Zachary Cleve is from Davenport, Iowa and earned a bachelor’s degree in painting and sociology from Saint Ambrose University in 2010. He received his MFA in painting and drawing in 2015 from the University of Iowa while working as an instructor there. He now lives and practice in Fayetteville, AR.
About the work
“These paintings chronicle an array of misgivings, bewilderment, and apprehensions. After graduate school, I briefly fell into a state of listlessness and indecision. I even moved to New York City and returned in defeat after less than a year (“It’s tough out there” is laughably understated). Through it all, I reflected on my education and life experiences and settled comfortably into painting in isolation. Obtaining self-sufficiency as a painter after being spoiled on the atmosphere and community of academia is a difficult victory. Refining my ability to have conversations with myself and to gaze inward with clarity and incisiveness is similarly daunting.
Interpreting non-verbal communication and the ability to convey emotions and thoughts competently to others are taken as a given by most people; being on the autism spectrum make this challenging. Consequently, the body of work I’ve created owes a considerable debt to this deficit in my being. It’s an essential component of what drives the confusion underlying my narratives. I draw in equal measure upon philosophy, history, literature, and various social sciences. As a result, I’ve pointedly created narratives that foist unsettling and confusing situations on the viewer. Usually, stripped of a basic awareness of others, the people in my compositions have succumbed to indifference, anomie, and sometimes despair. Interactions, while sparse, are often unpleasant or violently climactic. My intent is to create a haunting atmosphere and elegiac quality embodying the paradox of being one who is mired in the role of observer yet understands less than those they behold. yet it is not without humor. Likewise, my flirtations, with misanthropy and absurdism on canvas don’t necessarily reflect my own worldview. Otto Dix wrote that “all art is exorcism.” Similarly, I recall a former professor telling me that “to create art is to embarrass yourself,” as a way of encouraging me to take more chances with painting. These statements resonate more profoundly with me day by day as I find myself beginning a new body of work.”