Calvin Whitehurst



Milwaukee, WI



Digital Collages

Death Was Given to the Page


Place and Time Museum


Artist Statement






Why Proggressive Art Matters
       September 14th, 2013

       I love Progressive Rock and Roll music, more specifically “Prog Rock”. From Yes to Dream Theater, I am an addict to musicians that test my patience. I love songs that last for several minutes, have many movements, and combine different musical genres in a fresh fusion. Prog Rock is usually very instrumental, intricately crafted in its framework, and highly conceptual. I also love that this type of music has a mission, which is implied by its name. The entire purpose of this genre is to experiment, break rules, and ultimately push musical boundaries. If I am making art in my studio you can often hear some form of Progressive music playing in the background. In fact for the last ten years I have clung to this type of music as the main influence in my artwork. It has always helped keep my mind fresh within itself. What I mean by this is that it has always motivated me to find inspiration from my own mind rather than look to models that others have created. They have made it ok for me to let loose my arsenal of weird in the name of exploration. I haven’t had much influence from anyone else other than what not to do. The only model I’ve tried to imitate is that of progressive music.

       If there is one thing that is immediately apparent when you listen to any Progressive Rock Album for the first time is that it is usually hard to swallow. This feeling of frustration or distaste has become addictive to me. Eventually by the third or fourth time I listen to a hard album to deal with it begins to make sense and further stretches the bounds of what I once understood as “true” or “correct”. In a sense I’m attempting to do the same with my artwork. It is a rare happening that I see artwork that makes me feel uncomfortable or unsure. It’s easy to wave off art like this because it isn’t safe to view. Some progressive music has been too radical for its original inception and was only understood later through a slow following. So if something seems wrong at first I think it is very prudent to keep looking. I have this experience with a lot of the things I design initially. I start to question my own instincts and I believe when the artist begins to do this they ultimately start searching for ways to make their work safer or more like something they have seen before. This inevitably progresses nothing.

       "I do not understand why, when I ask for a grilled lobster in a restaurant, I am never served a cooked telephone." -Salvador Dali.

        I want to be bashed in the head with what I see and with what I make. I want to create what I am afraid to show for fear of what you might think. Why shouldn’t it be this way always? Up until a certain time I was cautious of what my peers thought of my work almost to the point of agonizing over what were perceived to be mistakes. Unfortunately this sort of thinking was the only mistake I was guilty of. I had lost confidence from various confrontations that had occurred with my work and this led me to create things half heartedly that were consequently boring. Giving others what they wanted held no currency in my mind and stimulated nothing within me. I have always listened to Progressive Rock because it stimulated my mind and for that matter thats why I have always made art. But when I let my own art practise serve others rather than myself I cheapened my experience and defeated the whole reason I was making artwork in the first place. It took me a couple of years to arrive back at something that I unknowingly knew already and that is good art is always ignorant of convention. It usually scoffs at hindrance and cannot be exceptional without this. I owe Progressive Rock a debt of gratitude because it brought me to the correct creative philosophy.

All images and text are property of Calvin Whitehurst