Tuesday, December 16, 2014


A Year of Color, Adjusted for Daylength
                                                40 x 60 inches, acrylic on Dura-Lar, 2014



What are you working on in your studio right now?

There’s a juggling act occurring in my studio at present. I am planning for a February exhibition. The artwork is done. The question is how can the conceptual ideas of the work be supported by the hanging configuration. While I love a grid, I’ve come to question if it’s always the best way to show this recent body of work. Concurrently I’m still painting with the collection of colors from nature that document a year at a specific location. There’s so much more for me to mine in the work, so I keep looking. With this work I’m considering how I can simplify the visual color data. The third “action” item in the studio is embryonic. It’s so new, it’s formless and nearly impossible to name. After 10 years in the same location, my studio has moved into my living space. I am lucky to have a space with open views that show me a lot of sky and river. I’m tuning into the sun coming up each day, the variables of tides on the river, the phases of the moon…I ache with a want to make sense of this and use all these time tracking elements in a project. But, that’s all I know about it at this time.

Apple in 13 colors
6 x 26 inches, acrylic on Dura-Lar, 2014
colors collected from an apple hanging in the sun

Can you describe your working routine?

I have great fondness and respect for routines. My day starts around 6am with meditation, then coffee, then an hour at the gym. Studio work follows, which unfortunately includes the paperwork part of maintaining a studio practice. It seems to come in clumps.. paperwork demanding time, then I’ll get a clump of painting time. Even during a paperwork heavy time I need to push paint around at least one or twice per week. The studio work finishes up around 5 or 6 and then I either have openings to attend or meet ups with artist friends, or I use that time to do mundane things like laundry and grocery shopping.


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

My studio encompasses nearly half of an open living room/dining room section of my apartment. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a live/work space. I love it. There isn’t a separation in my mind, between my life and my work, and I like that there isn’t one physically now either. My work is conducive to an open live/work space, there are no fumes, or other practices (sanding) that would be difficult in a living environment.
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.

My starting process arises from a mixture of my environment and a desire to track something within it. My methods are conceptually rigorous and process-oriented. With a faithful allegiance to geometry and its capacity to reveal profound truths, I work to generate or guide form in precise ways. The idea comes first; the search for materials, methods and procedures that will best support the idea follows. The work develops around repetitive and serial systems.  I get caught up in subtle calculations and decisions of proportion and interrelationships. Once I develop the system for the specific project and determine the calculations, what remains is a form of meditation: I become the conduit for the arrangement of shape and the placement of color.


Yellow Trail, Spring, Summer,  Fall, Winter,
each: 20 x 30 inches, acrylic on museum board.
The bands of color are in the order in which I found them while hiking the trail

What are you having the most trouble resolving?

I find it difficult to resolve the allocation of information about the work. Work with a conceptual starting point, by its nature, comes with lots of thinking and planning. How much of that to share with the viewer is a constant question. I want to find a way to provide that story, because it’s what excited me about the work in the first place…but it can be cumbersome to do so and off-putting to some viewers. 
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?

The search for different materials is my obsession. I wish it weren’t so because I spend so much time sourcing and testing materials, often to find a particular material can’t do what I need it to. Nonetheless, it’s who I am.  A particular idea will require a specific surface or medium…and the search begins again. At times, the process happens somewhat reversed…I’ll see a material and swoon…then I must hold on to it until the right idea comes along.


            Seeing Through :: Landscape As Time              
 is 7.5 x 4 feet, acrylic on Juan silk, with pins, 2014 .
Installation at Hansel & Gretel Picture Garden Pocket Utopia Gallery, Chelsea, NYC
What does the future hold for this work?
In my work, I document shifts, mainly via color study, that occur in daily life or magnify things that are easily taken for granted. A year of color changes in the landscape is one example, 13 colors found on an apple is another. I find solace in this work. I am honored to have received an invitation from the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation to do a studio residency there in 2016. I have profound respect for the work both of these artists did.  More immediately, I’m super excited to be in a two-person exhibition (with Alex Paik) at TSA Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn in February 2015.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


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!
                                    Didn't Call, 13" x 13", oil on marble ground on panel, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


nunc stans 1, 2014, acrylic and ink on paper, 20” x 20”

What are you working on in your studio right now?

I’ve primarily been working on three aspects of studio work: one is larger scale acrylic paintings (ranging from about 4’ x 4’ to 4’ x 6’) as I’ve taken some to a gallery here in Des Moines and freed up a bit of my storage space.  I really love working big but have a studio that is only about 120 square feet with a working wall that is only about 8’ x 10’, so it is prohibitive in how large I can work.  Secondly, I’ve started a new series of drawings called nunc stans—from some reading of Mircea Eliade I’ve been doing about the concept of the eternal present—that use layers of ink and acrylic in which the ink bleeds through multiple layers of paint.  The last important part of my studio production is sculpture, which tends to take a bit of a back seat to the painting, but is always in the back of my mind.  Right now I’m working on some totemic wood carvings that are in various stages of being finished. 

