Gary Sweeney Interviews Chris Sauter

Gary Sweeney teaches Chris Sauter a thing or two at the Maverick-Carter House observatory - Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
Gary Sweeney teaches Chris Sauter a thing or two at the Maverick-Carter House observatory

My introduction to Chris Sauter’s work took place in 1999, when I experienced his tour de force installation at Artpace, in which he cut sections of drywall from the gallery walls, and used the pieces to construct a dining table and chairs. It remains probably my favorite all-time artwork in the space. Chris is a brilliant conceptual artist and craftsman, and a darling of the art crowd. His work will be taking over the city in a multi-venue set of exhibits for the next three months, starting this week at the Southwest School of Art. Additional shows will open at Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum (Dec 5), Fl!ght (Dec 14) and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church (Jan 4).

Describe your childhood in Boerne.

Growing up in Boerne was both wonderful and horrible. It was a true joy to grow up on my grandparents’ ranch, hanging out in the barns and wandering around the fields. The friends I made were life-long, supportive, intelligent and interesting. Inspired by the Robin Williams’ movie The Dead Poet’s Society, we would meet out in a field on the ranch to read and write poetry and play games. We would laugh and share around a fire inside a large ring of stones I had made because I was obsessed with Stonehenge at the time. I had great art teachers who exposed to me to many art forms. Band was a lot of fun, especially on trips to play at out-of-town football games. 

Life in a small town can be trying as well. Although I wasn’t “out” at the time, I was taunted everyday in high schoolby a few people who would not let me pass in the hall without letting me know that I was a fag. But mostly, people were good.

Was there a moment when you decided you wanted to be an artist?

I always intended to be an artist, as far back as I can remember. My dad wanted to be an artist, so maybe that had something to do with it.

I would describe your work as conceptual, but your pieces that deal with your childhood are incredibly nostalgic and romantic. Is that a fair description?

I have only made one piece that references my childhood, The Known Universe (childhood bedroom). My intention with that piece was not to reveal anything about myself, much less elicit nostalgia or romance. I wanted to make a telescope from a bedroom. I chose to make my childhood bedroom because I still had all of the furniture and most of the artifacts. I did want to create a sense of wonder and talk about the function of the home; nostalgia and romance may have beena side effect.

 If you could overhaul the art world gallery system, what would you do?

The gallery system is a mystery to me. The art world seems to use it as a filter of quality, which I find to be problematic since galleries’ primary function is commerce. At the same time, a good gallery not only is charged to sell work but to promote the artist. For this they take 50 percent or more of the sales. I would certainly lower the percentage for galleries that don’t promote the artist beyond mere sales.

What makes you laugh hysterically?

Pastor Gas” (a video which puts fart sounds onto footage of the televangelist Robert Tilton) makes me laugh hysterically.

When you have a student who looks as if they might actually have a shot at success in the art world, what sort of guidance do you offer?

I would advise a promising student to get a good liberal arts education, to be interested in things other than art, to not worry about their “style” too soon and to explore as many options as possible.

What do you find to be the most annoying trend in art today?

A trend in art that I find extremely annoying is Banksy.

You and your partner, the actor and director Rick Frederick, were married in 2009, and almost immediately the sanctity of my straight marriage began to crumble. I hope you’re happy. But what I want to ask you is: Are there any problems with having two extremely talented partners in
a relationship?

The main problem with having a talented partner has more to do with his being too busy and less to do with talent. It would be far more of a problem if he was busy on something he wasn’t talented at.

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise your friends.

I am pretty open with my friends, so I can’t think of anything that they don’t already know that I would share in a newspaper. Most people probably wouldn’t guess that I am a big Mark Chesnutt fan.

What’s your current project about?

I am currently working on a body of work that explores the relationship, opposition and similarities between science and religion. I am putting together a series of exhibitions around the city with each venue showing a different part of the work. Viewers are asked to pilgrimage from site to site to see all of the work.


Reception Thu Nov 21, 6-8pm
9am-5pm Mon-Sat, 11am-4pm Sun
Southwest School of Art
Navarro Campus
1201 Navarro
(210) 224-1848
Through Feb 2