Please explain what just happened.

In 2001 the United States of America entered an alternate dimension, and the real world has continued next door or across the street running in parallel. We live in a world where there is a black president, half the country believes he is Muslim, and they don’t believe in evolution.

In the real world our president is of no consequence. In our world the sea is rising, rainforests are burning, crippled children labor day and night to make our fancy toys. In the real world people still worry about real things like love, and truth, and being a decent person. Our world is a construct, generated by fear and run-away technology. Our world doesn’t exist in the present, only in fear of the future and the nostalgia of memory. In the real world I run a small shop that sells ties.


What is your earliest memory?

A sandbox, a green army tank, a dog, a graveyard across the street. Maybe constructed from old photos and conversations, but seems authentic, if sepia-toned and very, very faded.

If you weren’t an artist what other profession would you choose?

Being an artist chose me.

Describe a typical work day.

I get up around 9 a.m., drink tea, read, and work out. I teach drawing at the Academy of Art University in SF, so I get in 5 hours of drawing from life. I get to my studio in the early evening and paint until midnight or so. Weekends I try to get in 8-12 hours of solid painting. I have about 3 months of vacation a year during which I paint full-time.


Is there a time you wish you’d lied?

When I answered this question.


What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen?

A real man does not think of victory or defeat. He plunges recklessly towards an irrational death. By doing this, you will awaken from your dreams.


If you could have only one album to get you through a breakup, what would it be?

Abbey Road?

What are three websites—other than your email—that you check on a daily basis?

Facebook. Facebook. Facebook.


From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?

Other artists. I dip daily into the well. I look at art right before bed, and dream in Picasso.


Name three books that have impacted your life.

Watership Down, Lord of the Rings, and Dune. They were the first books I read as a child that blew me away. They opened up possibilities, introduced me to morality and courage. I’ve read and loved so very many since, but it’s always your first loves that stay sweetest.



If you could relive one moment over and over again, what would it be?

Any second of  a hundred childhood summer afternoons when there was absolutely nothing to do.


If you could collaborate with any other artist, regardless of genre, who would it be?

Andy Kaufman.


What makes you feel most guilty?

I have lied, cheated, stolen, abused trust, hurt others. Hmmm. Oh yes. Not being there when my father died.


How do you incorporate the work of other artists into your own?

I try to find things other artists are doing that really excite me. If it looks like it might fit into my work I don’t hesitate to use it.  I try not to copy, but to emulate.



Please explain the motivation/inspiration behind The Cartesian Theatre.

I am painting a series for this entire year based on the separation of mind and body in Western culture. I have been reading a lot about this for years and I feel it completely undergirds our ethics, philosophy, religion, government, and law. It’s the fundament of modern philosophy, and was the basis for Descartes work. In my series I’ve inserted lots of quotes from Descartes and bits of print from the title pages of his book. I am painting the interiors of ruined buildings to represent the body, spaces which are filled with electrical chords, ducts, tubes, hoses, and machines. The walls and ceilings are pierced by windows or holes that represent the sensory organs.  Then there are figures that don’t really belong in the space that represent the incorporeal mind.



What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone else?

To keep your hands up and your chin down.


List your favorite in the following categories:  Comedian, Musician, Author, Actor.

Pablo Francisco, Frank Zappa, Thomas Pynchon, Harvey Keitel.



If you had complete creative license and an unlimited budget, what would your next project be?

Buying every billboard in San Francisco and getting my favorite artists to do a permanent piece for each one.


What do you want to know?

Why is there something, rather than nothing?



What would you like your last words to be?

I am ready.


Please explain what will happen.

Our world and the real world will get back together like the Eagles and go on tour.



ADAM HUNTER CALDWELL studied art at Laney Community College, and then in 1994 received a scholarship to study at the California College of Art. Initially interested in drawing and writing graphic novels, Caldwell began to study oil painting which seemed like a better fit for his ideas and interests. After two years of study he took an illustration class with renowned artist and teacher Barron Storey, who inspired a passion for illustration and a more democratic view of art making than the elitist world of fine art. He then focused on a double major in Fine Art and Illustration and received his BFA in 1998. Post-graduation found Caldwell exploring various avenues in the arts – illustration, storyboarding, and concept art – but was not really at home doing commercial work. In 2001 he began teaching at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Teaching full-time allowed him to work without any constraints and he experimented in various forms of drawing, collage, and multi-media work.

In 2007 Caldwell realized that the art he had been making was not what he really wanted to do. He had been working in an isolated sphere. He slowly began painting in oils. He moved into a large warehouse studio with fellow teacher and Korean-born artist David Choong Lee. In a space that was constantly visited by gallery owners, art clients, and working artists, Caldwell began to develop quickly. He constructed collages out of drawings and found images that he used as the basis for painting. He soon began showing in small group shows in SF and then in LA. He moved studios several times and now has a small solo space in the Mission district in SF. He shows at White Walls gallery in SF, at Thinkspace in LA, and at Rook and Raven Gallery in London. He also sells prints and original work through the online galleries 5Pieces and 1XRun.  In addition to painting Caldwell has been teaching and competing in martial arts since childhood and is still pursuing his dream of being a guitar legend.

Caldwell’s work can be purchased at:


Adam Caldwell Art/
WhiteWalls  and  
Rook and Raven

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TNB's ARTS & CULTURE section features essays, reviews, and interviews in the world of film, television, visual, comedy, and theater arts. Cynthia Hawkins serves as our Arts & Culture Editor.

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