Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Irascible leftovers, 20 x 20", acrylic on canvas, 2011

What are you working on in your studio right now?

I am in the middle of stretching a 96” x 80” wedge shaped painting. At its top, the width of the painting is 1” from the wall and at its bottom the painting is 5” from the wall. Eventually, it will be hung a few inches from the floor or may even lean against the wall. I just made a few shaped paintings, mostly circles and ovals, and I like seeing them hung on the wall, but it’s also exciting to have them hanging out around the studio conversing with the rectangles. I am also making some drawings.

Can you describe your working routine?

I don’t really have a set routine but I am in the studio almost every day. I don’t always make something, but I feel like it’s important to check-in and look around. Before I make work, I generally like to have a coffee and variety of snacks on hand.

studio views

Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?

My studio is in Gowanus, by the canal, and under the train trestle. I am on the 4th floor of a building facing southwest and can see the top of the Lowe’s Building. It is painted in grayed white and emits a fuzzy light that makes you squint depending on the time of day and the weather conditions. I have high ceilings, large windows and have a view of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. There is a lot of construction happening under the train and workers have wrapped the cement beams holding up the tracks in black mesh-like coverings. Every few feet there are silver-colored, steel circular grommets holding the black covering in place. It’s been like that for years and some of the black mesh is falling down.
The structures are massive (like 50 feet high) and between each two posts, there are supporting beams that ironically make the shape of three upside-down triangles. I love that the supports are rigid but the coverings make them look soft and unstable. It's very toxic and beautiful and bare-bones. A trumpeter often plays music by the canal, competing with the sound of cranes moving scrap metal from junkyard to barge. I think, the unfinished (or seemingly-unfinished) quality in my work feels like it is in a dialogue with the landscape; the forms are carefully articulated yet under-polished.

Photo credit Winnie Au.  
Courtesy Blackston, New York.


Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.

I always make drawings before I do paintings to get some idea about how I want to execute the paintings. Generally, the paintings stray far from my thumbnail sketches, but it’s really about the attitude of the drawings that I am interested in. I’m nonchalant about it and take many liberties, sometimes cutting into them and reassembling. Often my drawings are made on junky paper that I buy at the drug store. They are pretty quick and matter-of-fact. When I paint, I try to transfer a similar casualness to the paintings yet retain a specific poise.
After I make sketches, I often begin the paintings by “drawing” directly on the canvas with blue tape. Usually, I am working on multiple supports. The tape allows me to get a rough idea how the large forms will look. I always photograph the paintings with my phone before removing the tape so I can refer to the photos while I am making the painting. I then lay down a few layers of a colored ground and sometimes repeat the taping process, making changes. When I begin to use paint on the blank canvas, I have a loose vision about how I want the painting to look, but don’t hold myself to it and it often changes. I let the paint drip where it wants to go, but at the same time I am sensitive to the axis of the painting, its borders and how the forms are interacting. Sometimes the painting is left as is—take it or leave it. But other times, if I can’t articulate a particular awkward and seductive quality that I’m after, I will rework the painting. From time to time, I will mask out peephole-like areas at random that I work with later or I will just paint over the whole thing and start over.

Untitled drawing

What are you having the most trouble resolving?

I try not to get too worked up about resolving a painting and actually love the moment when the stakes feel high and the painting will either crash-and-burn or become something. It amazes me how a simple gesture can sometimes be so full of promise.

 Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?

I’ve done a fair amount of experimentation with materials, and think that I really like just working in paint. I do use a spray gun to make the glowing grounds you often see in my paintings and I love how a spray gun or a can of spray paint is such an easy material to use and the result is always a beautiful cliché.

What does the future hold for this work?

I hope, a lot! But, it’s probably best not to think about the future since my work feels very much in the present tense. On a personal note, I believe that everything that I want from my work is already there, inside it somewhere. It satisfies its own desires and resists expectation.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes, thank you so much for your interest in my work and for hosting this online studio visit. Meeting artists and having studio visits with artists from all over the globe is something I enjoy and has been an inspiring and challenging part of my practice for some time. I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel a little bit and attend a number of residencies. Over the last few years, I was an artist-in-residence at Virginia Commonwealth University, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Yaddo, and The MacDowell Colony. In each place, my work has been greatly affected by those who have come to see it, and I have had some major breakthroughs in response to dialogue in the studio. At, Skowhegan, for example, I had studios visits that instigated the body of work I just described, and interrogated my vision for Painting.

Having a community of artists to exchange ideas is truly a gift and studio visits are the life-blood of my practice, as they can be uprooting or reaffirming in many ways. This fall, I will be subleasing my studio in Brooklyn to begin my first residency in Manhattan. I am excited and looking forward to the new possibilities.

Square flaker, 42 x 48", oval, acrylic on canvas, 2011


  1. Great work!!! Thanks for posting!

  2. "I believe that everything that I want from my work is already there, inside it somewhere. It satisfies its own desires and resists expectation." This is a golden thought. Great interview and beautiful work, thanks for sharing.

  3. love this work! Great interview

  4. I love the answers to the perfect questions!

  5. Thanks for this great interview...love 'meeting' new to me artists.

  6. I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the paintings and the exterior shots of scaffolding (a subject near and dear to me)
    beautiful work

  7. This powerful work, must be somewhat influenced by your industrial surroundings. Isa should go with the painting as an installation, a nice contrast.