I’m also curating two exhibitions in Des Moines, which a lot of the email, planning, and coordination takes place in my studio.  I try to be in my studio as much as I can, even doing mundane tasks like answering email or scheduling meetings because I like to be around the work, I feel in some ways that I can continue to think about it on a different level even if I’m not physically working on a piece.  The two exhibitions are everyday abstraction here at Anderson Gallery, Drake University and DUST at Viaduct Gallery, Des Moines Social Club. 


cathedral (bones), 2014, acrylic on panel  72” x 48” (triptych)
Can you describe your working routine?
My studio is the guest bedroom in our house, so on days that I’m teaching I might only step in for a half an hour or so, but I still try to put something down on paper or panel every day.  On studio days, I typically exercise first thing in the morning, make breakfast and coffee, and am in the studio by 10 or so and work until 4pm or so in the afternoon.  Depending on the time of year I will walk outside or putz in the garden a bit while paint is drying.  I tend to have streaming television or movies on in the background, though I don’t always watch what is going on.  That background noise is important for some reason.  I occasionally will listen to music, too, but it tends to distract me from my work—I start singing or thinking about the lyrics too much and want to make music instead of paint.  I tend to spend a few hours making dinner for my spouse and I, occasionally heading back to the studio for a night shift.  Unless I’m out of town, I do everything I can to at least look at the paintings in my studio once a day—visual thinking is an important part of my studio routine, thinking through formal ideas and rearranging composition, color, and form in my work as a way of figuring out what my next step with a painting is.
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
Though my studio is small, it is on the second floor and overlooks our garden and our neighborhood that is dense with old white oak trees.  We live in the city but near a ravine and so it feels somewhat secluded, which I feed off of.  My studio is packed with books, furniture that I’ve accumulated or made, and notes that I’ve written to myself on the wall.  I have one primary table that is covered in paint, a large easel that mostly holds work, and two great wooden chairs—just like old cathedrals, I don’t want to get too comfortable sitting in there, I need to be somewhat austere in the studio, to make it feel like work and a process.  I do feel that it is important, too, that my studio is in my house; I’ve been in that situation since 2005, so I’m not sure that I am incapable of having a studio outside of my house, but there is also an element of domestic comfort in conjunction with the austerity of the furniture.  I also have worked with paintings and drawings that use dead plants, so there are a number of those hanging on the walls.  I also have a candlebox that I made a few years back for my brushes mounted on the wall, some gifts from other artists, and an old hand-drawn map of the Roman Empire—drawn by a student, potentially in the 1930’s.  I saw that map at a book store and couldn’t pass it up.    


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

I think a lot about my process, especially in terms of what is important and what is a sort of momentary habit.  I think the enduring parts of my process are working with impulse first—not overthinking the basis for a painting, whether its on panel or paper.  Making these first marks and forms are what determines a lot of the subsequent marks, forms, and colors; once the first marks are made I respond to them—negating them, re-emphasize them, painting over, obscuring, erasing, or bringing them back from the dead.  I think best, compositionally and in terms of color, when I have something to react and respond to, so I can’t let the first part bog me down. 

I think this process allows me to make work that has a complex sense of space that doesn’t necessarily fit neatly into the established categories; there are elements of geometric abstraction but my hand is most always present and I rarely tape things off; I’m not, though, purely relying on gesture or expression to give meaning.  The space that is represented (or denied) in my work is an important aspect of a work being finished.


in progress
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
Modernism and Abstract Expressionism, as histories in art and theory.  I’m dedicated to painting and firmly believe that painting is an effective form of communication and social engagement, but I think a lot about how I fit in with the history of abstraction and painting and ab ex is the hardest thing for me to resolve (in terms of understand how my work fits within that history).
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
Absolutely, I’m always trying new materials and experimenting with new types of paint.  I tend to be rooted firmly in water-based materials, I am a bit sensitive to oil-based solvents.  I really enjoy working with pigment dispersions and feel like I can get some of the best hue quality from dispersions and working with a range of finishes in water-based medium.  I’m a bit of a pack rat, too, particularly with scraps of paint, paper, and fabric, so I feel like that is a constantly surprising and evolving source of materials.  Paint works as a great adhesive, so collage and painting go hand in hand in my studio.   
Wrenwood #66, 2014,
acrylic, ink, collage and pencil on paper, all 15” x 11”
What does the future hold for this work?
I have to try to anticipate how work will play out for a few grant applications that I apply for through the university, and I’ve applied for a few grants with hopes of making more large-scale work including paintings on panel and outdoor sculptures.  I really like to work outside when possible, even during the winter, so I’ve wanted to develop that side of my studio practice.  I’ve been working on a bronze casting at the university with a few artists and students, and its been amazing to learn the lost wax casting process.  One of the reasons that I’m an artist and painter is because I need to be constantly engaged and learning about my profession, so my future is largely based on learning new things and working through different methods of communicating ideas.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thanks so much for inviting me to be a part of Studio Critical.  It is great to meet so many artists through social media and see what everyone is working on.  Take care! 
Wrenwood #76, 2014,
acrylic, ink, collage and pencil on paper, all 15” x 11”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


