Q+Art: Artist P-Jay Fidler Mines the Collective Unconscious for Death-Inspired Iconography
P-Jay Fidler’s mixed media works are filled with age-old symbols that tap into the collective unconscious. His scattered compositions reveal a Pagan reverence for the impermanence of life within a nonlinear structure.
While he mines inspiration from familiar death symbols—grinning skulls, fading flowers, shadowy figures—the visual metaphors are fraught with all the complications of individual experience. In Fidler’s works, allegorical iconography becomes a vehicle for discussing the transformative qualities of both life and death. The one transformation we all inevitably share—death—is also framed as the most important.
Despite his interest in the unconscious, Fidler shows a fascination with the surface of his paintings. Borrowing from Art Nouveau, the artist saturates his work with decorative flourishes and lush, nature-inspired objects. The tension between surface decoration and deeper meaning hints at the physical ephemera we create then leave behind when we die. A bright palette and playful aesthetic suggest the necessity of humor in the face of certain death.
Fidler’s sparse yet sensual surfaces straddle a fine line between whimsey and melancholy, divinity and decadence, dream and nightmare. His work captures the spiritual and symbolic meaning at the heart of our greatest mystery: What happens after we die? In the absence of a concrete answer, Fidler embraces a mystical narrative, one that offers a measure of solace despite its ultimately morbid assessment.
In Today’s Q+Art Interview…
P-Jay Fidler discusses the challenges of fatherhood, the comfort of Crocs, and creating art-world opportunities for yourself where there were none before.
What one book belongs on every artist’s shelf?
P-Jay Fidler: The Art Spirit by Robert Henri.
If you could have dinner with any artist, living or dead, who would it be?
PJF: Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelly.
What are you trying to express with your art?
PJF: When I create art I try to tell a wide range of stories based on existence. I try to express the feelings of a moment in time. Some are personal stories, some are not, and some are stories that have not been told yet.
Would you work for free in exchange for exposure?
PJF: I have, and it rarely works out for the artist, but it depends on the situation.
What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
PJF: Wearing Crocs.
What do you consider your greatest artistic achievement?
PJF: Winning $50 for a first place prize in junior college art show. That was the first time I made any money from art.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
PJF: "It doesn't matter how good you are, but it's how easy you are to work with that matters."
Is a formal arts education worth the money?
PJF: It was for me, as I really needed structure at the time. I came from a small town and no one told us you could make a living from art or how to do it. So when I went to school there were endless possibilities and opportunities that I might not have known if I didn't go to school. Also I think the critiques were hugely important in the learning process. Nowadays you can learn almost anything on YouTube as far as technique goes, so I can see why a formal art education might not be needed. But I also think it's important mainly for the relationships and the people you meet. The people I met at school are still hugely influential in my life, and in this world success is many times based on the people you know.
What is one thing you would like to change about the art world?
PJF: I would like to see artists get paid a royalty every time their work is resold in the art market.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your practice?
PJF: It hasn't really. I have been working from home for a while now so I guess the main difference is I have to stop and help my kids with their work or make sure they are doing what they need to be doing.
How do you think the coronavirus pandemic will impact the art world in the long term?
PJF: I think it's mainly the social aspect of the art world that will be changing. Not everyone will want to go to a crowded gallery anymore. That being said it's hard to appreciate a piece of art online versus seeing it in person, so visiting galleries is a must. The galleries will just need to find a way to make the space safe until it hopefully one day gets back to normal.
What are you working on that you’re excited about right now?
PJF: I am getting ready to start a painting series about fatherhood and everything that comes with it. It will be the first time I have really painted anything about the subject, and I have a lot to say. I am also getting ready to do a series of skateboard decks for a company called Merde. I love doing skateboards because I get free decks!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. All photos published with permission of the artist.
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