For local artist Greg Blair, place and art are intimately connected.
About seven years ago, local sculpture artist and associate art professor Greg Blair and a few of his friends spontaneously created an earthwork in the hills of Tuscany on the grounds of a feudal estate. Although he isn’t sure if any evidence of this creation remains today, it represents well the focus of his work and what makes it unique: themes of identity, place, and the perception of how things are formed.
Originally from Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, Greg attempted to be a punk rock drummer before turning to visual art. For as long as he can remember, he has been interested in art. He took many art classes, and shortly after he graduated high school, he and his friends started a small publishing company for DIY zines. After completing his MFA in sculpture from the University of North Dakota, Greg went on to obtain his Ph. D in Art Theory from the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts in Portland, Maine. He and his wife Sara moved here to teach at Northern State University.
One of his favorite things about working in sculpture is that it is very diverse and doesn’t require the artist to stick to one specific medium. “You can use almost anything you want,” he said. “In the past, I have really enjoyed utilizing wood and other natural materials.”
Taking inspiration from other artists that work in a multitude of mediums such as Francis Alÿs, Roni Horn, or Roman Signer, Greg says the focus of his art is constantly shifting. Although most of his work has a similar theme, the goal or intention can change depending on his current project. “My dissertation was about the relationship between the agency of place and the development of indigenous knowledge. I don’t really separate my scholarly work from my artistic production; they are intimately linked – like two sides of the same coin.”
Currently, Greg is in the process of working on many projects, including a series about the uniqueness of place that includes sculpture, audio, and performances. In addition, he is doing a writing project about remaining out of place as a strategy of transgression and political resistance. “Lastly, I am excited to have started working as a member of an art collective called Exo-Syndicate,” he added. “We are having our first exhibition together at the Dacotah Prairie Museum this summer and are also working on an outdoor sculpture project for the North Dakota Museum of Art and Public Arts Commission in Grand Forks, ND.”
For Greg, the most important thing to keep in mind as an artist is to never give up. In his art classes, he used to have beginning students read a text called Art & Fear. “It is getting a little dated, but the one thing that stuck with me after reading it is that as an artist, the worst thing you can do is stop working. Just keep making things, even if you aren’t completely happy with them.” // – By Becca Simon