From Ordinary to Remarkable

Mixed-media artist John Carroll Long believes in creating without limitations.

On a Thursday morning, John Carroll Long is doctoring pieces he calls “Passive” and “Aggressive” at his studio one block off of Fifth Avenue in Naples. The two separate sculptures have little meaning when they’re apart. Both carved in wood and painted black, one has spikes and the other has curves and wheels. “When they confront each other, where do they go from there?” Long asks. Long works on about 12 pieces at once. He has 21 different artistic styles (last time he counted) and lives by these mantras: eliminate limitations and if it’s been done before, don’t bother. He prides himself as a renaissance man, but despite his best efforts to constantly evolve, Long’s work is identifiable. His sculptures, both obscure and whimsical, often take familiar objects—a tricycle, a chair, a hanger—and place them in extraneous contexts. For example, a stop sign that has sprouted tree roots at the end of its metal pole. His art can be serious or silly—every project starts with a humorous idea, like Mickey Mouse without his “makeup” on, or a statement about sensitive topics he’s unafraid to touch—“like bigotry, like sexism, like greed, like religion, like philosophy.” Once the concept is in place, Long asks himself what medium—or mixed mediums—he can use to best communicate his message. “I combine almost all media together and it’s really irrelevant to me whether 2D, 3D or 2.5D,” he says. “Drawing, painting, sculpting, printmaking; it do
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