See more of Jeff Fulmer's
Jeff Fulmer was a first
grader in South Bend, Indiana, nestled in the backseat of a Nissan 210,
when he heard his first conversation about art. A new sculpture had been
installed next to a bridge on the St. Joseph River, and Fulmers mother
and father were debating its merit.
It was very minimalist, and some of the people in the area didnt think it was sculpture, he recalls. I didnt really understand why it was so controversial. I remember that conversation more than the sculpture itself. It was the first time I really gave thought to what an artist was trying to do and the reaction the audience can have to it.
Those thoughts have been evolving and shaping artwork ever sincefrom the sculpture classes he took from Bob Sable in Crawfordsville in third grade to award winning exhibitions in Las Vegas to his present vocation as visiting professor and an unofficial artist in residence at Wabash.
Some excerpts from our conversation with the artist:
Who were your early influenes?
My mother took my brothers and me to museums and galleries. I went to the Indianapolis Museum of Art and places in Chicago. When we lived in South Bend, we'd hop on the South Shore and go to chicago.
Mom was a stay-at-home mom, but she always had an interest in art. She had a stained glass studio, and made stained glass windows. Later she got an MBA and we moved to Crawfordsville and she worked at Donnelly. She left Donnelly and got a teaching certification, and started teaching elementary school in gifted and talented program in Nevada.
So your mom liked your choice of vocations; how about your dad?
Dads been struggling with my being an artist, and trying to understand my point of view, and what art is about. He likes representational work and has slowly come around to what Im doing. He really wanted me to go into business.
As a student here, I had many conversations about what I wanted to do, and it never included business.
Before I came to Wabash, I'd been accepted into the engineering program at Purdue, and I was also looking at IUI. But I came to Wabash thinking of majoring in art, unbennounced to my father. I said Id double major in art and something practical, but I slowly moved to just wanting to focus on art.
What finally led you to become an art major?
I had Greg as my freshman tutorial professor and I talked with him a lot. Finally we had a conversation in his office, and I told him I needed to do something practical, and he spent some time talking to me about how you could make a career in art, and how important it is to find something you really want to do and enjoy, and that a career could come from that.
I told dad about that. He didn't buy it (laughs)! But he encouraged me to do"whatever you want to doI just want you to be happy."
Its a lot of hard work. I think my fellow grad students at UNLV, and the same was true of the seniors that I worked with here, we all kind of worked together and pushed each other. I was fortunate to have grad students who were really committed and interested in making a lot of good art, and we would have conversations about that, and we grew together as a group and pushed each other.
From what I've seen of your creative process and your teaching, you see the creation of art as something done for and in communitynot the work of isolated, "crazed" geniuses as the vocation is sometimes depicted in movies.
I think art is a very social practice. If you look at most of the famous artists; most of the famous artists worked in small groups. Pollock's life has been pushed forward and made an example of because he lives the stereotypic lifehis lifestyle became what people think of when they think of an artist. And there was a lot of drama in his life; so much you could make a movie from it, which, of course, they did.
But I dont think thats the norm; I dont think it ever
has been. Look at Jasper Johnshe was in a group with Rauschenberg
and others. Look at the artists in New York-they not only visit each others
studios and talk about each others art work, but they also get together
to have coffee, they go out to the same clubs, they form a really tight
bond and support each other.
I really want to get students here thinking that way. We talk about
that. Im trying that with the three of them; were getting
together at least once a week to go to an exhibit somewhere, or watch
a video. The Sunday after Homecoming were going to Chicago to the
SOFA (Sculptural Objects and Functional Art) exhibit. One reason for that
trip is so they can see some good artwork, but part of it is so they can
get together outside of class socially and then hopefully come back to
class and talk about each others work and not be as guarded.
Without having that support and those friendsif you isolate yourself
noone will find out about your artwork. You won't have a stream of collectors
coming by, you wont find out about exhibits, no one will discover
What's the first artwork you recall creating?
When I was in grade school, I didnt like coloring books as much
as having a fresh, clean, sheet of paper. I took some classes from Bob
Sable, who had taught art in elementary schools in Crawfordsville. He
offered summer classes, and I took those starting in third grade. He had
drawing and sculpture, and I always gravitated to the 3-D.
When I went on to high school, Ithought it would be cool to teach high
Then when I came to Wabash, I thought it would be really cool to be a
college art professor. I held on to that in grad school, butI also met
more people who were making it as just artists, and that side fascinates
me, too. I enjoy both, but the desire to teach came first.