Study 2, 2011, acrylic on wood, 9.5 x 12"
What are you working on in your studio right now?
Can you describe your working routine?
The attic studio
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
Working in small spaces affects my painting as well. Scale is content. I like figuring out ways to make big work within my limitations: I work alone in two small spaces, spend little money on materials, and transport things in a small station wagon and via the US mail. Large pieces that I see in Chelsea’s hangar-sized spaces often seem institutional – as if they were funded by corporate interests, made by an army of assistants in an assembly-line fashion to fill museum walls. Eventually, as I consolidate my New York painting practice, I’d like to work at that scale while keeping the work as personal and introspective as it has been with smaller pieces.
Studio at Elizabeth Foundation, New York
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
These new paintings have been hovering in an unfinished state for a couple months. I like drawing out the process, so I’m using pencil and acrylic on small wood panels to make interim studies of details in the paintings. I used to do this on the computer, but now I do it by hand. I’ve enjoyed working on the studies so much that I’m reluctant to finish the paintings, the very incompleteness of which has provided a good subject for new work.
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
I suppose trying to accept the fact that things may never be resolved. I’m not trying to be glib. Accepting profound irresoluteness is harder than finding more superficial resolution; hence the interest in incompleteness that I mentioned above.
Sometimes I also feel misunderstood. I’m a slow, doubtful painter who’s more comfortable using the different languages of painting like ready-mades rather than trying to develop my own unique language. I go through convincing periods in which I believe in painting, but when critics call me a modernist, I feel like an impersonator.
Unfinished diptych, oil on canvas, 40 x 60 "
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
Recently I’ve begun to use acrylic paints. After working with oils for twenty years, the quick-drying time was initially frustrating, but now that I’ve discovered retarder, I’m growing fond of acrylics. I rarely buy expensive paint – I’m content with basic colors from Utrecht’s and Gamblin – and only buy what I need. Acrylics do, however, have intrinsic limits, which means I will always go back to oils. I like the paint to age in unexpected ways, and acrylic won’t do that. I loved the 2007 Morris Louis show at the Hirschhorn--the unprimed canvases had yellowed and in some places the oil had separated from the pigment creating unexpected halos around the poured paints.
When I visit other artists’ studios, I check out what kind of brushes, paints and mediums they use. It surprises me when they use tiny tubes of very expensive paint or have stockpiles of supplies in their closets. I like the feeling of having just what I need and no more. I prefer brights and filberts to rounds and flats, and I use both bristle and synthetic sable. I sewed a linen carrier for my brushes so that I can bring them back and forth between studios.
What does the future hold for this work?
I have no idea what direction the work will take. That’s what I’m trying to wrap my mind around: we never know what’s going to happen. Kelly Reichardt’s new film Meek’s Cutoff, about three families lost on the Oregon Trial in the 1800s, is a fascinating meditation on not knowing.
"Incompleteness is relative"
Is there anything else you would like to add?
As far as exhibitions, I’m curating “Forget-me-nots,” a group show for a non-profit space in Connecticut that opens at the end of May. The artists, all colleagues from Eastern Connecticut State University, transform transient thoughts and vague private recollections, allowing them a place in our shared memory and collective history. I’m also co-organizing ArtExchange, an exhibition of more than 50 artists for the 2012 College Art Association Annual Conference in Los Angeles. I participated in the exhibition two years ago in Chicago and I’m pleased to be an organizer this year.
In conjunction with an exhibition of my paintings at TowerBrook Art Project, curated by Joelle Held (on display through the end of August) I’m in the process of making Sketchbook, an artist’s book that should be available at the Two Coats Bookshop this summer. I’m also about to make some new videos for Two Coats TV, an online channel that features videos made by (and about) painters.
Thanks, Studio Critical, for providing an opportunity to share my projects with your readers.