500X Alumnus Interview: John Oliver Lewis
500X: Tell us a little about yourself. What is your artistic background?
JOL: I am originally from Wisconsin and currently live and work in San Diego, CA. I earned a BFA in Ceramics from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, Department of Art and Design, and an MFA in Ceramics from the University of North Texas, School of Visual Arts. I was the studio technician for the ceramics department at Eastfield College in Mesquite from 2006-2008, while I was a member of 500X. I am a Professor of Art at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California. I am a co-founder of good good things with Jessica McCambly. Initially, established in 2007 as an exhibition space in Dallas, Texas, good good things exists today as a transitory project based in San Diego, California.
My work was selected for inclusion in the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's exhibition Here Not There: San Diego Art Now and the exhibition Uberyummy at the Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art at Cal State San Bernardino. I have exhibited sculptures, drawings and installations nationally at venues such as the American Museum of Ceramic Art, as well as the Amarillo Museum of Art. My ceramic sculpture is featured in Fresh Paint Magazine, Create Magazine, and 500 Ceramic Sculptures by Lark Books.
500X: What years were you a member of 500X?
500X: Were you ever a 500X officer? If so, what position(s)?
JOL: Vice President, exhibition coordinator for the upstairs gallery
500X: Who were some of the other members with you?
JOL: Jessica McCambly, Brian Spolans, Davis Willburn, Natalie Macellaio, Jim Burton, Sarah Maxwell English, Tina Medina, Diane Sikes, Brad Wehring
500X: Tell us about your time at 500X. What was it like?
JOL: It was exciting to be a member of 500X because of the camaraderie of the other members and artists involved with the space. Good times were had through curating exhibitions, maintaining the space, as well as hopeful conversations about the future.
500X: Do you have a favorite moment from your membership?
JOL: My most memorable moment was falling in love with my wife, Jessica McCambly, while planning our two-person exhibition (Sweet Tart, 2006) together. I also enjoyed the collaborative projects that the members created for the project room. Rather than the traditional use of the space as an additional gallery for members, we decided to use the project space for installation-based projects that were a collaboration of a current member and a non-member artist. I was fortunate to work with Alex Soto (Float Bloat Burst, 2007) and Brennen Bechtol (Royal Pine, 2007) on collaborative projects for this space.
500X: What do you think you gained from being a 500X member?
JOL: I gained the knowledge of how to run a gallery with a very limited budget, curate exhibitions that were thoughtful, patch and paint walls and pedestals properly, and even get people to put a dollar in the donation jar. One of the most important lessons I learned from being involved with the gallery was the hard work and hustle required to contribute to the art scene. This work ethic and hustle has played a major role in my art career.
500X: How has 500X impacted your career as an artist?
JOL: My time at 500X allowed a much needed exhibition space for the work I was making directly after completing my MFA program and attending Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts as an artist in residence. The nature of the space promoted experimentation and risk taking, that I strive to continue in my work.
500X: Is there anything you'd like to add about your experience of being a member?
JOL: Being juried in as member of 500X made me feel like the work I was making was important and that the current members thought other people should see it. I am forever grateful of the members of the gallery, and for my time there. I take great pride in being a small part of the legacy of the Texas’ oldest artist run gallery.