Gallery Space: Aaron M. Fitzwater

Aaron M. Fitzwater is truly an outsider. That’s a term that gets used a lot in the art world these days, but in his case it’s true. He’s got no training whatsoever. In fact, his career started with porn…

“I had an apartment in Columbus,” he said. “Somebody left this big box of vintage porn behind. Back then I was a writer. One night something clicked and I just started piecing together stuff from those magazines.”

Begrudgingly he admits he grew up in Zanesville long before the hip little art scene we celebrate them for developed. After studying philosophy for a couple of years at the Zanesville branch of Ohio University, he realized it was a waste of money and took up coding instead.

Since, he’s lived Columbus, Brooklyn, and Chicago. He’s tended bar, worked a variety of odd jobs, hustled words, and now he’s offering design services, all while developing his skills as an artist. The medium is collage, which can be a tedious process.

“I’m always cutting, and re-cutting, and moving things around,” he said, adding that he rarely has a cohesive idea in mind when he starts a project. “I keep moving those pieces around until I have a story.”

Perhaps that’s the writer in him. Artists tend to have a vision in mind, but Fitzwater keeps looking at the images before him until he sees a story, then he sets about positioning those pieces in order to tell that story. Some of those stories can be a little dark, but it doesn’t take long to figure out that he’s no more demented than you or I.  His art is his way of connecting with people.

Literally, in fact.

“My work is unusual in that it’s meant to be touched,” he said.

Yes, collage work can be delicate, and touching it means that the work can be damaged, or even destroyed, but the way he sees it, nothing worthwhile can last forever. That tactile, three dimensional aspect of his work means it’s nearly impossible to convey the experience through pictures. You need to be present to get it.

Fitzwater spent some time as an artist-in-residence for the Second Sight Project in Franklinton, and found the experience rewarding. It allowed him to reconnect with Columbus, and his Ohio roots. He saw a city in transition, and an arts community that was, perhaps a bit like him. Not necessarily formally pedigreed, but definitely passionate.

Bringing his work back to Columbus is exciting.

“I’m horrible at self promotion,” he said, “so when people reach out to me about my work, it’s really quite humbling.”

The exhibit in Columbus will feature one of Fitzwater’s signature moves—the cannibalization of his comics collection. This time, he is telling a story by combining cuts from the original black and white Akira comics with the colorized versions later released under the Marvel imprint. What’s the story? Well, part of the fun is trying to figure that out.