Visual Artist John Scrudder Makes Intimate Intricate

Though born and raised in California, John Scrudder has called North Carolina his home since 1997. He served active duty in the United States Army for 11 years and has worked the past 13 years as a DOD GS Civilian. He lives in Fayetteville with his wife Melanie, his son, Tiziano and their dog, Sir William.   

STATEMENT: Art has always felt like a voice more clear and reliable than my own. Growing up while often feeling like an outsider, my art has given me a language to discuss and encourage conversation about the world around us. Using pen or paint to create geometric forms and mazes that border on chaos yet always offer a true path out of the puzzle, I visualize the experience every human knows—searching for solutions within the maze of life. In facing my own difficulties and often feeling confused, frustrated, or angry, creating the mazes within my work taps into the human desire to make sense of the unknown. Transposing my personal search for answers to a visual search for the exit in a maze takes the vastness of life and contains it within one work of art, rendering the overwhelm of life’s journey into a single puzzle that can be solved. My work often focuses upon real issues, like the pain of personal relationships, class and race inequality, and questions of meaning in life. Through transforming complex human issues into complex visual puzzles, my art invites viewers to engage with a problem and embrace the human journey of eternal solution-searching.

assortment of work on repurposed items

3 Things making your life richer & why:

1. Family: Especially my wife and son. I suffer from Bipolar disorder and my manic highs and depressive lows can last for a long time, both my wife and son are just so loving and caring towards me without fault. Both of them are also extremely talented artists in their own right as well. My wife is pursuing her BA in Fine Arts through UNC Pembroke while my son is a talented sculptor and illustrator as well.  

2. Jamming with my band mates. I’ve been drumming for about 20 years. Music is a great form of artistic expression. Few things feel better than when you fall into an unspoken groove and everyone is exactly where they’re supposed to be in the piece.

3. The whole process of filmmaking fascinates me. I love movies, but I also admire the high art that goes along with producing a beautiful, poignantly moving piece of cinema.

Local artist you admire: My Wife: Melanie Scrudder. She paints what she’s passionate about, friends, family and the wonders of life. Her perpetually sunny disposition always shines though in her works. I don’t always see the positive side of things, so her work always brightens my day.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I used to work primarily with pen and paper. but within the last few years I started doing maze designs on Wakeboards, tables, mirrors and guitars. I find upcycling items into new works of art very satisfying. 

How did your art practice change during the pandemic?
Well, I’ll tell you, the wife and I were actually on the verge of divorce about a day before we went into lockdown. We took those first two weeks to really get down to the nitty gritty of the nature of love, how we feel, and how we could both best be objective about our situation, and as peaceful, compassionate and understanding as we could be towards one another. That spilled into my artwork with pieces like “As close as we’ll ever be” and “Love in the age of Covid-19.” I also started exploring politics and spirituality with pieces like “Samsara” and “Narrow Margins.” My work became a lot more personal and intimate during the pandemic.

“Samsara” 2019

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. I don’t really have a studio. I don’t really need one. Because I sometimes work with 3-D objects I’ll just use whatever surface in the house is largest, whether it be the kitchen table, the floor, my desk or even my bed! I’m pretty flexible. I also keep sketchbooks around for my illustrations.

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? I just listen and I observe. I listen to the news, I listen to people. I observe nature and the changing of the seasons. I often think of myself as the “Nowhere Man” from that song by The Beatles. If I’m in a rut, like I’ve been this year, I try to meditate and just let everything go. I often find my voice when everything has quieted down to a still nothingness. 

Advice to newer artists in your genre:
1. CREATE ALL THE TIME. The more you do, the better you’ll get. Guaranteed.
2. Be passionate about your art. There’s no point to it if you aren’t enjoying yourself.
3. Everyone is their own worst critic. You have to remember to be gentle with yourself. Picasso said it best; “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up.”