University of South Florida

College of The Arts

University of South Florida

Art Graduate Student Jake Troyli Finds New Meaning in His Paintings at USF

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Image of the painting titled "Shhh...this is the best part!" by Jake Troyli

Shhh...this is the best part! by Jake Troyli. Oil and graphite on un-stretched canvas, 90”x96” (2018)

Jake Troyli is a third-year USF student pursuing a master of fine arts degree in studio art.

Since beginning his graduate studies at USF, Troyli has developed a better understanding of his practice and the conversation of race and identity wrapped up in his paintings. He has also been extremely productive.

“I have this desire to just make, make, make. So I’ve been the most productive I’ve ever been in my life here,” said Troyli. “And that’s one of those things I want to keep going.”

Troyli creates bright, saturated works, often including a self-portrait or avatar of himself as well as situations that might make viewers uncomfortable. Troyli also incorporates humor as a means to explore deeper meanings of his work.

“I use humor in my work so I make my viewer sort of laugh and have this weird creeping response where there’s this conflict,” said Troyli. “They feel conflicted about their own response and that allows layers to kind of fall away on their work.”

Troyli likes to play with the history of painting in his work. While employing the same tools and techniques as renaissance painters, he simultaneously places his subjects in very flat worlds. In these spaces, you might spot a reference to early Netherlandish painter Jan van Eyck or to modern objects, such as Air Jordan sneakers and Kanye album covers.

This contemporary twist, combined with loud, saturated colors, work to attract a diverse audience to his work. Troyli’s Fall 2018 solo art exhibition, Awkward Handshake at Tempus Projects in Seminole Heights, did just that.

“I’m always really interested when I have shows because I bring in this really diverse audience in terms of ages, in terms of cultures, which I’m always really proud of,” said Troyli. “It sometimes feels like they are infiltrated by a group of people who typically aren’t there and receive the work.”

Photo of the painting titled "Always leave them wanting more!" by Jake Troyli

Always leave them wanting more! by Jake Troyli. Oil on canvas, 48"x36" (2017)

Some of the audience includes his friends from St. Petersburg, Troyli’s hometown. He also reaches people through his Instagram, a popular page filled with his works in progress, finished paintings, his exhibitions, and references to a childhood and college career spent playing basketball.

With the solo exhibition over and his thesis deadline approaching, Troyli is devoting a substantial amount of time to working on his thesis, a large-scale painting in the same visual spirit of his imaginative paintings Shhh…this is the best part! (2018) and Everything must go...maybe even you! (2017). In these paintings, Troyli gives the viewer a bird’s eye view over a scene of repeated avatars among ceiling-less buildings reminiscent of “The Sims” video games.

His thesis painting explores voyeurism, race as commodity, and race and culture as performance. Troyli also confronts the construction of otherness and the commodification of the black/brown body.

“The painting is similar to my recent works in that I have the repeated nude figure functioning throughout the works, each playing their specific part in the scenario that the viewer has infinite access to (heightened by the voyeuristic perspective),” said Troyli. “I hope that the figures can read as existing sequentially but also simultaneously, referencing compartmentalization, code-switching, etc.”

Troyli enjoys having an entire third year of his MFA to work on the work. Having completed his coursework in the first two years of the program, painting is now his full-time job.

He arrives at his studio early and leaves late. In his studio, he can be found rotating between six paintings, giving ample time for his oil paints to dry, and keeping up with his frantic desire to create.

“That’s the way that I think, too. It’s a weird thing,” said Troyli. “I’m very regimented. My mom always says it’s because I’m a Virgo, it’s the way that I think. … I need this sort of structure and order.”

Troyli will debut his thesis painting at the MFA Thesis Exhibition at the USF Contemporary Art Museum on view March 29 through May 4.

After USF, Troyli plans to move to Chicago, where he will join his friends and colleagues in the Chicago art community and work toward getting his work shown in city galleries.

He will continue finding an international outlet for his work through a partnership with Carl Kostyal, a Sweden-based art dealer he connected with in 2017 through USF visiting artist Gina Beavers. Troyli will participate in a Kostyal group exhibition in Sweden in May, followed subsequently by a solo show in London.

For more on Troyli, visit his website.