Where are you from originally and where do you live now?
I was born and raised in rural Iowa, near the Minnesota border. After college and living in other areas for some years, I returned to northern Iowa with my wife in 2008.
You have a pretty distinct approach to painting, constructing square wooden panels which you paint all sides of (including the back!). What's the story behind your choice of materials and process?
The square looks honest and efficient. It’s a shape that's hard to argue with. That has always attracted me to it, along with all the cultural connections and history surrounding the term “square”, which has been used as both a compliment and an insult over time. It also revolves around being practical. For a long time, I bought birch panels in 4’x8’ sheets and cut them in to squares because it left no scraps behind. After years of doing that, I noticed that by using the same shape over and over, the paintings maintained a relationship to each other regardless of what I was painting on them. Whatever a painting ended up looking like, it still felt like a sibling or cousin to the previous one. I started to lose judgment between what was successful and what wasn't, instead everything became interesting and necessary in its own way. The backsides always seemed capable of holding something, so I started painting my name and dabbling around with whatever paint was near. Sometimes it's a complex image, other times I restrain from doing much. It's like turning over a rock to see what’s underneath. I like objects that encourage and reward that kind of investigation, so I try to make paintings that do the same.
Worried Man Blues (back)
Can you give us any details on this series and what inspired it?
It’s hard to say. Most of the time, I feel just as curious about the paintings I make as any other observer. These six paintings were all made independent from each other, so they are each unique to themselves and can stand alone. But as a group, their different attitudes and forms really work together nice. Like a band of musicians whose individual talents and personalities grow when they play together.
Does real life (i.e. day-to-day life) make its way into your paintings?
Yes, I can’t avoid that. Not that I try to anyway. My studio is a separate building from where I live, but when I’m working on something it’s always being influenced by whatever else is going on. The exception would maybe be the car paintings that I make, which I tend to focus on with a different sense of responsibility because it involves a customer and their specific requests.
I love your car portraits. How did that series come about?
Thank you Kate! I started painting images of vehicles in 2010 because I wanted to find a way to make paintings for people in a direct, uncomplicated way. I also wanted to make paintings for the kind of person who wouldn't normally care to own a painting. The automobile seemed like the right subject. It’s a machine that everyone can relate to or has a story about. In my own family, certain vehicles are like bookmarks in life that recall different eras of time. I think that’s true for most. Also, when I attend a car show or farm auction, there’s a sense of curiosity, opinion, and appreciation for machines and objects that is somewhat similar to a gallery opening or museum discussion. The idea of “Wirth Motor Company” was a fun way to offer something that would maybe appeal to anyone from anywhere. It allows me to stay true to my own studio methods and invite others to participate with their images and stories. It’s been a thrill and an honor to get to make these.
Top of Tim's paintings
Who are your favorite artists (living or deceased)?
Lately, comedians and storytellers come to mind. I also think of my kids, especially my son and his rambling jokes about eyeballs and vegetables that never have a punch line. Those sit in my mind for days. Or my daughter’s ferocious crayon drawings that she refuses to let me witness being made. But if I had to provide names, my default answer would be George Catlin, Grant Wood and HC Westermann.