A quick chat with John Lochtefeld, the oldest living member of the Nantucket Artists Association.
N MAGAZINE: You’ve owned and operated your gallery here on the island since 1969. What were your first thoughts upon arriving?
LOCHTEFELD: I remember we got off the boat and wandered around, and I ran across about four or five boarded-up art galleries down around South Water Street. I remember thinking, “Wow, if there are that many art galleries and business here, this has to be a pretty decent place to have an art gallery.” I signed up and we came up here in June, and very quickly became acquainted with all of the people in the art world here.
LOCHTEFELD: The thing that I liked especially on Nantucket was the sort of folklore that had built up around the whaling industry, all that history. And, of course, you had this beautiful harbor, and everything was just beautifully situated. So I started working, not totally realistically, but fairly realistically on different wharfs. I just started doing what I was interested in and stuck with it, and it did well.
N MAGAZINE: The new exhibition at the Visual Arts Center, “Folk Tales to Fine Art: A John Lochtefeld Retrospective,” is a very impressive amount of your artwork from over the years. What are some of the pieces in that exhibition that you are proudest of?
LOCHTEFELD: It’s funny, the oldest piece in there is a big self-portrait that I carefully painted as a senior in college at Notre Dame, and I gave it to my parents as a present for Christmas. They had it for about forty-plus years in their home. And then they passed away and it sort of came back to me. I look at that now and I say, “You know, I wasn’t so bad then!”
N MAGAZINE: Do you have any plans for new exhibitions?
LOCHTEFELD: I am now eighty-six years old, and I know that I’m going to have to start cutting back a bit because I just don’t have the energy that I used to, but I’d still like to work at it. I think we’ll probably stay here, and I will probably keep this studio and just keep it open till they carry me out feet first!
N MAGAZINE: What sort of advice would you give aspiring young artists that may be struggling to find their niche or inspiration in their artwork?
LOCHTEFELD: I’ve known artists here who worked as bartenders and waiters, even people in the grass growing industry. They found a way, and you just have to be very stubborn about it and say, “I will do that.” As for what they want to paint, they just have to start searching and exploring and find out what fascinates them. If you’re gonna make art, primarily do it because you wish to make art, not because you’re going to get rich because you may or may not. I’ve never been that successful monetarily, but I’ve done all right. I have been fortunate in that I got to do what I’ve always wanted to do.