Collection of Collections

Kurston Melton is an art community manager and Jeremy Paten is a painter and muralist. Together they make up Collection of Collections, a visual storytelling cooperative in New Orleans. 

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana  Instagram: @collectionofcollections

How did your interest in your medium begin and how did you arrive at your current style?

Jeremy: Picasso said it best when he said, “Every child is an artist. The only problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Ever since I could remember actually I’ve been drawing. There I was, a kid who loved video games, cartoons, comic books and things that kids loved at the time, was able to create what my friends and I would talk or joke about. It wasn’t until I was in 2nd gradea teacher looked at one of my assignments during free time and must have thought that this kid has something here. I took interest from there. It kept me out of a lot of trouble as a kid. The first thing that I could remember drawing on was a dresser drawer that I still have.

I’d say that I arrived at my current style by understanding that there is no right or wrong in art. Most things can be corrected, plus, I think that it adds a certain flavor to the piece.

How do you feel about the relationship of an artist to their city or surroundings?

Kurston: Anyone’s relationship with any place can be wonderful at times and can be rocky at times. But each of those relationships is a connection. It’s a bond. I find that any surroundings I’m in affects my mood, my daily activities, my work. Whether good or bad it all motivates me, inspires me, knocks me down and I think that helps me continue to propel forward with my creative ideas.

I like to think many of my friends experience this and I think that’s why I have such strong connections with them, especially my friends I’ve made in my late-twenties and thirties. I really love my friends and the people I surround myself with, so yea I think the relationships an artist has is important. 

Jeremy: I think it’s everything. It’s your surroundings. It’s your home. It’s a place that you retreat to at the end of the day. Artists throughout history conjured up ample ideas that stemmed from nature. So because of this, I think it’s everything. Also it’s good for the soul to step back and let it all soak in from time to time.

How do you choose your subjects?

Jeremy: If the subject is interesting in some way. Whether it be the texture or even if it has a cool factoid.

Who have been some of your biggest influences or your best teachers?

Kurston: Jeremy, my parents, my friends – I have so many wonderful friends who influence me I can’t even begin to name them all.

Do you have a creative or artistic peer group in your area that you're a part of? What opportunities are there for artists like yourself in your area?

Kurston: I spend several nights a week at Dancing Grounds. I’m re-kindling my love for dance and it’s the most encouraging and supportive place to fall back in love with dance.

I also work for Where Y’Art , an online art gallery and artistic resource. They provide amazing opportunities for artists in New Orleans to sell their work and have their creative voices be heard in the city and beyond.  The co-founders are both artists and are really passionate about supporting the local art community.

Where do you go to draw inspiration?

Kurston: The New Orleans Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Stacks Bookstore, my neighborhood, Urban Roots Plant Center, New York City, Jamaica.

Are there any aspects of the Southern aesthetic that you embrace or ones you consciously avoid?

Kurston: The slower pace. The hospitality. Neighborly neighbors.

Do you feel creatively satisfied?

Kurston: I always think I can be doing more or doing things more authentically and efficiently. I want to learn and study more. I’m working on making more time for really delving deep into learning something new or expanding my current knowledge of certain subject matters. As my dad always says, you’re never to old to keep learning.  

Jeremy: It’s always good to be uncomfortable in creative situations. If I felt creatively satisfied. I’d feel complacent.

Tell me about a recent, current, or upcoming project or exhibition.

Kurston + Jeremy: Figuring out our goals for Collection of Collections. What direction we want to go in. How do we want to approach things.  I think it’s a slow process and I’m gladly going along for the journey. I can’t wait to see what we’ll be doing 10 years from now with this little dream that was started one night over several glasses of wine and whiskey.  Haha!  

Jeremy: Right now we’re thinking about what we find interesting and hoping that others will find it interesting as well. That’s our starting point.