Fellows Friday: Q&A with Tim Portlock

Tim Portlock, 2011 Pew Fellow. Photo by Colin Lenton.

As part of our “Fellows Friday” feature, we focus on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges.

This week, we speak to visual artist Tim Portlock, whose current body of work explores the dialogue between place and the formation of identity. Using 3D gaming technology, Portlock creates haunting, post-apocalyptic urban landscapes that simulate real world and imagined spaces. Originally trained as a muralist, Portlock is a former member of the artist collective Vox Populi.

What images or things keep you company in the space where you work?

I have issues of Harper’s Weekly: A Journal of Civilization, which existed from the time of the Civil War to the early 20th century. Harper’s Weekly started out as a journal for reporting news from the war. Because photography had not yet been integrated into printed journalism, news stories often came with illustrations visualizing the event being reported. Looking at the illustrations in Harper’s Weekly today—from the perspective of a time saturated with photographic imagery—raises a lot of issues that I think are interesting to consider. Plus, the illustrations are amazing.

Which artist would you most like to have dinner with, from any time in history?

William Hogarth. He strikes me as a renaissance man very much engaged in the politics of his place and time with a seriously acerbic sense of humor. Hogarth and his close circle of friends designed the first modern copyright laws in the West to deal with the art forgery that was happening during their time.

What is your favorite title of an art work?

Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down, which is the title of a novel written by one of my favorite authors, Ishmael Reed. The book breaks down the conventions of the cowboy novel, and then reconstitutes them to critique Western culture and its notions of “the Other.”

How does residing in this region contribute to your artistic practice?

I spent most of my life in Chicago. When I moved to Philadelphia, I could not help fixating on the grand historic aspects of the city, which led to my thinking about American art from the 19th century. The ideals associated with these aspects of the city contrast with the depressed post-industrial conditions of much of present day Philadelphia. My art contrasts these two aspects of living in Philadelphia.


Grants & Grantees

Fleisher Art Memorial is a community arts organization dedicated to the ideal that people of all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds have a right to experience art.

Grants & Grantees

Carol Antrom is a musician and a 1999 Pew Fellow.

Collaborators & Colleagues

taisha paggett is a Los Angeles-based artist whose individual and collaborative work for the stage, gallery, and public space takes up questions of the body, agency, and the phenomenology of race and gender. In 2015, paggett served as a Performance LOI panelist.

South African theater artist Brett Bailey will visit Philadelphia for a three-week residency and a presentation of his adaptation of Verdi’s opera Macbeth, set in the Democratic Republic of Congo, presented in collaboration with Opera Philadelphia.

Artist Bob and Roberta Smith creates work in what he calls the “communicative realm,” from hand-painted slogans to social media campaigns.

September 2015 Pew Fellows news highlights: The New York Times features exhibitions from Alex da Corte and Pepón Osorio in its “New Season” picks; Fellows such as Anthony Campuzano and Gabriel Martinez open new installations, and more.

Member-run artist collective Vox Populi will launch a curatorial fellowship program dedicated to performance art, hosting five curatorial fellows in total over a period of two years.

The Village of Arts and Humanities supports the voices and aspirations of the community and inspires people to be agents of positive change through programs that encompass arts and culture, engage youth, revitalize community, preserve heritage, and respect the environment.

Grants & Grantees

Named for Doylestown’s most famous son, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer James A. Michener, this museum was founded in 1988 with a regional focus, housing a collection of Pennsylvania impressionist paintings.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Jennifer S.B. Calienes is an independent consultant and senior advisor for the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC) at Florida State University, where she served as founding director (2004–14).

Grants & Grantees

A performance and newly commissioned album-length musical composition by Jace Clayton will take its inspiration from the artwork and record collection of Albert Barnes—including a recording which is credited with introducing African American spirituals to the wider world—offering audiences a way to reconnect with and to reimagine the Barnes Foundation collection through sound.

This month in Fellows Friday News: Alex Da Corte receives major media attention for his Easternsports collaboration at the ICA, Matt Saunders and Bhob Rainey are praised for set and sound design for The Adults, and much more.