Connor McManus is a New Orleans-based artist from Lafayette. In 2013, he graduated from Brown University with Honors in Visual Art and Urban Studies. Since then, he has split his time between making art and working at a planning and design firm where he focuses on graphic design, architectural design, and community engagement around coastal issues.
Connor’s artwork is inspired by the forms repeated throughout nature – the structures of trees, rivers, and plant leaves; the grown networks of cities as seen from above; and the beautiful harmonics found in color, sacred geometry, and music. Much of his work blends these natural inspirations with cultural ones. Connor draws from the great aesthetic contributions of world religions and philosophies of life. Connor enjoys gardening, building furniture, admiring architecture, rock climbing, and traveling with his camera. He lives with his wife and their three cats in an old craftsman house in the Milan neighborhood of New Orleans.
Questions & Answers
Describe your art in three words.
Meditative, Introspective, Expressive
Describe yourself in one word.
What do you love the most about creating art in New Orleans? What particular part of your immediate environment, in your neighborhood specifically influences your work?
The trees and houses are unbelievable. My bike ride to work is through the Garden District, and every day I'm awed by the majesty of those enduring oaks and old mansions.
Describe your creative process. Are there any rituals or rites of passage you exercise before you begin a new piece?
Right now I have two major processes that polarize each other. Half of my work is rigorously designed, based in photography, worked on in Photoshop, and one way or another rendered as a painting. The bulk of the creative process here lies in digital manipulation and involves many possible color palettes and alternative designs. Copy, Paste, Undo, Delete, Brush, Select, Select Similar, Magic Wand. These are my design tools. The compositions that I choose are invariably the ones that surprise me despite the control that Photoshop affords. But this process is grounded in design and therefore conscious decision-making about what I want to convey, in which undo and redo are always options. Only the last steps of this process allow for painterly improvisation - a crucial moment to invigorate the planned event with a touch of spontaneity.
My other body of work counter-balances the control I wield in the former. These are the Rorschachs. They have no inherent meaning, and resist all attempts to predetermine their appearance. Every move made is another risk, with no hope for undoing. They can be added to, but never subtracted from. Often they fail completely. The process is simple and other than the use of colored paint instead of ink, it is identical to the standard process of making ink-blot Rorschachs used to analyze the psyches of anyone who felt that they needed their head examined. I enter into a strange, meditative dialogue with them as I work on them. I make a move, fold, unfold. I see an image and try to add to it, make marks, fold, unfold. I see something else....So it goes until it is either beautiful or a horrible mess.
Where do you draw inspiration?
The elegant structure of trees, or moreover the forms repeated throughout the universe. Neurons, plant leaves, the structures of cities and rivers as seen from an airplane. The purposive purposelessness of it all...or unconscious will. Rhythm. Harmonies. Music.
Who are your artistic influences or gurus?
Alan Watts and more recently Ken Wilber. Both are philosophers whose work focuses on comparative Eastern and Western spiritual practice. Through them I've become interested in Zen aesthetic principles amongst other influencing ideas.
In New Orleans, art and music go hand in hand. What type of music, band or song lyric best describes your work?
Hah...Geez what a question...My music collection has had a huge influence on my work and in my formative years my whole identity. Specific paintings of mine do remind me of certain songs, or were directly influenced by the aesthetic of certain songs. An overarching statement about all of my work is more difficult...Off the cuff here are a few albums that maybe start to describe it.
Animal Collective, Feels
Sigur Ros, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin
Four Tet, There is Love in You
I'll take a translated lyric from Sigur Ros "You die but come to life/The leaves change their colours"
Where can we find you when you are not creating art?
You could find me at my other job, Concordia, where on any given day I could be writing, laying out graphics in Illustrator, or sculpting buildings in Revit. Or I'll be at home working in my garden or watching shows online with my girlfriend and two cats.
What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?
Early dusk, when the colors come out in the sky and the clouds change. Thursdays-Saturday. And October/November. I've always loved fall. Mostly because cool weather finally arrives after the long Louisiana summers, but also for the same reason as why I love dusk. In Providence, where I spent my college years, autumn was bombastic with color. It is a melancholic celebration. Every day you know it's a little closer to winter, but each day is so unique-- each kind of tree goes through its own cycle of colors on different schedules. It is a macrocosm of how every minute of dusk uses a whole new color palette. Although you know its ultimately fading to black, the display on the way there seems to be what the light of day and green of summer was waiting for.
What is something people don’t know about you? A fun fact.
Hmmm....I am a (long since retired) black belt in karate, a rock climber (waiting for a NOLA gym), and I like to play Halo.