When s/ART/q hosted its second T-shirt screen-printing party last fall, Brian Haverlock was there, quietly inking dozens of cotton shirts with a pink sketch of a bunny-eared, stumpy-armed, mustachioed baby.
The design wasn’t the most popular T-shirt of the night, but it was among one of the most interesting. It had a quiet peculiarity and a subtle freakishness. What it lacked in mass appeal, it made up for in quirk appeal.
Haverlock seemed fine with that.
“I like juxtaposition,” Haverlock says. “I like blurring social norms with things that you might not expect.”
Like a baby with bunny ears, a moustache and missing hands?
“Exactly,” Haverlock says.
As an artist, Haverlock is influenced by iconography, theology, mythology and the musings of Joseph Campbell. He likes to work small; so small, in fact, that you have to put your nose up to his panels to appreciate all the details.
“Small-scale work invites contemplation,” he says. “There’s a sense of intimacy. I like that people have to get up close to see it. It’s less confrontational that way.”
Haverlock could just as well be describing himself.
A 40-year-old former Franciscan friar from North Dakota, he frequently refers to himself as a “draftsman,” which is a modest title given the artist has work hanging in corporate and private collections from Costa Rica to New York.
An adjunct professor at Ringling College of Art and Design, Haverlock holds a bachelor’s degree in painting from East Carolina University and a master’s degree in theology from Washington Theological Union, in Washington D.C.
If his name and work sound familiar, it’s because he’s a founding member of s/ART/q, the Sarasota artists collective that launched three years ago as an exhibiting vehicle for contemporary artists who were left gallery-less when Greene Contemporary closed its doors in 2008.
This Saturday, he and s/ART/q President Tim Jaeger will collaborate on a joint show separate from the group’s usual large-scale exhibitions.
“Rough and Ready: The Work of Brian Haverlock and Tim Jaeger” will feature Jaeger and Haverlock’s drawings at various stages of completion.
Jaeger, who tends to use drawings as a starting point for painting, was thrilled to pair up with Haverlock for this exhibit.
“Brian has a range in his work,” Jaeger says. “On one hand he’s very tight and obsessive; photorealism to the nth degree. On the other hand he can be very loose and almost abstract or non-objective. The eye gets to play between these two varieties. It makes his work delicious to look at.”
To fully grasp Haverlock’s range, you must first study his cluttered studio — an extra bedroom plastered with magazine tear-outs, loopy sketches, stacks of art books and piles of 4-by-6-inch cards collaged with disembodied heads pasted on top of oddly proportionate bodies.
Most of Haverlock’s early works are tiny, high-technical drawings rendered in graphite.
A handyman, he builds most of his frames using recycled wood. He says it gives his work a vintage finish, “an objectiveness.”
Lately, however, his interest in playful collage and 8mm film has turned his attention to what he calls “more experimental” works, such as the 30-minute stop-motion animation short Haverlock is currently filming called “Birth of Cactus Man.”
“I’m almost done with the screenplay,” he says, navigating his studio, which at its most chaotic could serve as a booby trap for trespassers. “It’s a really amazing period for me right now. I’m busy exploring and experimenting.”
It’s not until 45 minutes later, after being gently prodded about his eight years as a friar that he says he hung up his robes in 2004 to pursue his art career and female companionship.
He found both in Sarasota: His girlfriend is s/ART/q member and artist Sabrina Small, with whom he shares a disdain for cars and television.
“We share a common language,” he says of Small. “There’s also a healthy sense of competition. We’ve learned not to apply to the same grants and galleries.”
Reaching for a wooden box titled “Seed of Ichthys,” Haverlock points to what looks like a sacred scarab beetle in the center plank.
It was once a dead cicada bug that he plucked from his windowsill and gilded to the front of his work.
During an open studio last summer, a little girl was so captivated by the little bug she reached out to touch it and squished the skeleton with her finger. So Haverlock replaced it with another windowsill insect.
“You know how it is when you’re a kid,” he says. “You want to touch everything.”
“It’s primitive and highly technical.”
“I don’t make direct references to religion, but there are still underpinnings of it in my work.”
“I grew up collecting trading cards. I think my little assemblage boxes are reminiscent of that. They’re manageable and portable. You can put them on your mantle.”
“It always comes down to where have we been? What are we doing and where are we going from here?”
IF YOU GO
“Rough and Ready: The Work of Brian Haverlock and Tim Jaeger” can be viewed from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at 529 S. Pineapple Ave., in downtown Sarasota. For more on Haverlock’s work, visit brianhaverlock.com.
Contact Heidi Kurpiela at [email protected].
VIDEO: Haverlock explains why he'll never retire his scissors for Photoshop. The s/ART/q member and avid collage artist invites us into his studio to share his love of tactile materials.