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0000017c-60f7-de77-ad7e-f3f739cf0000Arts & More airs Fridays at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.Theme music: "Like A Beginner Again" by Dan Barry of Seas of Jupiter

18-Year-Old Switches To Online Classes To Better Pursue Art

Geoffrey Simmons is only 18, but he’s already well on his way to becoming a full-time artist. It all started about three years ago when he began collecting glass art. That led to glass blowing classes, which led to spray paint, body paint, digital art, and just about everything else. 

“I just found all these other mediums and just decided if I’m going to be an artist, I want to be creative in every single area I possibly can,” he says.

Eventually Simmons was doing so many art projects that going to school all day was just getting in the way. So he stopped going to class and enrolled in online classes.

“I’m definitely not the normal learner - we could just put it that way. So normal school in general wasn’t working out the best anyhow. So once I made that switch and I had found that new passion, I just took off,” he says.

Now Simmons takes college courses in between working on his art.  

If you went to ArtPrize this year, you might recognize Simmons work. He entered the contest for the first time with his piece called "Total Transformation." Its 40 abstracts on canvas suspended from chains.

As you move from left to right of the installation, the colors on the canvases change from cool tones like blue, green, and purple to warm oranges, yellows, and reds. Simmons says he was trying to recreate the feeling of winter turning into spring.

In his family’s garage, Simmons uses stencils to spray paint jumbled shapes and lines onto a canvas. There’s a lot going on in his paintings. They’re bright and chaotic, but there’s also a lot of symmetry.

“A lot of energy," Simmons explains. "I would like people to look at it and feel good and feel organized and clean and together. So I think that’s also why there’s a lot of symmetry in my work. I feel like when I look at symmetrical patterns, it makes me feel together and organized and good.”

Some of Simmons paintings even look like laser light shows, with overlapping streams of color.

“My friend produces music, so I wanted to help him have a visual aspect to his show. And as soon as we got into playing with a few lights, it just like took off and I’ve been on the internet all the time looking up different lights to use. And I’ve gotten DMX control boards and the whole nine yards now. And I’m trying to go fully into the lighting design thing, but it’s definitely a lot more technical than throwing things on a canvas.”

“I’m just inspired by everything around me and patterns. And anything I see really will somehow end up into my artwork one way or another,” says Simmons.

He’s also heavily inspired by pop artist Andy Warhol. He’s done colorful portraits of celebrities like Elvis and Tiger Woods. He also recreated Katy Perry at the Super Bowl halftime show.

“I love the whole production of the Super Bowl halftime show and all of the crazy dresses that Katy Perry was wearing. So I threw her designer stylist Jeremy Scott on there - he was the one who designed all of those dresses that she was wearing. And I just…I just thought the halftime show was super crazy and I wanted to throw crazy patterns and colors in there and have a representation of the chaos of the Super Bowl halftime show.”

Just like Warhol, Simmons says he likes the idea of distorting these images that we know so well.

“I like to make people exercise their vision and I like to make people think," he says. "And I feel like when you take something that’s like normal and mix it up and make it not normal, it makes people stop and take a second.”  

Every day Simmons keeps creating. This would burn some artists out, but Simmons says he’s not worried. If he keeps switching mediums, he’ll never get bored.

Simmons work will be at Arcadia Ales in Kalamazoo until the end of this month.

Rebecca Thiele was an environmental reporter and producer of Arts & More for WMUK. She worked at the station from 2011 to 2019.
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