John Umphlett was born in southern New Jersey in 1974. Trained in Richmond Virginia in drawing and sculpture where he graduated with a BFA in Sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University. John continued his education at Bennington College at which he graduated with a MFA in 1999. His work has crossed between many mediums including, but not excluded to, installation, video, performance and drawing. He would be considered as an innovative and an inquisitive thinker; open to experimentation through the love of material handling and repetitive practice. His drive for his work seems to spawn from a simple action… taking one step towards what may seem to be an uncomfortable connection with human nature. Our natural response to a particular action can set up a number of tangents that make sense for a beginning path to form for him to develop a body/ or vein of work. John presently works at Bennington College as a Technical instructor in the Visual Arts in which gives him the opportunity not only to develop his work professionally but also allows him to share his passion for making with the students at the college through a teaching practice. Alongside the work at Bennington College he has also worked with numerous artists, architects, and engineers in New York and around the world, as a fabricator and designer.
I would describe myself as an innovative and inquisitive thinker, consistently searching for new experimental regiments. I become entranced with material and non- material resources and fuse those properties with the ephemeral human body. This relationship informs the direction for me to respond. A physical world creates conceptual boundaries on the brink of illusion, sparking a foundation for the choreography of making. I often express parallel relationships between material and color, ideas and images, and concepts and objects. This process challenges me to contemplate limitations around a subject and push into the why; creativity seeking novel approaches in developing a body of work. A trained heightened awareness of social communication allows for me to see ways to make work within this space. Small gestures and cues of someone's emotional pathways lead to large rich personalities. Personalities exist, as a catalyst in extending the important revisited elements; sound, saliva drip, burned skin, fear. My work can exist as a laborious fabrication in which its finished form and performance added element exists only for a split second or inverse by means of building out and slowing down an action that normally exists for only a split second. Time exists as an inevitable and ever-changing constant that can be the most powerful detail of the piece. What I am endlessly searching for is a connection to something that actually doesn’t exist in this material world; A fluid fleeting Spirit that has shaping principles of feeling and something externally internal. So, I harp on the complex relationships between us as a gallery to develop work.I feel driven to make work about our vulnerabilities;, oxygen, honor, sweat, criticism, empathy, hate, language, sarcasm and forgiveness.
“The wonderful metaphor to Umphlett’s art: certainty of material, absolute quality of craft, a Spartan title, and then, pow, the slippery trajectory of meaning and intentionality. I think that is what impressed me when I saw those pieces on that night in question. One or two, or maybe three, art works punctuating space with a presence of thought.”