Dumpster diver artist is one percenter
Some collage artists purchase materials in fancy art stores; Jon Legere finds them in dumpsters on the streets of New York.
The 40-year-old Bermudian usually doesn’t have to do much digging to find old paper, magazines, newspapers or old flyers he can cut up to make art.
“The paper is often on top of the dumpster in stacks,” he said.
“In New York, nothing on the street lasts more than a day. A couch or a nice chair is probably gone in ten minutes. Magazines and books probably last a little longer, but everyone rummages through the pile.
“It is rare that you find a pile that hasn’t been touched yet. It’s rare that it is still neat; it’s usually already moved around and dismantled.”
The results of his treasure hunting can be seen in his latest solo show, Disposition, on now at the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.
The show includes several of his large and small mixed medium collages.
His work has appeared regularly in group shows in Bermuda, but he has not had a solo show on home turf in years.
“I have just been busy,” he said. “I started working in these larger formats and it was hard to get them here. For this show, I shipped them, and this is the first time I have seen them all in a room together.”
To save on costs. he decided to leave many pieces unframed.
“If people want them framed, I’m sure somewhere like Frameworks would help them,” he said.
He started working in collage 20 years ago, after a period in digital art.
“It was a little bit because it was easier for me to cut something out of a magazine than to try and redraw it,” he said. “I’m not the greatest draftsman. I have loved print making my whole life and done a lot of silk making.
“Silk screen is a great process for me. Collage is a great process; if there is a texture or something I want I don’t have to try and draw it.”
Last summer, he gained attention in the community for the triangular inflatables he created, and placed in locations around Bermuda.
A piece involving one of his inflatables will be included in Disposition.
When The Royal Gazette spoke to him on Wednesday he was crafting it on the spot out of an inflatable and an old piece of wood he found outside a carpentry shop. He intended for his sculpture to complement one of the paper collages on show.
The collages are specially designed to give a sense of movement. Recognisable objects like faces and cars, have deliberately been removed.
“It became a pause point, where your eye stopped moving and was a distraction,” he said. “Sometimes a bit of angel or leg or palm tree stay, but for the most part you’re not meant to stop your eye on something.”
He loves the juxtaposition of colour, shape and texture in collage. Learning how to control the material has been one of his challenges.
“You have to make sure the glue doesn’t show,” he said.
After the artwork was hung at Masterworks, he was busy making touch-ups, gluing down the odd loose scrap of paper and erasing stray pencil marks.
The son of Jeanne Legere, managing director of Jackson’s School of Performing Arts, he grew up in the local arts community.
“I took dance lessons,” he laughed. “I think my collages are just two dimensional dances.”
When he graduated from Purchase College, State University of New York, he was told that only 10 per cent of his graduating class would still be making art ten years from then, and only 10 per cent of that 10 per cent, 20 years from then.
Today, he is proud to be one of the few still at it.
“The thing that pays off is persistence and time,” he said. “It is just about sticking to it. I have never even thought of not doing it.”
Over the years he has had to take on lots of different jobs to make ends meet. He has painted roofs, waited tables, and worked at golf courses and gas stations. Now, he runs a design firm in New York, Unreasonable Studios and has made television advertisements for companies such as Budweiser.
“The art is full time; it’s just not 8am to 5pm,” he said. “It is 6pm to 2am.”
He also has to balance his family life. He has a wife, Olivia and a six-year-old son, Sebastian.
He has had several solo shows in New York City in the last five years, such as Flotsam at the Calico Gallery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in June 2017.
Some of his pieces now sell for thousands of dollars.
“You just have to juggle things and make it work,” Mr Legere said. “I have a studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn. But I haven’t always had a studio. I think that was a big leap, getting a studio.
“I have had a couple, the first probably eight years ago. It really pushed things to another level, because you can pick up where you left off.
“You don’t have to worry about the mess and upsetting your wife or roommates.”
He admitted collage was a pretty messy undertaking. On a good day, there is a thick layer of paper and paint on the floor of his studio.
“Right now, my plan is to get through the opening and have fun,” he said.
After he leaves Bermuda, he goes to Havana, Cuba in March to take part in the Havana Biennial 2019.
“I am going a few weeks prior to the Havana Biennial opening to teach a collage workshop for young Cuban artists,” he said.
His inflatable sculptures will be included in an outdoor installation in the Biennial.
• Disposition opens tonight in the Rick Faries Gallery at Masterworks from 5.30pm to 7.30pm and continues until January 22. For more information see www.bermudamasterworks.org