Jonni Cheatwood’s body of work is an exploration of nostalgia and tension. Combining materials — found, gifted, and custom-made — Cheatwood creates a patchwork backdrop of sewn fabric as the basis for his expressionist canvases. .
He graduated from Arizona State University, Tempe, in 2011. Solo exhibitions include: ‘She’s Heavy on the Razzmatazz,’ Makasiini Contemporary, Turku, Finland (2018); ‘Same Hero, New Boots,’ TW FINE ART, Brisbane, Australia (2018); ‘Strange to Meet You’, Tappan Collective, LA (2017); ‘Don’t Life Your Heroes up so High’, Palabra, Phoenix AZ (2015); and ‘Alysian’, Prohibition Gallery, Culver City CA (2014). Group exhibitions include: ‘Scope Miami Booth C-11’, Mika Gallery, Miami FL (2017); ‘FRESHAF’, TW Fine Art, Brisbane Australia (2017); Rema Hort Mann Foundation, New York NY (2017). ’75 Works on Paper’ Beers London (2017). He also exhibited at Volta NY with BEERS in March 2018.
We caught up with Cheatwood to learn more about his story and how he turned his passion into a career.
Could you tell us a little about yourself? What has brought you into the art world?
“I grew up in a suburb of a suburb of Los Angeles named Thousand Oaks. I played sports my whole life and ultimately that’s what took me to Northern Arizona University to play basketball. A year later I was done with basketball so I left Northern Arizona and moved to Phoenix, Arizona to go to Arizona State University. I went to film school and decided to drop out of school when I was 20 and I just started working in restaurants, coffee shops and bars full time. I got fed up with the routine of going to work all day, coming home, work, home over and over. I needed some type of therapy or an outlet and I just started painting out of necessity. When I realized that I wanted to be a painter, I went back to school to get my degree in film & education with the idea that I would just end up being an art teacher; but for the last 4 years or so I’ve worked as a full blown painter. It was a hobby that turned into a passion that turned into my career.”
“I love sewing my work together because it feels so personal to me. I actually recently took a DNA test to shed some light on who I am ethnically and it turns out that I am a little bit of everything. Brazilian, African, English, Native American, Scandinavian, etc etc. I can’t help but to think that my work reflects me stitching myself together.”
Tell us about your works, we would like to know more about them. What materials do you use?
“When I started painting I wanted to paint large scale works, but I didn’t really have the funds to buy rolls of canvas, so I went to a local fabric store and picked out canvas and fabrics that I thought were interesting and I taught myself how to sew a decently straight line. I come from a thrifty family so I learned the value of repurposing and giving worth to previously used material and fabrics. When I was working in coffee shops became interested in the burlap bags that held the coffee. We would always throw the bags away after we got the coffee out of them; but I remember looking at some of the fonts and imagery on the bags and thought that they were interesting and could be useful in my work - so I took some for myself thinking that I could give worth to something that held something of worth.
From there I started using fabrics that are gifted to me, denim, other feed and grain sacks and other finds at local LA fashion district shops.
I’ve also recently started using imagery that my wife’s grandfather took on old Kodachrome slides during his travels of the 50s and 60s. My work is very colorful and these images own a lot of raw and bright colors of everyday New York and San Francisco. I got these images digitalized and printed on canvas so I can sew them into my work. It’s been interesting taking a moment in time that only existed on a slide in my drawer and adding it to a work that is now a physical object that will live on forever.”
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your work / what inspires you most?
“I’m inspired most by my surroundings. The work changes with my scenery, which has been fun and interesting. I’ve kind of always subscribed to that Jack Kerouac stream of conscience in my work. It’s somewhat easy for me to put my head down and work and not really know what I’m making until I’m halfway through a work, before I have to dive into the painting and figure out how to make it work. As far as other artists’ work, I think that I was first drawn to the New York School of painters. Early Jackson Pollock, de Kooning, Rauschenberg and Karel Appel were and still are my go-tos. Basquiat, Gorky and Cy Twombly are also very important references to my practice. And even artists of today like Eddie Martinez and Oscar Murillo have a strong presence in the work now.”
How would you describe your work and how would you define your style?
“It’s hard to pinpoint. I have a hard time labeling it still because I work with galleries now that are more on the contemporary side, but at the same time I’m working with galleries that handle artists like Invader and Shepard Fairey and other street artists. I feel like I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m just a guy that likes a lot of color, fabric and gestural movements, I guess.”
Where have your most memorable exhibitions been? Do you have upcoming exhibitions you'd like to share?
“Simphiwe Ndzube’s last show at Nicodim Gallery blew my mind. Same with Awol Erizku at Night Gallery. As of recent Laura Owens at MOCA and Rauschenberg at LACMA did me in. Next I’m in the Rema Hort Mann Foundation auction, a group show at Galerie Kremers in Berlin and then I’m preparing for a solo show in Beirut at Artual Gallery. I’m going to Berlin for a month to do a residency at Urban Spree. Next year I have a solos at Beers London and Over the Influence in Los Angeles.”