How This Arizona Artist Plays With His Viewers’ Perspectives


Jason Adkins stands in his studio holding a white sculpture and surrounded by artwork

Jason Adkins stands in his studio holding one of his acrylic glass pieces and surrounded by his artwork.

“Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.” Like the famed Emily Dickinson poem implies, so much of the artistic pursuit lies in revealing beauty by reframing it. Artist Jason Adkins takes this adage to heart, creating mixed-media sculptures and gestural oil paintings that toy with viewers’ expectations. In the squint of an eye, loose swaths of color churn into sensorial visions of nature, while liquid-like sculptures belie their solid structure. “I want to give the viewer somewhat firm ground to walk on but then skew that view through abstraction,” says Adkins of his collective works. “I like to knock them off their chair a bit.”

Jason Adkins molding a gold metallic sheet

Adkins molds metallic vinyl sheets into sculptures, creating shiny 3-D wall sculptures.

acrylic glass turned into white sculptures

The artist molded heated acrylic glass into ghost-like silhouettes.

two metallic, textured, circular artworks, one silver and one black

A pair of Adkins’ chrome reflective pieces made from metallic vinyl.

The artist’s first explorations began on the canvas, pushing the physicality of oil paint to evoke visceral childhood memories of nature: the softness of morning mist, sharp blades of grass and the damp, earthy scent of soil. “The thicker my painting got, the more I started getting into sculpture,” the artist says. Inevitably, his sculptures’ painterly shapes “force me back into painting.”

He cycles between both mediums inside his North Phoenix studio. For his nature-inflected abstracts, Adkins uses brushes alongside improvised tools like trowels to paint wet on wet, because “I love the way everything slides together to form one composition,” he explains.

Adkins’ sculptures employ more unconventional media to achieve the same animated physicality. His rippled wall reliefs use metallic vinyl, a material just malleable enough to “manipulate into something solid and formidable while retaining its softness and fluidity,” the artist says. Adhering the fabric to a panel, he then melds it into an organic shape before the glue dries. “I like the idea of making natural forms out of a material that looks so completely unnatural,” he says.

For his ethereal draped sculptures, Adkins heats acrylic glass sheets so they become flexible. Then, the artist explains, he has “only 10 seconds before the material starts to harden” to mold it into his desired form. The high-stakes process imbues the final piece with a sense of life, creating specters that seem to drift about of their own accord.

Adkins often thinks of those first moments when someone sees his work on display, wondering “what will draw someone to them in a room,” he notes. Their gravitational pull ultimately lies in their promise that there is always something more than meets the eye.