Spotlight: James T. Green

James T. Green is a designer by trade and an artist by practice — making work that explores identity through new media, writing, object-making, and performance.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I’m James T. Green: an artist, designer, writer, podcaster, and unapologetically black.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? The big thing I have on my plate at the moment is a group show with the rest of my artist-in-residence mates at The University of Chicago’s Arts and Public Life Program coming later this summer. Another big project I’m working on is a book titled Sautéeing the Onion to be published by Chicago and LA-based The Perch. It’s an off-kiltered autobiography composed of some journals that I’ve been writing daily for the last six years. Because of that book coming out, I’ve been doing a series of reading performances from the book titled Sautéed Snippets. In between these major projects, I host a bi-weekly podcast with Cher Vincent titled Open Ended in which we explore the human side of technology, and I write a weekly newsletter which consists of a piece of prose and the five best links I’ve come across during the week. I like to keep my brain sharp in a bunch of different pots.

How did your interest in art or design begin? It started off by making small zines (or little picture books) as a child. My mom used to keep a lot of paper around the house, so I would make picture books about my daily life or what I kept seeing on the news. The books in my parents basement range from The Car Ride to Our Babysitters to The Oklahoma City Bombing.

How has living in Chicago affected your design practice? Chicago has such a strong art and design community, and since they have so much overlap (since everyone is hustling in a variety of side projects), everyone is willing to help others that are doing something great. I believe there’s a sense of resilience and grit in Midwestern raised folk, and it shows in our work, the projects we make, and the businesses we create for ourselves.

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? I use whatever I feel that works best for the project. Most of my materials are digitally based; for instance, I did a project for a recent solo show in which I built two interactive websites featuring responses from gallery goers of what they were doing during the Darren Wilson non-indictment. Another project was a durational performance with my partner (shortly after we married) in which we engaged in a tug-of-war with our teeth until exhaustion. Usually my projects start from a small obsession, or something that I’m noticing I’m writing about in my journals over and over, then whatever materials take form of the idea, I run with it.

What was the last show you saw that stuck out to you? Hito Steyerl’s show at Artists Space in New York was a mindblowing example of high concept video art, thinking strongly of your viewing environment, and captivating work. If I could have a second, Kehinde Wiley’s A New Republic at the Brooklyn Museum was a must recommend. Seeing his work at that scale, in person, among a bunch of others was wonderful.

What is your snack of choice when working in your studio? Trail mix, definitely trail mix. Lots of chocolate pieces, almonds, sunflower seeds, and raisins.

What are you really excited about right now? I’m really excited to hear that Kanye is coming out with a new album. After Yeezus, I’ve been itching for a new record.

What are you listening to right now? At this moment, I’m revisiting Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys. It’s so nice to hear the influence on so many current bands from that album.

Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? Best reaction: “You mean to tell me that this website is art?” Worst reaction: “Would you still call this black art?”