Untitled, 11.25" x 11.25", oil on marble ground on panel, 2014
What are you working on in your studio right now?
Right now I am working on small-scale oil paintings on panels. I've been thinking a lot about the Shakers and Blinky Palermo in terms of the ties between spirituality and simplicity (form), and about the human body and its relationship to relics or heirlooms. Another important concept at hand is my inability to recreate images with accuracy without looking directly at the source; I like thinking about how the mind's eye is a powerful presence throughout the average day. Everything begins to feel like mythology. I feel concerned with the imaginary idea of the picture plane. I wonder how you can get a painting to exist in multiple layers in regards to this imaginary, and spiritual, idea.
Can you describe your working routine?
I like to begin my work days in the morning. When I arrive at the studio I spend some time cleaning or arranging objects/paintings into new formations throughout the room. When I am ready to paint, there isn't too much of a routine. Each painting usually begins with a very loose idea, but I don't draw things out beforehand or use references. If I want to use a photo, I can look at the photo as long as I want before I begin working but then it needs to be deleted or put away. I usually know I am working well when I don't bother changing the album I'm listening to (I always listen to music while working) and let it keep repeating, and at times I realize that I don't remember anything that I was thinking about while I was working. I don't want to analyze anything until later on in the process, or until a painting feels finished. If I think too much during the physical act of painting, I usually get stuck.
I never really know when things are finished. I will pick a spot at which I feel like if I go further I could squash the breath right out of the painting, and then I will set it aside. It is usually a few days later that I will decide if it would benefit from me working longer on it. I try to not get too excited about anything right away because there is a split second that occurs when you return to your space on a following day in which you can see things objectively. In that objective moment things can look surprisingly good, or terrible. Sometimes you can see that something is finished when a few days prior you were sure that it wasn't.
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
My studio space is (relatively) spare and clean. I include a few elements of home in my studio, like a lamp or a particular coffee mug. I like to have a few reminders of how my life is in places that are outside the studio. Again, I often begin my work days by sweeping my studio and then I arrange objects that feel important around the room. I've always been very particular about the placement of objects and it feels good to create new relationships within my studio space. These juxtapositions and the ritual of making them are inevitably recycled into the work, and if I am attracted enough to something I translate it more directly into a piece. My studio has a lot of windows, which is crucial because I like to work during the day hours. For me nothing is better than painting in natural light, but not necessarily for traditional reasons. I like to see how things change and look different throughout the day based on the quality of light and the weather.
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
My process fluctuates between times of gathering and reflection and times of producing. When it feels like it is time to produce work, I make quite a lot at one time. But then I need time to refuel. I used to feel guilty about the time that it would take to refuel; a bit jealous of artists who get up and make something every day. I've never been able to do that. My productive time that has no physical product is key. I don't feel that I have a lot of control over the ebb and flow; I try to make the best of whatever phase I am in at the time. The evolution of the work often comes from reflecting back on pieces and where I see failures, or when I see an idea that was ahead of itself and is worth revisiting in another piece. This happens throughout the entire process
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
The ideas of cohesion and series are problematic for me. Sometimes it takes me a year after I make a piece to understand what I made, and I often make pieces that don't seem to fit in with what I'm making in any way; those pieces are usually ahead of their time within the scope of my work. At this point in my life I need to give myself license to make whatever I want without feeling the pressure to be able to immediately explain it. The work suffers if I don't, and cohesion only seems attainable through curating groups within the larger body of work. Doing this has bred a body of work that all speaks to each other; however at times my work has been described as desperate or cryptic.
Soft Nails, 12" x 12", oil on marble ground on panel, 2014
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
It took me quite some time to land on the materials I currently work with. I use 3/4" plywood panels (with bevelled edges) and make a traditional gesso out of powdered marble. I use oil paint. Right now working with those materials as parameters is important. I use a variation of sizes of panels, but they are always square. The scale ranges from 6" to 22". I plan on continuing to use the square as another parameter. I like the solidity of the shape, and that it doesn't feel as traditionally window-like as a rectangle. I think the square panel presents an ambiguous space that is as much a window as it is an object. As I mentioned above, the idea of resolve or cohesion is problematic for me in general, so having the consistency of materials as parameters is something I need to be tethered to.
What does the future hold for this work?
I'm not sure, but I do know that I will be having a solo show at Mad Dooley Gallery in Beacon, NY this coming February. My concern right now is to make as many paintings as possible, so that there are plenty to choose from.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thank you, Valerie, for including me in your project!