine Arts in 2002. Since graduation Luke has been featured locally often in both group and solo shows, as well as regionally and nationally. From 2013 to 2015, he taught the Tools and Techniques class at Missouri Western State University. In August 2015 he moved to Carrboro, North Carolina to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
How can abstract thinking be best defined or exemplified? With the amount of information that overloads our senses in our times, separating the abstract from the concrete becomes an insurmountable task. The visual information that we have to sift through on a daily basis resembles a pile of puzzle pieces that demand to be put back together. To focus on any singular interest, however potentially intriguing, is an overload in of itself and for it to have any impact on my life, it is crucial to pare down definitions to better help with processing and understanding. These are my struggles; all these words, images, ideas, visual stimuli, whether for enjoyment or for our daily personal needs, they hit me like a squirrel meets its fate with an 18-wheeler. However complicated, I try to be more of a sieve than a squirrel through these overwhelming moments and feel a constant urgency to navigate these struggles that overcome my mind.
Throughout my life I have struggled with ADHD, which from elementary school was diagnosed as hyperactivity. I have never received proper treatment, as my parents saw no point and thought it was something I would grow out of. Committing to something in my practice can sometimes feel impossible to me with an attention span of only moments before I want to work on something new. Correspondingly, the making of multiple art objects has become an outlet and place of consistent and unrelenting focus. I find that when I am pursuing any endeavor in the studio I tend to go down rabbit holes and have a need to work on multiple pieces at once, which keeps my mind from frustration. This is when I began working on multiple bodies of work at a time. This way of working allows me to address the modularity of the installations, which can then be rearranged to better address topics of consumerism and the divided class’ interaction with material goods. It is then that by creating a lexicon of objects that alone have minor impact but when together attempt to speak in metaphors, I begin to consider a new appreciation for language and visual communication. This appreciation for language materializes with a need for installed elements to begin sharing space a with one another, creating a sense of harmony and avoiding conflict. Working in this manner, I gain more control over how elements are considered in balance to each other.
My research includes installations and mixed media artworks that respond to notions of class and culture in wistful and delicate gestures, covering various overlapping themes and strategies. Recurring topics such as the relationship to popular culture often reference socioeconomic issues of class and labor.I often use materials and objects as symbols in my work, creating a world where light-heartedness rules and where the rules themselves are undermined by their creation. By focusing on fabrication techniques and materials, I am investigating the dynamics between social classes, cultural artifacts and the environments that they come from. The use of prefabricated objects expose the mediated world and reduce the objects to a form of spectacle. Rather than presenting a factual reality, my work depicts mystic illusions conceived to conjure up the realms of the imagination.
My artistic practice has taken me through a material exploration that consists of abandoning the traditional categories of painting and adopting an interest to the physical materialities beyond the canvas. I have a habit of collecting various things, odd objects, raw materials that all end up informing my work in one way or another. In some cases I have collected materials just for their visual attractiveness, begging the question: how does one explain an attraction for an object or material? Materials call to me from a purely physical and formal place. As I ventured from the wall to a spatial exploration, it was in my tendencies towards collecting that helped me realize a better understanding of materials and the vocabulary that I use to describe objects. With every installation my visual vocabulary keeps widening and wandering, keeping me aware of the differences in manipulating form in a painting in comparison to a sculpture.
The mixed media “constructs” are notable for their visible craftsmanship, perfect finish and tactile nature. This is of great importance to me because it shows a level of dedication to a declining industry, connecting them with issues of labor and work ethic. I want to address contemporary society’s attrition to skill acquisition and a fervent understanding of materials; hands and bodies are increasingly being replaced with automation and financial gain. I believe that these “making” skills are important for our growth as a society and to help relieve our dependency for computer automation. My work also reflects on a culture of consumerism, addressing the ever-growing need to throw out the old for the new. The majority of companies selling to the masses peddle to our plastic consumerism for better profit margins; new is always better and faster. This viewpoint bears witness to an often, vilified aesthetic of production, which I humorously respond to with “campy” objects, hoping to make distinctions between high and low culture. I go about this in two different ways; filtering symbolic language and deciphering visual stimuli. I then work on reconfiguring, transgressing and reinventing the normative codes of the natural and the artifice, seeking a dialogue between the serious and the frivolous, class and culture, as well as product and consumer.