Sculptor Adam Capone discusses with Esthetic Lens the changes in his studio work during quarantine, his work with Habitat For Humanity, the importance of comedians, and his being thankful for living with a brilliant microbiologist.
1. How are you holding up?
I’m doing just fine, which feels very odd to say. I live in rural New Jersey and in some respects, I had already been “social distancing”. I prefer to spend a lot of time alone in the studio. That’s what artists do, right? When the stay at home order hit New Jersey I was ending my recovery from shoulder surgery. Just before that, I was recovering from a ruptured Popliteus (knee) muscle; the effects of doing construction, and Jiu-jitsu after 40. I really hadn’t been going anywhere or seeing many people. So, the shutdown wasn’t too shocking to me in that way. I also have a very practical asset in a pandemic. My life partner is a brilliant microbiologist. We were prepared early for an extended quarantine, which is what happened in NJ. Dr. Kim was able to dumb down the actual science for me as well. Understanding actual data, being told where data was absent, and not having to rely on the hyperbole and conjecture of “the news” is anxiety-relieving. I feel very fortunate, but it would be a lie to say I didn’t feel stress and disappointment through all this too.
2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?
Yes, it has in several ways. In one way, it has kept my work from changing. I was planning on experimenting with large outdoor pieces incorporating bamboo once my shoulder had regained strength and mobility. I was going to be building an installation at a festival in Tamarindo, Costa Rica early in 2021, which was going to be very different for me. I doubt that will happen now given the quarantines and travel restrictions. Covid-19 halted that change and addition to my work. I still want to work with some of the larger tropical style bamboos at some point. In addition, my color choices seem more agitated now – I’m using more reds and neons vs blues and greys. I also think that working in my studio at the height of the Covid-19 alarm elicited more asymmetrical forms. Before, I seemed to find larger more totemic heads that displayed a coming into form through ordering chaos (the broken furniture). The new work that stands out to me seems to employ a fractured, asymmetrical composition that the face seems lost in rather than forming from it. Nobody knows how to plan for the future right now, and the uncertainty of it all is coming through in the art.
Overall, I haven’t experienced major changes in my lifestyle or the way I make art. My work is done with the same materials in the same place in the same marathon bursts of productive energy and regular sessions of trial and error. Sculpting has always been a great way to vent. My process begins with smashing furniture. It is what it is.
3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?
I’m not sure yet, but I don’t think so. I don’t really know yet how this has changed me and my sculptural work, to be honest. Covid-19 is changing everyone’s life, so it will change art. When I work, it seems to be changing. For the first time in my life, I’ve started considering the practice of sleep as important to health. I’m not good at sleeping – I suck at it. I’m trying though, and I know that working in the studio at 6 pm will produce different work than 1 and 2 AM did. I also know that the amount of studio time I have will be affected by the impending housing crisis and my job with Habitat for Humanity. We had a huge problem with affordable housing in America before this and it is going to be much worse in the near future. This has made me want to reserve more time and energy to do what I can in that regard. We need to build more houses and we’re working toward that at Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity.
I know that there are new practices outside of sculpture that I will keep. One example is that during the extended shutdown I decided to order a crossbow and start target practice. Archery was something I enjoyed as a kid. It’s a lot of fun and meditative. I think archery will change my sculptural work, but I don’t know exactly how yet. Who knows? Now that things are reopening, and my shoulder is nearly better, the goal is to recreate balance, get caught up on all the business that stalled out, and ease back into a Jiu-Jitsu practice in whatever form that takes. I have a renewed sense that I have a lot of work to do -the studio is feeling smaller and smaller and I want to start making outdoor work.
4. Of the artists you follow, who is handling this particularly well?
I live in a small town, but the New Hope PA/ Lambertville NJ area is an arts community. It’s a community that’s made up of small independent businesses and art galleries. The effect that the shutdown has had on The New Hope Arts Center, my home gallery Sidetracks Art, and our towns are terrible and continue to be felt. My friends and local artists like Scott Riether, Cathy Begg, and Rye Tippet have seemed more energized than I have. Our community is strong and that has always bolstered my resolve to remain creative. Ward Van Haute artist and curator at Bethlehem House Gallery in Bethlehem, PA has been inspiring. He worked hard to get up and running and to do what he can for artists and the community in a fun, safe, and responsible way. I think we all need to take an adaptive and indomitable attitude like that now.
The truth is that I follow more comedians than I do visual artists. Pre-pandemic I went to comedy clubs relatively often. Now, it’s all digital. Honestly, that art has had more effect on how I deal with making my art in a pandemic than other sculptors have. Comedians saw their industry disappear as comedy clubs closed. Some of them seemed to lose their sense of humor, but in general, comedians are more resilient than other artists. The ones that I think thrived were able to stay funny and more importantly honest about what life has been like for the last six months, and to voice what we are all going through. Andrew Schulz, Tim J Dillon, and Ms. Pat come to mind. The question I am asking myself is what will be the sculptural reaction to Covid-19?
Adam Capone first breathed sawdust as a boy in his great-grandfather’s carpentry shop in New England. His folks collected and sold antique and vintage furniture and parts, so he learned his craft and his art honestly the old-fashioned way – by doing. He later honed his artistry with a BFA from Tufts University’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and his MFA in sculpture from the University of Chicago. From 2004 to 2007 he worked behind the scenes as lead designer and builder for DIY Network’s popular “Junky to Funky.” He is justly proud of his recent service as Site Supervisor for Habitat for Humanity / Raritan Valley, where he instructs volunteers in the dos and don’ts of home construction. Between custom hardwood furniture and sculpture projects, Adam stays busy at his studio in Lambertville Nj where he has lived since 2010
Adam was asked to contribute artworks to FaceMaps at the Trenton City Museum in 2017. He exhibits his sculpture at IvyStone Gallery in Downingtown Pa. and Bethlehem House Gallery. Locally, he has garnered numerous Best Sculpture awards at New Hope Arts’ annual Sculpture and Works on Wood shows. Sidetracks Gallery honored him with the Robin Larsen award at Naked in New Hope in 2015 and a Gallery award in 2016.
Adam Capone can be found online: