Nick Weber can paint just about anything, and he earns a steady living from his skillful and moody portraits, but the oils he chooses to paint are about much more than recreating a pose or a pretty face.
The 40-year-old Amagansett artist is quite earnest about his work, and it shows, whether he’s painting a nocturnal landscape, a series of figures and portraits, or the pornographic scenes that have garnered him so much attention.
Weber’s most recent exhibition, titled "Unpainting" opened in September at the in Southampton, and it will be on display until Oct. 10. The show includes a selection of figurative work, primarily of women, but Weber said it’s a leap forward for him because of his loose approach to capturing his subjects.
“It takes a 26-year-old to notice something and open a door up for you,” Weber said. He explained that during a studio visit, Tripoli Gallery owner and professional surfer Trip Patterson was drawn to his paintings that were quicker and less conscious. Patterson dubbed the work “unpainting,” and the concept grabbed Weber’s attention.
“It was very exciting for me,” Weber said. The painter admits that he’s been something of a perfectionist since he began making art, and getting away from that was a breakthrough for him. “My physicality is in the work now,” Weber said. “It’s about physicality and sexual energy, or life energy.”
Despite his evolving style, Weber said all his work is about capturing “the reality behind the reality.” Painting a perfect portrait isn’t enough, he said, noting that exposing a person’s truth–perhaps their soul–is where the real magic happens.
The painter nearly sold out a series of sexually graphic pieces with images grabbed from internet porn in a 2007 group show at the in Springs, but he was attacked by the local press, he said.
Weber said he and the gallery were admonished for not warning the public about the images, but he maintains that the work is important and exposes a truth many would rather not face. He earned even more notoriety when the . The local elementary school complained, and the show was featured in The New York Post and NBC, CBS, FOX and ABC news.
Weber said the onus to protect children should always be on parents, not artists or galleries. “Art is not PG, it’s a wilderness and should be protected,” he said, pointing out that national parks are not sued if a person enters the woods and gets killed by a bear.
“A lot of artists go into their studio horny and depressed and anxious and angry, then they try to clean it up,” Weber said. “Our goal is to not clean it up, but to paint where we really are,” he added, noting that his work is about personal truth.
“If you’re feeling buried aggression and sexuality, you should go from there, you should speak right from your center,” Weber said. He denied that the pornographic oils are done for shock value and went on to explain that the paintings materialize private shame experienced by many. The way to heal that shame is by making it a group experience among viewers, Weber said.
When he’s not painting, Weber sings in a band called Girl Problems, which recently released an album of the same name. He said the band has played in New York and Los Angeles, and their popularity is growing.
“It’s tough,” Weber said of balancing his art and music careers, but he’s found a way to succeed at both. “I have no woman in my life, Weber said.