The Wet Collections ( 2013 ) Oil on Canvas , 200 x 200 cm

What are you working on in your studio right now?
Most recently I was working on a triptych which was just shown in a group exhibition in Berlin. The work is a somewhat unconventional arrangement for a triptych, made up of two realistic pieces and one abstract piece. It is all oil on canvas and the hanging size of it is just under three meters in length by one and a half in height.
The main painting, the largest of the three, has an image that is derived from a still from a video clip found online from a 1970s concert and the other realistic piece is a smaller work coming from a found photograph of a record player. Then the abstract piece is a very structural motif, almost mathematical, that is made up of a grid overlaid with layers of flat colour in block like shapes and is playing off the structure and colour in the other small painting.
With the three pieces I have been working with glazes which is something that I hadn’t touched in many years but it is proving to be very rewarding and presenting me with a lot of ideas and possibilities for future approaches and future work. Actually this technique is an idea I’ve had in the back of my mind for a long time but for some reason it has take me years to properly tackle it and it was with a previous work about 12 months ago using acrylic on aluminum, another triptych but on smaller scale, when I tried it out first. I should say that I am not using glazes in any traditional way as they are used as layers of masked structured shapes, squares and rectangles, in translucent colour rather than the more traditional a more blended way.
This work is somewhat of a departure from what I had been doing previously especially in a technical way and actually I think I have spent this past year making a number of departures from my previous work, going off in a number of differing tangents all at once and a lot of this has been about trying to marry this more structural abstract approach to work that lies on the more realistic end of the spectrum. But actually when it comes down to the actual working process for me there is very little difference even if the end result can seem to be pointing in different directions all at once. Right at the moment I am on a residency at the Golden Art Foundation in upstate New York and while there I am mainly experimenting and exploring different materials which so far is proving to be a very rich and rewarding experience.

?Undef'd Function 3495 ( 2014
   Enamel & Acrylic on Wood , 24 panels - 120 x 168 cm

Can you describe your working routine?
The beginning of every day in the studio for me involves tidying up from the previous day’s work. I tend to almost always leave the studio at the end of a day in a hurry, normally running late for something or having lost track of time so there is often a lot to tidy up when I arrive the next day. I like to start every day of work with a clean slate and a clean palette, so this has become a kind of ritual for me, maybe not one that I like very much but I think a very necessary one for me. Often I spend quite a bit of time during the clear up and after just looking at the work that is currently on the go and also planning what comes next and how best to tackle it. Most days when I am in the studio I arrive between 9 and 10 am and stay until 5 or 6 pm and I think most of that time is devoted to actual painting. I really value the time that I have in the studio and I try to always fill it with as much work as possible. Somedays of course that doesn’t happen but I think that in generally I think I am very disciplined about how my time gets used.



Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
My studio is currently in the Atelierhaus Mengerzeile, a former piano factory which was occupied by artists just over 21 years ago and developed into an independent studio house with its own gallery space called the Kunsthalle m3 and a guest studio to allow visiting artists to come and do residencies in Berlin. There are currently about 35 artists working in the building and I have had my own studio there for just over 9 years now. It has been a great place to work, partly because of the amount of space that I have but also because of the daily interaction with some of the other artists. It is a place which enjoys a very strong work ethic, a lot of the artists have been in the building for 10 years or more and I think by-in-large they all take what they do very seriously and on top of that there is a disproportionately large number of painters working there which is great for me and has been a fantastic source of knowledge and learning over the years both technically and conceptually.
It seems absolutely amazing to me to think that I have been there for 9 years now, I can’t quite believe how quickly that time has past. Working there for so long has of course had an immense impact on me and my work so much so that it is difficult to pin-point any individual aspect that I can say has come out of that. Sadly though it looks almost certain that we are going to have to leave this building in the near future. It was sold earlier this year and there are plans to turn it into apartments, which means that all of the artists will be searching for a new spaces quite soon. We’ve tried to save the building as an artists’ studio house but it seems that there is very little we can do and actually over the past couple of years this has been happening all across Berlin to many other studio buildings. The rents are rising and the spaces are becoming more scarce.


