Monday, October 22, 2012


Dim kinship
 Oil on linen, 2012

What are you working on in your studio right now?

I’m working on two main bodies of work – smaller oil paintings on linen and three-dimensional constructions made from the remnants of the painting process and other debris. I move back and forth between the two kinds of work quite quickly. As for the paintings, I keep a lot going at one time, which is helpful for momentum. There are probably three or four separate series, each connected loosely in my mind by a theme, gesture, or size. The recent paintings and constructions begin with an idea or motif but almost immediately the process takes them in new directions.

Can you describe your working routine?

I spend a lot of time in the studio and my work is very much the result of this extended time fighting through materials and ideas. When I’m not at the studio I think about what I want to do at the studio, so when I get there I’m eager to start. Usually it’s fixing a problem that I’ve thought about since I last left the studio. The fixing process creates new problems and so on. Reading literature or history at the studio also informs my practice – an idea or turn of a phrase will spark something or make me stop. I’ve recently been rereading old favorites like Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper and work by Hannah Arendt, Kenneth Burke, and others. When things get underway though I’m impatient and work on numerous pieces at once. I originally started to work on the smaller constructions because I thought they would be more manageable. But these pieces quickly took on a life of their own. It’s easy to get carried away and lose track of time in the studio.

Dumbo Studio, NY

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

My studio is in Dumbo, Brooklyn. The studio isn’t big but it has enough room for several workstations, so I can move from the easel to the wall to the floor and back again. It also lets me have a lot of work going on at once. I’ve set up rolling tables so I move easily between the two-dimensional and three-dimensional work. The debris tends to pile up and I spend a lot of time sifting. The studio has no windows, which makes it feel homey. But I do quite a bit of sanding and use some intense materials, which means I sometimes have to move the working process out into the street. More recently the neighborhood has been undergoing pretty drastic change. When I moved in, my studio was on an old cobblestoned street with empty warehouses and old factories. These buildings are now being turned into lofts. The construction probably has had an effect on my work, which has become increasingly three-dimensional. I’m always finding amazing byproducts of the construction process that make their way into my studio and occasionally into my pieces. Whether I’m in the studio or out in the neighborhood, I try to keep my eyes open.
“Holiday labor”
Wood, cardboard, glue,
staples, gouache, acrylic, 2012
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
No matter how much planning goes into my work, the painting process takes over. Still, I spend a lot of time reading and looking at art and ideas emerge from that process. I get very excited by seeing what other people are making. I also sketch and take photos of things that catch my eye and jot down color combinations. All these things tend to get thrown into the mix and form the backdrop or concept for a painting or series of paintings. The starting point differs drastically depending on the work in question. Sometimes I’ll start with a gesture, color, or shape – other times I’ll put down a quite literal image from a photograph or still life in my studio. Occasionally I’ll see a painting in a book that I like and want in my studio so I’ll start making it. Either way, things quickly go haywire. Matisse, the cat who lives in the building, enjoys knocking paintings over and walking on their surfaces. He’s a good reminder to have a sense of humor and make the most of accidents. I try to stay open to surprises. A color from one painting will make its way to another, a figure will disappear, or a shape will develop. Scraping and sanding sometimes brings something to light. With the constructions, it’s equally chaotic as I puzzle the pieces and move from the parts to the whole and back again. All in all, it makes for hours of solving and creating problems.


“I should have been more strange”
 Wood, glue, staples, cardboard,
 acrylic, oil, 2012


What are you having the most trouble resolving?

Where to begin! On the one hand, a big challenge is avoiding the temptation to resolve things too easily. I’m always fighting the urge to address a problem piece with a graphic solution. With the constructions, it’s easy to resort to anthropomorphism or other quick fixes. On the other hand, it’s tempting to work a piece to death, so letting go is key. Having a lot of work going at once helps with that challenge. It also helps me avoid treating the work too preciously. Found objects are almost always better when I find them than after I get done with them, and I’d like to know why. I hope to learn to walk the line between precision and messiness better. And, of course, I hope to get better about trusting my judgment.

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

Oil paints are at the center of my practice but I experiment quite broadly. The material itself tends to set the parameters, so I like to think there are infinite possibilities, although I stumble toward them through the material at hand. Recently, I’ve been using everything from oil on linen to gouache, Gorilla glue, hot-glue, wood, Xeroxes, acrylic transfer, found objects, trash from my studio floor, and just about everything in between.

In the studio 
What does the future hold for this work?

I just got back from an amazing residency at Ox-Bow, where I began to work bigger for the first time. I’ve always worked quite small for a host of reasons – ethical, practical, and otherwise. Since returning I’ve continued to push the scale of my work. I’m very lucky to be in a building with other artists whose work I really respect. They work very large and quickly. Seeing their paintings in the hallways has made me want to take more risks. The constructions themselves have an internal scale, but they’ve been growing in size, and I see them continuing to grow alongside the paintings. Occasionally I have thoughts of doing something wild like casting them huge. But in the meantime, I hope to keep plugging away and pushing the boundaries of what is comfortable for me.


Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you so much for inviting me to participate. I really enjoy the blog and have learned a lot from reading it. For anyone interested in seeing more work, it’s online at Thank you again, Valerie!

“Tied to the tail”
 Oil, acrylic, cardboard, paper, staples, glue,
wood, foam, plastic foam dispenser


1 comment:

  1. Great interview, love your works. Best regards from the Caucasus. Hans