Springs native and Amagansett resident Christian Little only jumped headfirst into his art two years ago, but his unique style made a big splash.
Little, 28, had his first public showing at local art collective Bonac Tonic’s "Bring Your Own Art" show at in Springs. The annual exhibition invites anyone in the community to hang their art, so nothing is juried for quality, but Little’s work stood out. Offers to show elsewhere soon followed.
The young artist earned a Bachelor of Fine Art degree at the State University of New York at New Paltz in 2005, but he was “burnt on painting” and focused on music for the next few years. After touring Europe and the United States with his former band Rahim, Little decided to take a break from music and return to creating visual art. “It started to feel like a job,” he said of his band, which broke up after its U.S. tour.
Little showed more work in exhibitions at Ashawagh Hall, but he quickly attracted the attention of local galleries, including the Silas Marder Gallery in Bridgehampton, FH Gallery and Jack Shainman Gallery in Manhattan and the in Water Mill, where he continues to show today.
All of Little’s work is created using elements of collage and drawing, but the artist has recently began experimenting with various ways of applying paint to his compositions. His collages feature imagery that forces the viewer to contemplate the work and attempt to interpret its subtext.
Little uses characters and scenes inspired by mythology, history and religion. Egyptian and Native American imagery is prominent on many of his canvases and works on wood panel. Little said he has a special affinity for polytheistic cultures. He is fascinated by the way these ancient people and their beliefs were subjugated by monotheism.
As an example, Little pointed out the name of his website, www.WampumWampum.com. “Aesthetically, I really enjoy that word,” he said of “wampum,” but more importantly, Little said it represents something changed by the white Western world. “Wampum was not just money,” he said, noting that the smooth purple and white shells were also used by Native Americans for teaching and ceremony, but that part of its history is almost erased.
Formally, Little’s work was inspired by French painter Henri Matisse, whose cutouts showed him that a painter could use collage. “I wanted to have very clean lines,” Little said, explaining that layered collage affords him that.
During the day, Little makes fine wallpaper for Elizabeth Dow Limited, located on the grounds of . “Working with wallpaper definitely honed my skills” with paper collage, Little said, noting that he uses a lot of methods from his craft for his art. “I learned new processes of applying paint,” he said.
Elizabeth Dow’s wallpaper was added to three rooms in the White House, including the Oval Office, after President Barack Obama took office, and Little had a hand in making it. “I painted every single stripe that’s in there,” he said proudly.
Little’s most recent work, currently on view at the in Bridgehampton, is about “community and good times,” he said. “I’m trying to get more gestural,” Little added, pointing out that content and application should always progress. “I’m always trying to move forward.”