 Fuzzy Memory ( 2012 ) Oil on Canvas , 70 x 95 cm  
Reno ( 2011 ) Oil on Canvas , 180 x 240 cm


Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
My process has changed a lot over the years but I think one thing which has remained constant is the almost mathematical nature that runs through it. This is something that has become even more prominent for me in recent years. I studied computer programming for a few years before going to art college and this has been a major influence not only on what I paint but also how.  So for me the process is often a very defined by a structured set of procedures. I realise of course that this can seem like a very alien approach to painting which is so often defined by ideas of expression, intuition or spontaneity. For me all of these things still exist within my process but they take place at the micro level rather than the macro. And I think on that micro level my process has be defined by a very slowly developing love affair with the very material of paint.
The process in my work is something that is always evolving and changing. I will spend months or years establishing a way of working and developing what can often be a very elaborate process and then once I feel comfortable with it I will switch to something new or make some dramatic shift in my approach or process. This is not something that I do consciously but I have become aware that it is definitely a pattern that has developed. It is a contraction in a way because I don’t make this change because I am dissatisfied with a certain approach but rather because I am happy with it. I am always striving to find a process where each and every work suggests new and previously unthought of possibilities for the next work and it is when those suggestions stop happening that I make more dramatic shifts.  Also for me it would seem that the longer I have been working the more restless I begun to feel about all of the ideas that I want to try out and recently I have felt more comfortable about following multiple tangents at the same time. For me a big part of it is about defying expectations, both my own and those of people that know my work and together with that it is about breaking the rules, even the self-imposed rules, especially the self-imposed rules.
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
I have almost always been working with and from found images and the most perplexing issue for me has always been the choice of subject matter and source material. I have approached this from a number of angles and using different strategies but it is something that for a long time I ultimately was very unsatisfied with on a whole. I guess that this must be an issue that many artists are challenged by especially artists that work with found source material and especially now with the abundance of possibilities available on the internet. I have never been someone that can just keep making work using one or two motifs, I have always found the idea of working in series based on a single distinct theme to be unsatisfying and simple arbitrary selections have always seemed too uncommitted. I think what I have been chasing for a long time is some sense of narrative that can inform the selection process and that can be eluded to in a very open-ended way in the resulting body of work. The exhibitions that excite me are just like that, when an artist mixes styles, motifs and even different media, and the individual works play off each other in such a way that there is a thread, a hinted narrative that runs through it which can be read in any number of ways. I think with my current work I am getting close to something like that but we'll see how it develops.


I try going forward but my feet walk back - Moon / Horse / Cow (Automatic Return),
2014, Oil & Acrylic on Canvas, 140 x 280 cm
(Triptych: 140 x 170 cm, 60 x 80 cm & 60 x 80 cm)
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
Over the years I have worked with video, photography, sound art, text, books, and even public art installations but painting has always remained the central focus. However within painting itself for quite a few years I tried to concentrate on a developing a single style, using a single medium of oil on canvas and allowing the style to evolve slowly and naturally with each new piece but over the past 3 or 4 years I have become less pure about it and far more experimental in my approach to using different mediums and materials. So yes at the moment I do a lot of experimentation with different mediums and material. Most of those experiments may never see the light of day but they have been the source of many ideas.
I’ve always had the idea that art making is about invention and part and parcel with that is the idea of problem solving. Experimentation for me, is mostly a process of making things difficult for myself or creating challenges and then trying to figure things out and a lot of the experimentation in my painting work is actually informed by the things that go on around it such something as mundane as cleaning brushes.
Also one thing I have been doing recently, while I am working on one painting I will have a smaller canvas on the go beside it, a little brother or sister for the main painting, and I try to allow them to feed off each other while also using the smaller piece to try out experiments in a more unplanned way and then using that to inform the process of the large painting. The funny thing is that a couple of times at the end the two paintings work so well together that I don’t separate them and always show them together.

Omega_b ( 2014 ) Acrylic on Canvas , 80 x 60 cm   

What does the future hold for this work?
This current work is part of the first stages of a new body of work. At this point it is hard to say how that will develop but I would hope that within maybe the next 2 years I can have it at a point to exhibit it in a solo exhibition. I have started some work on an accompanying book project that gathers together items of the research for the current work and I would like get back to that at some point and develop it further.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Just to say thank you Valerie for inviting me to do this and to be part of the Studio Critical website and sorry again for taking so long to get back to you with my answers.