Classical Waste

WELCOME to the Indy Arts Studio Series, where you will find behind-the-scenes information such as raw footage from conversations with featured artists, artwork development, artist bios, the show at-a-glance, and other details of the artists’ time leading up to the opening of their exhibition in Gallery 924 at the Arts Council.

Meet our March Featured Artist:
Jonathan McAfee (b. 1982) is an Indianapolis-based painter who graduated from Herron School of Art and Design with a B.F.A. in painting. His work focuses mainly on portraiture, be it of cultural icons, or more recently the study of its development and the product that results from it. He has exhibited in solo exhibitions at The Harrison Center for the Arts and The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, prior to his March show Classical Waste at Gallery 924. He has exhibited in several group shows including Checks Payable To: at Gallery 125 and The Self-Portrait Show at Gallery 924. McAfee was honored with both the Charles Yeager Painting Award and the Marvin Bradley Drawing Award (2005) as well as the prestigious Prelude Award from the Indianapolis Children’s Museum (1999). McAfee’s work is collected throughout the U.S. as well as Europe. 

New Solo Show:
Classical Waste, New Paintings by Jonathan McAfee
Gallery 924
March 6 – 27, 2015
McAfee is known for his colorful, gestural portraits of cultural icons including everyone from Indianapolis legend Kurt Vonnegut to rap icon Biggie Smalls. His interest in the development of portraiture through the centuries is what drives his desire to examine this topic further. 
His current work explores a new interest relating to cultural icons, but it is one of mass production and mass appeal. All of the subjects for this show are taken from clothing giant American Apparel‘s ads and models – they are sexy and seductive, young, playful, and oftentimes ridiculous. American Apparel models are not your typical strong men with bulging muscles and brooding eyes or women that fit a specific supermodel vision. Rather, they are disheveled and emotionless; beautiful and real. McAfee examines this shift in cultural norms that present themselves in portraiture – whether they are from an official royal portrait from the Renaissance or a 21st century anti-heroic jeans ad. As a student of historic portraits, the artist wishes to consider what defines contemporary perceptions of masculinity and femininity versus what it looked like in centuries past.

Go Behind the Scenes of Classical Waste:

“I have been intrigued by the American Apparel Company and its ads for some time. I appreciate their overall aesthetic as well as the products they are trying to sell. I wanted to leave the viewer with both a product and a painting of a product. The models within the series are products themselves – paid to sell something as well as evoke an image that sells the item itself. Classical Waste is my tribute to contemporary portraiture and the product that results from painting.” – Jonathan McAfee

A Cultural Shift in Portraiture and Perception – from the Artist Statement:
“During the 4th century, portraiture was primarily concerned with creating an idealized symbol of a person; by the late Middle Ages, true representations of a person became popular again. The Renaissance period saw a revived interest in portraiture due to rising interest in the natural world and Greco-Roman culture. During the subsequent Baroque and Rococo periods, portraits were viewed as records of an individual’s status in society. Important individuals would have their portraits commissioned, and they would adorn themselves in lavish costumes to signify their wealth and importance.” 

In The Studio:

Raw Footage From Conversations With Jonathan:
     What is it about portraiture that you find so intriguing?


     Can you talk about the shift from portraying pop culture icons to more of a conceptual theme?

Works In Progress:

     Part of the Process for Painting David in Button Down:

     Progression of Raul in Turquoise Scarf:

      Monique, original ad and final product: 

      Ben in Tank Top, original ad and final product:

Short Q&A:

     Q: What is your favorite part of your work or the process?
     A: “When it’s done – finishing and being happy with it.”

     Q: Since you work on more than one artwork at a time, do you find one piece will influence another in a different direction than you expected?
     A: “Definitely. They tend to coincide and feed off of one another.”

     Q: You were once quoted as saying, “I have a dream of being a successful artist and I’m not going to stop until I am.” At what point will you consider yourself
     A: “When two things happen – one, when I’m making a living off of artwork solely, and two, when I’m remembered as contributing something.”

     Q: If someone would like to buy or commission an artwork from you, how would they go about doing that?
     A: “For a commissioned piece or past work, the best way is to contact me directly.” For artwork currently on display it is best to go through the exhibiting gallery.
          Jonathan’s artwork is for sale on

     Q: What shows do you have scheduled after your solo show in Gallery 924?
     A: “I have two shows after that. One will be opening for the May First Friday in Indy Reads Books.”

Fun Fact: 
Pursuing Art Full-Time – 
In January 2015, Jonathan took a leap to pursue art full-time. For those of you who don’t know – this is a big deal. Jonathan is now part of a very elite few. To help you visualize the small percentage of artists with an arts degree that are able to do this, check out the graph below, via Hyperallergic.


For More Information:
To learn more about Jonathan McAfee, visit
Follow him on Twitter @jonathan_mcafee
Like him on The Art of Jonathan McAfee

     Read Press, Articles, and Reviews:
     NUVO Review of Classical Waste
     Blog post on
     Preview on
     Preview on
     NUVO Review of Some Girls
     Artwork For Sale on
     Artist Interview,
     Article on